Beauty 101: How to Apply Highlighter


Kathryn Wirsing

Is it just me or have we gone a little wild with highlighter? Super glittery, very metallic, visible-from-outer-space highlighters have dominated the market and, while I adore a drag queen-level face beat, warmer weather has me in the mood for a little subtlety. When applied with a lighter hand, highlighter can make your skin look dewy and fresh—like you actually drink eight glasses of water a day and get eight hours of sleep (if only).

And while there are plenty of methods out there for how and where to apply highlighter on your face, look no further than the expert, Pat McGrath and her team from Pat McGrath Labs, for the best tips for getting a natural-looking glow.

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Step One: Start With a Cream Highlighter

After prepping the skin with concealer and foundation, use one finger to apply cream highlighter to larger areas: tops of cheekbones, bridge of the nose, and under the brow bone. “Think of the places the sun would hit first,” McGrath advises.

Step Two: Apply Minor Highlights

Using a small precision brush, apply highlighter to smaller areas of the face. Highlighting the cupid’s bow adds “instant volume” to your lips, while applying to your inner corners “opens up the eye and defines it with light,” says McGrath.

Step Three: Sweep On Powder Highlighter

If you want to look extra lit, use a fluffy brush to layer on iridescent highlighter powder over the areas you already lightened. “Buff in until skin looks polished,” McGrath says. You can also apply it to bare eyelids as a subtle eyeshadow.

Cream Highlighter for Fair Skin




Cream Highlighter for Medium Skin

Baume Essentiel



Cream Highlighter for Deep Skin

Illuminating Stick

Black Opal


Powder Highlighter for Fair Skin

Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter



Powder Highlighter for Medium Skin

Skin Highlighting Trio

Pat McGrath Labs


Powder Highlighter for Deep Skin

Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter



Best Highlighter Brush

Velvet Luxe Soft Focus Sculpting Brush #315

IT Brushes For ULTA


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