Every time you look around, it seems like there's a new beauty fad that's all the rage. And God forbid you haven't heard of it or else you'll warrant questions like, "Have you been living under a rock?" or, "How have you not heard of *fill in the blank* already?" To my complete and utter lack of surprise, I was once again out of the loop when my sister casually mentioned something about trying strobing. Being the '90s kid I am, pictures of neon pacifiers, Manic Panic, and sweaty ravers popped to mind, however, apparently strobing is the latest makeup trend and heavy-handed contouring is on its way out.
Not one to admit my clear deficiency in all things hip, I made sure to mentally make note of the term so I could Google it later without being judged. As far as this novice can tell, strobing is the opposite of contouring. Where contouring emphasizes depth, shadow, and creates angles with darker shades, strobing is all about highlighting and playing up the high points of your face, such as accentuating the peak of your cheekbones or right under the arch of your brow. Strobing also can give the appearance of fullness, like highlighting your philtrum (the indented, grooved area right above the center of your upper lip) to make your pout even poutier, or the inner corners of your eyes to mimic a larger, brighter eye. Sounds to good to be true, right?
After going down the rabbit hole that is YouTube beauty tutorial videos, I was hooked on the promises of strobing. But could I, a pale, nearly 30-year-old, mom of a toddler, pull off this youthful and trendy look? As I've mentioned in previous beauty experiment pieces, I'm definitely far from being an expert makeup artist. But cosmetics, in my opinion, are all about faking it anyways. So with the confidence only binge-watching online tutorials can give you, I set out to my nearest beauty store to get all the necessary tools to see if I could master strobing and if I'd like it better than the effect of contouring.
Day 1: Go Pro
I may talk a big game, but I was actually quite intimidated by the idea of trying out a makeup technique that could very well end in utter disaster. So I did what any logical (and very insecure) person would do: I went to my local Sephora to seek the knowledge of the wise makeup artists therein. Showing up with a makeup-free face in a shop devoted to cosmetics was already nerve-wracking enough for me, but attempting to explain that I needed help learning how to do strobing was fairly embarrassing.
Thankfully, the phenomenally talented makeup artist, Bobby (whose Instagram will give you life), graciously walked me through every step of the process and made me feel super comfortable. Something he showed me that I hadn't seen done in any YouTube videos was that he didn't use the same makeup tool for the whole face. For areas like above the cupid's bow, he used a smaller brush. I also learned that patting, not side-to-side sweeping, is the ideal application method when using a highlighter, like the one I picked up, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Pearl. I adored the subtle glow it gave me and was excited to take off the training wheels on day two.
Day 2: Baby Steps
Armed with the products and knowledge from the day before, I felt somewhat confident enough to try and tackle strobing by myself. But, full disclosure, I wanted to take baby steps. So on day two I kept it super simple with only foundation, concealer, and the Becca highlighter. I have no idea if I even did it correctly, but this was certainly fancier than my usual routine, so I felt like I must have been doing something right.
If I'm being 1,000 percent honest, I felt like I looked vaguely like an alien. And not like some sexy Katy Perry Extraterrestrial thing, either. My face sort of looked like an upside down triangle since I was creating points of focus on my cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, my philtrum, and the center of my chin. Still, not bad for my first time solo.
Day 3: A Little More Me
I felt like I was missing a step on day two, because the finished product didn't really feel like "me." So I decided to incorporate more elements of my regular routine into this strobing experiment to see if I'd like the result better. All I did was use a muted lipstick (Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Rush) and my go-to eyeliner (Urban Decay 24/7 in Rockstar). Already I was feeling more like myself and less like an out-of-touch old timer trying to be hip.
On day one and day two, I didn't really receive any comments or garner strange stares (to my knowledge) from the public. So I was hoping my more completed strobing look on day three would at least warrant some type of reaction. Neither the barista nor the grocery store cashier nor anyone else I came into contact with that day had anything to say about what I thought was some extraordinary highlighting handiwork.
Day 4: Strobing + Blush = ???
Still trying to keep it simple with my trusty eyeliner and subdued lips (Maybelline Baby Lips Crystal in Pink Quartz), I wanted to see what it would be like to add a bit of color to my otherwise porcelain complexion. To me, the strobing seemed to bring out the luminescent quality of my fair skin, but that also left me looking somewhat ghostly. So by adding a touch of blush (Urban Decay Flushed in Native), I felt more balanced.
My husband was actually the first person to notice that I'd been trying out a new technique. Though he didn't know what the term "strobing" was, he did think I looked "pretty and sort of sparkly." To me, that was a pretty big compliment from a guy who often couldn't even tell if I was or wasn't wearing makeup at all. I liked that this idea of being "sparkly," something that's normally reserved for special occasions, could be experienced on a regular weekday.
Day 5: Channeling My Inner Gwen
The queen of red lips and flawless skin, Gwen Stefani, was my inspiration for day five. I was a bit afraid that strobing all on its own was already making a bold statement, so doing a bold lip might be too much. But I took the plunge anyways because I was feeling adventurous. Rocking a ruby satin lip (UD | Gwen Stefani in Spiderweb) and my strobed-out face, I felt pretty badass.
There's just something about a fierce red lip that can instantly makes me feel powerful and more confident. Pairing that with the touch of glamour strobing provided, I felt a bit overdone when running my errands. But the Starbucks barista did say she loved my lipstick and that my skin looked like a doll. I'm choosing to take that as a good thing.
Day 6: Switching It Up
Empowered by the success of my risky red lip move, I decided to go in the opposite direction and do a strong, smoky eye for day six. As I have said time and time again, I am by no stretch of the imagination an actual makeup artist. Relying heavily on my Urban Decay Smoky Palette mini look book, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome
While the strobing seemed to take a backseat to my eye makeup, the overall effect was actually pretty awesome. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I looked effortless despite the sizable amount of time I actually did put into it. Honestly, though? I didn't care if it did take me several tries or if I was following a guide. The highlighting technique made me feel good about myself and that's all I can ask for out of a makeup trend.
Day 7: Can't Resist The Contour
I know, I know, strobing is supposed to be the opposite of contouring, but I just had to see what would happen if I did both. Feeling a bit like a nefarious chemist combining combustible ingredients, I applied both my highlighter and my bronzer. I actually couldn't tell that much of a difference, but perhaps that's because I've never done a dramatic contour either due to my fair skin tone. On me, contouring can look like I got in a fight with a brown marker and lost. So I played it safe.
In a way, I didn't really think that the contouring added the depth I thought it would to my look. Sure, it was fun to do something a little different than what I'd been sticking to for the past week, but in the end, I could've skipped the bronzer and saved myself 10 precious minutes.
Had I Seen The Light?
So is strobing truly the new contouring? Am I member of Team Highlight? I can't speak for everybody, but as for me, I have seen the light! I absolutely loved the pep strobing put in my step. I may not do it quite as dramatically as I did for some of my looks, but even a dab of highlighter can do my self-esteem some good.
This may sound silly, but it reminded me of when I was a kid and I got to stay up late on a weeknight to watch a movie. Strobing, highlighting, whatever you want to call it, adding a touch of sparkle to my routine made me feel like I got to indulge in the special treat of glamour on an everyday basis.