As a makeup artist, one of the most important products in my kit (after foundations and concealers) is highlighter. My very first experience with highlighting was when I discovered a little bottle of heaven called Clinique Up-Lighting Liquid Illuminator ($28). This shimmery liquid could be applied to the tops of the cheeks and create a beautiful glow in just the right light.
I have since religiously used highlighter on my own face as well as countless brides and editorial or television clients. It is the most foolproof way to bounce light off the face, especially in front of hot stage lights or paparazzi flashbulbs. I am guilty of filling my kit with way too many liquid, cream, pressed, and loose powder highlighters. I can't seem to get enough, so I get the obsession with these dreamy products. Yet, it seems we have taken things too far.
With the advent of the beauty blogger culture and social media, coupled with celebrities featuring contoured and highlighted complexions, suddenly highlighter is the latest and greatest beauty product. The generation of selfie-taking women has fueled sales of contour and highlighter palettes and products in recent years. Women who seemingly have hours on end to sculpt their face use highlighter shamelessly to create a gorgeous glow that looks delightful in a selfie, which can then be shared with the world.
The problem with this trend is when those women who look amazing in flash photography or a YouTube video then leave the safety of their bedroom and venture into the real world. The makeup look created is often nothing short of theatrical stage makeup, which makes them look as though they are wearing Halloween makeup.
In today's day and age, where women buy entire palettes of six highlighters to stripe and strobe the hell out of their face to the point of being unrecognizable, it's hard to figure out what is acceptable. We have gotten away from gently accenting our best features and morphed into a land of women who look like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. Is this the look we are going for? God, I hope not. On what planet do metal stripes all over one's face look healthy or normal, let alone beautiful? We have lost sight of the original purpose of highlighter.
First of all, just because you have been lured in by the cosmetic companies to purchase entire palettes of highlighters does not mean that you should use all of them at once. Also, it is important to carefully test out different highlighting products to see which ones work best with your skin tone and texture. All highlighters are not created equal. Many are very glittery or metallic or have a chunky consistency that doesn't sit nicely on the skin.
Also, a product that looks great in a photo might not translate as well in real life or daylight. I swear by the Laura Mercier L'Amour Exotique Face Illuminator Collection ($58) for everyone. Even though there are four highlighters in the palette that are each more perfect than the next, I only use one or two colors at a time in a subtle fashion.
Different tones work for different looks or for different areas of the face. They should be applied with a fan brush or a highlighting brush, which is made to softly dust highlighter to avoid a supermetallic look. The It Brushes for Ulta Airbrush Radiance Fan Brush ($18) will do this perfectly, allowing you the control you need to add multiple layers without ever depositing too much product.
And don't even get me started on this nose contouring trend. If I have to look at one more woman with a face dipped in stripes of highlighter up and down her face and a silver or gold ball of product on the tip of her nose, I am going to jump off a bridge. The makeup artist trick of slimming down a wide nose or shortening a long nose using highlighter is amazing. My favorite product for shaping the nose is Tarte's Shape Tape Contour Concealer ($27) because it can help to slim or shorten the nose without making it glow or shimmer. The flat, dense product works magically and can be blended for feature flawlessness.
Keep in mind your goal when doing this technique is to lessen attention on a part of your face that you aren't happy with. When you put a ball of gold makeup on the end of your nose, you are instead simply drawing attention to the feature that you may be trying to hide. You aren't fooling anyone; we see your nose. Except now, thanks to your handiwork, we can't stop looking at it. Plus, what if at the end of the day, after all of this makeup artistry, someone wants to kiss that gorgeous face of yours? You better set that face to the death or your significant other will walk away looking like a disco ball.
Stop the madness, people. Embrace your face as it was meant to be. We all have insecurities and features that we want to highlight or fix. Dousing yourself with highlighter is never the answer to achieve your best self. Glowing cheekbones and dewy, highlighted features can be absolutely magical, but there can always be too much of a good thing.