Thanks to social media, more people than ever are using makeup as a form of self expression and extension of their creativity. As a result, many have turned to glitter and face gems to help their makeup stand out — and some aren’t shying away from making major statements. Think Doja Cat’s all-over Swarovski crystal look from makeup artist Pat McGrath.
While some may lean more toward the natural-looking “Clean Girl” makeup trend, no matter whether you prefer simple, striking or somewhere in between, glitter and face gems are a versatile option that can work well across styles, brightening up any look.
“Just like any makeup product, there are infinite ways that glitter and gems can be worn, from ultra-minimal to completely extravagant,” Donni Davy, known for her Emmy-winning work as the lead makeup artist for HBO’s “Euphoria,” says.
Following the meteoric rise of the show’s standout beauty looks, which Davy says “helped re-define this kind of makeup as accessible and totally wearable,” she created the beauty brand Half Magic, which features everything from glitter eye paint to gems. “Half Magic is my answer to a million DMs asking me how to get the colorful glittery looks you see on ‘Euphoria,’” she says.
Makeup and visual artist Clara Rae notes that the formation of brands like Davy’s that sell easy-to-apply gems and glitter has made such looks become mainstream. Now, they’re just as likely be seen on the street as the runway. “The products are so much more innovative now than they were before, which makes it a lot more fun because you can incorporate it into everyday makeup,” she says.
Going forward, Rae thinks that glitter and gems will firmly stay in style, and that we’ll see more and more experimentation with different materials. Makeup artist and Bakeup Beauty co-founder Jo Baker is of a similar mindset, and says to expect more “full-tilt wild self-expression.”
“People are realizing makeup, gems and stickers are temporary and a fun way to play up looks and fashion,” Baker says. “I think this is the future of beauty. Expect your bank teller or the cashier in your supermarket [or] even a teacher to rock a gem look — it’s becoming normalized to just stand out, be unique and express what suits your mood.”
Glitter and face gem tips for beginners
Though glitter and gems may seem daunting to use at first, there are plenty of ways to incorporate bolder materials into your makeup with little experience necessary. For example, Davy advises face gem newbies to “try just putting one on each of your inner eye corners, or lining your lower lash line with a few spaced out tiny [rhinestones], pearls or studs.”
Makeup artist Rebecca Wachtel advises similarly, noting that “a small gem by the outer corner of the eye or as a beauty mark can be a nice addition to an everyday look.”
If you want to make the look pop even more, Davy suggests using a variety of gems along the lash line. “If you want to try a bolder rhinestone look but keep it glam and chic, use a few different sizes,” the makeup artist says, adding that smaller gems can create more defined and delicate corners. “The different sized gems will reflect different sized twinkles, which makes the look feel fancier and multidimensional.”
With a slightly similar shape that extends around the eye, one of Baker’s recent favorite looks is what she calls a “cosmic stardust” eye, which is bold, fast and easily replicable — there’s even a minute-long video tutorial on Bakeup’s Instagram page. To Baker, the best thing about gems is that they go on and off easily, with no smudging or mess, which makes them perfect for beginners looking to try out different styles.
Rae recommends looking at gems and glitter as accent pieces to your usual makeup — she thinks taking something out and substituting it with glitter is an easy transition. “If you do eye shadow every day, instead of doing the regular matte or metallic, add a shimmer on top or add a glitter on top of that,” she explains. “Pick one area to really emphasize.”
Along the same lines, Wachtel says simplicity is key, though you shouldn’t be afraid to mix glitter and gems together — above all, the goal is to have fun and play around with your makeup.
One of Wachtel’s favorite glitter looks can be seen onscreen in Prime Video’s “Daisy Jones & The Six.” For a concert scene, she paired silver glitter with a vibrant blue shadow to add dimension to actress Riley Keough’s eyes. Wachtel says that “a light dusting of fine glitter over a bright color eye shadow or even a neutral tone can be beautiful.”
Best glitter makeup
Davy says that Half Magic products like the Glitterpill paint are designed to be layered and shimmer all day long.
“I really wanted Glitterpill to be ultra-airy and a true topper that allows color to shine through underneath, but also be very multi-dimensional, impactful and long-wearing,” she says. To top it off, the brand is vegan and doesn’t use any non-FDA-compliant pigments, so you get both safety and shine.
Wachtel says one of her favorite glitters is Lemonhead Spacepaste — which happens to be what she used on Keough for the aforementioned "Daisy Jones & The Six" concert scene — which she notes stays where you put it without glue.
“It's the easiest to work with because you can just put it on and you don't need an adhesive or anything with it, and it dries and it's pretty easy to remove,” Rae says.
Wachtel also suggests trying out MAC’s loose glitter pigment, which can be placed on skin and hair alike. It can also be combined with other products — so if you’re wanting to try your hand at the “Vampire Skin” trend and mix glitter into your foundation or highlight, you may want to give this one a go.
Reviewers seem to agree with Wachtel, with the product sitting at almost 5 stars on MAC’s website. “Nothing else glints and gleams this way while looking invisible on skin when light is not directly on it. It's unparalleled. I checked numerous other brands and bought but no dupe whatsoever out there,” one reviewer writes.
If you were also in singer Lizzy McAlpine’s comments section, dying to find out what incredible glitter she had on her eyes for her "Tonight Show" performance this March, we’ve got you covered: it’s Ben Nye’s Sparklers Loose Glitter in the shade Silver Prism. Rae also recommends Ben Nye’s loose glitter; she even singles out the Silver Prism shade specifically for the way it “catches the light so nicely.”
