13 Ways To Wear Highlighter Without Making It Look Too Overdone

I love highlighter. (The makeup, just to clarify. Not the markers.) I love having a glow, I love feeling shiny but, like, intentionally shiny, and I especially love knowing that, wherever I go, at chances are pretty good that someone will think of a glazed doughnut when they see my face. I love it all!

What I have become less enamored with in recent months, however, is the super-overdone-intense highlighter look. You know, like this:



And this:


Highlighter has been around for a while, so it has gotten to the point where, for me, this particular look does not really feel sustainable anymore. You can still do it, of course, if that is what you are into, but lately, I have been favoring a more natural look. (Well, natural as far as makeup goes, anyway.) And maybe that is what you are into now, too!

If so, check out these cool ways to wear highlighter without looking totally overdone:

1. Try to use cream highlighter rather than a powder formula:



I love my Becca highlighter, but the glow it provides can be a little blinding. For a more subtle glow, try a cream or liquid highlight, which blends easily for a less noticeable (but still nice) finish.


2. Like Glossier Haloscope:


Photo Source

Buy this for $22 from Glossier

Glossier’s Haloscope has gotten some flack for not being shiny enough, but if you’re looking for an understated highlight, it’s a great look. It’s super buildable, too, so you can make it look more intense if you want–it just doesn’t automatically start off that way.


3. Or Milk Face Gloss:


Buy this for $20 from Sephora

If you like the shine of highlighter, but aren’t as into the glitter component that tends to go along with most highlighters, try Milk’s Face Gloss. It provides a slick, shiny appearance that’s perfect for any minimal makeup look.


4. Or treStiQue Highlight Stick:


Buy this for $34 from Sephora

The treStiQue highlighter is a perfect option for highlighter newbies, since it has a soft, pleasant glow that you can apply to as much or as little of the face as you want.


5. Make sure you’re using a highlighter that complements your skin’s undertone:



No matter which highlighter you choose, you have to make sure that it’s one that works with your skin tone–otherwise, it’ll look jarring when you put it on. For a cool undertone, go for a blue-pink highlighter. For a warm undertone, try a highlighter that has a champagne or golden essence. (If you have no idea what your undertone is, just go for something that seems neutral.)


6. Use a luminizing BB cream:


Buy this for $39.50 from Amazon

If the whole idea of using a separate highlighter seems too complicated for you, try a BB cream that has a bit of a glow already built in. I like Dr. Jart Radiance Balm, which provides a sheer glow in addition to some coverage.


7. Or blush:


Buy this for $30 from Sephora

Try a blush like NARS Orgasm (or, for a cheaper dupe, Milani Pink Dolce Blush ), which contains luminizers that give your cheeks a healthy glow without having to apply highlighter on top of it.


8. Apply highlighter before blush:



Typically, you apply highlighter as one of your final steps in your makeup routine. But if you want to have a glowy look that seems as though it comes from within, try applying highlighter first.


9. Don’t highlight every single part of your face that chart tells you to highlight:



Just because that person on Pinterest is telling to to put highlighter on your cheekbones, your eyebrows, your inner eyes, and your Cupid’s Bow, this doesn’t mean that you actually have to do all of it. Instead, pick one or two areas you’d like to highlight–my go-tos are my cheekbones and the bridge of my nose, but you can pick and choose what works best for you.


10. Make sure you’re actually blending:



It can be easy to put on highlighter and then just sort of, like, forget it’s there. This certainly isn’t the end of the world (much worse things have happened) but it’s best for your highlighter look if you  blend up along your cheekbones so it looks more natural.


11. Use the right brush:



If you’re using a cream highlighter, you can just use your fingers. But if you want to use a powder formula, you need to make sure you’re using the right brush so you aren’t just dumping highly-concentrated shiny stuff on your face. So, try a slim, tapered brush (like e.l.f.’s highlighter brush), a fan brush, or a Kabuki brush for an evenly-distributed glow.


12. Use a face oil:


Buy this for $48 from Sephora

If you really don’t want to deal with makeup at all, try using a face oil. It’s not as location-specific as highlighter is, obviously, but it’ll give your face an all-over, healthy glow. Plus, if you don’t usually wear makeup, this is a way to get a highlighter-adjacent look without actually wearing makeup.


13. Try Vaseline:



Seriously. It’ll give you a satisfying amount of dewiness without excess shimmer or cost.

Do you wear highlighter? Do you have any tips for using it? Let us know in the comments!

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

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