How to Properly Use Illuminating Makeup

Updated 05/08/19

Although it seems like such common knowledge now, for years only makeup artists knew the secret of, well, highlighting. Using illuminating makeup to highlight best features, and play down ones we want to hide, wasn't always common. Still, while we now know it's a thing, it can be kind of difficult to understand what to highlight. There's conflicting information out there, largely because everyone's face is different. But it's worth learning the great tricks of the trade.

Illuminating makeup comes in many forms—including powders, creams, pens, and lotions. The glow is much more subtle than shimmer, and it comes from tiny, light-reflecting particles found in milled minerals, or sometimes even pearls.

01 of 08

Make Your Nose Appear Thinner

Kim Kardashian at the amfAR gala
Jared Siskin/amfAR/Contributor/Getty Images  

Kim Kardashian is famous for using a TON of contouring makeup, although she's slowed down over the years. Everyone in the Kar-Jenner clan loves contouring. Kourtney Kardashian once let slip that she does a simple trick every day to make her nose appear thinner. She, of course, learned it from a makeup artist. Simply take an illuminating or highlighting pen, like Hourglass's Vanish Flash Highlighting Stick, and draw a thin line down the middle of your nose. Tap in the color, though, so it's not obvious.

02 of 08

Make Lips Appear Plumper

Dior Lip Maximizer Hyaluronic Lip Plumper
Courtesy of Dior 

While not everybody wants to be Kylie Jenner, or envies Angelina Jolie's bee-stung lips, everyone wants to give their lips the appearance of plumpness now and again. Contour them using a stick-based bronzer or highlighter, and finish them off with a nice plumping gloss. It's a pretty simple process, and it works very well. 

03 of 08

Brighten Your Eyes

Woman with blue eyes and her makeup done
ShenderDiana/Getty Images

To make eyes pop, press your finger into a light glitter eyeshadow in white, pink, or champagne. Then, press this finger into the innermost corners of both eyes. You can also do this with a fluffy brush for a more diffused look. it makes your eyes look brighter, and gives them more depth.

04 of 08

Look More Awake With Illuminating Cream or a Pen

Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat
 Courtesy of YSL Beaute

If there's one illuminating trick you should know, it's this one. It will brighten your face and makes you look more awake in the morning, and naturally "lifts" the face without the need of fillers and Botox. Here's how it works:

  • Looking into a mirror, tuck your chin in so you're looking up.
  • Take a highlighter pen (Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat, $35, is a long-term favorite for many) and swipe a line of product where the shadows lie.
  • Blend the lines in with the tip of your finger.
05 of 08

Highlight Your Decolletage

White woman with blonde curls
Yevgeniia Vradii/Getty Images

If you have fabulous decolletage, or want to mimic the appearance of a fuller bosom, you have a few options:

  1. Dip a powder puff in a loose powder highlighter, and then pat it on the tops of your breasts. Make sure to blend it out well.
  2. Take a big fluffy brush, fill it with the same glimmering powder, blow off excess, and then run the brush over your collarbones, right where the sun would hit you first.
  3. Use a body shimmer oil, like Sol de Janeiro's, $35, to highlight your chest and shoulders.
06 of 08

Define Your Cheeks

A young black woman with a dewy glow
CarlosDavid.org/Getty Images

A shimmery cream is a wonderful product to carry around as a constant, and there's none more highly recommended than RMS Beauty's Living Luminizer, $38. You can apply just over my eyebrows and on the tops of your cheekbones in order to give your face a soft, dewy glow. Nothing defines your cheeks and lifts your eyes quite like a natural-looking dew.

07 of 08

Lengthen Your Legs

Young WOC with long, highlighted legs
 swetta/Getty Images

You can make your legs appear longer by applying a liquid oil illuminator along the shin bones. Always moisturize first, though. If you wear high heels, this is a great time to wear them—nothing lengthens the leg like a higher heel.

08 of 08

Show Off Your Shoulders in Spring and Summer

Woman touching her bare shoulder
PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty Images

If you have great shoulders, show them off with a good light-reflecting body moisturizer. Apply it to the tops of your shoulders, blending well. Run your hands down from the shoulders to your arms for added sheen.

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