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Skin Deep

Skin Deep: We need to talk about highlighter

It’s all going horribly wrong.


Welcome to Skin Deep with Louise McSharry, my opportunity to put years of obsessing over beauty products and techniques to good use. I won’t tell you something is good if it’s not. I won’t recommend products I haven’t actually tried. As the magical sitar in Moulin Rouge said, I only speak the truth.

As a result of being a lifelong makeup obsessive, friends and family often come to me with cosmetic questions.

The most recent came from a pal who wanted to understand why she had met several women who seemed quite bronzed, but also slightly green. Was it colour correction, she wondered, panicking that perhaps her own use of green stick might be visible to other people. Her enquiry immediately reminded me of a question my brother asked last Christmas.

‘Louise, is there some mad trend for teenagers where they’re painting themselves silver?’ My friends, they’re talking about highlighter, and we have well and truly lost the run of ourselves.


Highlighter was originally used by stage actors to accentuate the angles of their faces which disappeared under stage lighting, but became big beauty business in 2016. The point of it is to bring out, or highlight, certain aspects of the face, primarily the bones, cheek and brow.

Initially highlighter was a pearly pink or cream substance used in relation to general contouring, but as time has passed and with the growth in popularity of glossy, dewy makeup, it’s become big business all on its own.

Cue dollar signs in makeup manufacturers eyes and brand new products arriving on the shelves by the week.

These days you can get highlighter with a purple sheen, a blue sheen, and, you guessed it, the aforementioned green sheen.

It’s fun, and glowy faces can look fantastic when the right product is well applied. Unfortunately, the ‘highlighting’ aspect of highlighter, seems to have been lost somewhere along the way. So, while I still feel you should absolutely do what you want with your makeup, I think it’s worth noting some possible pitfalls along the way.

The current trend for glowy skin means that lots of us want to look luminous after applying our makeup. We want our skin to look healthy and vibrant, and for our complexion to look lit from within. For some people, this seems to translate to applying highlighter all over the face. If this is what you want to do, do it, but doing it comes with some risks.

Highlighter will accentuate any flaws in the skin, so if you have a few bumps or acne scars, they will be accentuated. I don’t come from the school of thought which suggests that we should be ashamed of our flaws and that they should always be invisible, it just seems unlikely to me that most people want to draw attention to them. Highlighter also runs the risk of making you look shiny or even sweaty if applied all over the face.


If you’re shooting for a glowy look, you’d be better off keeping your highlighter to the traditional high points of the face (your cheekbones, the bridge of your nose, your browbone) and using some illuminating skin products on the rest of your face.

Lots of foundations are designed to give your skin extra glow these days, but they won’t be as high impact in terms of shine as highlighter. I’ve mentioned it before, but It Cosmetics Your Face But Better CC Cream comes in an illuminating formula and does a great job of giving your skin some extra glow. Other good options are Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation and L’Oreal True Match (a super budget option). At the end of the day, your face is meant to be multi-dimensional, so it makes sense for parts of it to be matte and parts of it to gleam.

If you want to amp things up, a slightly pearlescent blush may be just the trick. Benefit’s Coralista has a lovely, subtle shimmer, as does Catrice’s Strobing Blush. Having said that, I often use subtley shimmery pink and coral eyeshadows as blush. There’s no reason not to. They’re finely milled powders and often give you more of a choice of colours than actual blush does. My current favourite for this purpose is Clarins Ombré Iridescent Eyeshadow in Silver Pink. It’s a gorgeous rosy colour with a little extra glow.


Now, let’s tackled the non-traditional highlighters. I’m talking products with tints outside of the pinky/peachy/creamy colour palette. These guys should be approached with caution and used sparingly. They are great products to use around the eyes or instead of eye makeup, and a hint on the cheekbone can be cool and fun, but any highlighter with a green sheen (I’m looking at you mermaid collections) or even a purple one, is best kept in those areas of the face.

I realise I’m being a little bossier than usual in this week’s column, but my basic perspective remains consistent.

I want you to have fun with makeup and do whatever you want. My concern is that some people aren’t getting the results they actually want, because we’re all off our heads on highlighter. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what you want. If you want to look like the child of a shiny unicorn and a glittery fairy, then put that highlighter all over your face, but if you simply want to glow, then it’s worth keeping the above in mind.

New Product


Lancôme has launched a new range of products which aims to ‘lifeproof your makeup’, or in other words, help your makeup last. The range includes Teinte Idole Ultra Wear Foundation, which is light and buildable, unlike some long-lasting foundations which lean toward a heavier consistency. The foundation also comes in stick form, which if purchased in a couple of shades darker than your complexion, could also serve as an ideal contouring product. Other products include the Blur and Go Priming Stick which promises to minimise pores and blur imperfections, a setting spray, and a truly gorgeous loose setting powder. The products will be on shelves from August 29.

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