There's a fine line between a perfectly highlighted Rihanna-esque complexion, and an overly iridescent finish that seems to sing "Shine bright like my forehead." To ensure you never fall into the latter category, we enlisted the help of makeup artist Elle Leary, who works with Kiernan Shipka and Holland Roden, so we could figure out exactly how to use the product, and what to avoid.
First things first: You'll want to rethink everything you once knew about its placement to be true---rather than applying highlighter as a finishing touch, the pro recommends using them underneath your foundation, or in an illuminating primer form. "This will achieve a more realistic, healthy skin look. It concentrates the glow in the right places, and keeps you from looking too dewy," she tells us. "If you are on the oily side, apply illuminator only to the outside of the face, including the high points of your cheeks, and the bridge of the nose."
Follow with a mattifying primer in the center of your forehead, around your nose, and the center of your chin, then proceed with foundation as usual. You can always go back in and add further definition to your cupid's bow and cheekbones afterwards, but steer clear of your under eye area, sides of the nose, smile lines, or anywhere else the luminizer could call attention to skin imperfections.
In general, liquid formulas like Chantecaille's Highlighting Fluid ($39; nordstrom.com) are easier for beginners to work with, but it's the stick formulas like the Nars Multiple in Luxor ($39; narscosmetics.com) that have the bigger color payoff. "Some people feel more comfortable with creams than sticks, and I use those formulas for finishing touches," Leary says. "Liquids are the easiest to blend." The shade should complement your natural skin tone, so opt for a cooler or warmer hue depending on your undertones---the type of jewelry that flatters you can be a good indicator---but if you're stuck, gold or pearl-based shades tend to be pretty foolproof. Leary recommends the Becca Cosmetics Shimmering Skin Perfector in either Pale Gold or White Pearl ($41; sephora.com) as a one-size-fits-most option, and for the days full-on shimmer can be a little much, Dior's Glow Maximizer Primer ($42; nordstrom.com) and Nars' Light Optimizing Primer ($34; narscosmetics.com) can provide a subtle boost in radiance.