Makeup » How to Apply Highlighter: Strobe Like a Pro

How to Apply Highlighter: Strobe Like a Pro

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Is strobing part of your makeup routine? What is your favorite way of applying highlighter? No matter what kind of strobing you’re more into, we give you all the details: we explain exactly what strobing is and how it differs from contouring. We’ll break down the steps for flawless strobing, so you can strobe on and get lit (from within).

In this article:

What Is Strobing?

Strobing is a technique of highlighting the face. It is based on the way light works, especially when countered with shadow. When something is brighter (especially if it is glowy or shimmery), it reflects more light, which gives it the illusion of being bigger and closer to the viewer. Darker colors, on the other hand, make things appear smaller and farther away.

With strobing, you apply a makeup product that is lighter than your skin tone to the parts of the face that you want to highlight – in other words, the parts of the face that you want to appear larger or closer. These areas frequently are along the top of the cheekbones, on the chin, above the cupid’s bow, down the bridge of the nose, on the center of the forehead, on the inner corner of the eye, and along the brow bone.

In addition to helping make the face, and its specific features seem more defined, strobing with different kinds of products and textures can also make the skin seem dewier and more hydrated, or even glowy and magical.

Strobing vs. Contouring

The word strobing, specifically, means that the only product you use to carve out definition in your face is a highlighter. This stands in contrast to contouring, a technique in which darker colors are applied to make certain features seem more shadowed.

Contouring is usually done right below the cheekbone, along the sides of the nose, the temples, the outer part of the forehead, and below the jawline. Contouring is often credited with making the face appear slimmer.

A full highlight & contour effect can radically change the appearance of the face, and is a perfectly acceptable makeup choice.

What Is Strobing? Highlighting vs. Contouring

How to Use Highlighter?

This guide outlines how to apply highlighter for the most extreme strobing look, achieved with both cream and powder highlighters. To achieve more subdued look, simply omit one of the highlighting steps.

As you already know, a highlighter layered under the foundation will always have a more natural, lit-from-within effect, while a highlighter applied on top of your foundation will be more extreme and otherworldly.

How to Apply Highlighter: Strobe Like a Pro
  • Begin by prepping your skin for makeup. Make sure it is, at the very least, cleansed and moisturized. If you are going out in daytime, definitely consider applying a face sunscreen.
  • To increase the longevity of your makeup, apply a thin layer of primer all over the face. For a subtle all-over glow, you can apply an illuminating primer like the MAC Strobe Cream.
  • Boost radiance and maximize definition by applying a few dabs of a cream highlighter to the points of the face you want to highlight. To highlight bigger areas of the face like the cheeks or forehead, you may either use your fingers, a sponge, or a beauty blender in a stippling motion.
  • To highlight smaller areas of the face like the bridge of the nose, the inner corner of the eye, below the eyebrow, and above the cupid’s bow, use a small, synthetic brush like the MAC 195 Concealer Brush.
  • Use a clean sponge or finger to blend out and diffuse the edges.
  • Wait a few minutes for this highlight to set a little.
  • Apply your choice of cream or liquid foundation, using your favorite method. Be careful when applying it over the areas you’ve highlighted, so as to not apply too much and cover the highlight, and not to wipe the highlighter off.
  • Before you use powder to set your foundation you can apply another hit of strobing cream or cream highlighter following the same methods that I previous outlined.
  • Once you’re as glowy as you can get using only creamy products, set your makeup with a translucent powder, like the Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder. Avoid face powders with a lot of tint or coverage, as they will take away all of your hard work using strobing creams. You may skip powdering if you are going for an all-over dewy look, but remember that this will reduce the longevity of your makeup.
  • You are now ready for the final hint of highlighter! Grab your powder highlighter (most liquid and cream highlighters don’t sit nicely on top of powder) and go over the large areas you’ve already highlighted with creams.
  • For a sheerer wash of color, use a fan brush like the Sephora Pro Featherweight Fan Brush. For more intense strobing, choose a dense blush brush, like the Kat Von D Powder Contour Brush, and instead of brushing the highlighter on, tap it into the skin.
  • Use a smaller eyeshadow brush like the Marc Jacobs Shadow Brush to brush highlighter onto the small areas of the face, like the bridge of the nose and the cupid’s bow.
  • Take a fluffy brush to blend away any harsh edges from your highlight. You can use a smaller brush to only blend out the edges, or use a larger brush to thoroughly diffuse all of the highlighter for a softer look.
  • That’s it! You are now completely strobed. Finish off the rest of your makeup as you normally would. To turn this into a highlight & contour look, add a contouring powder to the areas of your face you want to minimize.

Strobing Tips for Different Face Shapes

Strobing is all about controlling which of your features stand out more. Depending on your face shape you maybe want to emphasize different things. The nose highlight I totally swear by might not work for a person with a narrower nose, for example. This section should help guide you when you try to figure out which areas of your face you should highlight, and how.

How to Apply Highlighter for Face Shapes
  • Highlighting the cheekbones is universally flattering, but even here you have options. If you have naturally sharp features and high cheekbones, you may choose to apply your highlighter a little lower on the cheek, and to have it concentrated closer to the center of the face. This will give you rounder cheeks, and a more youthful look. On the other hand, those who want sharper looking cheekbones should apply highlighter in a thin stripe high along the cheekbone, in a sharp angle that goes all the way up to the bottom of the temples.
  • If you specifically want fuller lips, make sure to apply a touch of highlighter just above the cupid’s bow. On the other hand, if your lips are naturally very full (or if, for example, you have a heavy upper lip), then you can skip this highlighting step.
  • Those with a narrow forehead can bring balance to the face by highlighting the center of their forehead all the way up and almost into the hairline. Those with a higher forehead should still strobe the center of the forehead, but keep tighter and lower.
  • If you feel like your face is too round or square, highlighting can be a great way of giving it length. Give yourself length by highlighting along the center of the face – forehead, nose, cupid’s bow, and chin. Avoid highlighting the chin if you have a naturally long face, however.
  • When highlighting the eyes, take into account your eye shape. Those with eyes that are already a little far apart should avoid highlighting the inner corners, while those with the opposite issue should definitely go ahead with that.

Highlighter Makeup Tips & Tricks

  • Cream highlighters, especially the thicker ones that come pressed or in a stick, can work beautifully for an all-over monochromatic look – especially if you’re in a rush. Sweep them over the areas you want to highlight, as well as on the eyelids and the lips.
  • To make your pout seem extra large and pouty, dab a bit of highlighter in the center of your lips, right on top of your lipstick.
  • In addition to enhancing your facial bone structure, you can also emphasize your body’s bone structure. Add a sexy touch of highlighter to emphasize your collarbones, for example.
  • Experiment with adding a touch of water to a liquid highlighter – it’ll amp up a metallic finish and seriously up the drama.
  • For those with extremely textured or oily skin, you may eschew highlighters altogether, and instead do your strobing with a concealer or a face powder that is 3-4 shades lighter than your own skin tone.
How to Strobe Right

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