Face Highlighters: Illuminators

SKIN: normal, maturing skin MAC NC 40

I own 4 illuminators, however I am cagey about them.


It’s difficult to find the right complement to my Indian skin-tone and I detest big fat glitter or obvious shimmer & sparkle.

A ‘wet’, dewy, fine sheen is what I look for.

I received a samples of Benefit’s Moonbeam & Sunbeam, everyone’s starter kit for luminisers/highlighters :). Moonbeam looked hideous on me.  A horrid ashy-frosty reflect. and Sunbeam was meh! no, super meh!! on me.

I then I bought my first highlighter/luminiser. Benefit’s Girl meets Pearl. Oh my!

I absolutely loved it’s champagne sheen, it’s beautiful cooling sensation on contact and its blend-ability. But if I applied it like a moisturiser, ie whole face,for some reason my skin didn’t like it. No obvious break-outs or anything, just a slight itchiness. Just dabbing on the cheek bones was fine.

I moved on. I bought the much raved about MAC Strobe Cream & Lotion.


But I didn’t stop there. I wanted to have a ‘smack-down’ of sorts and bought 2 more. The Bobbi Brown Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm and the Stila One Step Illuminate (illuminating serum)


I have been using these for a while now and my verdict is I bloody HATE the Bobbi Brown Illuminating moisture balm.


If you have watched  Spartacus or Rome or any of those ancient Roman serials, there is always an orgy scene where some entertainer or slave is covered in gold paint. Well the Bobbi Brown Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm makes me look like that. SUPER DUPER GOLDEN SHINE.

This weird goldy-greasy  finish might be because the pigment in this balm is insane.


It definitely should NOT be applied all over your face. You end up with what looks like a thin veneer of gold oil paint. Or rather like Spartacus (in that sex scene :))


Even with a mattifying moisturiser and a mineral powder over it I couldn’t hide my shame…shine. Plus over the winters it wasn’t that moisturising either.

My fav is the the MAC Strobe. Initially I was very very skeptical thinking it would make me look ashy or frosty but it’s pearlescent hue disappears once massaged in and leaves a nice ‘glow’. Even when peered through a x5 magnification mirror no discernible ‘glow’ particles can be seen.


I have read reviews that also say the Strobe has great cell communicating ingredients so its good skincare too!

The lotion smells a bit funny like it’s gone a WEE, only a wee bit, off. It hasn’t of-course. The cream has no specific fragrance.

It’s definitely moisturising but I always top it with a moisturiser because my normal skin is becoming drier as I age.

Under a moisturiser it gives a nice glow. When using it under foundation or tinted moisturiser, I use 2 layers of Strobe so the glow gets through the tint.

It deserves the cult status it has, however rumours that MAC are discontinuing it. WHY???????!!!! MAC !!!

The Stila One Step Illuminator has the typical ‘One Step’ helix of colours. This one has pink, peach and brown.  When squirted it looks pink and when blended the pink brightens the skin, evens out the face and is not overtly shiny.


Looking closely (x5M mirror) you can see fine gold glitter.

It does say Serum on the bottle but in my opinion it’s not skincare. The texture is like that of a very light cream and it has a light rose-powder fragrance which I don’t mind.

It’s pretty dry so a moisturiser below is definitely recommended.

As with all illuminators, if you use it all over your face be sure to mattify ‘shiny’ areas like forehead, side of nose and under eyes.  The idea is to glow not shine.

I am still to try Becca, the other cult status luminiser, but it’s near impossible to locate Becca in Hong Kong. I saw it once at Harvey Nics but I wasn’t sure which one was the right one for my skintone, and now it’s gone 😦