14 Mistakes You Didn’t Know You’re Making With Highlighter

Highlighter is one of those makeup products that, for the most part, seems pretty self-explanatory. Even if you have only a cursory interest in highlighter-heavy makeup looks like strobing and contouring, you probably know that highlighter is a sparkly, glowy, cream or powder-based makeup product that draws attention to focal points on the face and gives one a shiny, ethereal glow. Simple, right? Not so much, actually. While highlighter might seem simple, there are some tricks to applying it that a lot of people don’t know, which means that it’s pretty easy run into mistakes while using it.

Now, for the record, the term “mistakes” here is being used very, very lightly. Makeup is never something you should take all that seriously (unless it is your passion or you are pursuing makeup artistry as a career, in which case you should take makeup all that seriously!), so applying highlighter in an unconventional or technically “wrong” way is definitely not the end of the world. It’s just useful to know the basics rules for applying it, so you can choose to follow them or just do your own thing! So, check out these mistakes (read: “mistakes”) you’re probably making when you apply highlighter:

1. Putting Too Much On

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Make sure to use discretion when you apply highlighter–not only will this save your face from looking like a disco ball (unless this is what you are going for, obviously, in which case you should go for it), you’ll also save a lot of your product. Win-win.

 

2. Layering Too Much

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Even if you’re putting on the right amount, it can still look kind of funky if you concentrate all of your product in one area. Instead, try to apply the highlighter in a clean, even swipe on the focal points.

 

3. Using The Wrong Shade

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Haloscope Highlighter,$22, Glossier

Highlighter is generally pretty translucent, so it’s more forgiving than foundation if you pick a mismatched shade for your skin tone. Still, it’s important to know what color highlighter to use. As a general rule of thumb, if you have darker skin, you should try golden and bronze tones. For pale skin, go for one with more of an ivory tone. (Glossier’s Haloscope highlighter is actually great for both light and dark skin, since it comes in shades that work for both.)

 

4. Focusing On The Wrong Places

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You make your own rules, obviously, But generally, the best place to apply highlighter are your cheekbones, Cupid’s bow, inner corner of eyes, and the tip of the nose. Or, you can just follow the chart above.

 

5. Putting It All Over Your Face

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Highlighter looks cool! It looks so cool, in fact, that it might be tempting to put it all over your face–which, for the record, you should very much not do. Not only is this a good way to waste your hard-earned makeup, it’ll just make your face look sweaty. It also doesn’t do much in the way of actual highlighting, since it drowns out your features instead of calling attention to them. (There is another chart above. Obviously.)

 

6. You’re Not Blending Enough

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You really, really have to blend your highlighter–otherwise, it can look like you have random light strips all over your face (or, as the meme above implies, a straight-up mask). So, just make sure your highlighter looks seamless with your skin and foundation, not like a whole separate component.

 

7. Not Using The Right Tools

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And, to blend, you’ll need to use tools–with cream highlighter, it’s easy, since you just need to use your fingers. With a powder formula, you’ll need a brush.

 

8. Only Applying Highlighter To Your Cheeks And Nose

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The cheeks and nose are the most well-known highlighter locations, but they’re certainly not the only ones–you can also put highlighter on your Cupid’s Bow (the spot right over the top of your lips), your brow bones, and chin.

 

9. Being Inflexible With The Formula

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Some makeup artists like cream highlighter, while others prefer powder formula. The truth? Both a great! It just depends when you want to use them–cream formulas are generally great if you live in a warm area or have oily skin, since they’re more matte and react better to moisture, while powder highlighter is a good option if you want a more dramatic, long-lasting look.

 

10. Pairing It With The Wrong Foundation

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The only time you really should be inflexible about your highlighter formula is when you’re trying to match it to your foundation–you should never pair a powder foundation with a cream highlighter, since this can make the powder in your foundation start to break down and give your face a patchy, flaky look. Instead, make a general rule to always match your highlighter formula with that of your foundation.

 

11. Applying In The Wrong Order

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Even if you’re choosy with your product, you might run into trouble if you apply highlighter in the wrong order–so, if you’re using powder highlighter, put that on before your foundation for an internally glow-y look. If you’re using cream highlighter, put that on after foundation so it doesn’t get too mixed in with the foundation formula.

 

12. Not Thinking About Your Light

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This is not that important. But, if you know you are about to be under some bright lights–a school play, for example, or a day at thebeach–stay away from super-shimmery formulas and try something more matte. Likewise, if you’re going to be somewhere with dim lighting–a fancy dinner, maybe–feel free to go as glittery as you’d like.

 

 

13. You’re Pairing Super-Shimmery Blush With Super-Shimmery Highlighter

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Again–not that important. But if you wear a glittery blush or bronzer with your highlighter, you’re basically voiding any subtlety you may have employed while applying it. Which may be exactly what you are going for! If not, try to get slightly more matte formulas on both ends.

 

14. You’re Hyperfocusing On Trends

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This is important! Makeup trends often pick a certain facial feature–cheekbones, nose, browbone–upon which to place most of the highlighter. But makeup is not one-size-fits all, and, as a result, a certain highlighting trend might not actually highlight the things you want to get attention. Highlighter is great, but some people say it makes their pores look bigger or skin look oily when it’s placed in a certain spot. You can definitely try out any highlighting trend you come across, but don’t feel compelled to stick with it if you don’t like the way it looks. You know your face best, so experiment with different looks until you find the one that appeals best to you.

Do you use highlighter? Have you made any of these mistakes? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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