Why Does Your Highlighter Looks Grey?

If you’ve ever applied highlighter to your face and it looked more grey than champagne or gold, you’re not alone.

It can be tricky to find the right color and application technique for your skin tone, but your makeup will look so much better once you do.

Keep reading to know how to prevent your highlighter from looking ashy, as well as how to apply it for a glowy look.

There are a few reasons why your highlighter looks grey on your skin. It’s either because you’re using a shade that’s lighter than your skin tone or because you’re using the wrong undertone. Applying too much highlighter without blending it properly can cause it to look ashy on the skin too.

In this article, we’ll share some tips and tricks to prevent your highlighter from looking ashy.

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Why Does Your Highlighter Look Grey?

To ensure that your highlighter looks its best, consider a few things first: namely, your skin tone and undertone. To get a great-looking highlighter, follow these simple steps.

Prepare your Skin before Makeup

cream moisturizer

Making sure that your skin is clean and moisturized will create a smooth canvas for you to work with.

Adding a gentle exfoliator to your nighttime routine can make your face look more even, as well. It helps eliminate dead skin cells and dry patches that might cling to your foundation and cause your highlighter to look ashy and dull.

Before wearing makeup, it’s best to take a few minutes and prepare your skin properly.

The first step is to cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser and then followed by a lightweight moisturizer to hydrate the face.

Choose a smooth formula that nourishes the skin without making it feel greasy.

Use The Right Highlighter Color

persona highlighter

Many people make the mistake of choosing a highlighter that is too light or dark for their skin tone, which can give the skin an ashy appearance. To avoid this, choose a highlighter that is one or two shades lighter than your skin tone. You want to be sure to pick a color that will complement your complexion, not overshadow the skin.

If you have a pale or light skin tone, choose a highlighter with icy silver, lilac, or pearlescent tones like this Butter Highlighter Pearl or this Shock Cheek Highlighter.

physicians formula butter highlighter

Choose a champagne, light peach, or rose gold highlighter for light to medium skin tones. This Butter Highlighter is a nice choice. It has a soft formula that blends easily into the skin.

physicians formula butter highlighter in champagne

If you have a dark skin tone, choose a golden bronze highlighter. Avoid white or light purple highlighters as they look grey and chalky on your skin.

maybelline master chrome highlighter

Choose The Right Undertone

skin undertones

Choose the right undertone for your highlighter to avoid getting an ashy look.

An undertone is the color that lies underneath the surface of your skin and affects your overall appearance. 

In general, undertones are divided into three groups: warm, cool, and neutral.

There are many tests you can do to know your undertone.

The easiest one is to check your veins. You probably have a cool undertone if your veins are blue or purple and a warm undertone if they are green. Veins that are neither yellow nor blue or in-between can indicate you are neutral.

If you have warm undertones, choose a peach, gold or champagne highlighter with yellow undertones. 

milani highlighter

If you have a cool undertone, choose a pink highlighter with white or cool undertones.

essence purenude spacelighter

If you have neutral undertones, avoid choosing a highlighter that is too cool or too warm. Opt for something that’s in between the two.

On the other hand, it’s also very important to choose the right undertone for your foundation, which helps prevent your makeup from looking grey or pink. 

Don’t Apply Too Much

liquid highlighters

Applying too much highlighter, especially in daylight, can make your complexion look grey or ashy. 

One way to avoid streaks and a chalky appearance when highlighting is to make sure that the product is blended well into the skin too.

Once you’ve chosen the right color for your skin tone and undertone, it’s important to blend it in properly. Highlighters should be blended into the skin using a light hand. You don’t want to overdo it, or else you’ll end up with streaks on your face. 

If you are using a cream highlighter, start by dabbing it on the tops of your cheekbones and down the bridge of your nose. Then blend it in with your fingers or a makeup sponge until you reach the desired look. 

l'oreal sponge

Powder highlighters can be applied using your fingers, a makeup sponge, or a fluffy brush

elf highlighter brush

Apply a little bit of product to your brush and blend lightly with circular motions towards the hairline. 

Avoid using a dense brush as it might deposit too much product on the skin which can make your highlighter look oily.

Tip: If you have an even skin tone, you probably don’t need foundation. You can just wear a highlighter and get a minimal makeup look on busy days.

Related: The Difference Between Illuminators And Highlighters.

Think About The Lighting

direct sunlight

Applying a highlighter in natural light is a great way to ensure that you aren’t going overboard with your highlighter.

Another good tip is to apply your makeup in front of a window instead of using artificial lights. It will allow you to ensure the shade you’re using is perfect for you, and you’ll be able to see how well blended your makeup is.

If anything looks patchy, this might indicate that you need to blend more seamlessly before adding another layer of product.

Makeup can look drastically different depending on what lighting you’re using too. For example, a highlighter that you swatch at any beauty store might look perfect, but you might be surprised that it can look different in natural light – which means that sometimes highlighters might not look the way you want unless you try them in direct sunlight.

Avoid Oily or greasy Highlighters

highlighter palette

Not all highlighters work well with all sink types. Accordingly, you should select a formula that works well for your skin type. If you have oily skin, a powder highlighter is your best bet because it will help to mattify the skin.

Using a primer might be necessary to control oil throughout the day. Choose a mattifying primer underneath your foundation to help reduce the shine and make your makeup last longer.

thank me later primer

Be sure to match your primer and foundation properly to avoid makeup from separating.

If you have dry skin, try using a cream or liquid highlighter as they are typically more hydrating. However, if your cream highlighter is too oily, it might end up looking greasy on the skin. In this case, set it with a light layer of translucent or pressed powder.

nyx born to glow liquid highlighter

Not all highlighters are created equal, and some might not perform well on top of many foundations. If your highlighter is still looking ashy no matter what you do, use a different formula. It all depends on whether you use a liquid or powder foundation as a base.

For powder foundations, use a powder highlighter. Apply a liquid highlighter on top of a liquid foundation.

If you have mature skin, check these best powder foundations for aging skin.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it is important to know the right products and techniques to avoid looking ashy when using a makeup highlighter.

There are many different highlighting creams, powders and liquids that you can experiment with until you find one that works for your skin tone and type.

Choose a highlighter that’s one or two shades lighter than your skin tone. Avoid using a dark highlighter and choose one that has your exact undertone.

Apply your highlighter under natural lighting and avoid using too much product. Make sure to blend the highlighter properly to avoid any harsh lines. Use your fingers, a fluffy brush or a makeup sponge.

Using these tips will help you achieve a natural-looking highlight that doesn’t look grey or ashy. Be sure to try different colors and techniques until you find what works best for you.

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Claire is a beauty enthusiast and lover of all things makeup. Her blog is a resource for makeup tips and tricks, product reviews and beauty tutorials.

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