How to Pick an Illuminator

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This post has been a long time in the making. I am a huge fan of illuminators of all kinds and I wanted to round up some of my favorites in every category. Some of these are products I’ve reviewed in the past and some are things I bought and never got around to putting on the blog. Either way I’ll swatch them all for you and you can decide for yourself if any of these are on your must have list for this summer. I think a few of them might be irresistible to you!

powder illuminators.jpgI love powder illuminators and have a lot! When I thought about narrowing it down to my favorite, it was tough but these are my favorite powder illuminators are by Becca, Shiseido, Laura Mercier, and The Body Shop right now.

shiseido face color trios.jpgShiseido’s Face Color Enhancing Trios come in a gorgeous compact with blush, sculpting, and highlighting color. Technically only one of the shades is an illuminator/highlighter but I love that they create the perfect shade to match the blush in their compact. Everything is very coordinated! I have been swirling the shades together and wearing them as one shade, and I’ve also been wearing them like I’m supposed to as a blush, highlighter, and bronzer. These are to die for and they’re a new release. I have Apple and Peach. Apple is a more every day shade for me whereas peach looks great with some of my coral and orange lipsticks.

laura mercier peach mosaic.jpgLaura Mercier’s Shimmer Bloc in Peach Mosaic is one of those shades that can literally cause you to gasp when you open the compact to look at it. The shades are breathtaking. I swished my fingertips in the compact back and forth a few times to get this much pigment but WOW these shades pack a punch. I normally swirl them all together but since they are separated you could certainly concentrate your brush in one area of the compact that appeals to you. This looks absolutely amazing with a tan in the summer. At some point I would love to pick up more colors of this Shimmer Bloc because it gets used all the time. I used it practically every day last summer and there’s hardly a dent in the compact, so it lasts forever too!

body shop shimmer waves.jpgThe Body Shop Shimmer Waves in Bronze compact is a great way to illuminate and bronze at the same time. I bought this a couple years ago to wear in my cousin’s wedding. It’s really gorgeous and because the colors are all separate in the compact you could also wear them as eyeshadow. This is not as vibrant as the Laura Mercier Shimmer Bloc, but it’s a more natural look and very pretty to wear.

moonstone, opal.jpgFirst, I bought Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal, then the Moonstone. These are the most gorgeous powder illuminators I own and my favorite of the bunch. Opal looks really nice with a tan, and Moonstone is great on fair skin. I just can’t sing the praises of these enough. They are subtle and not disco ball shiny but really illuminate in a way that makes it seem like you’re glowing. These are fantastic and very finely milled powders. You NEED these in your life. They come in liquid versions as well if you prefer that.

liquid illuminators 2.jpgWhen I reach for a liquid illuminator, there are many that I have in mind! Some of my favorites are by Benefit, Josie Maran, MAKE Cosmetics, Boots No. 7 and Clinique.

high beam, sun beam, moon beam.jpgBenefit High Beam, Sun Beam, and Moon Beam are cult classics. They come in a little jar that reminds me of a nail polish and they tickle a little in application. I don’t reach for these as often because I feel I am always trying a new release instead lately, but they are definitely old favorites. High Beam is the first highlighter I ever tried and is a pale pink and flatters my pale skin tone, although I like the way it looks with a tan as well. Sun Beam would be for when you’re really tan, and Moon Beam would work best if you’re somewhere in the middle. I like to apply these to my cheekbones, the cupid’s bow, and under my brow bone. Just writing about these makes me want to put them back in my daily rotation. If you get the chance to pick up a mini instead of full size, do that instead because you will never finish a bottle before it goes bad and dries up.

liquid illuminators 3.jpgHere are three liquid illuminators you don’t hear about very often at all. Josie Maran is probably my favorite of the bunch and is an absolutely gorgeous golden shade. I wear this mixed with my foundation sometimes in the summer, or apply it to my cheekbones and I am absolutely glowing when I do this. The only flaw I can find is that one full pump of this is an obnoxious amount of product but if you take it easy you won’t waste the bottle. This is my favorite liquid illuminator of the moment.

Boots No 7 Skin Illuminator is almost kinda-sorta a Benefit High Beam dupe in a much bigger bottle, it’s cheaper, and it applies ever so slightly sheerer. I prefer High Beam over this if I’m using it on my face, but if I was going to mix it with foundation this would be perfect. Also, I like mixing a couple pumps with lotion and applying this to my legs!

