Have you heard of strobing yet? What is strobing? It’s one of those makeup techniques that have been around for a while, but it’s just been dressed up with a fancy new name, and taken to the extreme. Strobing is basically a type of highlighting – you know that word that sits on the other side of the ampersand, opposite to contouring… it’s not easy to forget.
Whereas contouring creates shadows to make the face appear slimmer and more angular, highlighting does the opposite. A highlight pulls our features forward, and attracts attention to them. Strobing creates definition in a very fresh and youthful way, unlike contouring, which often makes the face appear more mature and sculpted.
Is Strobing For Me?
While everyone benefits from a touch of highlight, strobing is a bit more extreme, and might not suit everyone. Traditionally, when we refer to strobing, we talk about creating a highlight with a product that has a shimmer or a very dewy finish.
For those with very oily skin or large pores, it’s better to stick to a subtle, matte highlight. Extreme strobing would draw attention to larger pores, and will make your skin look greasy after a few hours. You can still follow my strobing instructions, but just use a more appropriate product – don’t worry, I’ll have some suggestions coming up.
Mature skin types can definitely utilize a dewy strobing cream, but should stay away from shimmer, since it accentuates wrinkles.
Key Points to Bring Out: Strobing Tips for Face Shapes
When decided which of your features you want to highlight, and how, keep in mind this basic principle: highlighting makes things appear larger and closer. Consider your own features, and decide which ones you want to emphasize.
There are some features that highlighting will be universally flattering for. Generally, apply highlighter to the high points of the face, which catch light naturally, like temples, cheekbones or bridge of nose.
Highlighting the cheekbones will emphasize them, making the face appear healthy and more three-dimensional. If you keep the highlight concentrated along the very top of the cheekbone, the effect would be more angular. If you bring the highlight down to the apples of the cheeks, your face will appear a touch softer and younger.
Strobing above the cupid’s bow will draw attention to the lips, making them seem fuller.
A highlight at the center of the forehead will give an ethereal glow, but be careful to not bring the highlight up too high, or else it might make your forehead look too high.
Most people will benefit from highlighting the bridge of their nose, since it makes the nose look slimmer and draws attention to the center of the face. However, those with very thin noses should leave things be.
Those with round or square face shapes will certainly benefit from strobing the center of the chin, since it will lengthen their face. The effect can also be very flattering on an oval face shape, however anyone with a longer face should be careful since it would make their face look comically long.
Diamond and heart face shapes can bring balance to their face by highlighting along their jawline, while round face shapes should avoid it.
Highlighting in the inner corner of the eye opens up the eyes, making them look larger and brighter. However, take into account that this effect also makes the eyes look a little farther apart.
How to Strobe Like a Pro Using a Strobing Cream
1) Cleanse your skin with a gentle, non-stripping cleanser like Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple, and moisturize with your favorite moisturizer: La Roche Posay Anthelio SX Daily Moisturizing Cream is great under makeup, and also has an SPF.
2) For extra depth, apply a highlighting primer, like MAC Strobe Cream, all over your face. This will give you a glow from within, and create a base of depth for the rest of your highlighting.
3) Apply your favorite foundation (Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-hour Foundation is the one that has my heart right now) in a very thin layer, but don’t conceal yet.
4) Now is the time to get into your strobing cream (I’ll have some product recommendations towards the end of this article). Using either a beauty blender, or your fingers, gently stipple the strobe cream unto the points of your face you want to highlight.
If you’re using a beauty blender, you can use its wider part to apply the strobe cream to larger areas like the apples of your cheek, and then use the smaller edge to highlight small areas like the bridge of the nose.
The reason why you want to stipple the cream (i.e. use tapping motions to apply it) is that if you smeared it on, it would just get caught on or mixed with your foundation, and the effect can look messy.
5) After you’ve stippled on the highlight, you can now blend it by tapping a clean makeup sponge along the edges. This way you’ll have maximum intensity towards the center of the highlight, while everything else will look natural and blended along the edges.
6) You can now use a concealer that matches your skin tone to conceal under the eyes, and any blemishes or marks. You’ll find that after you’ve highlighted, there’s actually not too much that needs concealing.
