#MakeupMonday – Strobing – What It Is What it Ain’t

makeup to go blog strobing ellis faas glow up powder

Ellis Faas Cosmetics Glow Up Powder S501
Perfect for the Strobing Technique

So strobing.

Yet another “makeup trend” for folks to follow. And of course, as with any makeup trend, there are certain products that are “must haves” in order to achieve the look and then once you get one set of “must have” products another set comes along telling you that you “must have” those too.

In all likelihood, if you have a complete makeup kit either for yourself or for your use as an artist, you already own a number of things that can be used to Strobe, so let’s break down what it is, what it isn’t, how it works best, and what you do need in order to accomplish the look.

What Is Strobing?

Basically Strobing is using highlight to sculpt and emphasize bone structure. It’s the “softer side” of the (overworked) Contour craze that has been trending in makeup for a while now. What “Strobing” isn’t is new, in any way, shape or form. As with Contouring, artists have been doing this since forever. And as with a good Contour job, Strobing takes a deft hand because it can quickly go awry when done incorrectly. The point is to create subtle highlights, not to look like you’re oily or worse, covered in glitter. My favorite video demonstrating the technique doesn’t even call it Strobing. Here makeup artist extraordinare Ellis Faas demonstrates the technique as she’s introducing her Glow Up powder.

and obviously if you want a more extreme strobe, you can just apply more product. If you do that, however, you’ll need to be VERY precise in your application lest you end up looking like you hit the chicken shack full force.

If we’re using the term, I guess, I “strobed” this model. Again, I didn’t call it “strobing” but I wanted to bring out her bone structure without the use of Contour. Truth be told, I’m far more into this look than I am the heavy contour look. I think this look is lighter, fresher and more modern.

makeup to go blog strobing what it is

© K. Szatmari
Makeup by Tania D. Russell

What Products do I Need to Strobe?

So you like Strobing and want to add it to your technique arsenal? It’s as simple as reaching for your nearest Illuminator/Highlighter. That’s it. No special product required. Here are the illuminators/Highlighters I currently have in my rotation:

makeup to go blog strobing hourglass ambient lighting palette
1 ) Hourglass – Ambient Lighting Palette
I professed my love for this palette in a previous post and I still love it. I can use this highly versatile palette of subtle sheen anywhere on the face to create a pretty glow that is never overly sparkly. And with three colors in a palette, I always have the right shade for whomever I may be working on.

makeup to go blog strobing becca cosmetics shimmering skin perfector® powder
2 ) Becca Cosmetics – Shimmering Skin Perfector®
Like the Ambient Lighting powders, Becca Cosmetics Shimmering Skin Perfector® pressed powders are finely milled and apply like velvet. I would say these are a bit more shimmery than the Ambient Lights, particularly depending on what color you get. I tend to like Highlighters/Illuminators that are more nude-y so I can use them all over the face (and on a wider range of skintones). I have the Shimmering Skin Perfector® in Moonstone, which is a pale gold, and Topaz, which is a golden bronze. The latter I use on deeper complexions and the former I use on fairer complexions.

makeup to go blog strobing kevyn aucoin celestial lights powder
3 ) Kevyn Aucoin – The Celestial Powder
The Celestial Powder is almost difficult to describe. You remember in Old Hollywood how they allegedly used to put Vaseline™ on the lens in order to diffuse the image and give the actress a “glow”. The Celestial Powder is that glow in a compact. It’s a truly beautiful product. It is lightweight, almost suede-like in feel, and adds a subtle but present highlight to any area applied. If memory serves it only comes in one color – Candlelight – which as the name suggests gives the skin a beautiful candle lit glow.