Pro tip: both Rae and Wachtel recommend using scotch tape on loose glitter for an easier clean-up of fallout.
Rae also points toward Danessa Myricks’ glitter, which can be used as a standalone or topper to eye shadow, and doesn't require any adhesive, which is a plus.
Sitting at 4.8 stars on Myricks’ website, many reviewers praise its shine and flake formula, though a few note that there’s a bit of a learning curve in discovering how to best apply it — but that’s nothing a bit of practice and playing around can’t fix. “Once you do apply these correctly they're going to absolutely shine, they look otherworldly gorgeous in both real life and on camera,” one reviewer says. “It instantly became one of my favorite makeup products.”
Rae, who prefers loose glitter over paste for its versatility, also loves Miss Fame’s iridescent, experimental glitter, which was created by drag performer and makeup artist Kurtis Dam-Mikkelsen.
Designed to stand on its own as an eye shadow or be built on top of another product, the loose glitter has a 4.5 rating on Amazon, with users praising its shine — and if you want to take it a step further and tap into the “Glitter Lips” trend (see the tag on TikTok for some inspo), the glitter can even be applied on top of a cream lipstick.
If you’re aiming to start with a simpler glitter that’s “not too hard to use,” according to Rae, try Cozzette Beauty’s crystal shadows that she says can be applied wet or dry with no fallout.
“Some of them are more glittery than others,” she says. “They're kind of like metallic glitter, but they are really good if you're just starting to incorporate, if you just want to have a little addition.”
It seems like a glitter spray goes viral on TikTok every other week, and for good reason: It’s quick, easy to apply and adds a level of glam to any look. If you want a full body shine, Rae recommends Kryolan Glitter Spray, which comes in multiple shades, which is ideal “especially for the festival situation,” Rae says.
Face gems and adornments
Davy knew face gems were a must when she was creating her beauty brand — on set of “Euphoria,” she would “painstakingly apply loose gems one by one with lash glue” for hours, given the looks’ intricacy.
As a result, Half Magic’s gems use medical-grade adhesive, so no glue is necessary. “I really wanted all of our products to be super accessible and non-intimidating, which is why the strong self-adhesive was so important,” Davy explains.
Baker’s Playbox gem set was born out of a desire to offer a small kit with tons of variety — it comes with almost 500 gems and includes rainbow, diamond-like silver, onyx black, pastel and gold spike sheets.
The PlayBox gems are peel-and-stick, so extra adhesive isn’t necessary. “I wanted people to have access to something that felt pro, looks fab and be able to enjoy gems and face stickies as a playful, easy, fun addition to their makeup, with barely any skill set required,” Baker says.
Baker prioritizes symmetry in her adornment looks, so if you’re of a similar mindset, she advises using a beige eyeliner to dot marks over the eye, and then place the gems on top.
Colourpop’s face rhinestones are one of Rae’s favorites, and with a 4.9-star rating, users love them, too — many note that they stayed in place for an entire evening with no extra adhesive. The sheet comes with 81 crystals in various sizes, and they come in silver-clear, holographic multi-colored and heart-and-star shaped gem packs that you can buy separately.
Rae also recommends Kryolan’s self-adhesive body jewels, which come in separate packs of green, blue, red and silver, in multiple sizes and hues. After one use, they can be used again with an eyelash glue, according to Kryolan.
Adhesives for glitter and gems
Wachtel and Rae both recommend Nyx’s primer for loose glitter, which has a creamy, but not clear, formula. At 4.7 stars, many reviewers praise its long-lasting hold; one says that their glitter shadow “stayed on 19 hours with only a few glitter particles on my face. I had to wipe a bit of glitter off my face like 10 hours in, but other than that it stayed looking like I had just put it on!”
(Keep in mind, though, that the primer has only been tested to hold glitter, not gems.)
Rae advises using this lightweight, water-soluble glitter glue because of how easily removable it is — and it can be used for gems and sequins as well as glitter.
Rae’s favorite adhesive above all others is Pros-Aide’s. “You can use whatever adhesive, but Pros-Aide is the best one if you want it to stay all night [or] if you're going out and partying,” Rae explains. “It's a medical-grade contact adhesive, so it's really good for sensitive skin.”
She says that for application, you should put the glue on the gem and the skin, wait for it to appear a little bit clearer in color and then just pop the gem on. However, you do need a special remover for it.
Gem application tools
If you want to get more precise in your gem application, you can avoid pricking yourself with these Tweezerman tweezers, which Baker loves and says she has used in her makeup kit for years because “they have a coated outer edge, making them easy to use when applying gems.”
Rae turns to a wax pencil nail tool when applying gems and rhinestones to the face. “It’s for nail art, but you just literally pick it up and just pop it out and pick it up and pop it on,” she says. “You can use tweezers, or I use my hands all the time, but [it’s good for] when you're getting real precise stuff.”
Designed to reach the inner eye corners and lash line, the curved Adornment Tweezers were created “to be the perfect complement to the Face Gems,” Davey says. “You can apply a whole sparkling gem look in minutes without ever poking your eyes or losing a gem in the process.”
For $22 — as opposed to $12 for just the gems — Half Magic sells a set with both gems and the tweezers, in multiple styles like pearl, pearl metallic and iridescent.