What is Illuminator Makeup?

Discover everything you need to know about illuminator including how to use this brightening beauty secret to unlock the best glow of your life.

Darlings, anyone who knows me knows that I adore the look of gorgeous, glowing skin, and one of the best ways to get a silky-smooth, natural-looking glow is to use an illuminator.

So, what is illuminator and should you add one to your makeup routine? As the Queen of Glowing Skin, I’m sharing all of my illuminator beauty secrets and revealing why every glow-getter needs a light-catching illuminator in their makeup kit.

Jourdan Dunn Hollywood Flawless Filter

What is Illuminator?

Illuminators are makeup products that boost the luminosity of your complexion. They are used to give skin a flattering, all-around glow that looks naturally radiant. Illuminators are formulated to capture and interact with all types of light, bending and bouncing them to give the face a soft-focused, blur-effect glow. There are cream, liquid and powder versions of illuminator, but the purpose for each formula is the same: to lift and illuminate the look of the complexion with the most magical glow that still looks like skin.

What’s the Difference Between Illuminator and Highlighter?

Illuminators and highlighters are both light-reflecting beauty secrets designed to create the appearance of glowing skin. The key difference between illuminator and highlighter is the amount of shimmer in their formulation. While it can vary across brands, products and formulas, a general rule is that illuminators have a smoother, more skin-like finish that softly illuminates your complexion, while highlighters often provide a glitzier look and are more pigmented to create a beaming glow.

You can use illuminator and highlighter together to unlock your dream glow, darlings – I recommend applying my iconic illuminator Hollywood Flawless Filter, then gliding my Beauty Light Wands onto the high points of the face to unlock my signature Tilbury glow.

Get The Hollywood Effect with my World-Famous Illuminator

Darlings, when I launched my illuminating beauty elixir, Hollywood Flawless Filter, glow lovers everywhere were captivated by the magically smooth, skin-like glow that it gives the complexion. I was inspired by the illuminating flash of red-carpet lights and the ways digital filters are used in photography to alter light settings; I wanted to create a real-world filter effect that smooths, blurs and illuminates the appearance of skin. I innovated and perfected the formula with world-leading beauty labs, and my incomparable Hollywood Flawless Filter was born. There was nothing on the market like it, darling! I call it my glow booster because it enhances the natural radiance in your skin and dials it up to Hollywood levels of glow.

If you’re looking for an illuminator to give your makeup a Hollywood glow, look no further than Hollywood Flawless Filter, darlings.

Where Should You Apply Illuminator?

Illuminator is one of the most versatile makeup products in your collection. You can apply illuminator all-over the face to give your complexion an overall lifted-looking glow, or you can focus illuminator in particular areas like on the tops of the cheeks for a subtle highlighted look. I also like to apply Hollywood Flawless Filter under eyes to give the eye area a blurring, brightening effect. Wherever you want to glow, darlings, your illuminator is the secret to brighten and beautify your complexion!

Do You Apply Illuminator Before or After Foundation?

The flexible formula of an illuminator allows it to be applied in multiple magical ways. You can apply an illuminator before foundation to glow-prime the skin, or after foundation to create a more luminous foundation finish. Discover how to apply my illuminator, Hollywood Flawless Filter, in 3 ways, below:

How To Use Illuminator in your Makeup Routine 3 Ways

  1. Full and travel-sized versions of Charlotte Tilbury's Hollywood Flawless Filter illuminator

    #1 Illuminator as Primer

    Darlings, I always say, “not to glow prime is a crime!” You can use illuminator as the first step in your makeup routine as a primer; when applied to a blank canvas, it acts as a radiant glow-primer that smooths and blurs the look of your complexion before makeup. Applying your illuminator onto bare, moisturised skin creates a gorgeous, glowing base for your foundation to apply on top of as it gives your complexion a dreamy, lit-from-within look. On days where you don’t want much coverage, you can wear an illuminator like Hollywood Flawless Filter on its own to give your face a natural-looking glow boost.

    Learn more about primer makeup

  2. Charlotte's foundation family including Hollywood Flawless Filter illuminator

    #2 Mix Illuminator with Foundation

    As a makeup artist to the stars, I’m always mixing different formulas to concoct the perfect foundation finish for every moment. Thanks to their glow-boosting properties, illuminators are perfect options for giving your favourite foundations some extra glow. If you like to wear a natural-matte foundation like AIRbrush Flawless Foundation but are coveting a gorgeous, glowy look, try mixing your foundation with an illuminator like Hollywood Flawless Filter on the back of your hand or a mixing palette before applying to your skin. I formulated Hollywood Flawless Filter to blend effortlessly with other complexion products, so adding it to your foundation is an effortless way to get that flawless-feeling glow!

    Discover your perfect foundation finish

  3. Model using Hollywood Flawless Filter illuminator as highlighter

    #3 Illuminator as Highlighter

    While illuminators and highlighters have their differences, they are both used to make your complexion glow. You can use an illuminator to give the high points of your face like the cheeks, nose and under eyes a beautiful, brightening effect. Illuminators have a more understated glow compared to shimmering highlighters, so they can be gorgeous options for anyone that’s looking for a more subtle, natural-looking highlight.

    Tilbury Tip: To apply an illuminator like Hollywood Flawless Filter as highlighter, I suggest reaching for a shade that’s slightly lighter than your skin tone as this will help to trick the light and make the high points of your face appear more prominent.

    Discover more highlighters without glitter

What Shade of Illuminator Should I Use?

As with other complexion products like foundation and concealer, I recommend selecting an illuminator shade with the most natural colour match to your skin tone. The goal of illuminator is to make your complexion glow with natural-looking radiance, so it’s important to choose a shade that can blend seamlessly with the tones in your skin. A lighter shade of illuminator will give cheekbones and under eyes an even brighter look, but the most flattering way to use an illuminator all over the face is by finding your flawless colour match.

Discover how to choose your foundation shade online

Darlings, now that you’ve discovered what an illuminator can do for your makeup, it’s time to experience the magic for yourself! Flawless is a feeling, darlings, and Hollywood Flawless Filter is my secret to looking and feeling like a Hollywood star!

Shop Hollywood Flawless Filter on CharlotteTilbury.com or the Charlotte Tilbury App and get THE HOLLYWOOD EFFECT with my iconic illuminator!

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Author Details

Charlotte Tilbury

Founder, President, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of Charlotte Tilbury Beauty

With over 30 years experience, Charlotte Tilbury MBE is the world's number 1 makeup artist and British beauty entrepreneur. Charlotte established Charlotte Tilbury Beauty in 2013, which is now a record-breaking beauty brand that has won over 400 awards.

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