The first time I saw myself with highlighted cheekbones, I fell deeply in love. I was 17 at the time and had, until then, considered myself a beauty minimalist: when highlighters first hit the market, the sparkly creams and powders seemed excessive. But then another one came along. It was a tiny, free sample of Benefit's High Beam that I scored with my Ulta rewards membership while stocking up for a high-school dance. "Why not?" I thought. "It's a special occasion. Let's try something new."
"I wanted to be a straight-up ice queen. I wanted my cheekbones to look like pieces of cut glass. I wanted my face to be like the sun—blinding yet irresistible to look at…."
I swooned at the way my newly heightened cheekbones caught the light, even in sludgy, sun-deprived winter, and the way my whole face brightened up. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a brand-new woman—one who was proud of her appearance, who had her life together. I was Me 2.0. The one-off highlighter experiment became the important last step—the closer—in my tried-and-true daily routine of tinted moisturizer, winged black eyeliner, and mascara.
High Beam Liquid Highlighter, $26, benefitcosmetics.com.
As my routine evolved, I knew I needed to take my relationship with highlighter to the next level. I had perfected the natural, candlelit glow with the subtle Benefit formula, but my attitude was becoming bolder and it deserved something stronger: I wanted to be a straight-up ice queen. I wanted my cheekbones to look like pieces of cut glass. I wanted my face to be like the sun—blinding yet irresistible to look at, if only for a split second.
Shimmering Skin Perfector in Pearl, $38, beccacosmetics.com.
So, I bought Becca's icy-white highlighter and layered it over my favorite sheen liquid until my cheekbones became brightly lit signs saying, "Look over here!" The trick sent my confidence soaring, and I felt the urge to push my highlighting boundaries even further.
Enter Jeffree Star Cosmetics Skin Frosts, which until then I hadn't felt brave enough to rock on an average day. Some might not find their blinding shine and pigmented green, pink, and purple colors fitting for a face powder, but they do what they're supposed to do—that is, turn heads.
Skin Frost in Mint Condition, $29, jeffreestarcosmetics.com.
Although I've tried it all, I am still far from the end of my torrid love affair with highlighters. In fact, I've been thinking that it might be time to return to my roots with a palette that has more natural finishes. The Moonchild Glow Kit by Anastasia has two of them, along with my beloved hyperpigmented whites and purples for when I'm feeling fiercer than usual.
Moonchild Glow Kit, $40, anastasiabeverlyhills.com.
In the end it doesn't matter how I choose to wear it—whether it's the understated cherry on top of my look or the cosmetic equivalent to a blinding spotlight—highlighter is more than just something pretty I put on my face. Turning heads with glimmering skin is a power move in itself, and that makes highlighter confidence in a bottle…or compact, or palette.