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Where to Apply Highlighter For a Glowy, Lit-From-Within Look

All you need to know to create a beautiful glow.
  • Rachel Macpherson
May 16, 2024

Blinding highlighter may feel like a (jarring) throwback to your 2016-era Instagram makeup, but skin that glows and looks radiant will always be in. The key to achieving natural-looking radiance is knowing how to use highlighter, including where to apply highlighter for the best results.

While we love a defined, glowing cheekbone, there are several other areas on your face where highlighter can make a beautiful impact. Knowing how to apply highlighter strategically to define your features will help call attention to your best features.

Ahead, we’re sharing everything you need to know about highlighter. Read on to learn where to put highlighter on your face for natural-looking radiance, discover the differences between liquid highlighter and powder highlighter, and more.

What Is Highlighter Makeup?

Highlighter is a type of makeup product that reflects light to help brighten your features. It can come in liquid, cream, or powder formulas and be subtly shimmery or nearly metallic. Regardless of the formula, though, the purpose of highlighter remains the same: to give your skin a glowy, radiant-looking finish.

That being said, knowing how to use highlighter properly is key. Applying too much —or putting it in places the light doesn’t naturally hit—can result in an unnatural look. With glowy makeup like highlighter, a strategic, less-is-more approach is often best.

Where to Apply Highlighter Makeup to Your Face

Inarticle Where To Apply Highlighter How To Light

When applying highlighter, you typically want to stick to the high points of your face (in other words, the areas of your face where the sun would naturally catch the light). We’ll dive into the details and explain how to apply highlighter for a natural-looking luminosity, below.

1. Cheekbones

We’re starting with the most common place to highlight your face: the cheekbones. Applying highlighter to the tops of your cheekbones can help emphasize your bone structure and give your face a lifted appearance. We suggest blending the product toward your temples for a soft, diffused effect—any stark or obvious lines will detract from the naturally glowy illusion.

2. Cupid’s Bow

Your Cupid's bow is the little indent at the center of your top lip (so named because of the shape’s resemblance to a bow). Highlighting this area helps to lift the lips and give them a fuller appearance and more defined shape. Just be careful not to highlight your entire top lip—we’re after a subtle glow here, not a shimmer ‘stache.

Editor’s tip: Overline your lips and highlight your cupid’s bow to instantly fake a plumper pout.

3. Brow bone

You may not give your brow bone much thought, but highlighting the small strip of skin beneath your brows can help make your eyes appear more open, create the illusion of a more lifted brow, and make your eyes pop.

4. Inner corners of your eyes

The inner corners of your eyes tend to be more prone to darkness than other areas of the face. Add some highlighter to brighten this area and give your eyes a more wide-awake appearance.

5. Under-eye area

Yup, this is a weird one, but it can truly work wonders. Like the inner corner of the eyes, the under-eye area can be dark, and highlighting is a useful technique for neutralizing the appearance of dark circles. That being said, it’s best to avoid shimmer highlighters here—instead, opt for a luminous formula in a shade that closely matches your natural skin tone.

6. Center of your eyelids

Another great way to brighten your eyes (and overall look) is by adding a subtle highlight to the center of your eyelids. While this might not be fitting if you’re going for a nude smokey eye, it’s a great way to look more awake while adding some glow on no-makeup makeup days.

7. Bridge of your nose

Adding the smallest touch of highlighter to the bridge of your nose can help round out your glowy look and create a believable fresh-from-the-beach effect. Again, take care to use a light hand here—less is definitely more where nose highlight is concerned.

Which Highlighter To Choose for a Gorgeous Glow

Inarticle Where To Apply Highlighter How To Deep

Both powder and liquid highlighters have their merit, and choosing which one is best for you ultimately comes down to what kind of look you’re after.

Powder highlighters are great for those with oily skin, as they can add radiance without leaving your skin looking shiny or greasy. They typically come in compact forms, making them more convenient for on-the-go touch-ups. However, you’ll need a brush to apply powder highlighter (or several, if you’ll be applying it to all of the areas mentioned above).