7) Set everything lightly with a translucent powder, using a large fluffy brush and a tapping motion. It’s important to avoid powders that have coverage, since they will tone down or even completely hide all of your hard work. Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder does the trick really well.
8) You can now strengthen your strobing with a powder highlighter: just follow steps number 5 & 6 in the next section.
9) You can now finish your makeup off however you like. You can keep it soft, with just a touch of mascara and a tinted chapstick, or opt for a full face of makeup.
How to Strobe Like a Pro with a Highlight Powder
Begin by following steps 1-3 from the previous section (i.e. cleanse, moisturize, and apply foundation).
4) Apply concealer wherever is necessary, and then set everything base lightly with a powder. It’s best to use a big, fluffy brush covered in a very small amount of translucent powder, and to just tap it into the skin. However, if you need more coverage it’s okay to use a high coverage setting powder, like Bare Minerals.
5) Next choose your favorite strobing powder (don’t have one? Don’t worry, I have some awesome suggestions), and start applying it to the high points of your face. When using a powder, I like utilizing two brushes to highlight: a medium sized blush brush (like #300 from Real Techniques) for larger areas, like the top of the cheekbone, and an eyeshadow brush with medium density (think something like the #217 blending brush from MAC), for small points like the bridge of the nose and the cupid’s bow.
If you’ve already highlighted with a cream, concentrate your application in the center of the previous highlights, to create a 3D effect.
6) With a clean, medium-sized blending brush (#137 from MAC is a great choice), blend the outer edges of your highlight in small, round movements.
7) Now you can finish off your makeup however you like. You can keep it fresh with a bright blush and a touch of lip-gloss, or go all out.
What’s the Best Highlighter for My Skin Tone?
Knowing how to choose the best highlighter for your skin tone is as important as knowing how to highlight correctly, if you want to create flawless looks.
Highlighter for Very Fair Skin with a Cool Undertone
If your skin is more pink than yellow, you want a pearly highlighter with a lot of shimmer. You could even get away with a shimmery, white cream. The reflective properties are mandatory, or else the highlighter will totally blend into your skin! Avoid warm, gold-based highlighters, since their effect will be more sickly than fresh.
Highlighter for Light-Medium Skin with a Warm Undertone
Warm undertones can get different, yet flattering effects from different kinds of highlighters. A safe go-to would be a warm champagne highlighter, but golds and soft peaches can also have a gorgeous, sun-kissed effect.
Highlighter for Medium Skin with a Cool Undertone
If your skin has cool undertones, but you’re not too pale, you want to aim for pink-toned highlighters, to get a gorgeous otherworldly glow.
Highlighter for Dark Skin – Any Undertone
For dark skin, darker golds, coppers, and bronzes do the trick wonderfully. The warm metallic sheen will bring out your features, without risking an ashy or unnatural look.
Other Things to Keep in Mind While Highlighting
• The season (check out these winter highlighting tips, too!)
• Skin type
• Time of day/event/lighting
Best Highlighters/ Strobing Products
1. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector
These highlighters from Becca are buttery smooth, with a gorgeous sheen. The pearly finish of these powders reflects light, to create a dramatic effect. The best part? Becca infused a lot of liquid into these formulas, so they blend beautifully.
The color selection is excellent here, as well. Pearl is great for ivory skin, Moonstone for warm-light skin, Rose Gold for medium-cool skin, and Topaz for medium and dark skin tones.
2. Benefit Liquid Highlighter
These liquid highlighters from Benefit create the perfect dewy highlight that just looks healthy and fresh: a real glow from within. A little goes a long way with this highlighter, so a bottle should last you ages.
You can also blend a little into your foundation to get an even more understated, all-over glow. Cool skin tones will love pearly-pink High Beam, mature skin types will prefer the subtle Dandelion Shy Beam, and anyone with warm undertones or darker skin will adore Sun Beam, a gorgeous bronze-y gold.
3. Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat
One of the best highlighters on the market, YSL Touche Eclat might be the product that started the strobing trend. The golden highlighter pen dispenses a light, liquid-y formula that reflects light beautifully, hiding imperfections while drawing attention to the best features. The finish is dewy and subtle, rather than shimmery, so it’s really perfect for anyone with mature skin, large pores, or blemishes.
