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Dublin: 21 °C Friday 7 August, 2020

Skin Deep: How to get the best results from all those highlighters you have lying around

Look like a glowing goddess, not a sweaty mess.


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.


I’m not sure how it happened, but I am the owner of no less than twenty seven different highlighters. When I say I’m not sure how it happened, I mean, I bought them. Each and every one. But I really didn’t realise I had accumulated so many. It’s just that the search for the perfect gleam is seemingly unending, and even when I find one I love, I can’t help but be drawn in by the next sheeny shiny thing. (Not for my vagina though. Never for my vagina. Who in God’s name thought that was something that women want?)

I doubt I’m alone in this, highlighter has become a key part of any self-respecting makeup fan’s kit and is now big business for makeup brands. However, I fear that we may have lost our way a bit with this wonderful product, so today I want to break it down.

What is highlighter, and what is the point of it?  Highlighter comes in many forms, from creams to liquids to powders. It’s purpose is to, well, highlight areas of your face you want brought forward by attracting light. Applied well it will make you look like a youthful, glowing goddess.  Applied badly, it will make you look like a sweaty mess. As someone whose natural look is ‘sweaty mess’, let me tell you that is not good. So what’s the best way to choose the right product and to avoid the sweaty look?


Highlighter comes in lots of different shades these days, but the core options are golds and bronzes, silvers and pinks and pearly creams. Pearly cream tones tend to look good on everyone, as do warm pinks. When it comes to silvers and cool pinks and bronzes and golds, one pair or the other will usually suit you.

If you have warm toned skin, golds and bronzes are your friends. If you have cool toned skin, you’re going to want to go for silvers or cool pinks. The easiest way to figure this all out, though, is to go to a chemist or other such makeup purveyor and lash a load of different ones on the inside of your forearm. This skin tends to be most like the stuff on our face, and should give you an idea of what works and what jars. You may find that a few different colours suit, in which case a palette of highlighter might be a good investment. I’m using the Urban Decay Afterglow palette a lot these days. The colours blend well and the product is finely milled and applies like a dream.

When it comes to cream vs. liquid vs. powder, it’s really a matter of personal taste. I sometimes use a Topshop Glow Stick and then layer the highlight shade from Charlotte Tilbury’s Filmstar Bronze and Glow over it for the sake of impact and longevity. Whichever formulation you choose, however, this is a product which benefits from being applied with a brush. Your fingers will work, but you won’t get as smooth a finish, and you certainly want your highlight to be well blended at the edges which is hard to achieve with your fingers. What kind of brush is up to you. Lots of Instagram makeup artists seem to prefer fan brushes for this purpose, but I just use a small powder brush from Real Techniques.

PastedImage-99719 Topshop Glow Stick in Play Up

Where you apply it is the real trick. Instagram makeup people have a real penchant for applying highlighter virtually all over the face. On the cheekbones, the cupid’s bow, on the tip of the nose, above the eyebrows… I’m personally not into this, but then I’m not into most Instagram makeup trends.

When it comes to makeup, I want to look like myself, but better. I want my skin to look like skin, and my features to look like themselves. I’m not trying to paint a whole new face onto mine. If that’s your thing, by all means, go forth and paint. Makeup is meant to be fun, and I am a firm believer that everyone should do whatever the hell they want. For my purposes though, highlighter mostly needs to stay away from the front of my face. I don’t want bits that will naturally become shiny if I sweat to look sweaty (Beyoncé’s makeup artist agrees with me, which is all the bolstering I’m ever going to need for an opinion.) Also, if you apply highlighter to any area in which you are concerned about visible pores (like your nose or cheeks), it will only exacerbate the situation.

I reckon the best way to apply highlighter is to sweep a brush around the outside of each eye in a ‘C’ motion, from just above your eyebrow to your cheekbones. And go to town on your cheekbones. They are desperate to be highlighted.

New Product


Bobbi Brown know what they’re doing when it comes to faking flawless skin, so you’ll be delighted to hear that they’re launching a new line of concealers. Instant Full Cover Concealer swears it won’t crease or settle, while brightening dark circles and softening tired lines. It comes in fifteen shades, and will set you back €29. Looks like the much adored Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer may have some competition!

Psst. We’re giving Essence goodie bags to five lucky Skin Deep readers. Not a bad haul, eh? Get over and follow us on Instagram to be in with a chance to win.

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