Illuminators vs. Highlighters vs. Concealers: When Should You Use Each?

UGH. Aren’t they all just the same thing? Lately I’ve been thinking about how confusing highlighting and contouring can be with the overwhelming amount of products out there. There are highlighters, brighteners, concealers, correctors, and illuminators, and they all come in powders and liquids, creams, and wands. Ahhh, my head is spinning! All I want is to have skin like J.Lo’s. Is that too much to ask? Today we are going to dissect why these products are different, when you should use them, and how.

  • What’s the difference? 1 of 9
  • Illuminators 2 of 9

    Illuminators are meant to add a hint of shine and shimmer to your face to give your skin an overall healthy glow and to brighten your complexion. They can be used on larger areas of the face and are usually mixed with foundation.


    You should be careful when applying illuminators, because it's easy to use too much and to make your skin look oily instead of shimmery. A nice dewy glow — that's what we're after. Liquid illuminators are my favorite. I've found mixing them with my moisturizer or liquid foundation yields the best results. Here are the top five illuminators I would recommend.


    Nars Illuminator $30 | Benefit Watt's Up $30 |  Smashbox Artificial Light $27 (favorite) | Stila Illuminating Beauty $38

  • Jessica Alba 3 of 9

    Can you see her glow? It's just this gorgeous shimmer that really brightens her complexion.

    Photo credit: PR PHOTOS

  • Lily Collins 4 of 9

    Lily's illuminator is more subtle, but you can still see the soft shimmer.

    Photo credit: PR PHOTOS

  • Jessica Parker Kennedy 5 of 9

    Jessica's face is perfect. It's got the right amount of color, and in my opinion, the perfect amount of illuminator. She's wearing just enough to really brighten her complexion and give her that dewy glow. 

    Photo credit: PR PHOTOS

  • Highlighters 6 of 9

    A highlighter is lighter than your foundation or skin and used to push your favorite features forward, typically the eyes or cheekbones.  You do not want any shine or glitter in a highlighter, and you want it to blend really well.


    There are five main areas you should apply highlighter: in a triangle shape under the eyes, the center of your chin, the middle of your forehead down to the end of your nose, your cupid's bow, and above your eyebrows. And remember, a little goes a long way.


    Maybelline Dream Lumi Touche $6.50 |  Yves Saint Laurent Radiant Touch (favorite)$40 | Benefit Sun Beam $26 | Mac Prep and Prime  $25

  • Kim Kardashian 7 of 9

    Kim Kardashian does a beautiful job at illuminating and highlighting. Her skin is flawless. You can see her dewy glow from the illuminator, but you can also see the matte areas on her face where she's highlighted. She's highlighted the triangle shape under her eyes, center of her chin, the middle of her forehead down to the center of her nose, her cupid's bow, and directly above the eyebrow.

    Photo credit: PR PHOTOS

  • Jennifer Lopez 8 of 9

    And J.Lo. Seriously, who doesn't love her? Her skin is perfect. Maybe I should say her makeup is perfect. We've all seen her without makeup and honestly, she is just like the rest of us. It's all in the highlighting and contouring.

    Photo credit: PR PHOTOS

  • Concealer 9 of 9

    A concealer's job is to cover facial blemishes, dark circles, large pores, age spots, etc. Concealers are generally more pigmented to allow for better coverage. For concealing under the eyes, it's best to choose a color that is on the opposite side of the color spectrum from what you're trying to conceal. For example, blue-ish tones should choose pink, and green-ish tones should chose peach. For concealing blemishes, it's best to choose a concealer closest to your skin tone. Concealers may be put on before or after your foundation; it's just a matter of preference.


    Using foundation and concealer really gives you a great blank canvas to work with. But while they even out skin tone and hide blemishes, they also make your face very one dimensional. By adding a little shimmer and highlighting and contouring, you'll really be able to push forward the features you love the most and push back those features you're a little self-conscious of.


    Sheer Cover Duo Concealer (favorite) $44 |  Clinique Even Better Concealer $21 Mark Jacobs Remedy Pen $39 | Nars Creamy Concealer $28





Article Posted 3 years Ago

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