Strobing: aka highlighting revisited

I’m glad to see the Kim Kardashian-fueled phenomenon of facial contouring seems to have disappeared as quickly as it arrived (I don’t think a face full of heavy make-up works for those of us not getting constantly papped), but now we’re all meant to be getting giddy over the new make-up phenomenon of ‘strobing’.


Intrigued by this rather technical terminology I had a good look around and read a few features and quickly came to the conclusion we’re being fed a bit of line here. Strobing is essentially highlighting (and, thankfully, pretty much the antithesis of contouring) – so why does it need some fancy new moniker and, seemingly, nobody daring to mention the revival of a previous beauty trend? Perhaps that would be admitting that nothing’s ever really new, we just recycle and re-invent what’s gone before, however, a jazzy new name does of course make way for a new bunch of ‘specialised’ products… As they say: ‘You do the math.’

The good news is, highlighting is a great way to make the most of your facial features, promoting radiant and glowing skin with the emphasis on looking natural – much better for us 40-somethings whose skin needs a boost, rather than heavy layers of products trying to alter your features, aka contouring.


The trick to mastering highlighting – sorry, strobing – is to not over-do it. Think dewy looking skin with accents on areas the light would naturally catch, such as cheek and brow bones and your nose. You don’t want to create an all-over iridescent shine-a-thon.

Start with your normal moisturising routine. Most of us in the 40-plus category then still need to do a bit of preparation to even out skin tone (for me personally this means disguising my dark under-eye circles, hiding my semi-ruddy cheeks and covering ever-present blemishes and pigmentation on my chin – a constant joy). After trying various products I find the best way to achieve good coverage while getting a nice light-diffusing finish, is to mix a shimmer lotion (rather than a cream, which is heavier), with your regular foundation. Just mix together on your fingertips and apply all over your face as you would normally apply your foundation. High 5 I love Boots No 7 Stay Perfect Superlight Foundation (it actually gives more of a medium coverage than the name suggests) in Warm Ivory and there are a couple of shimmer lotions I recommend. Both Decleor’s Instant Radiance Moisturiser and Elizabeth Arden’s Let There Be Light Radiant Skin Lotion are free of colour, so work perfectly. And Tesco does a great, very affordable, alternative called Face Lift in its Barbara Daly Trade Secrets range.

Then deal with any areas requiring a bit of tlc (as above) using either a stick or liquid concealer (in a lighter shade than your foundation on under-eye circles.) If you do have a tendency to get an oily t-zone throughout the day, don’t skimp on dabbing on an anti-shine powder, but do just dab (rather than drag) on the problem areas, not all over (I use Rimmel’s Clear Complexion (£3.99) in 02 Translucent and apply with a fresh cotton pad each day to avoid any build up of bacteria). I definitely recommend creating a strong brow (covered in a separate post) to frame your face and then that’s the groundwork done. strobing main image I like to stick with a subtle neutral shimmer on my eyelid and am currently in love with Bourjois Little Round Pot Light and their Colour Edition 24H Cream to Powder eye shadows (£6.99 in Boots, with a long-term 3 for 2 offer making these a bargain). You can just apply and blend these with your fingers which makes them so easy to use. A dab of the lightest shade just in the inner corner of your eye where it joins your nose, on your browbone both under and above the arch of your brow, accentuates your preened brows and brightens your eyes, making you look more ‘awake’ (yes, please). If you really want to make your eyes stand out, add a cat-flick in black liner along your upper lash line and a lick of Max Factor 2000 Calorie black mascara. The contrast of the black liner with the neutral shimmer is still a really popular look and adds great definition to your eyes, whatever your eye colour. Find out how to create the killer cat-flick here.

So – prepped, with brows and eyes defined. Now to add the most noticeable of all the highlighting, by emphasising your cheekbones.

Depending on how strong a look you’re going for, there’s a range of things you can do here. Neutral shimmers will do a great job of highlighting your cheekbones, giving a classic natural look. Tinted versions will give you a hint of colour and what you choose could vary dependent on your eye colour, what colour lipstick you want to wear, whether it’s day or night – or whether you just want to change your look. To apply, use your fingertips (just second and third fingers) and tap the highlighter on. Be careful not to rub in as this can smudge your base, just tap lightly along the apple of your cheek (which is easier to find if you smile at yourself in the mirror as you do it.) Apply a second layer to build the depth, rather than putting loads on to start with, and keep going until you’re happy with the intensity. Then highlight your nose by dabbing a dot of highlighter on the tip, and along the length just a the front too if you prefer but if your skin does have a tendency to be oily, I would just focus on the tip.

The best thing really is just to have a play around, and find the ones you like but, if you want recommendations for a starting point, I like these, and I’ve tried to show the shade and shimmer in my photo of them on my arm, so the numbers correspond to that):

highlighters palette

  • Tropez Skin Illuminators (£12.26) in Gold [3] and Rose [4] (switch from a sunkissed look to English rose)
  • Elemis Pro-Radiance Illuminating Flash Balm [6](£35) (no colour, but smells like germolene!)
  • Lancome Sheer Radiance Highlighter [1](golden tinted)

And, don’t forget, the neutral Decleor [2] and Elizabeth Arden [5] (smells like putty) products already mentioned for your base can also be used to emphasise your cheekbones, so you don’t need to use loads of different products. Finish with either a complementing nude lip, or a pop of colour if you’ve gone for a more neutral face (plum tones look amazing). Add a dab of highlighter to the middle of your cupid’s bow (the little ‘w’ in your top lip) and you’re done.

Now, go strobe.

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