How to Apply Highlighter in 4 Easy Steps

Updated 10/04/19

Now that you’ve got bronzer and contouring down, it’s only fitting that you master highlighting, too. After all, a few swipes of well-placed highlighter can instantly sculpt cheekbones, open up eyes, brighten your complexion, and more. We asked celebrity makeup artist Lauren Andersen to show us the ropes. 

Step 1: Prep

apply highlighter tutorial
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“The point of highlighter is to bring light to an area,” Andersen says. “They usually have a bit of shimmer to them, which gives the impression of a more hydrated look, making your skin look dewy and young.” If you’re younger, she suggests choosing a more powder-like formula, like MAC’s Mineralize Skinfinish ($36). For more mature skin, she loves more refined, shimmery liquid formulas, like Giorgio Armani’s Fluid Sheer ($62), Nars Super Radiant Booster ($30), and YSL’s Touché Éclat ($35).

Step 2: Apply to Brow Bone

highlighter tutorial
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Using your fingers or a small, soft brush (Andersen says she has more control with the latter), apply the highlighter right underneath your brow bone and blend.

Step 3: Bridge of Nose

highlighter tutorial
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Sweep the highlighter down the bridge of your nose with a soft brush. If you’d rather not bring attention to your nose, Andersen suggests using whatever is left on your brush from the previous step for just a hint of shimmer.

Step 4: Above Your Cheekbones

highlighter tutorial
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Here’s where most people make a mistake—highlighter should go above your cheekbones, not on the apples of your cheeks. Dip a wide, soft face brush (like Make Up For Ever’s 152 Medium Highlighter Brush, $37) into the powder highlighter, tap off the excess on your wrist, and apply it above your cheekbones towards your temples in a sweeping motion. Liquid or gel formulas can be blended in with a brush or your fingers, depending on the finish you prefer.

Step 5: Done!

highlighter tutorial
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Make sure everything is blended in and say hello to your brighter, more radiant complexion.

Apply a touch of highlighter to your cupid’s bow to give your lips more dimension and in the inner corners of your eyes for a bright-eyed and wide-awake look.

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