A Makeup Artist’s Guide to Achieving the Perfect Highlight

From the woman behind Kylie Jenner and Rose Huntington-Whiteley’s glow.


As days get shorter and temperatures drop, most of us lose our summer glows and find ourselves dealing with dull and dehydrated complexions. That is, unless you’ve just received a “glow job” from the makeup artist Nam Vo. Vo, who’s worked with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Kylie Jenner, and Chrissy Teigen, is known for her “dewy dumpling” look, which she describes as being being “plump, moist, and delicious.” From how to keep skin looking radiant during dry winter months to three-dimensional highlighter techniques, here, Vo reveals her secrets to becoming your glowiest self.

How do you prep skin for makeup?

I usually like to start with a natural toner, then I’ll either use an oil or a moisturizer. I’d use a moisturizer if I want medium dewiness, and if I want burn-out-your-cornea dewiness, then I’ll do an oil. I’m in love with the VDL Primer because not only is it hydrating but it also doesn’t leave a greasy residue. I do so much skin prep that by the time I put on a primer, if it’s not the appropriate texture, it can tend to roll off.

Do you change up your products and techniques in the winter months?

When it comes to dry winter skin everybody thinks moisture, moisture, moisture, but it’s really about exfoliating so your products can penetrate deeper and perform better. One of my favorite oil cleansers [launching November 25] is Tulura, which melts off makeup, then I’ll use Biologique P50, which is high in salicylic acid. If a model walks on set and she’s kind of dry and a little crusty, I like to do a mask like May Lindstrom Honey Mud for 10 minutes, which softens the skin and takes that top layer off.

How do you get your highlighter to look three-dimensional?

When I apply highlighter, it’s not like I just slap it on a makeup-less face. I do makeup like burned toast: Imagine it’s light in the center and then fades out and gets darker around the perimeter of the face. I always use multidimensional products, so I might use VDL to prime, then I’ll do foundation, then I’ll use the Marc Jacobs Dew Drops with either a bronzer or contour. I keep on building, and even though it looks natural, there’s sheen and layers, so before I even hit the highlighter you’re already seeing beams of light and dimension in the face.

If you don’t have a ton of time in the morning to get ready, how would you break down highlighting to its bare essentials?

If you don’t have time to layer, contour, and create light, just have moist skin and add a little concealer where you need it. That’s my everyday, going-to-Whole-Foods look. If you have another two seconds, I would add cream blush and a cream highlighter.

How do you keep your skin in check when traveling?

I’m super high-maintenance, so if I’m checking in a bag, I’ll bring my portable Panasonic steamer. Sheet masks are also great, and there are so many great tools available, whether you like a roller or do gua sha. One big thing you can do with just your fingers is massaging your face and getting the lymphatic drainage movement going. It’s simple, free, and you can do it anytime, anyplace.

What is the biggest highlighter mistake that people can make?

A lot of people put highlighter on unflattering areas with unflattering textures. For example, if you’re really porous and broken out on the nose, I wouldn’t put shimmer there because it’s only going to highlight that texture. The main area to highlight is the height of the cheekbone, but there are many different places to add sparkle, like the corner of your eyes or the bow of your lips.

What products would you recommend for touching up throughout the day?

If you want to carry around a powder compact, I love the La Mer Powder and the Laura Mercier Translucent Powder. Another, newer one I think is amazing and great to carry around is the Milk Makeup Blur + Set powder. The secret to powder is you don’t want to take away glow, you want to take away oil. Oil usually peeps through the nose, the chin, and the middle of the forehead, basically the T-zone, but everywhere else, a little shine and dewiness looks very healthy and pretty.

What drew you to the over-the-top highlighted look?

Trends come and go. Maybe unicorn highlighter isn’t going to be here forever, maybe contour isn’t going to be here forever, but who doesn’t like to look at plump, moist, healthy-looking dumpling skin? I’m going to say that’s probably here to stay. Healthy, beautiful skin is attractive and coveted no matter where you go in the world.

What is the best beauty advice you’ve ever been given?

Stay the fuck out of the sun!