Fri-Yay Makeup Fun: Strobing Made Easy

Published in: Makeup Tips/How To


If you’ve been wondering about this whole “strobing” trend and whether it involves pulsating lights and high-octane house music, it doesn’t, so feel free to leave your glow sticks at home. πŸ™‚

But what is does involve is highlighting, and LOTS of it. Basically, it’s good old-fashioned highlighting, only more intense and extreme, and it usually involves layering a number of products to accentuate specific areas and/or one or more of your features.

strobing tutorial

In strobing the skin looks dewy and glowing, but not in an icky or sweaty way, and the trick is to highlight specific areas while keeping the rest of your skin relatively matte or semi-matte.

Here’s how I like to do it…

strobing tutorial 5

First, I blend an illuminating, moisturizing cream with a slight sheen (not a shimmer) all over my face.

Next, I stipple a foundation or tinted moisturizer on top on that, with the goal being to get the sheen to slightly appear through my face makeup, so my overall skin looks slightly dewy (but not full-on shiny).

Then, while my foundation is still wet, I pat a shimmery highlighting cream onto the tops of my cheekbones and down the bridge of my nose.

After that, for even MORE depth and dimension, I sweep a shimmery highlighter onto the tops of my cheekbones, down the bridge of my nose, on my Cupid’s bow, under and over the arches in my brows, and within the inner corners of my eyes.

Then I dust the remaining product on the brush in the middle of my forehead and the center of my chin.

Next, to amplify the shine in a couple places, I wet a synthetic brush with a makeup setting spray and dab it onto the tops of my cheekbones and down the bridge of my nose.

You can stop here if you want but…

…since I feel a little naked without color on my cheeks, I usually sweep a matte blush onto the apples of my cheeks at this point (the matte finish contrasts with the shimmer), then dust a shimmery bronzer onto my cheekbones and across my forehead to warm up my skin tone a little.

If you want to enhance the contrast between your highlighted areas and the rest of your face and make your highlights even more “highlighty” (?), you can powder down the sides of your nose, your forehead and the spaces just under your cheekbones with your favorite face powder.

strobing tutorial 0

strobing tutorial 1

strobing tutorial 2

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That’s it! I hope you have fun strobing. πŸ™‚

Products used (or mentioned) in this post…

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,






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So far, 42 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Kim says:

    #1 – I just laughed out loud at your Tabs/rainbow graphic. That is the best thing I’ve seen all day – and I’ve seen some good stuff! πŸ™‚

    #2 – It’s like you’re a mind reader. Since you’ve mentioned strobing, I’ve been wanting to know more about it (since I really can’t even master highlighting). It’s way too overwhelming for my every day routine but I think I could handle it on a special occasion. Thanks, as always, for the details!

    • Karen says:

      Hey Kim,

      I may or may not have just sat here and watched him slide down that rainbow a bunch of times, haha!

      RE: strobing. The beauty of it is you can totally modify the technqiue. If all you can handle is an illuminating moisturizer before your foundation and a little bit of shimmery powder on the high points, that’s totally cool too! You can always tailor it to how much time you have or what you’re in the mood for. πŸ™‚

      • Kim says:

        I must admit that I did the same. Tum-up was definitely a better decision than face first. HAHA!

        I hear you. I’ll be starting slow. πŸ™‚

  2. Michaela says:

    Hi Karen thanks for the really cool tips about strobing. It will take me some time to get to this point since I am still a novice at highlighting. As always your skin looks luminous and gorgeous! What specific highlighting product would you suggest for someone that wants to start highlighting?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Michaela,

      You’re welcome! πŸ™‚ You’ve got a lot of options in terms of products. Some questions for you. Which one do you think you’ll use more, a liquid or a powder? And what kind of shimmer do you want — a very strong, obvious shimmer, or something more subtle?

      • Michaela says:

        Hi Karen, I think powder would work best for me just because I can use a brush. I would like to maybe start off subtle and then eventually go to dramatic. Lol!

        • Karen says:

          OK, I’d recommend one of the BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Powders for you. When they’re applied with a light touch they look subtle. When you’re ready for full-on dramatic glam, all you have to do is layer on a little bit more. The ones I wear are Opal and Moonstone. The only thing is they are very soft powders, so they don’t travel as well as other highlighters. If you plan to take it along with you in your makeup bag, then keep the box and store it in the box. I know, it’s bulky, but it’ll help protect the pan and hopefully decrease the chance of it breaking.

          • Michaela says:

            Thanks for the great advice Karen. Enjoy your Friday!

          • Karen says:

            You’re welcome. Give them a swatch next time you’re either at Ulta or Sephora. And if you ever need any additional recs feel free to ask. πŸ™‚ Happy to help.

  3. Ann says:

    Thank you for explaining! Up until now I thought it was just regular old highlighting without doing any contouring. This makes much more sense. And my tabby Henry Doodle is very envious of Tabs rainbow graphic, lol. Too cute πŸ™‚

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ann,

      Glad you enjoyed this post. πŸ™‚ What are you and Henry Doodle up to this weekend?

