Photographing highlighted cheekbones can be a struggle. Trust me, I try on a daily basis (especially for Best of Beauty). Even after layering on a cream and powdered highlighter, I still need to get the light to hit my face just so at the right angle to capture my glow. Someone on Instagram who strictly goes by @thestudyofmakeup just showed the world how it’s done, though. Her recent highlighter selfies have received more likes than I’ll get on all mine in a lifetime. Everyone is living for her highlighting technique. Her glow is so bright that it creates an actual lens flare. The Internet has since dubbed it the “flare highlight.” Against her super matte skin, it’s so extra and so right. As someone who likes my highlighter to be completely obvious and not subtle or natural at all, I thoroughly respect @thestudyofmakeup’s glow game. Real recognize real.
Intrigued, I went straight to the source, @thestudyofmakeup, to find out exactly how she makes her highlighter so intense that it could probably cause the glass on a camera to crack or damage someone’s retinas. (Just kidding about that last part. No one has been blinded as a result of @thestudyofmakeup’s makeup skills.) Turns out that @thestudyofmakeup’s flare highlight technique comes down to two things: the right brush and an unexpected product.
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“Most people apply their highlight with a large fan brush,” she tells Allure. “I use a very dense, wet eye shadow brush.” Unlike a fan brush, which diffuses the color, @thestudyofmakeup says her brush pick “condenses the pigment and centralizes it.” Basically, you’re able to saturate the brush with more pigment and pinpoint exactly where you want to place it. When the highlighter is more concentrated, she says it can reflect light better. Noted.
See an Allure editor try out the technique:
What’s her highlighter of choice? Makeup Revolution’s $7 Blushing Hearts Highlighter in Goddess of Love. “It’s triple baked for maximum pigment pay-off and luminosity,” she explains. “I have never found anything else like it.” She also likes to use Makeup Revolution’s Triple Baked Rainbow Highlighter. “It literally looks like pixie dust,” she adds. “It’s magical.” @thestudyofmakeup notes that you should focus on finding a highlighter that fits your undertones, though, for the best result. Because she has pale skin, @thestudyofmakeup gravitates toward icy white ones. This shade also compounds her glow. “Since white doesn’t absorb light, it only reflects it, it is much brighter and reflective than pink or gold highlighters, which are more popular,” she explains. Topping off her makeup with a glowy setting spray also helps.
As for placement for the flare highlight, @thestudyofmakeup focuses on the highest part of her cheekbones, which catches the most light. “I learned this technique from drag queen Farrah Moan, who is also known for her highlighter,” she adds. (She mentions that much of her beauty inspiration comes from drag queens, Barbie, and Disney princesses.) @thestudyofmakeup also sweeps some highlighter along her brow bone and above her brows. “It is very eye-catching in photographs,” she says. Also, @thestudyofmakeup puts some highlighter on the tip of her nose. “It gives a small Barbie doll nose look and I think that’s cute,” she says.
When it comes time to photograph her flare highlight, @thestudyofmakeup prefers natural lighting. “Artificial ring lights give out very cool-toned, harsh light and that dulls reflection,” she says. “Natural lighting gives my highlight the most intense finish.”
OK, so here’s when the unexpected product comes in. The biggest secret to @thestudyofmakeup’s glowing success is Swarovski crystals. She places one atop each cheekbone, smack dab in the center. “The inspiration came from a crystal tiara that I was gifted by my boyfriend for our anniversary,” she says. “Every time I wore it, it would sparkle and flare from the lights and reflect rainbows. So I thought, ‘What if I placed a crystal in the center of my highlight and tried to capture the lens flare?’ ” She did, and the result went viral. The rest is cemented in Instagram history.
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