Valentino Couture Fall 2011

I mostly get reader questions about shoe dilemmas, general beauty tips, recommendations on hair salons and spas, and sometimes even some personal stuff. But I recently received an intriguing question (thanks Charlotte!) that puzzled me for a second: “What’s the difference between illuminators and highlighters? Are they the same thing?

Maybe? Not really? Sort of? Well, I use both, sometimes together and sometimes separately, and, sure, they are kind of same-ish, but also really different. They both give the skin that angelic glow and bring out the best of our bone structure. But more so than anything, they make the skin photograph well, often making it appear years younger. Why? It’s all about finding that perfect light (insert some Tyra ANTM quote here). The big difference is in the application.

ILLUMINATORS: NARS ‘Copacabana’ Illuminator ($36 at NARS); Estee Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator ($72.50 at The Bay and Holt Renfrew)

Illumintaors are meant to be used under the foundation, or, in some cases, mixed with the foundation. For example, Estée Lauder recommends for their Idealist illuminator to be used as a serum, before all the other products. Its pearly tone gives the skin a pretty glow, while working away at evening the skin’s appearance (this one is loaded with goodies). 
Then there is NARS’s illuminator (it comes in several shades), which is for simply aesthetic purposes: to glow. It’s crazy intense, so mix it with a foundation and use it only in the areas of the face that you want to illuminate, for example: the area under the eyes, along the brow bone, at the hallow of the chin, etc. 
HIGHLIGHTERS: Stila ‘Kitten’ All Over Shimmer Duo ($29 at Sephora); Benefit High Beam ($30 at Shoppers Drug Mart)
A highlighter is usually used as a finishing touch, after the foundation and the concealer — it should probably be one of the last thing you apply to your face. Basically, think of the points you would like to highlight… cheekbones, brow bones,  the bridge of your nose. Unlike the illuminator, the highlighter doesn’t always come in a liquid form (and it will never double as a serum like Estée Lauder’s Idealist).

Powders will do, like Stila’s multipurpose All Over Shimmer; just be aware of the J.Lo effect (you don’t want to look sweaty all the time). The ones that come with a fine brush, like the cult favourite from Benefit, are the most precise: dab a little, blend a little, and it’s a world of difference. Of course, the legendary YSL’s Touche Éclat is the one that started it all, twenty years ago — next one on my highlighting list.

Illuminators, highlighters… Do you use both? Got any personal favourites?