      Happy Friday!

      • Ann says:

        Me and the Doodle are working all weekend, but that’s ok, it’s supposed to be beautiful weather, and we’re going to enjoy it no matter what because, winter is coming lolol. Hope you have a great weekend! πŸ™‚

        • Karen says:

          Love the Game of Thrones ref!!

          And working is always a good thing (better than not working, right?). Hope that it’s enjoyable.

          This weekend I’m going to Napa with a couple of friends, which I’m very excited about. I haven’t done a gal’s getaway in forever.

          How old is Doodle again? Tabs is 9! He’s my old man tabby.

          • Ann says:

            Henry Doodle just turned 4, he still thinks he’s a kitten though, lol. Have a great time this weekend, sounds like it will be a great time πŸ™‚

          • Karen says:

            I don’t think that ever goes away. πŸ™‚ Even though Tabs is 9 and 20 pounds he still tries to climb onto my right shoulder (it’s always my right shoulder) like he’s a tiny little thing.

            Thank you! I’m looking forward to it. We’re going to do a sleepover, hit up a spa, and then just chill at the pool.

            Are you doing anything else in addition to work?

          • Ann says:

            Awww that is so cute! πŸ™‚
            Hopefully I’m also getting together with some girlfriends on Saturday night to see Trainwreck – that Amy Schumer comedy. And possibly a glass of wine πŸ˜‰

          • Karen says:

            Deep down inside he’s still a tiny little babycat. He’s right here next to me as I type this, by the way! I have my desk in a corner of my office and he likes to nap in the corner sometimes (really though he’s “supervising” me, haha). πŸ™‚

            I hope you get to go the movies with your friends. And have a glass of rose or riesling for me! And eat lots of popcorn, too.

  4. Trude says:

    So pretty! I’ve been mixing in L’Oreal’s Magic Lumi primer into my foundation to give it a bit of glow and lift the color a bit (saw it on a Karima McKimmie video), but otherwise I’m such a matte girl. On the weekends I’ll do a bit on the usual spots with either a shimmery shadow or a Josie Maran’s liquid illuminator.

    Also, Tabs on a rainbow is amazing.
    Trude recently posted … Newhope and Eastvale :: Healthcare Design Photography

    • Karen says:

      Hi Trude,

      Oh, great idea to mix the primer into your foundation! What foundation are you using/loving these days?

      • Trude says:

        You know I finally got color matched at Sephora, and after eliminating all the ones I’ve tried I wound up with Marc Jacobs. But after a few days of wearing it, I took it back because it traveled too much by lunchtime. So I’ve gone back to my old standby of Revlon Colorstay Whipped, because it does. not. move. πŸ™‚ I’m thinking of trying MUFE Ultra HD next – thoughts?

        • Karen says:

          I’m testing that right now! I think you’ll like it because it’s very matte (almost too matte for me). I’m still test driving it in terms of wear, etc., so I’ll get back to you.

          Have you seen the new Too Faced one, Born This Way? Demi-matte with medium-to-full coverage. I wore it on a few hot days and it held up well.

          • Trude says:

            Oooo looking forward to your review! Too Faced usually doesn’t go pale enough for me, but I’ll have to check it out. If only It Cosmetics came out with a matte-ier version of their CC cream I’d be set, love that formula! πŸ™‚

  5. Allison C says:

    Loved this tutorial on strobing, Karen, and you are glowing in the most lovely way! I know I don’t have the patience or skills for that many products, but I do have a very nice cream highlighter from Glo-Minerals and a powder highlighter from Mirabella that I’ve gotta give a go to soon. And if I could only remember what happened to that pretty Becca rose gold powder I bought a few months ago πŸ˜‰
    Allison C recently posted … Target Beauty Box: Back to College Honor Roll Fall 2015

    • Karen says:

      Hi Allison,

      The beauty with strobing is that you can always opt to use more or less products depending on how much time you’ve got. If you’re in a hurry just keep it to the illuminating moisturizer and/or the shimmery powder. Super streamlined and easy!

  6. Chelsea says:

    So pretty! I just got an Ulta 20% off coupon that works on prestige brands, and the BECCA stuff is on my list of things to check out! Plus, it’s still 2x points for my birthday month…

    • Karen says:

      Hey Chelsea,

      I got that coupon too and have been salivating over what to get with it. πŸ˜€ Knowing me I’ll probably end up with the boring basics — body lotion, cotton pads, a top coat. I think you’ll like BECCA. They have a great shade range for all skin tones. What products are you thinking of checking out?

      • Chelsea says:

        They have small sizes of the Shimmering Skin Perfector I’ve been wanting! I already use their Beach Tints and adore them.

        I’m planning on the Zoya top coat, because my favorite polishes lately are by them (Aphrodite is my jam! Perfect microglitter)

        I want to try some mascaras too, since Chanel has inexplicably started making my eyes itchy. (Although one of my best friends from my makeup counter days started working for Chanel, so you know I have to go pay her a visit!)

