How have we been missing out on this?

By Kaitlyn Yarborough
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BECCA Shimmer Skin Perfector Liquid
Credit: BECCA Cosmetics

Highlighter is one of the components in my makeup bag that I once saw as superfluous—and it can be, depending how you use it. Dusting it over my cheekbones to feign that post-moisturizer sheen only lasted so long and often looked more like a radioactive strobe light than a natural glow. That is, until I came across a makeup artist secret that totally changed my game. 

It’s called pre-highlighting, and it basically only requires switching the order in which you apply your makeup. The how-to is pretty straight-forward: Simply apply liquid highlighter before applying your foundation, instead of the other way around. By wearing it underneath your face makeup, the highlighter effect sinks into your skin as if it’s just you creating this otherworldly glow. Which, obviously, is exactly what we all want. 

As reported by Refinery29, it was celebrity makeup artist Nikki DeRoest that dubbed pre-highlighting the best way to get a healthy, natural-looking radiance instantly, like you’re standing in a perfect beam of sunlight at all times. But I was skeptical. How does it not wear off when blending your foundation with a makeup sponge? How big of a difference can it really make? As someone who has never, ever, mastered that whole coveted flushed, dewy skin thing, I figured I’d give it a whirl. 

To my surprise, the simple tweak paid off in literal seconds with the best glow I’ve ever seen on myself, natural or otherwise. Y’all, the glow. It’s real. As in, it’s like you’ve put a sunkissed filter over your face that makes you look wide-awake, illuminated from within, and ready to catch natural light like it’s your job. So much so that my friends noticed that same night, asking how I got my skin so good. Little did they know...just kidding, I told them immediately and sent product links. That’s what friends do.  

What I did: Using Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid Highlighter, I dabbed the light-reflecting liquid highlighter on my cheekbones, forehead, chin, and down the bridge of my nose with a makeup sponge spritzed with Mario Badesco Rosewater Face Spray. Then I followed up with my favorite foundation: Chantecaille Future Skin Foundation. Done and dewy. 

I typically only incorporate this step into my makeup routine when getting ready for a night out or something beyond just click-clacking at my desk keyboard. But if there’s ever a morning when I wake up with my skin looking dull or tired, I create an abridged version of pre-highlighting by applying it before my concealer and then blending it all out. It’s like giving your complexion a jolt of caffeine.

To recreate the look using my go-to drugstore products, layer L’Oreal True Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator underneath Maybelline Fit Me Foundation (in either the Dewy + Smooth or Matte + Poreless formula, depending on your preference). These work harder than most of their high-end counterparts. 

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Now that I’ve started pre-highlighting, I feel like I’ve infiltrated the secret makeup artist vault of knowledge. Have at it.