I Got a Dewy Makeover From the Glow Queen Herself

My face looked like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar.

“That extra-glowy, extra-wet, extra-shimmery look is really relevant right now,” makeup artist Nam Vo told me as she covered my cheeks in Cle de Peau Radiant Fluid Foundation. “But it’s not going anywhere. Who doesn’t want moist-looking skin?” She handed me a mirror. It was indeed moist. “You see how it looks really wet still, but not oily?” She was dabbing my face with a pink Beauty Blender. I nodded, amazed at what she’d done in only two minutes.

Nam is known for this signature makeup technique, which the internet has dubbed the “Nam Vo Glow.” Her Instagram, a scrollable portfolio of her work, is straight-up highlighter porn.

“I always treat the face like there’s a spotlight on it,” Nam told me. I believe it — there’s not a face in her dossier that doesn’t resemble the sun itself.

✨💎💡🌟 #namvoglow #tbt

A post shared by Nam Vo 🌟GLOW🌟 (@namvo) on

Highlighter, which mimics the effect of light hitting skin, isn’t new, but its popularity has seen exponential growth over the past ten years. Per Refinery29’s breakdown of the trend, highlighter got its start as a tool to define faces on early 20th-century film. It picked up in the 80s with MAC’s inaugural strobing cream — the first of its kind — and has been gaining traction ever since. But it wasn’t until Instagram, YouTube and selfie culture blew up that the technique blew up, too, Refinery notes. The NPD Group reported a 21% increase in sales last year in the highlighting makeup category.

That sales jump doesn’t surprise me. The beauty community’s obsession with highlighting — which has been on an unrelenting trajectory for years now — has clearly gone mainstream. Every makeup brand now has a highlighting kit. And don’t forget: 2016 was the founding year of the “what highlighter does she use” meme. What’s a meme if not a perfect cultural temperature check?

The highlighter meme may already be “over” (unfortunately), but highlighter very much isn’t. Nam believes the glow is here to stay because it’s tied to another millennial obsession: health. Specifically, skincare.

“It really starts with good skin,” she said, as she dabbed Shiseido Future Solution Foundation on my face (as a concealer), before grabbing her Becca Prosecco Pop Highlighter to get to work on my cheeks. Her mother stressed the importance of skincare throughout her childhood. “I’ve been wearing SPF every day since I was six years old. Every single day.”

The connection makes sense. The “skincare as makeup” movement definitely crested alongside the highlighting one. That infamously shiny, plump, uber-healthy skin of, say, Glossier ads looks like the naked cousin of the Nam Vo Glow.

A post shared by Glossier (@glossier) on

Highlighting is kind of like a dialed-up, blown-out imitation of that natural sheen. It’s healthy skin on steroids.

“Now I’m doing Hourglass Ambient Light Palette all over,” Nam said, lightly brushing my face. “It’s nice because it’s not shimmery — it just has a little bit of pearlescence.”

Pearlescence. Yes. Why didn’t I think of that word?

“My favorite highlighter is by Colourpop,” she added, grabbing yet another highlighter from a sea of highlighters. “The glow is real.” After some finishing touches — her custom blush palette for Oribe, Givenchy Rose Powder, Tom Ford bronzer and a Rose Quartz finishing spray (full list of products used below) — I was all Nam Vo Glow’d up.

I held up the mirror. Holy shit. I looked like a newborn pearl inside a clam of my own bangs. “This is the glowiest I’ll ever be,” I announced, certain the statement would hold true through potential child-bearings and/or professional successes.

As Edith snapped my “after” photos, I suddenly wished my hair resembled Sofia Vergara’s mid-movie premiere instead of Mia Hamm’s mid-game. If not for my sake, at least for Nam’s. My disheveled bun wasn’t doing her work justice.

As we were packing up, Nam called me over to take a selfie in front of the sunny window. “I’m an expert selfie-taker,” she said while snapping away, directing the angle of my chin and instructing me to gaze directly into my own eyes (sensual). I was blown away at how much glowier I looked through her iPhone lens than through Edith’s professional one. We looked spray-painted gold.

