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Where To Apply Highlighter: Tips & Tricks for Highlighter Application

Where To Apply Highlighter: Tips & Tricks for Highlighter Application

Highlighter can brighten up a dull complexion, add an extra touch of glam when you need it, and bring a dreary, half-awake complexion back from the dead. But is there such a thing as too much? 

While that answer might be debatable depending on who you ask, there are some places where you may not want to apply highlighter. Here are a few of our top tips to make sure your highlighter stays glowing and flattering and brings out the best in you.

Where Should Highlighter Go?

A highlighter should go on the high points of your face where the light will hit it first. The best places to position your highlighter would be:

  • On the upper points of your cheekbones
  • The top of your cupid's bow
  • The tip of your nose
  • On your brow bone
  • Just below your eyebrows. 

The top of your collarbone and shoulders is another great place to catch the light and add an easy touch of glam.

How Should I Apply Highlighter?

A light, fluffy brush like a fan brush will give you a subtle, natural glow, while a more dense brush will leave you gleaming out of this world. 

Want to take it a step further? Mist your brush with a few squirts of setting spray before dipping into your products for a super wet metallic look, perfect for evenings, special occasions, or just any time in general when you feel like showing off. 

Our highlighter, just like all the other components of our Makeup Stack, is meant to be applied on the go. The natural heat and oil from your fingertips will also help these glimmering pigments seamlessly blend and melt into the skin, giving you the ultimate touch of glam when you’re short on time.

Where Should Highlighter Not Go?

As much as we love a fun glittery look, highlighter is prime time to remember the “less is more” rule. Highlighter shouldn’t really be applied all over the face. Doing so takes the focus off of the high points of your face and will ultimately leave you looking greasy and oily at day's end.

If you have textured skin, you need to pay a little extra attention to exactly where your highlighter goes. If your forehead is a little bumpy, you might want to avoid sweeping products there. If you have large pores on your nose or are susceptible to oil overproduction in your T-zone, you might want to also skip that area. 

Overall, be cognizant of where you have large pores or bumps, and remember that product can accumulate within indentions and get stuck on top of raised areas, further emphasizing them. 

What About Liquid Highlighters?

Okay, okay, we know we just said you shouldn’t apply highlighter all over. But we’d like to backtrack just a little bit and name one time where it might be okay to apply a highlighter to the entirety of your face. 

A great way to create a dewy, lit from within glow is to mix cream or liquid highlighter with your foundation. Taking both products, you can either mix them onto the back of a blending tray or apply them directly to your face, working in sections. 

If you have a mixing tray, or a flat clean surface, like the top of your Subtl Beauty Makeup Stack, you can lift out a little bit of our Cream Concealer with a small spatula or the top side of your fingernail and wipe it onto the lid. 

Make sure to drag the product away from you and not toward you to avoid getting product trapped underneath your nails and ending up with unwanted bacteria on your face. 

Next, add in a little bit of cream or liquid highlighter, and mix it together with your spatula, or the bottom end of a makeup brush. Working in sections, apply the product to your face, blending in with a makeup sponge or brush as you go.

You could also apply individual dots of the product to your face if you aren’t in a position to mix. If you do go this route, don’t dot the product onto your whole face. The pigment could dry before your brush or sponge reaches it, leaving you with awkward, dry patches and an uneven look. Instead, dot as you go.

You should also avoid mixing the product on the back of your hand — after all, your skin is porous and will absorb the product, and you want this to go onto your face, not your hand. 

When Should I Apply Highlighter?

When applying foundation and other face makeup, highlighter should be the last thing to go. It’s not concealing anything or being blended into the skin — rather, it’s something you want to stand out. Generally, this is the order in which your foundational makeup should be applied:

  • Skincare and primer
  • Foundation, tinted moisturizer, or even a light layer of our Cream Concealer
  • Any other cream products (spot concealing, cream contour, cream blush)
  • Translucent powder
  • The remaining powder items of your routine (bronzer and blush)
  • Highlighter 

It’s very important to not overlook the first step in all of this — skincare. A dirty face harboring excess oil, dirt, and other debris is a great place for highlighter to cling, build up, and bring unwanted texture to your face, which can make your face look muddy and dirty, as opposed to bright and glowing.

Applying Highligher: Wet vs. Dry

Once your whole face has been set with and protected by a light layer of translucent powder, you can use a makeup brush to sweep powder highlighter onto the high points of your cheeks, concentrating a little extra pigment onto your brow bone and in the inner corners. 

For a really concentrated glow, try using a stiffer, denser brush, or even consider applying the product wet. If you are going to wet your brush, make sure you are using a synthetic brush. 

Synthetic brushes consist of man-made material and will not absorb the product. Natural brushes, typically made from real animal hair, will absorb moisture, just the way the hair on your head absorbs water whenever you take a shower. This can make it tough to get an even application and may accidentally leave your brushes sopping wet.

Using your fingers will also deliver a similar effect. Our fingers are concentrated with natural oils and give off a little bit of heat. These two factors will further help the shimmery pigment melt into your skin, giving a pretty yet natural lit-from-within glow.

You Dew You

If you are foregoing powder and looking for a dewy glow, consider a liquid or cream highlighter. Since they’re very concentrated, these can be applied with a makeup sponge but are best supplied with the tip of your finger in order to avoid an uneven application. 

With these types of pigments, it’s important to remember that not much is necessary and it needs to really be blended into the skin. Otherwise, your face might feel overly wet and tacky. If your hair isn’t pulled back, it’s also a really easy way for it to get caught in your makeup and create streaks on your face.

Where Else Can You Use Highlighter?

If it’s the warm summertime season and you may be showing off your décolleté, this is a great occasion to apply highlighter on areas other than your face. Using a makeup brush, you can easily blend the pigment onto your shoulders and collarbone for an extra touch of radiant glam.

You could also use the top of a fingernail or the flat edge of another cosmetic tool, like the bottom of a makeup brush, to scrape a little bit of highlighter onto a flat mixing pan and combine it with moisturizer. Going a step beyond that, you could also mix the pigment with baby oil for a super wet, reflective look that will rival J. Lo’s. 

If you do go this route, be mindful of how long you are staying out in direct sunlight. Baby oil is a type of mineral oil that sits on the skin rather than being absorbed like a lotion would. In addition to containing no SPF, baby oil also attracts and absorbs UV rays, causing users to develop a tan quicker than they normally would. 

Get Ready To Glow

The right highlighter and application techniques can transform any basic face into a runway-worthy wonder. So much more than just a shimmery glitter product, highlighter, just like bronzer or blush, can sculpt your face, lift cheekbones, and give another type of dimension simply not possible with other products. 

Our mineral highlighter is buildable, giving you a natural, dewy glow without going too far over the top. With every purchase including a free Stack Brush BFF, it’s the perfect way to add an effortless touch of radiance to your everyday routine. 



Nail Hygiene | CDC

Face Washing Mistakes You Never Knew You Were Making | HealthyWomen

Syd’s personal story | American Academy of Dermatology Association

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