MAKE Skin Illuminizer in Skir is a soft white pearlescent highlighter with a brush and I don’t own anything else like it. I really like how subtle and natural it is and it looks great with my skin tone! I should pull this out more often but I always forget how much I love it!

clinique liquid illuminators 2.jpgOver the years I have purchased all three of Clinique’s illuminizers. These come in huge containers which would lead me to believe they are most suited for the body but you can use them on the face too. Natural looks really nice mixed with foundation or over my collarbones. Bronze is one that I have worn when I’m really tan mixed with foundation. I’ve also mixed it with my body lotion and applied it to my legs. Blush is a shade that I have used as a sheer blush when I want a little more oomph. I apply it over top of the blush I’m already wearing and it gives a little more glow and intensity on top of having some illuminating properties. These have been around forever and I don’t pull them out that much, but there’s always a time and a place for old goodies! Looking this up on websites, I’m unsure if Natural is an option anymore.

cream illuminators.jpgLastly, the solid illuminators I reach for the most often are by LUSH, Benefit, RMS, and It Cosmetics. Solids are great for traveling and fun to use if you like blending things out with your fingers!

cream luminizers .jpgLush Feeling Younger Skin Tint is a great illuminator but not a solid so I can’t remember why it made this category. Maybe because it’s in a pot and not a pump like the rest of the liquid products. Regardless, this has a really nice sheen and I enjoy wearing it. It’s very subtle so great if you’re going for a natural look. LUSH’s products don’t have a super long shelf life so if you are going to buy this, commit to putting this in the rotation often so it doesn’t go bad.

Benefit’s Watt’s Up! comes in a stick and one side is the color and other side is a blending smudger tool. It’s a pretty excellent illuminator and once again as I write about this I am wondering why I don’t reach for it more. It’s a gorgeous champagne sheen and I think it would flatter most people!

RMS Living Luminizer is a creamy solid product, has really nice pigmentation and gives off a very natural sheen. The shade this shows up on me reminds me a lot of the MAKE Skir. It’s a white pearlescent shimmer and very natural. I would love to explore more from this brand sometime!

It Cosmetics Hello Light is a solid compact. It’s a gorgeous illuminator and I love how sheer it applies. This would be for someone who truly wants a glow as you don’t really build up the color with this very much. It’s a very “lit from within” type shade. It Cosmetics really brings it when it comes to most everything makeup, but they really kick butt with their illuminators. I just discovered another stick illuminator in my stash the other day from them and I will need to write about it soon as it’s also becoming a fast favorite.

Did I mention your favorite illuminator? Believe me, I have many more that I love but this post would have been WAY too long if I named them all. Rest assured, by the end of summer, I will probably have a whole new list of favorites! If you have questions on any of the products ask away, or click the pictures below!



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  1. 5.24.14
    Erika said:

    Now you’re just showing off! LOL Serious drooling going on, here. I love highlighters. I would buy all of them, if I had the dough. 🙂

  2. 5.24.14

    Wow that is a lot of highlighters lol! Nice tips!

  3. 5.24.14
    Jess Scull said:

    What a fabulous post! I am obsessed with the Becca highlighters!

  4. 5.24.14
    Phyrra said:

    I need RMS! Thank you for the great swatches!

  5. 5.24.14

    What a fabulous post. I love everything that you showed. I don’t have a big collection but I do have the IT Cosmetics Illuminators and some liquids from Armani and Smashbox. I used to have the Josie Maran but I think it got “borrowed”.

  6. 5.24.14
    Betzy Carmona said:

    I wish I was better with creams and liquids since I feel they look so much more natural.

  7. 5.25.14
    Destany said:

    Nice tips! You went thru a lot of difference illuminators – good post 🙂

  8. 5.25.14

    I need a tutorial on using illuminators.. is it used like a highlight, or more to be mixed in with foundations?

    • 5.28.14
      justina said:

      You can use them either way, depending on what kind! Some of the liquid ones look great mixed with foundations 🙂

  9. 5.25.14

    Love your group of illuminators!

  10. 5.25.14

    Great swatches and run through of the various illuminators!

  11. 5.25.14
    Leelo R said:

    Great post! I have to bookmark this post!

  12. 5.25.14
    Anastasia said:

    Oh wow, your collection of highlighters is impressive!

  13. 5.25.14
    Kendra said:

    dang…I think my brain just exploded looking at all of the options. Benefit High Beam is gorgeous!

  14. 5.25.14

    can I just have them alllllll?!

  15. 5.26.14

    So many illuminators! My favorites are Pearl Meets Girl and High Beam by Benefit and Lens and Shimmer by Smashvox! I haven’t tried nearly as many as you have though.

  16. 5.26.14
    Amber said:

    WOW. that’s a lot of illuminators!! I am loving the look of the Shisedo trios, so pretty!!
    The Josie Maran also looks gorgeous! My favorites are from IT Cosmetics!

  17. 5.27.14

    So I may or may not have made a list of some items I need to pick up lol.

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