How to Apply Cream, Liquid and Powder Highlighter


Have you seen the celebrities with their flawless and glowing skin and wondered how to get that look? It is definitely not all just the magic of a rigorous skincare routine. It involves carefully applied makeup and a most importantly, a highlighter. The use of highlighter has gone on from the ramps and screens to the makeup kit of every girl.

And when a product can do so much for your look, its growing popularity becomes quite obvious. A highlighter is that rare gem of a makeup product that can give you sharper features and a glowing skin tone. It is the perfect finishing touch to the impeccably applied makeup.

Thanks to the popularity of the highlighters, every other makeup brand in the market has come up with a product of its own. These products vary in their formulation, consistency, color options and more. The most common variations are cream, liquid and powder consistency. But before you opt for any product from any brand, the first thing that you need to learn is the application of it. It seems daunting for a beginner in the world of highlighters. But fret not, as it is one of the easiest and quickest make-ups that you can apply.

How to Apply Highlighter

Highlighters give you that striking glow but that in no way means that you can apply it just anywhere on your face. Remember that you want a healthy glow on your face and not a shining radiance. The rule of thumb in this matter is to apply the product to the high points of your face. The lights hit only on the high points of the face, and the shine of the highlighter makes your features appear sharper, thus giving you a more chiseled look.

The places on your face to put the highlighter

There are, in general, seven places where you can apply a highlighter to really make your makeup ‘pop.’ These seven points are given as follows. The other alternative to applying highlighter on these seven points is to mix a hint of it in the moisturizer and then apply it all over the face to get that naturally glowing and dewy looking skin.

  • Below the brow bone to make the eyes look larger
  • On the apple of your cheeks to make your blush stand out
  • Along the bridge of the nose to get a sharper looking nose
  • Inner corners of the eyes to make the eyes look brighter
  • Diagonally on the cheekbones to make them look sharp
  • On the cupid’s bow to give definition to your lipstick
  • At the center of the eyelid to make you look fresh and awake.

Now that the discussion on where to apply the highlighter is over, it is time to move on to the different consistencies of highlighters.

The three variants and their application

As it has been mentioned earlier, the top three types of highlighters that you will get in the market are cream, liquid, and powder. Each of these comes with their own set of pros and cons and the methods of application. It goes without saying that some are more suited to a particular skin type than the other. This is the reason you will find some of your friends and beauty gurus recommend one type over the other. The truth of the matter is that what suits them might not suit your skin type. So, read on, and you can decide for yourself.

Cream Highlighters

If you are on the lookout for an out and out glamorous look, then cream highlighters are your best bet. The simple reason behind this is that the formulation of the cream ones is more concentrated than the other types of highlighters. The cream ones are the perfect blend of liquids and powders. These generally come in a stick or small cup-like format. They are also easier to apply for the beginners if they go for a more matte texture. But there is also a catch to it, the issues of doing it more than needed are seen most of this kind than the others as many people fail to register where and when to stop.

It is interesting to note that the most common use of the cream highlighters are not really for the glow but rather as an add-on to the contour, in order to make sure that the contour stands out even more. They can help you with that desired sculpted look without making you look like a glowworm.


If you have got hold of a stick of cream highlighter, just take it and glide it over the areas that you want to highlight. Wondering what brush to pick up for the application? The best brush when it comes to cream highlighters is your fingertips. Avoid going for any types of brushes for this one. Just use your fingertips gently over the highlighter, and the warmth of your finger will make the highlighter spread nice and smooth on your skin.

Best suited for

The best part about the cream highlighters are that they are good to go for all types of skin. The cream ones are also best suited for the beginners in the world of makeup or highlighting as they blend really easily. The effort needed on your part to apply the highlighter on your face is minimum. You don’t even need a brush! It just does not get easier than this.


The use of cream highlighters are more like contour kits as the face looks perfectly contoured. The glow that you get is far greater in cream consistency. Besides, you have greater control over the application when it comes to this variant. These do not leave unblended lines on your face, and the mixing is seamless.

Pro tip

You can take up a bit of highlighter on your fingertips instead of directly putting the stick across your cheeks if you want more control over the amount applied and are just looking for a slight glow. Put the stick directly to your cheeks after you become a pro at the job.

Liquid Highlighters

The liquid highlighters are one way to change your daily makeup routine. If there is one consistency of highlighters that comes with a multitude of use, this is it. These are more in the middle zone of pigmentation- more pigmented than the powder variants but less pigmented than the cream ones. But the growing demand for the liquid highlighters is more for its multiple uses rather than just the pigmentation.

The formulation is more like a serum so you can use it under your foundation or mix it in with the foundation. You can even carry out the other popular technique of strobing using the liquid highlighter. So, you just get one product and carry out a number of makeup routines with it. A complete win-win situation!

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The application of the liquid highlighters depends on the makeup technique that you wish to try, and as such there are four popular ways to use these products. As any beauty blogger would suggest you when you have taken the effort of buying the product, why restrict its use. Go for a different technique each day until you master each of these techniques.


There are four popular methods for applying the liquid highlighters, and they have been enumerated as follows.

