Thanks to Kim K and the community of Instagram make up artists, contouring has made a serious name for itself. If you haven’t heard of it (you will soon, because I’m pretty sure “kontouring” has plans for world domination), a brief explanation is the use of darker and lighter shades of concealer/powder/bronzer etc to emphasise cheekbones, slim noses and jawlines, and generally just emulate Victoria Secret models. When done well, contouring does have it’s place, and photographs very well – however, for a trip to the shops or everyday living (without scaring children) it can a)take way too much time, and b) involve truck loads of make up – not exactly resulting in a natural appearance, and this can be particularly ageing for older skin. “Strobing” is a newer entrant to the arena, and it may be the preferred choice for a daily glow (soz, couldn’t help it) as it mimics the luminescence of younger skin – you could call it anti-aging make up. Strobing is essentially contouring without the use of a dark shade, and tends to involve more sheer products, resulting in a dewy, radiant appearance in real life.
So what do you need and how do you use it? There are 3 products that I go between, and have found they tend to suit most skin types – however, oily skins take note, you do have to be careful with application as an all-over-post-spin-class-face-beam is not what we’re aiming for.
- The basics:
Strobing entails using highlighter to emphasise the points that light naturally hits (so going overboard in an attempt to resemble Kate Moss is not really going to work if your face shape is totally different – I feel your pain though). You can identify these by looking in the mirror with overhead lighting – generally the areas light falls on are the cheekbones, the brow bones, just above the brow, the bridge of the nose and the top of the upper lip.
- Liquid or cream highlighters are best used either under or straight over you base – liquid/cream before powder in most cases. Patting it onto your cheekbones before tinted moisturiser or a sheer foundation results in a lovely subtle glow, that becomes more apparent with flash photography – solving that “which is more important Insta or IRL” dilemma.
- Limit the highlighter to the area – less is very much more, as a reflective face is not going to accentuate any cheekbone and can just look downright weird/sweaty.
- The “C” shape around the outside of the eye is a very popular area to highlight – it gives a dewy, youthful look to the face and is the easiest introduction to strobing
- You can experiment with different areas as you get used to it – the cheeks, inner eye corner and even chin can look really lovely when highlighted, but are much easier to mess up and result in a post-gym appearance instead.
A.K.A. the idiot’s guide to strobing – this is both the easiest product to identify and apply. MAC is where you’ll find it and it comes in two sizes – the travel size is ideal for first-timers
and not a huge investment (I currently have both sizes, the larger of which resides in my bathroom, while the other is a constant in my handbag). Strobe cream doesn’t have any shimmery or glittery component, which makes it suitable for all ages, skin types and occasions. It can be mixed with tinted moisturiser for an all over glow (but as before, oily skins be careful with this), purely used as a highlighter, patted sparingly on top of heavier powders to give the impression of dewiness (one of the few times you would use liquid on top of powder in your make up routine – but pat it on v gently so as not to mess up the base you just finished!) and even used on collar bones for a natural sheen.
One of Benefit’s staples, High Beam has a slight shimmer, and can sometimes give an unflattering whitish hue to the area if used with a heavy hand. It has a superior highlighting effect compared to Strobe Cream, so it can be a better choice if you’re really looking for accentuate those cheekbones, particularly if you have dry skin. Use sparingly, you honestly only need a couple of dots along the highest point of the cheek, and one on the inner corner of the eye if you’re looking to highlight this.
Powder highlighters can still give a more natural appearance than full on contouring, and are probably more suitable if you need full coverage foundation with powder to set it. Mary Lou-manizer is a dupe for the much lauded “Soft and Gentle” by MAC, and about €10 cheaper. It does have a slight shimmer in it, but is not sparkly (something to avoid for everyday life on your face at least, unless you are 6 years old).
There are literally hundreds of highlighters on the market – I have used Wonder Glow by Charlotte Tilbury, Moon Beam by Benefit (which has a warmer, more golden tone than Highbeam), Bobbi Brown’s Shimmer Brick and Matte Baked Radiance powder by Laura Mercier and they are all pretty good, but I find myself returning to the above 3 time and time again. So once again, any favourites you have – please let me know, my make up cupboard is almost bursting but I always seem to find space for more if glowing skin is promised!