“I know,” Nam conceded, when me and Edith expressed our surprise. “iPhones capture highlight really well.” I’d argue it did it better than my own eyes. IRL, I was wearing quite a bit of makeup, but in the photo, I looked accidentally angelic, like I was en route to frolic in a butterfly meadow. It reminded me of how, the other day, my boyfriend commented that I looked a little sweaty, as though I’d just returned from a run. I brimmed with pride and told him I’d been as sedentary as ever. It was just MAKE Face Gloss. In both situations, I’d somehow cheated reality.

Something clicked. How did I not think of that before? Glowing is the beauty trend of the internet generation for good reason: It’s the picture of health, if not health itself.

Follow Nam Vo on Instagram here.

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  • Abby

    I would love some tips on how to appropriately utilize highlighter if you wear glasses. I feel like my big ol frames just swallow it up and you can’t even tell I have it on 🙁

    • Liv_ja

      I make sure to apply to the side of my frames, really focusing on the mid-curve of the C. I also dab some on the bridge of my nose, which I find makes me look really healthy and well-rested.

    • Emma Gabrielle

      I wear big-ish glasses everyday and wear highlighter every day! i focus on a wide “c” shape on the side of my face, going up next to my eyes, the cupids bow (that’s what really lights up the face imho) and the tip of my nose.

  • Harling Ross

    “I suddenly wished my hair resembled Sofia Vergara’s mid-movie premiere instead of Mia Hamm’s mid-game”

    thank you for this sentence

    • Áine Hegarty

      Was just going to comment that too! Hahahah

  • Andrea Raymer

    I disagree about the hair, you look positively Hepburn-esque.

    • Haley Nahman


      • Kiks

        Agreed you look stunning

    • Tess

      Yeah, those whispy bangs are aspirational!

  • yassqueeeen

    Lovin the bang-game. I can never pull off bangs, I’ve tried so many times.

    And your faces literally look like *gold magic* #goals

    • Haley Nahman

      I’ve had rly bad bangs sometimes they just take some workshopping! Also mine look bad half the time 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • I recently discovered highlighter! It really does feel like such a game changer. Let dem cheekbones SHINE! Haley, you look beauteous! Would you ever consider recreating this look as part of your ~routine~?

    • Haley Nahman

      Def for something fancy! Not for everyday though

  • comstance

    You look a ma zing!!!!

  • Andrea

    OMG You are Kristen Wiig’s doppelgänger. How did I not notice this before?

    • Haley Nahman

      I get this a medium amount

  • Allegra Roberts

    LOVE that look on you, Haley! Highlighter is my beauty product weakness, even though I’m not that into anything else. I already own so many different kinds that I don’t even use that much, yet here I am trying not to get everything in this post!

  • dk

    But was it the light or the make up that made your hair suddenly a shade lighter? In other news, I made a selfie in front of a sun window while starring in my eyes.. and I have never looked better in a selfie. Life hack learned.

    • Haley Nahman

      Great Q and great news

  • Margaret Stolte

    Your face is a magical orb that I never want to stop staring at omg

    • Haley Nahman

      My orb is blushing

  • I feel like I suddenly understand what makes celebs look like celebs. Apparently, highlighter – am I the last one to realize this?

    Also I feel like when I wear it looks SO noticeable, and not in a good way. More in a “are you thirteen just had your first trip to the makeup counter” way.

    • Emma Gabrielle

      I find that powder highlight makes me look like that – a cream or liquid makes it look much more natural but still noticeable!

      • Haley Nahman

        Yeah also try a liquid one that is a warmer, not pure white. So it’s almost like a glowy creamy blush. I find those look more natural when paired with less makeup!

  • Molly

    I achieve this look by sweating. It’s affordable and organic af.

    • Haley Nahman

      So organic!

  • Kay Nguyen

    You look absolutely amazing <3


  • Diana McNeill

    LOVE a good Mia Hamm reference. So unexpected in a beauty post.

    • Haley Nahman

      Gonna try to work her in to future beauty stories

  • Diana McNeill

    Kevin Aucoin products are the best, too, by the way.

    • Haley Nahman

      The one and only contour product I have!

