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5 Dos and Don’ts of Strobing Like a Celebrity

Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Back in 2015, contouring was the go-to makeup trick of everyone from Kim Kardashian to Katy Perry. But with all of the blending required (for fear of looking like you painted stripes on your face), it was only a matter of time before an alternative technique took its spot. 

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Enter strobing, which uses only illuminators to enhance facial features. Also called highlighting, it has been around for years, but it is making a comeback thanks to the likes of Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Jenna Dewan Tatum and Jennifer Lopez. The idea is that by smoothing highlighters on areas of the face where light usually hits (think: the high points like cheekbones, and down the nose and chin), you’ll get a lit-from-within glow. Still, the process does require some finesse, warns Vanessa Eckels, lead makeup artist at Hourglass cosmetics, who walks Us through the steps.

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Do choose the formula that works best for you.

As for whether to choose powder, liquid or a stick, that depends on comfort level. If you consider yourself more of a makeup expert, reach for a liquid formula (bottom, left). You’ll dot it along the high planes of your face and blend well with fingertips. A powder palette (top, left) or single shade (bottom, right) can work just as well, as long as it’s completely blended. Sticks (top, right) are the best of both worlds — and easy to bring along in your purse. Just be sure to blend extra well with either your fingertips or a tool.

1. Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit in Gleam, $40, 2. Sonia Kashuk Chic Luminosity Highlighter Stick, $11, 3. Benefit Cosmetics High Beam Liquid Highlighter, $26, 4. Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Powder in Euphoric Strobe Light, $38,

Don’t forget the right tools.

For anything other than a liquid, you’ll need a tool to work the product into your skin. For powders, pick up a fan brush (left); it has fewer hairs, so you can’t apply too much. Or, if a BeautyBlender has become your go-to, try an angled sponge (right), which features curved edges for blending.

From left to right: MUA Pro Fan Brush, $12,; Hourglass Ambient Strobe Light Sculptor, $38,

Do find the right shade. 

Fair skin tones should opt for a light pink formula (left), while medium to dark skin tones will benefit from peach (middle) or golden tones (right). If you’re nervous about how it will look, test it out on the back of your wrist, Eckels explains.

From left to right: Diorskin Nude Air Glowing Gardens Illuminating Powder in Glowing Pink, $58,; NARS Illuminator in Orgasm, $30,; BECCA Cosmetics Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Powder in Topaz, $38,

Don’t go overboard with shimmer. 

Products with glitter, says Eckels, may “distract from what you’re trying to achieve.” Instead, the Los Angeles-based pro suggests a luminescent product that has “really fine pearl sizes in multifaceted shapes, so that when light hits your face, it reflects and refracts, bouncing around to create that glow.”

Do apply highlighter in all the right places.

While contouring aims to sculpt your face, strobing is more about giving off a glow (in all the right places) and subtly playing up features with a few application tricks. You can highlight all over or pick and choose based on the effect you want.

If you want the illusion of a longer, narrower nose, Eckels tells Us to run the highlighter down its bridge and blend.

For a wide-awake look, blend illuminator underneath your brow bone and at the inner corners of your eyes.

To enhance your cheek bones, apply the formula in a C-shape, starting from above your brows to the tops of the apples of your cheeks.

To give your lips extra attention, sweep the highlighter in the Cupid’s bow of your upper lip.

Don’t wear sparkly makeup on the rest of your face. 

To make the highlighter pop, keep the rest of your makeup (foundation, blush and eye shadow) matte. Otherwise you could end up looking more like an oil slick than lit from within. 

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