There are 10 colors available, so you can create a more dramatic strobe by choosing a color a few shades lighter than your own skin tone, or keep it natural with a color that matches your skin tone perfectly.
4. MAC Mineralize Skinfinish
This MAC mineral highlighter is pigmented to the nines. All you need is a gentle sweep of the brush (make sure to tap off the excess!), and you’ll become a glowy goddess. The Skinfinish highlighters are mostly shimmery, with a touch of glitter for extra drama. A subtle sheen, this is not.
Soft & Gentle is a neutral champagne excellent for anyone with fair skin, while Gold Deposit is gorgeous on anyone warm toned. There are 6 more shades available, and they are all winners.
5. Guerlain Météorites Illuminating Powder Pearls
These are little balls of magic that give the kiss of luminosity. They definitely create a subtler strobing effect, and can also be used all over the face as a finishing powder. Available at Nordstrom, this highlighter could work really well for oily skin types looking for a forgiving highlight powder.
Anyone who is fragrance averse may want to avoid them, but personally I adore the light violet scent. Clair and Medium are both perfect for fair-medium skin, no matter the undertone. Dore is great for medium and dark skin tones.
6. Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick
Talk about high impact! These Shimmer Bricks are made up of different strips of delicate powder, and when swirled together they create a beautiful, multi-faceted highlight. You can actually adjust which strips you use, in order to control the exact hue of your highlight.
The pigmentation with these is high, so a single compact will last forever. Their strobe effect is magnificent, but they also work well as eyeshadows, and some shades make for a lovely blush.
For women with chocolate-dark skin, Bronze creates a warm, dramatic highlight. Pink Quartz is perfect for all medium skin tones, while Nectar was made for warmer skin tones.
7. TheBalm Luminizer Highlighting Powder
TheBalm’s highlighting powders are some of the best strobing products out there: they’ll give you a gorgeous strobe effect that sits smack in the middle between Becca’s ultra-dramatic shine, and Guerlain’s subtle highlight. Finely milled, these highlighters are guaranteed not to emphasize large pores.
The packaging itself is quirky and cute: you won’t have to, but you’ll find yourself wanting to reapply in public just to show it off.
Mary-Lou Manizer is a champagne-gold that is super flattering on light-medium skinned ladies with neutral and warm undertones. Cindy-Lou Manizer is a touch rosier, so unless your skin is medium-cool, you might actually prefer it as a blush. Betty-Lou Manizer is a bronzey-gold, ideal for medium-dark skin.
8. NARS ‘The Multiple’ Stick
The NARS Multiple Stick makes it to the list of the best highlighters because it’s blendable, soft, and super easy to use. These roll-up sticks can be used anywhere on the face and body, including the lips. Their cream-to-powder formula blends effortlessly, and the highlighter shades create a gorgeous soft-focus glow.
Copacabana has a golden-champagne sheen excellent for fair-medium skin, Luxor is a little pink, so it’s great for medium-cool tones, while Puerto Vallarta is a bronzey-peach that’d be gorgeous on darker skin tones that want a really warm highlight.
9. Urban Decay 8-Hour Highlighter
These strobe-perfect highlighters are finely milled, soft, and blendable. While one sweep of the brush will give you a subtle highlight, two more sweeps will create a strobe that’ll attract everyone’s attention.
Sin is the classic golden-champagne that’ll suit nearly anyone, while Fireball would be perfect for medium and dark-skinned women who want a really sun-kissed glow. Aura is that icy-pink that cool skin craves.
10. Glossier Haloscope Highlighter
One of the millenials’ favorites and best highlighters ever, Glossier’s Haloscope is a 2-in-1 product, perfect both for skincare and makeup. Its outer halo strives to give that healthy, dewy glow to the skin, while the solid core is enriched with vitamins, oils and moisturizers that deeply hydrate the skin.
Quartz is perfect for lighter skin tones, while Topaz has a nice golden tint that will brighten up darker skin.
Do you have a favorite highlighter that you think we missed? Want to tell us about your strobe technique? Please leave a comment!