  • Christina

    It is so refreshing to see someone who isn’t doing the typical Instagram Highlight (you know what I’m talking about). I’m going to follow her in hopes of stealing her tricks!

    • Haley Nahman

      She’s such a good follow!!

  • la croix boix

    i died at “my boyfriend commented that I looked a little sweaty, as though I’d just returned from a run. I brimmed with pride and told him I’d been as sedentary as ever.”

    • Haley Nahman

      I rly did

  • Bo

    You look royal. Like the mouse

    • Kiks

      I love this comment. That mouse is flawless.

  • Lorange E

    Lovely post and look! My nose is already shiny, naturally, so I always doubt the advice to put highlighter on it? Haley, how did you feel going about your day? Was it “too much” makeup for an every day look? (I’m not suggesting it was, just wondering what your experience felt like… Makeup that looks good in photos sometimes looks different IRL in my experience.)

    • Haley Nahman

      I prefer less/no makeup, purely as a matter of taste (I think it goes better with my hair and style) so I did feel a little silly. But I don’t think it looked bad IRL and I’d def be into it for a special occasions!

      • Hil

        Even though you look beautiful in the makeup photo, you definitely don’t look any less beautiful in the no makeup photo

        • Haley Nahman

          ty <3

  • Ramey Dallimonti

    Gorgeous before and after 😀

    And that Mia Hamm line…TYSM.

    • Haley Nahman

      Yssssw creams

  • Lydia

    This is amazing! I love the dewy glow. There are way way way waayyy too many products here to go out and impulse purchase though. Where do I start? And what order do they go on in?! I’m so confused!

    Is there any chance Nam gave her top three (or some other suitably low number) must-haves?!

    • Haley Nahman

      She was all about Becca and Colourpop!

  • missdailyo

    You look beautiful! You should wear makeup more often! You look alive!!

    • Haley Nahman

      We just had a good laugh @ this comment in the office. <3

      • missdailyo

        Skin care is essential in my book. Brands like Glossier and Milk are changing the game in cosmetics. Skin care in make up is where it’s at! You enhanced your natural beauty! I don’t have time to read all of the manrepeller emails but your before and after pic made me click on the article. 👌🏾

  • DA

    As an oily person I’m curious….did the “wet” look turn oily? I’m all for healthy glow not greasy glow.

    • Haley Nahman

      I didn’t feel greasy! By night time I had a little more shine to me but I was kinda into it. Maybe I just don’t have a major oil aversion since my skin is dry though

      • DA

        Ahh sometimes I envy dry skin! LOVE the look, and may try it anyways, because it’s I don’t give a fuck month. Thanks!!!

  • Tess

    I think your hair actually looks perfect, in fact, I thought it was professionally done along with the makeup!

    • Haley Nahman

      ! tysm

  • I had an opposite of the moment where you write lol but don’t laugh reading this bc I literally said oh aloud when I saw your selfie with Nam, that’s how truly surprised I was by the difference between the iphone and dslr photos. Can I ask why the article links to Amazon for some products and the brands’ websites for others? As a die hard fan of colourpop’s weird spongy-textured $8 highlighter (esp bc Lancome sells one that seems virtually identical) its Amazon markup is pretty extreme.

  • Maine

    Okay, I’ve never commented before and I’ve been in an “open relationship” with Man Repeller for a few years now – but I must speak up here. Your before photo is SO much more beautiful than your after. 1: You look like an actual person I would see out and about. 2: Your skin looks cleaner (the amount of makeup on your second pic makes me want to wash my face in the atlantic ocean). I like Man Repeller, I’m not trying to hate here. And I think you’re beautiful. But unless you are doing your makeup for a digital audience – there is no way in heck you can convince me that second pic is an improvement. Respectfully disagrees…

  • Paola

    Am I the only one who likes the no-makeup look better? *insert see no evil monkey emoji here*

  • Martyna

    Haley, just my opinion, but I think you look incredibly beautiful and youthful in the BEFORE pic – I just love everything – skin, eyes, eyebrows, hair. It’s all so natural, fresh and unique.
    The AFTER – meh, just some make up.
    Maybe it’s just me 🙂