The Right Way To Apply Highlighter: A Celebrity Makeup Artist Explains

Photo by Miachel Breton

Here at mbg, we believe that beauty is uniquely yours. In our video series Bare Your Beauty, we break down various techniques, rituals, and how-to’s designed to help you feel good in your own skin, whether your goal is to de-stress, update your skin care regimen, or try a new look. 

There's no doubt about it: Dewy, hydrated, glossy, glassy, dumpling skin is in, and using a highlighter is one way to get the look. Lucky for us, highlighter is a makeup category that many clean beauty brands have totally nailed. From RMS's cult-favorite pot of highlighter, Living Luminizer; to Kosas' Color + Light pressed palettes, whose high-quality rivals NARS; to Cocokind's brand-new adaptogenic stick highlighters, there's a texture and shade for every complexion.

In this video, celebrity makeup artist Katey Denno, who is known in the industry for being a green beauty devotee, breaks down the shades and textures to use depending on your skin tone, shade, and type. A common myth about highlighters is that all colors are universal for all skin tones. Denno says that this isn't true, and darker tones especially have a harder time finding highlighters that blend in. Watch the video below to learn about the shades, products, and techniques she uses to make three women look glowy, dewy, and well-rested:

On Kindra, Denno used a golden-toned highlighter, Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Flash Luminizer in Bronzer on the cheekbones to bring out her warm undertones. She then took a clear emollient balm—pro tip: something Denno said works as a highlighter for all skin tones—the Wild Rose Beauty Balm by Neal's Yard on the bridge of her nose, her cupid's bow (the V at the center of the upper lip), the inner corner and upper eyelids, and the lips. The extra product on her hands she put to good use by applying it to Kindra's collarbone and shoulders for a beautiful, illuminated look.

On Nina, Denno saw an opportunity to add dimension to her stunning eyes and use a tonal, flesh-hued highlighter on the rest of her face. To bright out the eyes, she used Rituel de Fille Rare Light Luminizer in Phosphene and applied it by loading it onto her ring finger and gently patting the color in, starting in the middle of the lid and moving outward. Then, she switched to Ilia Illuminator in Polkadots and Moonbeams, which has a pearly sheen that works well on fair skin. She dabbed a little on the "upper portion of the apple" of the cheeks, and then followed the same pattern mentioned above: the bridge of her nose, cupid's bow, and collarbones. Voilà!

For Jenna, Denno chose a rose gold shade, which looked ethereal and diffuse and can be layered for a more dramatic effect. Employing her ring finger once again, Denno dabbed highlighter along Jenna's cheeks and near her hairline, which created a halo of light. It's subtle and barely there—but when the light hits her face at the right angle, the angels start to sing.

Check out our Bare Your Beauty series for more beauty and self-care tutorials.

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