After a few years, highlighter is still having a huge moment in the makeup world. It’s everywhere I look when I shop for makeup, in every conceivable form: powders, creams, gels or liquids in big pans, small pans, palettes, bottles, & mini’s. And in almost every color from gold to pink to peach to purple and blue. I would say every second or third tutorial I watch on YouTube or Instagram, or ad image I see online, features highlighter prominently. Either it’s slathered onto the skin so it can be seen in heaven or layered on top of creams or liquids to give an almost supernatural effect. (To read more about my thoughts on Instagram makeup, click here). “Blinding” skin is in and matte skin is BAD, people. Or at least that’s the message I’m getting.
I think highlighter now has just become overhyped and overdone. This might very well be an unpopular opinion – and that’s OK – but personally I’m ready for the makeup world to rethink its relationship to the highlighter craze, and this includes both brands and consumers. I’m not saying that highlighter should be “cancelled” at all; I’m simply saying I’d like to see a return to basics. Why did we love glow before social media prompted us to buy every unicorn and mermaid shimmer palette that we really don’t need? Because it made us look healthy and youthful, and that’s because we used it strategically and not flagrantly. I want to get back to that.
Now I’m not immune to the social media marketing trap either, nor to needless or impulse purchasing. All of us beauty lovers understand the perils we face when we interact with certain enabling apps on our phones. I think sometimes we just need to step back and become a little more conscious of the strong influence that advertising and social media influencers have on us all. What we really think we want vs. what we really need.
Take for example huge highlighter palettes. There are usually now several launches every year from both low-cost and high-end brands which receive strong media promotion. What immediately springs to mind are the famous Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kits, for example. If brands aren’t specifically targeting professional makeup artists, how can the average consumer be expected to use up six or more pans of different colored highlighters when they only have one skin tone? It makes more sense to me to buy just one or two larger pans of your favorite color or texture that you know work on you. I can see more value to having more eye shadow or contour palettes frankly since those can be multi-use for face, eyes or brows.
As far as my personal relationship to highlighter goes, I want to be clear on two things: a) I don’t hate it, and b) I do wear it. Just not that frequently and not that obviously. As someone with dry skin, I very much enjoy the effect that dewy or glossy products have on my complexion, however I’m much more of a fan of a nice sheen than a heavy sparkle or glitter. The products I typically use to achieve a more “grown up” or subtle highlight are usually one of or a combination of any of the following: Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfector in either Opal or Pearl (the cream version), e.l.f.’s Highlighting Stick in Dewy, or even Smashbox’s Photo Finish Radiance Primer (yup, that’s right). Or I sometimes build an all-over glow from the ground up, starting with moisterizer and then layering MAC Strobe Cream before a thin layer of foundation (which you can read more about in depth in this post ).
But it’s ultimately about preference for the amount of glow you desire and the technique by which you apply it. If you like layering up strong highlighters like some of your favorite influencers, do it and live your best life. I just personally want none of it. If I use any kind of shimmery product on my face, whether cream or powder, it’s usually heavily buffed into my base product. Dramatic highlighting, especially with powders, can easily emphasize textured skin or fine lines and pores. It also can look incredibly harsh in unforgiving natural light.
While we don’t exist walking around in Instagram filters or an augmented reality in our day to day, we do however live in the age of the selfie where there is a constant pressure to broadcast ourselves and imitate the images we see everyday in social media. The highlighter craze is indicative of this for me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on highlighters, whether they’re blinding, subtle or anywhere in between. Let me know in the comments below!