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Choosing Right Highlighter Brightens Any Face

When you or your face are feeling a little tired or rundown, highlighter is a fantastic cosmetic tool for a dewier and more youthful complexion.

But choosing one that’s too light or dark for your skin tone can take your look to places you may not want to go, closer to a Halloween visage or an otherworldly sheen. The near-universal recommendation is to choose a product that’s about two shades lighter than you, but there are other nuances to keep in mind while you shop for yours.

Skin tone

Besides getting the right color, undertones and sheens also are important factors to consider when finding a highlighter that flatters your face.

Iridescent undertones look especially bright on the fair-skinned but can be too icy for those with darker tones. Those with medium-toned skin such as olive or tan can try iridescent products, but it may be safer to go with golden or champagne hues without too much shimmer.

If you’re on the darker end of the spectrum, orange can give you a stunning glow, as well as deep jewel tones and bronzy or coppery cast.

Skin type

Highlighters come in three formats, and each can come across differently depending on how well-hydrated our skin is.

Those with oilier skin and larger pores can benefit the most from a powdery highlighter that can absorb sebum and add a more subtle, lit-from-within glow to your already shiny skin. Those with drier or aging skin may do better with a creamy highlighter that can get your face glistening just enough to push you to the front of everyone’s mind with your sweet shimmer.

Highlighter type

Between the basic powder versus liquid/cream binary for highlighters there are other differentiators that give you an idea of the kind of effect they will give you and how they will fit into your day.

  • “Strobing” — All highlighters have strobing effects, but those labeled with this term tend to not have a lot of glittery content, using other highly reflective materials to give you your glow.
  • Shimmer — These generally have either relatively few shimmery particles with a low-key brightness that works for everyday application or more of these particles for a dramatic presentation that can pump you up for a late afternoon or evening date.
  • Glitter — Actual glitter is mixed into these highlighters and they can make you look like a disco ball, but this might be exactly the vibe you’re looking for at parties, clubs or high-profile dinners and award ceremonies. When you want to look like a star, this is your go-to!

Where does it go?

Apply highlighter over primer (and foundation if you’re using it) and under blush, lipstick and other final touches. It should go at the highest points of your face: the top of the cheekbones and along the brow bone and down the center of the face, hitting the forehead, nose, cupid’s-bow (just above the lips) and on the chin.

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