Sadly I do not actually own Ellis Faas’ Glow Up powder, so I cannot speak to it. I already have too many products of this type to justify purchasing it. If anyone out there has the Glow Up powder, hit the Comments and let us all know how it is 🙂

PRO TIP: Any pro quality powder cosmetic can also be applied damp to intensify the color and effect. So if you want a more intense highlighting effect, simply apply with a slightly dampened brush. Be sure to let your product dry completely before closing it so it doesn’t warp or get moldy.

makeup to go blog strobing NARS cosmetics copacabana multiples
4 ) Nars – The Multiples – Copacabana
NARS is really doing the most with The Multiples nowadays. The Multiples is one of NARS oldest and most successful products in their brand, but now they have new Matte Multiples and all these bizarre colors, and this that and the third. Needless to say I’ll have to visit a boutique soon and see what all that is about. In the meantime as far as strobing needs are concerned, I would look no further than Copacabana which is a nude-y sheen-y color texture. It has long been my favorite Multiple by a mile (I love Malibu as well but it’s the wrong color for our purposes right now). A cream product can give you stronger “Strobing” action than most powders will, and in fact it can be layered with powder.

makeup to go blog strobing all over shimmer liquid stila cosmetics
5 ) Stila Cosmetics – All Over Shimmer Liquid
A liquid will potentially give you the most strobing action of any product type. You can apply lightly for a subtle sheen, or you can go for it and kick up the bright lights. Use With Caution! Stila’s All Over Shimmer has long been favorite of mine for giving pronounced highlighting action without being sparkly. It used to be available in a truly nude color (#1), but unfortunately that color is no longer. Of the available options, I’d recommend Kitten.

makeup to go blog strobing moonbeam highbeam benefit cosmetics
Honorable Mention: Benefit Cosmetics Moonbeam and HighbeamMoonbeam is an iridescent apricot color, and Highbeam is an iridescent pearl color. They are a little bit more glittery than the All Over Shimmer liquid, and they can also be either applied for subtle sheen or for all out shine.

makeup to go blog strobing becca cosmetics shimmering skin perfector® liquid
Honorable Mention 2: Nowadays I actually use Becca Cosmetics liquid version of their Shimmering Skin Perfector®. It’s a more subtle sheen (less sparkly), but also buildable and Pearl is a perfect nude-y white sheen color.

PRO TIP: I would not use a liquid highlighter/illuminator around the eyes. I’m sure people have, but I cannot imagine what that would feel like if you accidentally got some in your eyes. I’ll stick to powders around the eyes. Do not say I did not warn you.

makeup to go blog strobing ben nye lumiere powder
5 ) Ben Nye – Lumiere Powder

If you are tired of playing games and want intense sheen and highlight, this is the product for you. This is a theatrical makeup, so it’s meant to withstand lights and read from off stage. AKA – it’s strong: Proceed with caution. That said, this has been one of my favorite products which I’ve kept in my Kit for years and years.

How Do I Strobe?

I don’t make tutorial videos (yet… we’ll see in the future), but I would say the video I posted from Ellis Faas is a good outline. The areas you’ll want to highlight are;

– Brow Bone
– Inner eye corners
– **tops of the cheekbone**
– **center of the nose**
– and possibly the cupids bow of the lips (use a light hand as that highlight sometimes just looks sweaty)

Ms. Faas also did the center of the lower eyelid in order to further accentuate the Orbital Bone, and I like to do the center of the forehead (as long as there is no breakout or whathaveyou) and right above the brows to further accentuate the temples.

You’ll note both of the brushes she used were rather small. This is important so as to maintain control of your product instead of your product going all over and controlling you. I recommend brushes such as;

makeup to go blog strobing bdellium tools maestro 939 brush
Bdellium Tools – Maestro 939 Angled Detailer which is a small, angled detail brush for precise application on the nose, cheeks, etc.


makeup to go blog strobing bdellium tools maestro 780 brush
Bdellium Tools – Maestro 780 Pencil for the inner eye corners. “Pencil” brushes are short, dense hair brushes that allow for clean application of product in that difficult inner eye area. I also like Pencils for smokey eyes so I get smokey eyes not Out Of Control raccoon eyes.

