'I tried the retro makeup hack that "lights up your face". Here's what happened.'

Mamamia’s Tried and Tested series is your review of the latest to hit our desks in beauty, health and wellbeing. You won’t find any #sponsored content here, just honest, relatable and independent advice. This week, Mamamia's Beauty and Health Editor trials the viral retro highlighter hack.

ICYMI, we try a lotta viral beauty hacks on the You Beauty podcast. And sometimes, you get these amazing golden nuggets that work their way into your everyday routine, because they're just that good — like the nifty 'dot method' concealer hack. Other times, they're a total flop and you end up putting lube on your face or trying to mix foundation with water.

So, when Leigh Campbell and I came across this retro highlighter technique that promises to light up your face, we knew it could go either way. But, being the nosy beauty fiends that we are, we just had to try it.

Watch: Speaking of hacks, here's what happened when I tried the 10-pump foundation hack. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

Chances are, you've seen the technique doing the rounds on Instagram and TikTok.

It went viral off the back of a recent video posted by makeup artist and vintage makeup collector Erin Parsons (ahem, she owns some of Marilyn Monroe's makeup. HUGE), where she showed her followers the benefits of using matte white highlighter. 


And, as it turns out, this technique was used by makeup artists decades ago as a way to enhance features and bring dimension and shape to the face. It's pretty much the opposite of contour — and it was all the rage in the '80s.

So, does the white concealer highlighting hack actually work?

Well, Leigh and I put it to the test on this week's episode of You Beauty news. Here's what happened.

What is the retro makeup highlighting technique?

An important place to start, really. The retro highlighting technique was apparently a really common application method used by makeup artists in the '70s and '80s. 

It was most notably made popular by renowned celebrity makeup artist Way Bandy (psst... he was behind celebrities like Cher, Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor). 

Listen: Wanna get your ears around this episode of You Beauty? Check it out below:

In short, Bandy's technique involved strategically applying white highlighter to accentuate certain features.

He placed it around the inner and outer corners of eyes, down the bridge of the nose and at each side of the nostrils, underneath the cheekbones and on the chin.

As Parsons said in the video, this technique was used to create "an amazing light" in the centre of the face.

She tried it for herself and here's how it looked:


The result? 

It's supposed to make your best features look 'lifted' and more obvious, shining the spotlight on them rather than creating shadows (like you do with contouring). 

How did you go with it?

Just FYI, I read a few different reviews on this white concealer highlighting hack, and apparently, you don't have to go with a concealer that's like... white, white. 

Whatever your skin tone, you can simply use a concealer that's around three to four shades lighter than your natural skin tone. You just need something that leans more towards matte rather than shimmery. 


I used Too Faced Born This Way Ethereal Light Concealer in 'Sugar', $45, which ultimately had a bit of shimmer in it – but, it still did the job. 

Leigh used a sneaky not-yet-on-the-shelves concealer and wouldn't tell us what brand! 

Now, like Bandy and Parsons, we both did our whole makeup look beforehand and just added the white concealer at the end. Using Parson's TikTok as a guide, we swiped it on the inner and outer corners of our eyes, down the bridge of our nose, either side of our nostrils, under our cheekbones and added a spot on our chin.

Looking GREAT.


As I always seem to do whenever I try any kind of hack, I immediately went too heavy-handed on the application front, particularly under my eyes, and applied way too much. Sigh.

We both blended the swipes of concealer into our skin with a damp beauty blender (as quickly as possible, so it didn't set).

I used my fingers to blend the (10 kilograms of) concealer around my eyes and face, and Leigh used a makeup brush.

Blend, blend, blend!


Here's what it looked like after:

Refreshed? Brighter? More awake?

The verdict.

Look, it did feel a little heavy post-application — so I was curious to see how it looked in the light because I was immediately terrified it would look like a chalky, cakey mess.


Now, I'm unsure if it's because I went ham with the application under my eyes, but my eye areas definitely looked brightened, refreshed and more awake. The other areas looked pretty seamless, too.

In terms of the wear throughout the day, it honestly didn't go great. Especially around my eye area.

Around the 3pm to 4pm mark, I noticed the concealer building up and chilling in the creases around my eyes. 

I used my fingers to smooth it out a few times, but at the end of the day, I was pretty happy to hit the oil cleanser and get it all off.

I think the trick here is applying minimal formula. When it comes to this hack, more is not more. You could also try applying it underneath your makeup, so it looks a little more seamless.

All in all, it wasn't one of the worst techniques we've ever tried. But would I try it again? 


However, I definitely wouldn't be doing this as an 'everyday' kind of makeup look — it feels way too intense for that. I'd also use less makeup and try the 'underpainting' technique as opposed to swiping it right over my fresh makeup look.

For now, I think I'll stick to my old Charlotte Tilbury Highlighter Wand.

But, there you have it!

Have you tried the retro highlighter technique? Share your thoughts with us!

Feature image: Instagram/@erinparsonsmakeup; Mamamia/You Beauty podcast.

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