Highlighting, often also referred to as strobing, is the illuminating makeup technique that will get you shining like a goddess. Using strategically applied powder, cream, or liquid, you can simply give yourself a touch of dewy definition, or you can go all the way into becoming an ethereal creature.
No matter what kind of strobing you’re more into, I give you all the details: I explain exactly what strobing is and how it differs from contouring. I’ll make it easy for you to choose the best highlighters for your skin type and skin tone, I’ll break down the steps for flawless strobing, and I’ll even recommend the best highlighters on the market, so you can strobe on and get lit (from within).
Strobing/ Highlighting Makeup Guide: Contents
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.
12 Best Highlighters for Perfect Strobing
Best Powder Highlighters
1. Anastasia Beverly Hills Sun Dipped Glow Kit
This kit comes with four highlighters, so that if your skin tone changes from season to season you will likely find use for all of them! These are considered some of the best highlighters in the powder form, because they give an incomparable shimmer. It includes both cool and warm shades, and no matter your skin tone you will find something that will work for you. If you find yourself using up one shade faster than the others, you can buy a single refill! Pick it up at Sephora.
2. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter
Since they are the OG brand for highlighters, it was hard to choose a specific product since almost every Becca highlighter counts as one of the best highlighters on the market. Their pressed highlighters are ultra-shiny, giving a metallic sheen that can be seen from miles away. Topaz is the perfect shade for warm, dark skin, while Pearl is great for fair skin. Choose a highlighter for yourself at Sephora.
3. Natasha Denona All Over Glow Face & Body Shimmer Powder
This makeup artist brand is new to Sephora, but they’re killing it with incredible products, and were quick to make it to the ranks of the best highlighters. These buttery pressed powder highlighters come in a generous packaging, and are perfect for cool skin of all darkness levels – something that can be hard to find. They provide a gentle metallic sheen that can be built up to be more dramatic.
4. Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder
This sheer highlighter gives a gentle, natural glow that is perfect for oily or textured skin types that need to watch out for creams or overly shimmery powder highlighters. It gives really diffused, natural glow that is usually only achieved with a cream highlighter applied below the skin. Choose your favorite one from Sephora, seeing as these are some of the best highlighters for each skin type.
5. Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder
I will not hesitate to put anything made by this brand on my face. The quality of their finely milled powders is unparalleled, so their highlighter easily joins the ranks of the best highlighters. I love that this powder somehow gives a radiant glow to the skin without a hint of shimmer, making it perfect for those who are normally highlighter averse. Highlight 01 is perfect for nearly every lighter skin tone, while the bronzers could work as highlights for deeper skin tones. Get yours at Nordstrom!
Best Strobing Liquids
1. Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Radiant Touch
This classic liquid highlighter has been heralded for years as a great under-eye concealer and one of the best highlighters around. It is shimmer-free yet radiant, meaning it is excellent even for those with an uneven texture, and it is the very definition of multi-use.
The creamy formula comes in a chic golden click-applicator with a brush, so it is super easy to apply. For a subtle strobe, choose a color 2 shades lighter than your skin tone, or go extreme with 4 shades lighter. You can find it for yourself at Nordstrom.
2. Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops
This brand has won a place in my heart, with its ultra-gentle, customizable formulas. These liquid highlighters come in a dropper, and can be mixed and matched however you like, and applied both over and under the foundation, and even mixed with it! The shades are impossibly glowy and radiant, with options for literally every single skin tone – choose your favorite at Sephora.
3. Benefit Liquid Highlighters
A little goes a long way with this highlighter. When you see it flow, it looks like molten metal – an effect that is readily transferred to the skin once you apply it. Layer it below your foundation for an understated glow, or above it for a high-shine effect. At Nordstrom, you can choose High Beam for cool skin, Sun Beam for warm skin, and Shy Beam for the subtlest of strobes!
Best Cream Highlighters
1. RMS Beauty Living Luminizer
This all-natural and organic brand is newly available at Sephora, and their cream highlighters are beyond expectations, easily blowing many of their synthetic counterparts out of the water. This creamy product is ultra-simple – it gives a long-lasting dewy finish with a hint of pearly reflection thanks to castor and coconut oils, and just a hint of ultra-fine mica. It is perfect for almost all skin tones, since it is so sheer, but you can try their shade Magic for a warmer highlight, or Champagne Rose for a hint of pink.
2. Glossier Face Highlighter Haloscope
Natural, youthful, dewy, and chic are the best words to describe these Glossier highlighters. They give a wet sheen to the skin that is almost unnaturally natural. The skin-nourishing cream formula comes in the form of a quick and easy-to-apply stick, and is best worn over bare skin. Choose a color to suit your skin tone directly from Glossier.
3. Fenty Beauty Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick
Not all of the reviews for Rihanna’s new brand are in, but the ones that are glow as brightly as these shimmer sticks! These really stand out as some of the best highlighters for diverse skin tones (no surprise there), with some really unique highlighter shades in a high-shine formula that blends beautifully. You should get one from Sephora quickly, before they run out.
4. NARS The Multiple Sticks
These roll-up highlighters are perfect for a quick, easy, and sheer strobing effect. They do have a hint of metallic shimmer that can be built up to create a stronger look with just a few swipes. The packaging is beautiful, convenient, and sleek – perfect for highlighting on the go. Copacabana is perfect for those with light skin, while South Beach would be gorgeous on darker skin tones. Grab one for yourself at Nordstrom.
What Is the Difference Between Strobing and 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 Are the Different Types of Highlighters?
From the point of view of their consistency, makeup highlighters come in different forms, each targeting a certain skin type and unique preference.
The most common, and also easiest to use of the highlighters are powder highlighters. These powders are most frequently pressed, but sometimes they come in a loose form.
A traditional highlighter is very shimmery, thanks to a high cotent of mica or other reflective minerals. A highlight does not have to be shiney, of course, and some matte powders exist that provide a highlight simply by being lighter than one’s skin tone.
Liquid highlighters, occasionally advertized as illuminating drops or stains, are thin liquid products embedded with light reflective minerals. These creams can be applied to bare skin, under or over the foundation, depending on whether the one wearing them wants a more subdued, lit-from-within glow, or a stronger highlight.
When worn under the foundation, they often have the added bonus of increasing its longevity. They can even be mixed with foundation and applied all over the face for an all-over glow.
These balms or creams have a thicker texture than a strobing cream, and usually come pressed into a compact or jar, a little like cream blushes, or in a roll-up stick (picture a large, shimmery lipstick!). They have more pigmentation than a strobing cream, but less pigmentation than powder…