Strobing has been getting a lot of hype lately. It’s not a new technique though–it is simply highlighting with an illuminating or shimmery highlighter. Nothing groundbreaking there, my friends. The idea is to apply the product on areas that you want to bring attention to. You may have come across articles or tutorials that tell you to strobe (I’m making it a verb) some or all of the following areas: cheekbones, browbones, bridge of nose, center of chin, center of forehead, above the Cupid’s Bow and the inner corners of eyes.
I don’t have anything against strobing when done well. It can be flattering and pretty and it’s not terribly complicated to do. But there are some things I think you should know before attempting this look. I consider it my job as a makeup artist to help you understand and execute different makeup looks. So let’s get to it.
- Light Versus Dark and Contrast Factors. Dark colors make areas recede, light colors bring them out. In general, a shimmer will bring more attention to an area than a matte. If you make an area recede, the area next to that will pop more because of the contrast. Which is why using a matte contour product–which should be darker than your skin–under your cheekbones makes your cheekbones pop. So keep in mind that if you strobe an area, you are playing up that feature. And the area next to that will, by contrast, recede or at least not pop as much. You with me? This is why I don’t do any type of highlighting on my cheekbones. My eyes are deep set so when I highlight my cheekbones–an area that somewhat borders my eye sockets–it pulls that area forward and gives the illusion that my eyes are pushed back even more. I’m all set with looking like a demon, so I forgo any type of highlight there.
- Flashback. This is something to consider if you want to strobe and are going to be photographed. Anything with shimmer in it (that’s all illuminating products, glitter and metallics) can cause this. If paparazzi is around–whether it’s Us Weekly or your camera-obsessed best friend–anything too shimmery can backfire in flash photography. Ever seen a picture of someone who looks like they have a white streak under their eyebrows? Yes you have. That’s because little shimmer particles in whatever was applied to their browbones caught the light from the flash and said “This is our moment, bitches!” Flashback may work well on Mad Men, but it’s not an effect you want from your makeup.
- Pores, Blemishes, Lines/Wrinkles, Dry Patches & Oily Areas. Illuminating/shimmery products have a tendency to do two things–settle into areas of the skin and make skin look shiny. Those tiny shimmery particles fit perfectly into large pores, fine lines and wrinkles. Illuminating products make oily skin more shiny and they make texture, like blemishes and dry patches, more noticeable. So if you have an area that has any of these things, I would avoid strobing there. Some of these imperfections are temporary–blemishes fade, oily skin can change with the seasons or as you become an older and wiser woman, fine lines may disappear with a trip to the derm–so hope is not lost.
- Your Base. Strobing gives a glowy effect, so it makes sense for the skin to show through. A matte, full coverage foundation doesn’t work as well with this look as a sheer foundation does. I recommend a liquid foundation or tinted moisturizer over a powder foundation, as most good illuminating highlighters are liquids, creams or sticks which don’t blend as easily over powder. And prepping your skin with a moisturizer or a hydrating primer first will help with the glow factor.
- Face Re-Shaping. When you contour or highlight, you are essentially re-shaping your face. The idea is to bring out the parts of your bone structure that you like and minimize that parts that you are not as fond of. The problem is, there are a lot of articles and tutorials done by people with different bone structure than you. So let me break it down by who I think might want to avoid strobing different areas. These are my suggestions, but if you like doing something the opposite way, go for it. I’m all for rocking what you like with confidence. These tips are for the people who want to try strobing but need some guidance.
- Cheekbones. As I mentioned, I am not a fan of cheekbone highlight on anyone with deep set eyes. And if you already have gorgeous, prominent cheekbones, I would avoid strobing there too. It can almost be too much on faces with strong cheekbones. But if you don’t fall into either of those categories, this looks beautiful when done correctly.
- Browbones. Everyone should proceed with caution here. Highlighting the browbones brings them forward and pushes the rest of the eye back. That can give a more masculine or Cro-Magnon look, depending on your perspective.
- Bridge of Nose. Minimal strobing on the bridge of the nose is usually fine unless you have a bump on your nose, it’s crooked or you have large pores there. In the case of a bump or crooked nose, you are probably better off with contour. If you do strobe your nose, do it with the product that’s left on your finger or brush after you have applied it to other areas. The bridge of the nose is a small area and makeup on the nose has a tendency to cake up, so a thin layer will do ya. Stop before you get to the tip of the nose unless you are going for a modern-day Rudolph effect.
- Center of Chin. Skip this if your chin protrudes as it will draw attention to that. And if you have an oily chin, which most combination skin peeps have, it’s going to accentuate that.
- Center of Forehead. If you have fine lines or large pores on your forehead, strobing there is going to make that more obvious. Highlighting your forehead can make it look larger so if that doesn’t sound good to you, don’t do it.
- Cupid’s Bow. If you think your top lip is too full (oh, how I wish I had that problem) skip the Cupid’s Bow strobing as it will add the illusion of fullness. If you have fine lines above your top lip, you’ll want to avoid this as well. Otherwise, this is a pretty safe one for you.
- Inner Corners of Eyes. If your eyes are wide set, strobing the inner corners can make them look more wide set. And if you have crepey eyelids, which happens when we lose skin elasticity as we age like fine wine, skip this strobing. Other than that, this is an easy and flattering option for most people.
- Color Choices. Even if you know where to highlight in a way that flatters your bone structure, if you choose the wrong color, it’s going to look off. Light skin looks pretty with pearl shades, champagne tones are flattering on medium skin, and golds and bronzes are dazzling (such an under-utilized word!) on dark skin. Going too light on dark skin can look harsh and ashy and going too dark on light skin can look orange-y.
- Your Overall Look. If you are strobing, especially if you do more than one area of the face, keep some other areas matte. You want to anchor it so you look more ethereal than disco ball. If you’ve strobed your cheekbones, Cupid’s Bow and bridge of your nose, try a matte eyeshadow with black gel liner on your lids. A matte cream blush and cheekbone strobing is perfection. The cream texture keeps with the glowy feel without adding more illumination. A matte red, purple-toned or bright pink lip with strobing on the face and a neutral, flesh-toned eyeshadow is gorgeous.
- Don’t Go Overboard. Especially if you are going to be photographed, strobe with a light hand. What looks subtle in person can look overdone in photos. Apply product in thin layers and blend well. I prefer to apply liquid, cream and stick highlighters with one finger and blend with another. Your body heat will help break down the product–especially cream and stick formulations–so they absorb into the skin instead of sit on top of it. I also like to lightly blend any strobing on the face with my Real Techniques buffing brush after I’m done.
I did some strobing on the bride in this photo using Charlotte Tilbury’s Wonder Glow. Charlotte uses it under foundation on the whole face, but I like to use it as a highlighter.
I hope this post, which turned out to be a hell of a lot longer than I anticipated, has helped you out.
Have a beautiful day 🙂