I’ve always been under the impression that shimmering products should be reserved for models on photo shoots — or for country-music performers. I like my bronzer matte, thank you very much, and I steer clear of any products that contain speckles resembling gold sequins. I don’t want to sparkle, I want to glow. There is a big difference. (Think any Kardashian vs. Karlie Kloss.)
But I may have changed my mind. Highlighters. They are terribly trendy all of a sudden: wide sticks of gleam that you just whoosh over the face in key spots, and, presto, instant contouring — and instant improvement of your less-flattering angles. Besides, the key concept — catching light to fool onlookers’ eyes — is an age-old Hollywood makeup trick used to make Marlene Dietrich more stunning. (Yes, even her.) Paramount Pictures makeup artist Dotty Ponedel would draw a thin silver or white line right down the bridge of La Dietrich’s wide Slavic nose — she hated her nose — so that studio lights would “catch” the gleaming line, effectively straightening and narrowing the nose. Well, if it was good enough for Dietrich … Plus, applied to cheeks, brows and whatnot, lines of glimmer could work minor miracles. I decided to explore.
Some good news right up front: Highlighters are not as scary — or as sparkly — as I feared. Applied correctly, they can give, in seconds, a sort of “I-sleep-for-eight-hours-and-drink-green- juice-all-day” look. Learning the art of foolery wasn’t difficult. One search on Pinterest led me to all sorts of highlighting directions — including several facial maps that provided fool-proof visuals. After attempting various techniques, I narrowed my own steps to a simple, five-sweep formula: center of the forehead, the top of each cheek, down the bridge of the nose, and, finally, the center of the chin. Essentially, it’s all the places on your face that would naturally catch the light — or as the lady at the Tom Ford makeup counter at Neiman Marcus NorthPark calls it, “the triangle of light.” Just remember: A little goes a long way. More good news is that all highlighters are used the same way. Once you understand the technique, you just need to find the right product for you. I’ve found three favorites. Now, like Dietrich and Kloss, I’m ready for my close-up.