What is it?

What Is Strobing Makeup? Is it Different From Highlighting?

So if you’re anything like me, you’re wondering what’s the what on strobing. Is it just a different name for highlighting? Are strobing products different than regular old highlighters? What is strobing makeup anyway?

Don’t worry. I did some serious research, and I’ll answer all your questions in detail in this post. And with that, let’s start by talking about the key question you’re probably asking.

What’s the Difference Between Strobing and Highlighting?

The key thing to know about strobing vs. highlighting is that strobing is a specific technique to achieve an overall look, whereas highlighting just means applying highlighter to high points of the face.

But that’s pretty vague. And it’s certainly led you to your next question, which is…

What Is the Strobing Technique?

a picture of L'Oreal's Lumi Glotion
This is a great example of a product you could use for strobing. More on products later. Source.

Strobing is often contrasted with contouring. While contouring uses shade and light to give the face dimension and structure, the strobing technique skips the shade part and uses only light, with the goal not to give structure but to create a glowing complexion.

So while you might be highlighting your cheekbones and your nose, you’re only strobing if you’ve skipped the contour sticks and powders. That includes bronzer, if you’ve used it to give your face dimension.

Where and How Do I Apply Product to Strobe?

Now that you know the difference between strobing and just applying highlighter, you may want to know where to apply your strobing cream or illuminizer (discussed in more detail below) and how to apply it.

First, let’s talk about where to apply a highlighting product when strobing.

You’ll want to hit the tops of your cheekbones, your browbone, the front center of your forehead and a bit above the brows, the bridge and tip of your nose, your cupid’s bow, and your chin.

Here’s a face chart to help you picture what I’m talking about.

A face chart with areas that illustrate how to apply strobing makeup
The white spots are where you’d apply your highlighter in order to strobe.

Next, let’s discuss the how. You’ll probably want a floppy blending brush that’s smaller in size but not too precise. Large highlighting brushes or contouring brushes will work great for this—check out Sigma’s F40 for an example.

Sigma angled brush with long, floppy bristles, perfect for strobing makeup

If you have an illuminating liquid that isn’t intensely shiny (like Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Flawless Filter), you may prefer to use your fingers or a sponge to apply.

What Are Some Strobing Makeup Products?

If you want to strobe, according to the experts, you might want to ditch the powder highlighters. Strobing is all about liquid or cream illuminizers. (And if you want help picking a shade that flatters you, check out my post on what color highlighter you should get.)

You can get an idea of what products are out there by googling things like “liquid highlighters” and “cream highlighters.” Pretty much anything that shows up is going to be good for strobing. But if you’re looking for specific options, here are a few.

  • One classic is MAC’s Strobe Cream, which goes on like a moisturizer.
  • If you’re more of a cream guy or gal, another good, intense option is Colourpop’s Flexitarian.
  • Queen of shine Danessa Myricks has a product called the Dew Wet Balm. As the name implies, it’s a highlighting balm, and it has oils and other skin-nurturing ingredients. It can even be used over powder!
  • You can try using Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Flawless Filter, which is a creamy liquid. But you’ll want to really concentrate the product on those areas shown in the chart above. I would use fingers or a sponge for this, and I would maybe apply a few layers.
  • If you’re interested in (1) a stick illuminzer and (2) spending less money, a drugstore option is the Maybelline Master Strobing Stick. The name says it all, as far as its intended use. Get stroby!
  • A new brand that I haven’t tried but am excited about, Auric, has a cream/liquid product called Glow Lust Radiant Luminizer (in seven shades!), and the models using it look strobed AF.
A model wearing Glow Lust strobing makeup on the high points of their face
No contour in sight here! Source.

Maybe this list can get you started if you’d like to try the strobing technique, or maybe you’ll stumble up something already in your collection that works perfectly for you.


So, if you’re asking what is strobing makeup, here’s what you need to know.

  • While highlighting means applying highlight to the face, strobing means applying highlight at the exclusion of face sculpting techiniques like contouring.
  • Strobing is all about a glowing complexion.
  • Usually when you strobe, you’re using a liquid or a cream.

Want to try it? Leave the sculpting powders in your drawer and break out an all-around favorite highlighter to see if the strobing technique is for you.