Previous Next

Everything Is Illuminated

A guide to illuminating moisturizers.

In days of yore, there was the three-step regime: cleanse, tone, and moisturize. Then cosmetic brands realized that women have an insatiable appetite for beauty products, and began to add more to the daily routine. Some additions made sense, like concentrated serums to target specific skin concerns. Others were a little harder to comprehend—does anyone really need lotion, essence, toner, and emulsion? The latest “must-have” product is the illuminating moisturizer.

These are light, slightly tinted creams or lotions (or “glotions” as some beauty bloggers have taken to calling them) with iridescent particles that are supposed to give you a natural-looking radiance without excess shine or glitter. They’re more hydrating than most primers, and don’t give the “sweaty” look of highlighters. Unlike tinted moisturizers, they don’t offer coverage. So how and where do they fit into a beauty regime, and what do they deliver that other products can’t?

“The idea behind these types of products is to create the illusion of glow on the skin… that really healthy-looking, ‘I get regular facials’ texture,” says Oz Zandiyeh, a makeup artist at Liz Bell Agency and instructor at Blanche Macdonald Centre. “They can be used before foundational products for a subtle glow, mixed in with them for luminosity and after for radiance,” she explains.

Most can, at least in theory, be used in place of a moisturizer, though drier skins might need something with more oomph. And, says Zandiyeh, they should be suitable for all skin tones because they’re sheer, though it’s always best to try before you buy. “The golden tones will always work better on warmer skin and women of colour, while pinker tones work better for fairer complexions,” she says.

So, crunch time: does anyone really need an illuminating moisturizer? Well, no, but then, does anyone really need eight red lipsticks either? These are easy to use, there’s lots of choice, they suit everyone, and ultimately, they make you look fresher, healthier, and prettier. What’s not to like?

Seven illuminating moisturizers to try:
Tata Harper Illuminating Moisturizer, $113, at Beautymark and
The radiance-boosting ingredient in this lightweight moisturizer is diamond dust, which gives subtle luminosity. It also contains hyaluronic acid for instant plumping and lasting hydration, line-fighting Spanish lavender, and firming buckbean extract. Tata Harper also makes an Illuminating Eye Creme ($127), which diminishes the look of dark circles. Both have a lovely fresh botanical scent that lingers after application.

 M.A.C Cosmetics Strobe Cream, $33, at M.A.C counters and stores and
The pink shade of Strobe Cream has been around for years but the brand recently added peach, silver, red, and gold versions that deliver different types of radiance. As well as increasing hydration and glow, the product is said to improve clarity and smoothen the skin thanks to ingredients like antioxidant-rich green tea. Zandiyeh says that this doesn’t provide enough hydrating heft to be used as a moisturizer, but it’s still one of her favourite products. “The original Strobe is a universal colour that really brightens up the complexion. It’s my favourite thing to use on dull, tired-looking skin, either just to refresh it a bit or prior to a makeup application. As a makeup artist I think it is a must-have.”

Glamglow Glowstarter Mega Illumination Moisturizer, $59, at Sephora and
Formulated with shea butter and jojoba oil, this has richer moisturizing ingredients and a creamier texture than most illuminating products. Pearl particles provide the luminosity and the moisturizer comes in three shades: Pearl Glow, which is untinted, Nude Glow (for winter skin), and Sun Glow (for summer skin or darker complexions).

Graydon Face Glow, $35, at Kiss and Makeup and
This product from Canadian brand Graydon contains seabuckthorn oil, which is said to boost collagen and is an antioxidant, plus vitamin-rich pumpkin seed oil. Mineral mica reflects light to blur imperfections and increase glow. There’s also zinc oxide, which offers some sun protection, though Face Glow is not approved by Health Canada as a sunscreen.

 Erborian Glow Crème Illuminating Face Cream, $49, at
Immediate radiance comes courtesy of pearlescent particles—but this isn’t all about instant effects. Erborian is L’Occitane’s Korean-inspired sister brand and this cream is designed for the ultimate Asian skin-care obsession: brightening. For lasting skin-care benefits, it also contains licorice root extract, which is said to reduce melanin production.

 Estée Lauder Revitalizing Supreme+ Global Anti-Aging Wake Up Balm, $78, at Esteé Lauder counters and 
This velvety cream is loaded with skin-care ingredients, including plant extracts that supposedly boost skin’s energy levels. There’s also enough hydration so it can genuinely replace moisturizer even for drier skins, and light-reflecting pearls for the glow.

 Bobbi Brown Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm, $82, at Bobbi Brown counters and
Bobbi herself calls this the “Dream Cream”: it hydrates, has shea butter to repair the moisture barrier, and contains caffeine for de-puffing. Pearlescent particles provide radiance. Zandiyeh says this has a golden tone and works best blended into foundation or on top of it.


Never miss a story. Sign up for NUVO’s weekly newsletter, here.