  • The usual: Pick up a soft brush that has natural or satin bristles and take some highlighter on it. The application will be on a c-shape on the face. Begin the process from the arch of the brows and then come down to the top of the cheekbones. Repeat the process on the other cheek. Take a very small amount and apply on the other high points.
  • Strobing: Strobing is the latest buzzword in the beauty business. This technique uses highlighters and works a lot like highlighting, but the effect is more natural. There are separate strobing brushes available for the method. Just get the product on the brush and apply it over your base makeup on the high points like cheekbones, corner of eyes, below brow bone and above Cupid’s bow. Avoid putting it on the chin or forehead as these places are already oilier than the rest of the face.
  • Mixing it in: Take some foundation on the back of your hand and then put in one or two drops of liquid highlighter on it. Mix it well together and apply it on your face using a beauty blender or foundation brush. The result is overall glowing skin.
  • The base of another highlighter: A liquid highlighter is a great base for a powder highlighter if you are looking for a more radiant glow. After you have applied the powder highlighter, gently dab the liquid highlighter over it.

Best suited for

 The liquid highlighters, quite naturally, have the consistency that is problematic for oily skin types. As the time passes and the oil comes out from the skin, the highlighter starts to slip, and the result is definitely not pleasing to the eye. Also concentrating the highlighter to a specific spot on the face is difficult for the oily skin types. So, the liquid highlighters are the best bet if you have dry skin.

The benefits

The obvious benefit is the multiple types of application. When one product does the work for four makeup techniques, it is bound to be adored by the makeup lovers from around the world.

Pro tip

Avoid getting the liquid highlighter too close to your nose or in those areas of the face that have large pores. The large pores are highlighted even further on the application of liquid highlighters. Apply the highlighter in small strokes to make sure it blends properly.

How to Apply Highlighter

Powder Highlighters

If you want to make highlighting a part of your everyday look, then the powder variants are the ones you should put in your makeup box. They are the more traditional tool for the popular makeup technique and is the original variant that the makeup lovers who came before you had in hand. The cream and the liquid ones are the later day inventions. The powder highlighter also ranks high on the shimmer factor, but with these, you really need to be cautious about not leaving a clearly stand-out line of glow across your face. The use of the powder ones is not for getting a contoured look but rather for a subtle, beautiful glow.

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These are the best variants to use on a day-to-day basis as no one wants to reach office or a meeting looking like they fell into a bucket of glitter. If your favorite makeup look is the barely there or the no-makeup-look, then this is the one consistency you will love.


There are two kinds of brushes that you can use for this- either the angled powder brush or the fluffy brush of medium size. Begin with a smooth application of foundation on your face. Dip your brush lightly in the powder and tap the brush to remove the excess product. Dust the highlighter on the areas like chin, nose, cheeks, and the top of the forehead. The application will not be too localized, but that is okay as it is supposed to be an overall shine and not a localized glow.


This is the gentlest way to accentuate your features. This will not slip like a liquid highlighter, and you will not need to go on and fix your makeup in the middle of the day. The chances of overdoing it are far less than the other kinds. This is what you need when you want to highlight your face but not make it too obvious. You can use these ones for strobing too, just like the liquid highlighters.

Best suited for

 The problem with oily skin is that when the skin releases oil, and it gets mixed with the liquid highlighter, the result is the blinding glow that no one wants on their face. Thus, the powder highlighters are perfectly suited for the oily skin beauties. It will not slip from your face or make your face look all greasy.

Pro tip

The key to using a powder highlighter perfectly is to start off on a lighter note, and gradually building up the layers of the product. You will get more control on the level of illumination by this method. Do not try to contour with a powder highlighter as it will be in vain. Also, when you pick up the highlighter on the brush, always tap the brush and never blow on it. When you blow on it, you are just putting the germs from your mouth on to the brush.

An important general tip for application of highlighters is about the use of brushes. If you are using liquid or powder highlighters, make sure you pick up the right brush. A fan brush can get you to effectively apply the products on all areas of the face. You can also keep the use of fan brush restricted to the thinner areas like nose and used an angled brush for other areas.

A comparison of the cream, liquid and powder highlighters

After a lot of discussion on each of the types, it is finally time to take a comparative look at all three to ensure that you can make the best choice when you go ahead to buy a highlighter for yourself. There are six factors on which one can judge a highlighter.

The shimmer factor

The shimmer is highest for the cream highlighters, medium for the liquid highlighters and lower than the two for the powder highlighters.

The skin types:

The cream highlighters suit almost all skin types ranging from dry to normal to slightly oily. The liquid highlighters are suited only for dry skin. The powder highlighters are suited best for oily skin, and they might look patchy or flaky on dry skin.

The purpose of application:

If you want a contoured look, then go for the cream highlighters. The liquid and powder ones are not made for skin contouring. They are best fits for overall dewy and fresh look. Again, cream highlighters are not made for everyday use.

The longevity:

The longevity depends on the skin type. For instance, a liquid highlighter on an oilier skin will have minimum longevity. In general, it can be said that longevity of highlighters decrease as you move from powder to cream to liquid.

The coverage:

The cream highlighters are best for on-spot coverage, and the liquid highlighters come second on the matter. The coverage is sheer and not restricted to one spot for the powder highlighters.

On the basis of user:

The cream highlighters are more suited for the beginners. One can move on to powder and then liquid variants, depending on the skin type, as they become more expert at the application.

Just like all products, every kind of highlighter comes with certain pros and cons. The point is to weigh which one has more pros and fewer cons for you.