If you have 10 seconds to spare, you can do this.
You might better know highlighting as the little sister (or better half, depending on who you're talking to) of contouring. Oh, and there was a hot second where everyone was calling it strobing, too. Basically, the process goes something like this: after you take on the kinda-harrowing task of carving out cheekbones with product two or three (or more!) shades darker than your actual skin tone, comes the fun part, daintily tapping on or dabbing on shimmery stuff. Let's be clear—not sparkly, or glittery (unless you're into that kind of thing)—but shimmery. A sort of imperceivable, otherworldly glow that just seems to emanate from the tops of your cheekbones, cupid's bow, the general middle-ish area of your face. It also happens to be about a billion times less terrifying than contouring—especially given that occasionally, it can be done with just a few quick finger swipes (clean hands, people!) of product. Here, Teen Vogue editor Phillip Picardi; Kate Bosworth, Chloë Sevigny, Bella Hadid and Jessica Alba's go-to, Daniel Martin; Tyron Machhausen, who works with Margot Robbie and Monika Blunder, who's worked with Emilia Clarke, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, and Jennifer Lawrence (in other words, they're basically the Michelangelos of babe city), explain how to do it and why it's worth it—even when you wake up half an hour late. Every morning. Oops!
Why you need to add highlighting to your beauty routine:
"Highlighting adds a dewy effect to the skin, and subtly defines the face by accentuating those areas that are highlighted... cheekbones, cupid’s bow, bridge of the nose and brow bone. Someone with dry skin would love the healthy dewy effect, and someone looking to accentuate their bone structure may love the effect of highlighting. - Monika Blunder
"I have been using Rose-Marie's RMS Beauty Living Luminize for three years straight now. It is the only product I can use practically anywhere—bridge of the nose, inner corners of the eyes, all over the lid, the temples, high planes of the cheekbones, along the jawline—for a completely undetectable glow that imparts a touch of dew, thanks to good-for-you skin ingredients like rosemary and coconut oil. It can be an ephemeral product, given its more natural origins, so I layer Kevyn Aucoin Candlelight powder on top of it to make it stay." - Philip Picardi
“Strobing accentuates your features, creating a more natural look than contouring, and is also more easy to achieve. In a nut shell: to create a flawless strobing look, light reflecting pigments in the form of creams, liquids or powders are being applied where the light usually hits the the top of the cheekbones, nose, brows and chin. It’s basically reversed contouring. It creates an instant luminous and three dimensional finish that gives you that glow from within. What I really love about strobing is that it can even be used without any foundation, creating a polished and super natural, youthful look.” - Tyron Machhausen
On the easiest, most foolproof highlighters money can buy:
"I use both powder and cream highlighting products, depending on the effect I’m going for, and what skin type my client has. I love the effect of a cream highlighter, such as BeneFit ‘Watts Up’, because the texture blends effortlessly into the skin, looks natural, and is easy to apply using your fingers. M.A.C. Mineralize powder in ‘Soft & Gentle’ is a great powder formula that I use in my kit because again, the finish is very seamless, gives the right amount of glow and never looks chalky." - MB
"I really, really enjoy Revlon's Skinlights. It's a liquid highlighter with a super fine particle shimmer that comes in a few shade options. It's actually a cult classic of sorts that just recently made a comeback to much beauty addict fanfare. I love it because it's multipurpose: mix a drop in with foundation, tap it onto the high planes of your face for added luminosity, apply the bronze shade in lieu of eyeshadow for a dewy eye look, etc... Or, you can use it to give totally new life to any of your favorite powders or cream products. Just spoon out your favorite, say, matte eyeshadow onto the back of your hand, then add a drop of Skinlights. You've got instant liquid eyeshadow! You can also do that with blush, which is especially clutch on days when your skin is dry and powder will make you look cakey." - PP
"My favorite products for this are Diorshow Fusion Mono Eyeshadow in Mirror. It's a pale gold potted cream that can be used with your finger for all skin tones. I also love Clio Kill Cover Sheer Pearlfection Wear Sheer Blender in Yellow for medium to dark skin. This adds radiance without looking metallic." - DM
How to get the look in 30 seconds (or less!):
"A great formulation is the key to foolproof highlighting when using these products. Know your skin type—someone who has oily skin will end up looking greasy if they use a highlighter. When highlighting, keep the rest of your makeup as shimmer-free as possible. If you’re using a highlighter with a shimmery blush, shimmery eyeshadow and shimmery lipstick, your result will look over-done and way too shiny. When using a highlighter in your everyday routine, keep it simple—apply to your cheekbones and brow bones." - MB
"With a hand mirror, stand in overhead light to see how it bounces off the face. This will enable you to see where the light hits the highest parts of the face and thats where you'll place your highlighter. Your fingers are your best tools for beginners, so you can feel where to apply. As you get more skilled, you can use a brush for precision placement in different lighting. My favorite highlighting brush is from the art store. Its a Princeton Series 6550 Oval Wash brush." - DM
"Grab an eyeliner brush to get it into the inner corners of the eyes, and then smudge a little bit into the center of your lower lash line for a widening effect. Or, tap it on top of cream blush to help it blend better and look more natural. I also love it on the lid, in place of eyeshadow—it will elevate your eyeliner game by adding a bit of dimension. You can also apply it to the high planes of the face generously before your BB cream or foundation to supercharge your base." - PP