Bare in mind also that different products are better for different skin types and conditions. If you have really perfect skin without a lot of texture, you can use pretty much whatever you want, as strongly as you want. However if you have acne, wrinkles, enlarged pores, or any other type of skin texture issue, shimmer will accentuate the texture so less is more. For more mature skin I love the Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Powder. For skin with a lot of texture, I like the Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector® Liquid or the Hourglass Ambient Lighting powders.

Have you tried the Strobing phenomenon? How did it go? Let us know in Comments, or better yet, send in a picture!

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#MakeupMonday – The Basics: Cheek Color

Nars Orgasm Blush cheek color

The Classic - Nars Orgasm Blush

Needless to say, all of the products I’ve mentioned thus far in this “The Basics” series are my completely subjective recommendations. I recommend them based on my usage and generally long-term satisfaction with a product. If another makeup artist were writing these articles, they might recommend entirely different products. That said, things are about to become even more subjective as we move away from skin/foundation products and into the vastly huge world of color products. We begin our look with Cheek color.

I am starting with cheek color because I find that when it comes to makeup most women focus on their eyes, some of us focus on our lips and then cheeks are generally ignored. This is unfortunate because few things will make a woman look fresher and YOUNGER faster than a well applied cheek color. In no particular order, here are some cheek color products that I love and use on the regular… (for cheek colors specific to women of color, revisit my previous article “Beauty Noir: Best Blushes for Darker Toned Beauties”)

1 ) Nars Powder Blush in Orgasm (Pictured Above) –
Nothing else need be said about this color therefore I’m listing it first. Unrivaled classic and with good reason. Note: On darker complexioned ladies, while it will not function as a blush it does make a very pretty cheek highlight. And for the record, as much as I love me some Nars I am not a big fan of the newer Super Orgasm color – it is too sparkly for my taste. Do not let that deter you from trying, however, as you might love Super Orgasm.

Tarte Cheek Tint in Flush cheek color

Tarte Cheek Tint in Flush

2 ) Tarte Cheekstains –
Again – I am just listing the obvious products first; This is an amazing product. The colors I use most often by far are Tipsy and for darker complexions, Flush. Although they may appear intense in the tube, these colors are sheer color washes but what really sets this product apart is the amazing texture. These cheek stains are as close to that smooth sheen-y glow of a child’s skin as most of us grown folks will ever come.

3 ) La Femme Blush On Rouge in Golden Sunset
Folks often complain that I only recommend higher-end/expensive products. Well, how’s a product that generally costs between $3-$5 suit you? La Femme is an old-timey makeup line. Most of the products in the line are okay, but a few things are amazing and this blush is one of those amazing products. Golden Sunset is a rich pinky peachy color with just the right amount of shimmer (not sparkle). It is a truly beautiful color that works well on a wide array of skin tones. Truth be told I like a lot of the La Femme Blush On Rouge colors and the formulation is nicely pigmented and long lasting. It is a very good product overall, particularly at that price point. Note: For whatever reason, La Femme also has an eyeshadow by the name of “Golden Sunset” which is an entirely different color so make sure you are getting the Blush On Rouge “Golden Sunset”.

Nars Creme Blush in Penny Lane cheek color

Nars Creme Blush in Penny Lane

4 ) Nars Cream Blush in Penny Lane
Back to the expensive brands ;). Penny Lane is the type of soft pink color when you want a soft wash of color to balance the face (say if you are wearing a dark eye and/or lip) but you don’t want a lot of color color in the cheeks. I have successfully used this pretty pink shade on clients up to a J-Lo / Halle Berry complexion and the result is a subtle, pretty “there but not there” blush effect. And it is incredibly long lasting to boot. Note: On darker skin tones I have achieved a similar effect with Nars Creme Blush in “Constantinople”.