Liquid highlighters, on the other hand, are ideal for creating a dewy, naturally glowy look. Since they have a fluid consistency, they tend to be easy to apply and blend—even if you don’t have a brush or makeup sponge on hand (you can just use your fingers).

Some, like the L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer, even help hydrate the skin. We love this luminous formula because it’s super versatile. You can use it to highlight your features, mix it with your foundation to give it a more radiant finish, or apply it in lieu of primer to help add luminosity and prep your skin for makeup. You can even use a darker shade to sculpt your face in bronzer or contour for an ultra-glowy, sun-kissed effect.

How to Apply Highlighter

Knowing where to put highlighter is only part of the equation—equally important is learning how (and when) to use it in your routine. We’re breaking down the must-follow steps below.

Step 1: Prime

Starting with makeup primer is the key to getting the most out of your makeup application. For a radiant base, consider an illuminating primer, such as the L’Oréal Paris Prime Lab Up to 24H Dullness Reducer. The lightweight formula instantly brightens the skin and helps even the skin tone over time. If uneven skin texture or large pores are a concern, try a blurring primer like L’Oréal Paris Prime Lab Up to 24H Pore Minimizer.

Step 2: Apply foundation

Next, even out your skin tone with a foundation. If a your-skin-but-better look is what you’re after, we suggest opting for L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Foundation. It offers medium coverage and blends beautifully with a natural-looking, skin-like finish. Or, reach for a buildable-coverage formula, such as L'Oréal Paris Infallible Up to 24H Fresh Wear Foundation, and tailor your coverage to your liking.

Step 3: Add contour and blush

Before moving on to highlighter, sculpt and define your features with contour and blush. Choose your textures based on the finish you're aiming for—creamy for dewiness, powder for matte. Contour below the cheekbones and along the temples, then add a flush of color with blush on the cheeks, blending towards the ears for a lifted appearance.

Step 4: Apply your highlighter

And now, the moment we've all been waiting for—highlighter time. If you're going with a liquid highlighter like the L'Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer, we suggest lightly dotting it onto the high points of your face, then blending with your fingers for a lit-from-within radiance. (If you’d prefer not to use your fingers, you can also blend it out with a makeup sponge).

For powder highlighter, you’ll need a brush. We suggest using a fan brush for your cheekbones and a smaller fluffy brush for the smaller areas like your inner corners and brow bones. Start with a light dusting and build up the product gradually to create a soft, diffused glow.

Step 5: Set

Last but definitely not least, you’ll want to make sure your glow goes the distance. A quick misting of L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Spray and Set Make-Up Oil-Free Setting Spray will help keep your makeup in place all day long.

Do You Apply Highlighter Before or After Blush?

There are no hard and fast rules for layering your highlighter and blush, but some guidelines can help you achieve a more seamless end result. If you're coordinating your products by formula—pairing powders with powders or liquids with liquids—a little insider tip is to sweep on your highlighter before your blush. This technique allows the blush to softly blend into the highlighter for a flawless, radiant finish.

However, if you're in the mood to mix things up and combine liquid and powder formulas, start with your liquid products first—powders don’t layer very well on top of liquids.

Do You Apply Highlighter Before or After Foundation?

If you're confused about how to apply liquid highlighter with foundation, it's easier than you think. Since liquid highlighters and liquid foundations have a similar consistency, you can blend and layer them in a few ways.

Applying liquid highlighter before foundation can create all-over luminosity, while applying it afterward can help create a more defined, targeted glow. You can even mix a few drops of your liquid highlighter into your foundation to sheer it out and give it a more luminous finish.

As for how to apply powder highlighter, we suggest sticking to the advice outlined above and save your powder products for last.

Where Should You Avoid Applying Highlighter?

Makeup isn't meant to be taken too seriously—you should always feel free to experiment and find what makes you feel your best. However, if you're aiming for the most natural and flattering effects, we recommend focusing on the areas outlined above. This will help create a luminous look that puts your features in the best light.

Next Up: Conquer Glowy Makeup With Lumi Glotion—4 Ways to Use the TikTok Favorite

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