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The best illuminating makeup: on test

Give your skin an instant boost of radiance with our best illuminating beauty buys

by Carla Griscti

If the winter weather is playing havoc with your complexion, and your thoughts are consumed with visions of beautifully bronzed, sunkissed skin, instead of piling on the bronzer, which can look a little harsh on paler skin tones, try an illuminating product instead, which will create a more natural, warming glow. A touch of illuminator really highlights and defines the cheekbones so it’s a great way to give your face a bit of a lift and highlight your best features.


Whether you want an all-over glow, or just a touch of highlighter, we've whittled down the best illuminating products to give your skin a healthy, natural-looking shimmering finish.



MAC Strobe Light, £23.50
Give your skin a quick, refreshing boost with this miracle-working moisturising illuminator. I’ve used this product for years, and it’s something I will never get bored of. You need only a apply a very small amount of this light, iridescent moisturiser to brighten and freshen the skin. As a staple product in my make-up bag, MAC’s Strobe Cream goes a long, long way, lasting for well over six months, and is a failsafe way for perfecting that sexy glow for a glam evening makeover. Either apply all over the face if you want an all over brightening boost, or highlight the cheekbones by dabbing a small amount to accentuate the contours of the face.  If you’re looking for a quick fix evening update, this wonder product will certainly fit the bill.

Laura Mercier Illuminating Tinted Moisturiser, £33
This lightweight moisturiser has a very subtle sheer finish to create a dewy, fresh look (and one that I absolutely love). The all-over glow is a firm favourite for me, so for the finish I was after, this is the holy grail of illuminating foundations. It’s ideal for a warm, subtle day look with a touch of dewy, youthful radiance. However, it may not provide you with enough coverage for the evening unless you add powder or combine with a full-coverage foundation.

Bobbi Brown Luminous Moisturising Treatment Foundation, £32
If the Laura Mercier foundation doesn’t provide enough coverage, the Bobbi Brown Luminous foundation is a fabulous alternative. It’s still lightweight with a subtle sheer finish, but gives a little more coverage for the evening. It absolutely doesn’t have a heavy finish so it’s perfect for the day, although I tend to wear tinted moisturisers and BB creams during the day, so for myself, I prefer to wear this in the evening. I love the finish, it’s pearly without being too iridescent but it gives instant radiance to the skin with a flawless, dewy finish. It also contains moisture-boosting qualities that keep the skin hydrated and firm.

VOYA Get Glowing Illuminating Clay Mask, £38
A clever organic facemask that not only works to brighten the skin, it also cleanses the face of any impurities and blocked pores. I’ve used the product a few times now, but even after the first try my skin felt silky smooth and thoroughly cleansed. It has a unique blend of aromatic rosemary and patchouli, which gives a slightly sweet almond-like aroma. It’s a quick pamper treat for the skin and the perfect product for a January detox! Leave the mask on for 10 minutes whilst you’re having a relaxing soak in the bath, then rinse off with warm water. Your skin will feel instantly nourished and beautifully soft, with a natural, healthy glow.

Soeil tan de CHANEL Sheer Illuminating Fluid, £31
This lightweight sheer fluid instantly transforms tired, dull skin that’s feeling the weight of the winter. If you’re feeling fed up of your pale winter complexion, try this illuminating liquid which will instantly brighten and give the skin a touch of sun-kissed colour. It’s weightless consistency means it glides onto the skin and literally glistens. It has a slightly bronzed shade so it gives a warming colour to the face, as well as an illuminating, shimmering finish. Dab lightly onto the cheekbones after applying foundation for instant radiance. Ideal for a day-to-evening transformation.

Elemis Pro-Radiande Illuminating Flash Balm, £32
As a loyal follower of Clarins beauty flash balm, I was interested to see how the Elemis illuinating balm fared against my trusted flasher! I love the Clarins Flash Balm, especially in the summer - when you have a gorgeous, glowing tan, you can step outside with a quick spritz of balm and feel like you’ve got all you need on for the day. Now I can’t say that this would be the case in the winer unfortuantely, but the Elemis balm certainly gives Clarins a run for its money. It actually has a much lighter consistency than the Clarins balm but with just as much impact. It has a luxurious, velvety finish, a subtle floral aroma and feels wonderful on the skin.

With rich moisturising qualities that keep the skin hydrated and an anti-ageing blend of orchid, noni and acai, this brightening balm not only gives a boost of radiance, it also nourishes and hydrates the skin. Either use as a daily moisturiser, or as a base illuminator before applying foundation.

Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick, £32
Another must-have in my make-up bag. I can’t leave the house without this gorgeous compact. It has everything you need in the bronzing and the illuminating department. With five different shades of block colour, with a shimmering, luminous finish, you can use as a blusher, an all-over face bronzer and an eye shadow palette. I can’t rave about this enough, it’s something my make-up bag will never be without! I always opt for the original bronze shimmer, but there’s a rage of different shades to suit different complexions. If the bronze is too dark for your skin, try a lighter shade like pink quartz, which creates a subtle, warm pink glow. To apply, simply sweep a blusher brush across all five blocks and gently apply to the cheeks in an upwards motion (towards the eye). Use the lighter shade as a highlighter to bring out the cheekbones.

You might also like…
Give yourself a quick day-to-night makeover
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About The Authors

Alice  Jones

Alice Jones

Alice Jones is intern on All About You; she has an obsession for all things fashion and beauty related.

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Carla  Griscti

Carla Griscti

Editorial assistant on allaboutyou; Music lover, travel bee and food fanatic.

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Emma Marsden

Emma Marsden

Food consultant of All About You, loves creating something out of nothing and decluttering.

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Nola  Ojomu

Nola Ojomu

Freelance contributor to All About You. Mission - to have the perfect eyebrows

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Harriet  Edgar

Harriet Edgar

All About You intern; likes fashion, jogging, blogging and EastEnders

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Bernadette  Fallon

Bernadette Fallon

Editor of All About You; an online journalist with a fetish for glossy magazines.

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Adrienne  Wyper

Adrienne Wyper

Deputy editor of All About You. I love cycling, cooking and creating

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Carol  Muskoron

Carol Muskoron

Associate editor of All About You, loves life (mostly) and one-pan recipes (always).

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Rachael  Ashley

Rachael Ashley

SHE's deputy editor and single mum of two embodies the SHE motto 'Busy and loving it!'

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Kate Gilbert

Kate Gilbert

Lifestyle Co-ordinator Good Housekeeping; believes in style,substance and big girl shoes.

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Marie  Campbell

Marie Campbell

Marie Campbell is assistant to the editor at SHE and also writes for the lifestyle pages.

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Natalie  Glock

Natalie Glock

Editorial assistant on All About You; a Parisian in training and amateur baker.

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Ruth  Chandler

Ruth Chandler

Assistant features editor on Country Living, Ruth lives on a smallholding in rural Essex.

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Julia  Goodwin

Julia Goodwin

Editor of House Beautiful since 2006, Julia has been a journalist for over 30 years.

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Josa Young

Josa Young

Josa Young is a writer, cook and internet content consultant.

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