What is an Eyeshadow Highlighter & How to Use Them?  

We have all heard of highlighters in makeup, both face and eyeshadow highlighters. Highlighting is a popular eye shadow trend that’s a really easy, neat and useful trick. Here at Red Apple Lipstick, we find this trend quite helpful for most any makeup look.   

So, what exactly is highlighting and why would you do it? What are highlighting eyeshadows and how do you use them?

We are answering these questions in this article and talking all about Red Apple Lipstick’s highlighting eyeshadows.   

What is an eyeshadow highlighter? This image shows a clean highlight at the inner corner and brow bone.
Eye Shadow Highlighting At The Brow and Inner Corner

What is an Eyeshadow Highlighter?  

Highlighting with eye shadows is when a lighter shade of a powder, pressed or cream eye shadow, aka highlighter, is blended on certain areas of the eye which mimics a sunlit glow and to make the eye brighter and more awake.

We’ll go over specific shades below, but any lighter-than-your-skin shade will act as a highlighter. You don’t need to buy a special eyeshadow labeled “highlighter” even though many light shades may be listed as such.

Why Highlight With Eye Shadow?  

Why should you highlight with eye shadow? The purpose is to either draw attention to these areas, liven the face, or accentuate the features being highlighted.  What is light and bright will appear bigger and come forward.

Using a highlighter eyeshadow adds dimension and helps give the appearance of brighter, bigger, more awake-looking eyes, bringing more attention to them. Everyone should use a highlighting eyeshadow, but we’ll get into details below about how. 

It is a great way to give the eyes a lifted and more youthful appearance, a great trick for those days when you haven’t gotten enough sleep the night before or when you just want to give your eyes a little extra oomph. 

What Shades Make A Good Eyeshadow Highlighter?  

An eyeshadow highlighter, or highlighting eyeshadow, is basically the same as a face highlighter just in an eyeshadow version. They can come in either a powder or cream form.

Eyeshadow highlighters are light shades (anything slightly lighter than your skin tone) in several different color options; mostly in nudes, whites and neutral shades. You can choose these shades in either matte or shimmer/pearlescent finishes.  Shimmer highlights are totally fun, but they can look out of place past a certain age, YMMV.  For age recommendations, keep reading under the HOW-To section below.

Also, highlighting the eyes is especially useful for those who have smaller eyes, as it can help them look bigger and wider, but don’t try to highlight the entire eye lid, stick to the areas we discuss below.

How To Highlight With Eyeshadow Like a Pro

The key to great highlighting is location, location, location. When it comes to the eyes, there’s 2 main areas you want to focus on – the inner corners and brow bones (right below the brows, but above the crease/transition area).   

An eyeshadow brush with the right shape for highlighting is essential. This Brush -> Crease and Blend Brush and this brush -> Wet/Dry Eye Brush work great to highlight the eyes because they’re not too big and not too small.   

Highlight the Inner Corner  

Using an eye brush made for the task, apply a small amount of your highlight eyeshadow to the inner corners of your eyes. You can take it a third of the way in on the eyelids, but no more than that.  

Shades & Ages: This is the perfect place for shimmer no matter your age. You can play with fun sparkle (or not) in this area because it’s so small and won’t scream shimmer, but will subtly sparkle. A matte shade will also look fantastic, if shimmer isn’t your thing.

Placing a highlighter here makes the eyes look bigger and wider while giving a fresher, more awake appearance.  Take it lightly at first, you can always add more later. This should be subtle when the whole look is complete.

eyeshadow highlighter on the inner corner.
Inner Corner Highlight

Highlight the Brow Bone  

Apply a small amount all the way across underneath your eyebrows. You can use the same eyeshadow from the inner corners of the eyes if you’d like, but a matte shade that is lighter than your natural skin tone is perfect to highlight the brow bone.  

Specific Tips For Hooded Lids & Shimmer Vs. Matte:

  1. Shimmer/Pearlescent shades on the brow bone *can* scream 1970s which is not necessarily what we’re going for. We’re going for a subtle highlight to lift and brighten. If you’d like to use shimmer, use a very light hand and blend well into your transition and crease color. Matte shades work just as well at lifting and brightening – and would be my sophisticated choice for a woman over 50.
  2. Hooded or “droopy” lids tip – your brow bone appears larger because the “hood” is a part of it. If you highlight the entire visible brow bone area it will make your eyes look very small. There’s a trick to use where you create a crease where it should be versus where it actually is, which eliminates this issue and helps your eyes look bigger. Check out this post on how to apply eyeshadow for hooded eyes for details (it’s totally worth your time!)

When a highlighter is applied on the brow bone, it brightens up the area and draws the attention upwards which helps to give the eyes a more lifted appearance.  

eyeshadow highlighter on the Brow Bone

Can You Use Highlighting Eyeshadows to Highlight the Face?  