  7. Renae says:

    I just assumed turned into a supermodel these past few post. I mean you always look gorgeous but, that glow tho lol!

    Is it a change in diet. El hubs doing new tricks. Apple cider vinegar and coconut water….. lol

    Everything used in this post is somewhere on online shopping cart!

    Love you Tabs!
    p.s. I’m glad he was not too jealous of you holding those other cats in the other post.
    Plus, hes cuter!

    • Karen says:

      LOL! You’re too funny Renae. I dunno, maybe it’s the hair? I recently got it done so it’s a little different.

      Tabs says hi. He’s right here next to me in supervisory mode. πŸ™‚

      What are you up to this weekend? Doing anything fun?

  8. Stacey says:

    Been thinking about picking up L’Oreal’s Tru Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator to try playing with highlights. Don’t know that I’d do the full on strobing, but I’d definitely like to add some highlights on my cheekbones.

    Also love the Tabs rainbow animation and even though you said we don’t need em, I’d still be bringing some glowsticks. Ever since I was a little kid I’ve loved glowsticks.

  9. Kwmechelle says:

    Ok, so strobing. Oh my word, your’s truly hasn’t even mastered the highlighter life. I mean, I use my Hour Glass Ambient powders & the “sheen” is very light but noticeable to me. I use it after I layer my under eye concealer, translucent powder, & MAC MSF. I’ve swatched both Opal & Moonstone & their soooo gorgeous. Only thing is, I feel like I’ll never use them. But, just in case I get the “need” to purchase one, which of the two would you recommend? I feel like Opal is more cool-tone & I can totally dig it. Or is it Moonstone that’s more cool-toned? Anywho, need your makeup expertise here, dude, please πŸ™‚

  10. Lauren says:

    Ha ha ha…I just laughed out loud at upside down Tabs rainbow ride!!! Weeeee!

    Wow, the strobing looks beautiful on you! I can’t even properly highlight tho, so is strobing “harder” to do than highlighting?

  11. Rachel R. says:

    Great tutorial, and thanks for demystifying the process. I think the term make it sound harder than it actually is. I usually strobe with 1-2 products, but the great thing is you can use as little or as much as you like, with as slight or strong as shimmer as you like. Strobing has been around for decades. I think “strobing” is just a new term to sell new products, since the contouring craze is cresting.

    The Tabs rainbow graphic is too awesome! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

  12. Sarah says:

    I have pretty luminous skin already and on top of that oily skin, so even if I don’t strobe heyyyy girl I’m on trend! Hehe!

  13. Kellie says:

    Karen, you look so glowy and amazing! I typically powder pretty well ( I have really oily skin, especially in the summer, and my foundation tends to slide right off)…but I am going to try this tomorrow! I typically just use powder highlighter on my cheekbones but this takes it to a whole new level of angelic glow. PRETTY!

  14. I love the look of highlighters, but they don’t exactly agree with my oily skin. I think I’ll have to pass on the whole strobing trend πŸ™
    Carol in a Page recently posted … Marc Jacobs #InstaMarc: a Powder Duo for Subtle Contouring

  15. Looks easy enough! For me this seems actually less intimidating than contouring.
    Kiss & Make-up recently posted … Review | Uriage Bariésun Brume SPF 20 + Bioderma Hydrabio Moisturizing Anti-UV Mist SPF 30

  16. Agata says:

    For some reason the term “strobing” itself bothers me, but I do like the idea! Maybe I will try your tips today! I keep forgetting to use that wet brush trick! But either way, you look fantastic and your strobing still looks natural and not overdone.

  17. So much work to achieve a subtle look. AinΒ΄t it funny how the most effortless looking makeups usually take a lot of time and work to achieve?
    LindaLibraLoca recently posted … My bad, your luck? – Sunday Riley Start Over Eye Cream and Giveaway

  18. Ericca says:

    Nothing is new under the sun. I was never really a contour chick and I am glad this highlighting without contouring is making such a comeback. My only problem is not getting too excited and going highlighter crazy. Looking like a bag of glitter

  19. Sakura says:

    I’m in love with this look, very fresh and dewy ! and the products you used looks really great ! I think I’m going to get some of them ^^

  20. Mary B says:

    Hello pretty!

    The same day you posted this, I got an email from Too Faced about a new little set they created just for strobing! It’s called Wake Up & Glow. It’s like a little sign that I need to try this ASAP… I’ve been obsessed with Maybelline Color Tattoo Loose Pigment in Barely Brazen lately…. I use it along my brow bone and just under my eyes… it’s a nice highlighted pop with just the perfect shimmer! I use Too Faced Shadow Insurance (the original one) so I don’t tend to see much fall out at all!

    Also – I just moved to Utah from the East Bay… I’ve read your blog for such a long time but I rarely comment. Just wanted to say you-da-best!!

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