Stila Convertible Color Petunia cheek color

Stila Convertible Color in Petunia

5 ) Stila Convertible Colors
Stila bills these versatile colors as one stop shopping for cheeks and lips. I like them on lips, I lurve them on cheeks. The constant mainstay colors in my life are Petunia, Peony and Poppy. Soft, blend-able and buildable, the Convertibles are everything I want in a cream blush.

Becca Cosmetics Beach Tint Raspberry cheek color

Becca Cosmetics Beach Tint in Raspberry

6 ) Becca Beach Tint Blushes
Somewhere in between a creme blush and a cheekstain lies Becca cosmetics Beach Tint blushes. These have the creamy blend-ability of a cream with the “stick to it”-ness of a stain combined with the richness of color of a cream combined with the sheer texture of a stain. I LOVE this product. My favorite colors are Watermelon, Raspberry, Strawberry and Fig.

Youngblood Cosmetics Blush cheek color

Youngblood Cosmetics Pressed Mineral Blush in Cabernet

7 ) Youngblood Cosmetics Pressed Mineral Blush
I have been a fan of Youngblood ever since I attended an event featuring their product line, and as I suspected I would, I have been using the artist palettes on jobs regularly. The blush colors in the palette are different from the colors sold separately. Of the individual blush colors my favorites are Tangier, Bashful, Sugar Plum and Cabernet. The colors are smooth and velvety in texture, sheer but nicely pigmented, and wear well.

Yves St. Laurent Beauty Blush Radiance cheek color

Yves St. Laurent Beauty Blush Radiance - No. 1

8 ) Yves St. Laurent Beaute Blush Radiance –
Like any of the very high end brands, YSL Beauty’s products are exceptionally creamy and blendable and offer excellent wearability. I love the YSL quads because you can mix and match the colors to find your perfect shade. These are particularly great if you are the complexion type that can vary greatly between the sun and non-sun seasons. My quads of choice are No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5

Face Stockholm Blush cheek color

Face Stockholm Blush in Splendid

9 ) Face Stockholm Powder Blush –
Face Stockholm is a low-profile department store/professional brand who have been around for some time and who I realize I have not spoken enough about on Makeup to Go! Confession Time: I have more Face Stockholm brand blushes in my pro-kit blush palette than any other brand. Reason being that like all the good brands they have good pigment, blend-able, wear well, etc. but unlike more consumer oriented brands Face Stockholm has a lot of matte blushes in their collection. In photography you cannot always use shimmery products. I actually have too many favorites to list so I suggest hitting a Face Stockholm counter and familiarizing yourself with this fantastic line (I’ll do a full article on Face Stockholm soon!).

Sonia Kashuk Cosmetics Liquid Blush cheek color

Sonia Kashuk Cosmetics Liquid Blush in Poppy

10 ) Sonia Kashuk Super Sheer Liquid Tint Blush
If you read the Makeup to Go! blog often, then you knew this one was coming. How can I not recommend a great product that costs less than $10?!? As the name suggests, these liquid blushes give a sheer wash of color on the cheek. I find these are particularly good for layering color – i.e. use these first and then use a powder blush over them – which is a makeup artist trick for getting color to last a long time. All three of the original colors are fantastic and there is also a recently added shimmery bronze color.

Gone but not forgotten:

MAC Harmony Blush cheek color

MAC Powder Blush in Harmony

MAC “Harmony” – Well this color is not gone gone, but last time I looked at it (which was admittedly a while ago) the color had changed. When MAC was bought out by Estee Lauder, several “old” MAC colors were either changed or dropped. I still have an original MAC Harmony in my blush palette and when it almost crumbled recently let me tell you I nearly flipped! What makes Harmony so special? It was (is?) a perfect pink-y brown-y, not too warm not too cool color that looked good on nearly every skin tone and it could actually be used as either a blush or as a contour. Original Harmony was a wonder color. It would be worth going to a MAC counter to check out the current formulation.

There are my picks. If I left out one of your favorites, please do not write to tell me I’m lame – haha! 😀 – but if you have colors to suggest by all means please share.