While Red Apple Lipstick doesn’t offer face highlighters, the eyeshadow highlighters work perfectly well for highlighting the face – multipurpose products are the best!   

Highlighting the face not only gives the complexion a beautiful glow but can emphasize certain facial features making them stand out.

When highlighting the face, using a small powder brush, apply your eyeshadow highlight of choice high up on the cheekbones, top of the forehead, bridge of the nose, and on the cupids bow (area above the lip).   

For more on highlighting, both for face and eyes, head on over to The Ultimate Guide to Highlighting with Eyeshadows article. You will find more in-depth details on this topic as well as some amazing tips and tricks when it comes to highlighting with RAL’s eyeshadows.     

Red Apple Lipstick’s Highlighting Eyeshadows  

Okay! Now it’s time to look as some eye shadow shades that all work well as a highlighter. It’s important to understand that a highlighting eyeshadow doesn’t have to be white and bright specifically. There are many shades in the neutral and brown range, and I’ll demonstrate this below right now.

I hope these images give you a great idea of the “types” of shades that work great for eyeshadow highlighting. You can shop them all here.

Shimmery/Pearlescent Highlight Eyeshadows:   

A subtle shimmery color can give you a nice sheen or glow which is great for evenings and special occasions.

Pearlescent eyeshadows create a flawless, effervescent glow wherever you apply them. They do not have obvious chunks of shimmer or glitter but do provide a satiny finish which makes them perfect to wear for any occasion.  

Buttercream– a light, shimmering off-white eyeshadow that has a slight yellow tint. This shade catches the light in such a stunning way that it makes the perfect all-over highlight.


Apply it to the brow bone for an instant lift, the inner corner to open and light up the eyes, and to the center of the lids for a gorgeous glow. You can even apply a tiny bit to your cupid’s bow to create the appearance of fuller-looking lips.   This is a fabulous shade for an eyeshadow highlighter

Champagne– a light golden frosty taupe eyeshadow shade. Applied lightly, this makes a great inner corner and brow bone highlight option for those with medium to darker complexions.  


Iced Mocha– a light, frosted taupe eyeshadow with an ever so slight tint of a dusty rose mauve. This soft and delicate shadow can be applied lightly to the inner corner or blended up to the brow bone as an eyeshadow highlighter.   

Iced Mocha

Innocence– light, bright, white eyeshadow shade with an opalescent metallic sheen. This is the ultimate highlighter shade for any eye color and another staple for anyone’s makeup collection as it works great with any eyeshadow.


Highlight the inside corner of your eyes and sweep it up to the brow bone for an instant lift, even apply a tiny bit to the center of your lids to draw light in.   

Golden Ticket– a beautiful shimmering gold eyeshadow shade. This will make a great highlighting shade for those with darker complexions.  

Golden Ticket

Like U Latte– soft, light, rosy caramel tan with an ever so slight shimmer. This shade makes a great brow bone highlight for those with darker and deeper complexions.  

Like You Latte

Sand Castle– light, nude peach with golden shimmer. This is another one that makes a great highlighter when applied lightly for those with medium to dark complexions.

Sand Castle

Makes a beautiful highlight for the inner corner, and brow bone, and can be applied with a fluffy brush over the cheekbones to add a lovely glow.  

Matte Highlight Eyeshadows:  

Matte eyeshadows are great for anyone and any age. They will subtly give a brighter, more awake look in a more natural way, great for everyday wear. The perfect matte highlighter should be a few shades lighter than your skin tone.  

Heirloom– a matte light-yellow eyeshadow. Works perfectly as a base shadow and also makes a great matte highlight shade for the inner corner and brow bone.  


Hush Hush– matte light peachy eyeshadow shade. Another great base color and the perfect matte highlight shade for medium skin tones.  

Hush Hush

Pixie Dust– a soft, light, matte pink eyeshadow with the tiniest tint of peach. This makes a great matte highlight for the brow bone; you can apply it to the inside corner of the eyes as well.  

Pixie Dust

Porcelain– a light, matte, off-white, creamy nude eyeshadow that has a slightly pinkish, peachy yellow tint to it. The perfect subtle highlight shade for the brow bone.  


Have you found a favorite eyeshadow highlighter? If so, share your favorite picks in the comments below and let us know your favorite facial features that you love to make stand out.  

Frequently Asked Questions:  

What is the point of a highlighter in makeup?  

They help enhance the face by giving the skin a beautiful, natural-looking glow and it helps accentuate the facial features being highlighted.  

What is an eyeshadow highlighter used for?  

Eyeshadow highlighter can be used for both the eye area as well as the face. When applied to the inside corner of the eyes and the brow bone, it can brighten and open the eyes while giving them a lifted appearance.   

Accentuate facial features while also giving a natural glow by applying them on the cheekbones, down the center of the nose, on top of the forehead, and top of the lips. 

Here is a great tutorial I found on YouTube with some interesting eyeshadow highlight hacks.

And here is another article written by us you might enjoy!

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