Cosmetic Favourites: Highlighters / Illuminators

Naomie Harris' perfect highlighter, via

   I love highlighting! It sculpts the face and makes the skin glow --  important if you use matte foundation. They soften the features and diffuse minor imperfections. The make the complexion look rested and younger.

What is a highlighter:
A product that is a few shades lighter than your skin tone, slightly shimmery.
Synonyms: luminiser, illuminator, radiance, glow, shimmer.

How to use:
Apply the highlighting product under and around the eyes, on the tops of the cheeks, above the lips and the chin. Here is my guide on using highlighters. Or apply a very light layer under the foundation. Or mix it with the foundation.

   There are different types of highlighters out there, from barely-there to full-on disco glitter. The very subtle highlighters are perfect for contouring the face, and can be worn during the day. The ones with a bit more shimmer are great for the tops of the cheekbones below the brow bone, above the lips. The highlighters with very visible shimmer should be reserved for going out at night -- if glitter is your thing. Most of the highlighters in stores are too heavy on the shimmer, so today I wanted to talk about a couple of the subtler products.

    The perfect highlighting product is something with a very very subtle glow -- you can use just a touch or layer on some more for the evening. The shimmer particles should be very fine, and closer to the skin tone (not too silver and not too gold). The perfect highlighter is invisible on the skin, yet gives an effect of fresh, glowy skin and a 3-D face (not flat).
   Unfortunately a lot of highlighting products are really heavy-handed: big pieces of glitter, or shimmer that looks appropriate only around christmas. Highlighters with big, bright sparkly particles are difficult to use and look overdone.
   If you have a dark skin tone, you will find many conventional highlighters much too light for you. If your skin tone is warm, you should looks for bronzers with shimmer. If your skin tone is dark and cool, you will have a hard time finding a bronzer that is not warm -- you will have much more luck with shimmery eyeshadow in cooler shades.

Here are a couple of subtle highlighting products I love:

Mineral foundations and highlighters

  If you are looking for very subtle highlighting, you can't beat mineral makeup. Nowhere else have I found such a big selection of shades. Also it's extremely versatile -- you can mix the mineral highlighters with each other of with mineral foundation to create custom shades. They are also pretty affordable, considering that a teaspoon-sized sample can last me for a very very long time. That's because mineral makeup doesn't contain fillers, it's pure pigment so you need to use just the tiniest amount.

   Bigger mineral makeup brands carry highlighters, usually called 'glows or finishing veils. Lumiere used to have a nice selection and their Bare Skin was perfection. SunCat, Bare Escentuals and Silk Naturals (image above) each offer several highlighters, and of course there are tons of other mineral makeup brands online! (Most mineral-makeup in stores isn't real mineral makeup).
   Many mineral makeup brands also carry foundation in a non-matte satin / glow finish, and you can order it two shades lighter than your skin tone and it will be your perfect subtle highlighter (I do this with Annabelle Minerals, you can also go for SunCat minerals). 


    Especially baked eyeshadows, as their shimmer particles are really subtle. Also, you probably have eye shadows at home, and you can play with them if you have never tried highlighting yet.

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Makeup Factory Illuminating Skin Perfector

  I don't own this myself, but had a makeup artist use it on me as a highlighter, on top of foundation. Which brings me to the point -- many primers can be used as highlighters.
   It can be bought in Müller Drogerie.
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Madara Tinted Fluid

   This is actually a tinted cream / foundation, but it has the subtlest shimmer. It comes in two versions: sunflower for warmer tones, and moonflower for cooler or for the very pale. I use the sunflower on the entire face if I want an overall glow, or under a sheerer foundation for a subtle hind of a glow. I have also used this just on my cheekbones and under the eyebrows. I also love how it smells, like a freshly mowed herbal meadow. The Madara --- is certified organic and vegan.

Catrice Retouch Light Reflecting Concealer

   Very light coverage, no shimmer, but it catches the light in a beautiful way. It will not cover imperfections, but it does a great job at lightening up the eye area, or around the lips.

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Alverde Sun Kissed / Moon Kissed Highlighter

   This products is pearly, with very finely ground particles. Really easy to apply and blend in. It comes in two shades: the Sun Kissed is very warm and a tad orange, and will suit warm skin tones that are not too pale. On my skin it is too dark to highlight, it works a bit like a bronze shimmer. But I'd love to dry it on warm, dark-coloured skin as a highlighter. I use the Alverde Sun-Kissed Highlighter on my eyes (like eyeshadow) and cheekbones.
   The Moon Kissed Highlighter is silvery and lighter, and works for both cool and warm skin tones. It blends harmoniously with cool skin tones, for warm skin it pops a bit more.

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Guerlain Meteorites

   Based on Alina's post, these are the best pearls around; and on of the very few conventional highlighters that are really subtle. You can also remove pears of a certain shade to customise the colour. However if you have been using mineral makeup products, you will not be impressed -- especially not with the price.

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector

   A very subtle highlighter suitable for all undertones.

  That's the end of the subtle highlighter roundup. Staye tuned for a very weird cheat tip on highlighting for your face shape. I'd love to know which highlighting products do you swear by? I'd love to add more low-budget and natural options to the list.

Check these out: