Highlighters & Illuminators Collection - Part I

Dearies, I would like to thank you for the love and support you guys offer in the form of feedback, queries, and just a little makeup chit-chat. It serves as a consistent motivator to keep on doing this. I don't get the writer's block often, but I do feel that repetitive product reviews sometimes make me lose my steam. Here's to hoping that your cooperation lets me continue with the current posting momentum. I have GBs worth of pictures and swatches lying around in my hard-drive that need to be edited and reviewed. Certain edited images look and feel 'dated' as well. Especially since I have used point-and-shoot camera for those. I'm resolving to post ALL of those before taking newer photographs :-) How about that?

On that positive note, let me share the peek into a part of my highlighter & illuminator collection. It has been updated now since I let go of a bunch of these and acquired new ones. I would describe this part as being more of a drugstore version (with a couple of exceptions). So, who wants recommendations and reviews for the highlighter options out there. Read up here:

If you are not distracted by the glowing pans in the picture above, let me bring your attention to a simple explanation and possible differences between a HIGHLIGHTER and an ILLUMINATOR. If you follow beauty blogs, Youtubers or makeup updates, in general, some of your might be aware of the subtle differences. I might add that there is NO clear or definite 'explanation' for these. These terms are used interchangeably quite often, so there is no compulsion that you stick to what I say. From my understanding:

Highlighters are powder, liquid, mousse, cream or hybrid products meant to add sparkle and glow to your features. Illuminators are meant to perform the same function in a more subtle fashion. Illuminators are usually cream or liquid forms that can be mixed with other products like moisturizer, foundation, sunscreen, serums, concealer, etc. Just like I mentioned before, there is no fixed definition and all makeup that you own is multi-purpose. You can (and I do) apply my "illuminators" on bare skin or sometimes on top of makeup like a highlighter and the results are just what I desire. Highlighters were previously differentiated as being more 'obvious in-you-face kind of glow. However, now you can find subtle highlighters or even hybrid products which double as a finishing powder while adding an iridescent look to your features. These hybrid products receive more marketing right now, but they are not new in the makeup world. My Mom's powder compact has remnants of glitter content from almost 20 years ago. One of these days I will put up a picture of the antique makeup item that we have with us. 

If you were to ask - DO I NEED A HIGHLIGHTER? 
I'd say, well, would you be happy if you won a billion dollars? Yes. The answer should be a resounding yes. Those going 'meh' can indulge in a one-on-one with me :D

Yes, you do need a highlighter. You can select the shade, finish, glitter/shimmer content, intensity, state, packaging and function suiting your makeup & skin preferences. At times, you don't even need to have a separate product. You can even use a finely milled eyeshadow to work as a highlight at times when you don't have any other alternative at hand. Certain eyeshadow textures allow you to get a beautiful finish/ A famous dupe of Limited Edition and much-raved-about MAC Whisper of Gilt is a Kiko Water EYESHADOW and a lot of makeup enthusiasts who could not lay their hands on WoG or would not like to pay an exorbitant amount on the WoG available at eBay and Amazon - can safely indulge in the Kiko dupe. I don't own it as of now, but will update you all if I ever grab that one. 

Featured in the post today, we have the following products from my collection:

1. Sleek Contour Kit - Medium: It is a two-pan palette for contour and highlight. The highlighter is finely milled champagne shade with micro shimmer and rose undertones. I will try to refrain from using the superlatives, but I do gravitate towards Sleek's Contour Kit quite often. Its highlighter is something I didn't expect to love because the first swatch from it was lacklustre. The surface was slightly hardened as compared to other highlighters and I did not find it adequately buttery in texture. It did become more convenient with frequent usage. It is easier to apply it with fingers when I am in a hurry or use it with a brush for diffused glow. As I continued to use it, I learnt how it is meant for more sophisticated glow than the in-your-face Philips bulb light :-) This does not have chunky glitter, so I find it appropriate for a subtle highlight, especially down the bridge of the nose. As my skin is oily, certain highlighters emphasize the pores or make my face look like a slickball, when overdone. Thankfully, it flatters my skin tone and does not make the shine on the face seem overdone. It lasts well through 4-5 hours, with my frequent face touching habit. Perhaps longer with a fixing spray. The kit is your best bet, if you are new to contouring and require a powder product. Just grading the highlighter here - Grade: B+

2. Beauty UK Baked Bronzer: Although the product is called a 'bronzer', it is a medium bronze-gold finely-milled highlight powder with a duo-chrome effect on the medium-to-tan complexions. I purchased this on a whim since I did not have any darker shades of highlighter in my collection. Technically, the purpose of this to make the skin have sun-kissed look, but the desi complexions can very well use it as an effective highlight that does not leave a white-ish cast. The most memorable usage of this was on an Eid look when I recreated the Natasha-esque glow. I prepped my skin with Strobe cream, layered a liquid illuminator without any glitter, topped it up with NARS Orgasm powder blush. Sleek Rose Gold can bring more oomph and intensity. Then I lightly "shaped" my cheeks with this bronzer. I guess it exceeded the 100 watt look. I was so "highlighted" and light-reflecting that I could serve the purpose of a fat concave mirror on the blind-corners of a road :3 It's very finely-milled, so you would not have to worry about this emphasizing your pores. I have not compared side-by-side, but I always thought this could double as a Betty-LouManizer's dupe... may be, in terms of texture and glow. The J-Lo effect is at your arm's reach now ;-) Definitely, one of the best bronzers at the price less than PKR 1,000. Grade: A

3. MUA Undress Your Skin Highlighting Powder: It is silver-pink highlighter powder with cool undertones. This was a part of my wedding haul and reached me just a day before my wedding. Since I had packed up my other makeup and based on sheer convenience, I would reach out for this in my handbag. It accompanied me on the honeymoon as well and I can recount its no-fuss effectiveness through the lovely photographs. It is certainly not the best bet for a warm-toned person like me. Incidentally, my facial skin is relatively less yellow-toned than the rest of my body, so this kinda blends to give a frosty look. The texture is not as soft; somewhat scratchy. An up-side is that it has bare minimum fallout. It did not break on me during the rollercoaster rides and a wild speed-boating experience. That ought to count, no? It's travel friendly and I reached for this quite often, still barely affecting the top texture. I used very light brush-strokes or finger-blending for this. Either way, it diffused well on my skin. The longevity was not the best since it used to sit atop my skin and gradually fade away as I would touch my face or use cell phone. Even in this price, I have tried better alternatives. Grade: B-

4. Makeup Revolution VIVID Baked Highlighter in Peach Lights: It is a silver-pink highlighter similar to MUA with stronger peach undertones that the camera did not pick up. I have reviewed it previously in details, so I would reiterate the same: It has a softer texture. It does blend well and doesn't leave a white-ish cast at all. Warm-toned beauties can use this as well if they're going for makeup look with silver or cool undertones. It would definitely be more appropriate for cool-toned ladies with pale-medium complexions. I applied Peach Lights very lightly on the high points of my cheek-bulbs and it looked nice over a flush of pale-pink blush. It stayed on for over 4 hours, until I removed it myself. It didn't do anything to cause or control my oiliness. It didn't settle in my pores, but whenever I wore this, I always opted for pore-filler or primer underneath. You can see it has pinkish color itself in a heavy unblended swatch, but that doesn't show when applied. Between MUA and MUR, this would definitely be my pick. Grade: A-

5. Benefit Girl Meets Pearl Illuminator: It can be described as a rose pink and gold duochrome liquid illuminator without any chunky glitter. I got this a couple of years back in a Finding Mr. Bright Kit that I reviewed in the blog as well. Following its success, I have gotten the full-sized version of this and the love stays strong. It gives the pearly finish of naturally highlighting the contours of your face. Benefit suggests to mix a pea-size amount of this pearlescent goodness in your base (moisturizer, bb cream, foundation) for a dewy finish. However, I use it directly on my cheeks for a subtle daytime dewy finish with or without a base. It fades a little after 4-5 hours (depending on the weather and your makeup base) and you can always retouch it to the desired intensity. This has become my staple in daily makeup because it complements my facial features and flatters the skintone A LOT! One of Benefit's finest! Grade: A

6. Makeup Revolution VIVID Baked Highlighter in Golden Lights: It is a white-pale gold duochrome highlighter powder. As I mentioned, the VIVID Baked Highlighters have been discussed on the blog previously, so don't mind me sharing the same thoughts here too: I am smitten by this beauty. Internet is raving about this already. The buzz is that this is a dupe for NARS Albatross. I don't own one, so can't say anything about that yet. If you own both, do let us know your thoughts! The comparison with Mary Lou Manizer is what I am asked about often. To give you a summary, Mary Lou is more champagne and buttery than Golden Lights. That still doesn't downplay the gorgeousness that is this highlighter! You need just a light hand a little amount for it to rock your face into dewy-awesomeness. It blends like a dream and stayed intact through the crazy BBQ heat and windy weather. I blotted my face often, so it might have faded a little because of that, but gave me a wear time of over 4 hours nonetheless. I took it off myself, so I have yet to see if it lasts even longer than that. For the price, you can't beat it. Especially when these don't have loose glitters in them to make your pores prominent. This one I wore with/without foundation and primer, yet never faced an issue of making my pores look like craters. One beef though, the packaging appears sturdy-ish. However, the clasp or closure of the Golden Lights highlighter doesn't "click" shut to my satisfaction. It might just be a packaging flaw of that particular piece because the Peach Lights packaging doesn't have this problem. Also, it isn't so loose that it would break or open within my bag. Still, it is something which makes me feel I should be careful. If you have kids or clumsy-thumbsies, you need to take care of this. Grade: A-

7. The Balm Mary Lou-Manizer Luminizer: It is a finely-milled soft champagne highlighting powder with golden undertones. There has been a comparison post of Cindy LouManizer & Mary LouManizer that I have covered on my blog. Do check that out. Since I do not own Cindy now, I included Mary Lou only, and my experience with Mary Lou-Manizer is aptly described as "awesomest". The texture was buttery smooth without any glitter flecks (which are a deal-breaker for me). It was pigmented and intense, so I had to apply ever-so-slightly on the high points on my cheeks. Initially, I felt comfortable applying and blending this with my index finger without any complaints. Later on, the stippling brush would give nice diffused glow. I mentioned using Mary-Lou for my own wedding functions. It ticks all the right boxes for me, but is it a universally-flattering highlighter? I am afraid, it's not. There seem to be certain question marks with it. One, it is reported to leave white-ish cast on people with skin-tones NC35+ or medium-tan. Given the fact that majority of our population lies towards the medium-to-tan complexions, it might not be the best bet for dusky dames. Another issue which I sometimes noticed was that the Mary-Lou applied heavily would emphasize pores in the absence of the base or primer. However, it did was not a big issue as I would lightly dust it with a fan brush and the pigmentation showed up nicely on my cheeks. Another thing worth watching out for is that the highlighter is prone to breakage. Don't let this take a fall! The Cindy arrived broken to me. Mary Lou is still going strong. Grade: A

8. Revlon Photoready Skinlights Face Illuminator in Pink Light: It is a silver-pink liquid illuminator that gives a pearlescent glow without any glitter particles. It is my favorite illuminator for frosty glow to the skin. As I told, my skin is neutral-warm on the face, the overly cool-toned items do not work nicely on me. This just blends well while imparting an obvious glow. I use it on bare skin on good-skin days when I wish to look "lit". It was my aim to use this Instagram term at least once in my highlighter post :D All righty O! I have tried mixing Revlon with the foundation and it gives better results when i do it with relatively heavier foundations like Estee Lauder's Double Wear and MAC Studio Fix. I have tried mixing it with primers and I plan on doing a post on that too since the results vary. It still is a solid product that would be an underdog in the world of illuminators. Not my staple, but something I would wish to keep in my stash. Grade: A

9. NARS Illuminator in Super Orgasm: It is a pink-gold duochrome illuminator liquid with noticeable chunks of glitter. I lamented about this particular thing in my 2015 Product Disappointments. Recounting my experience, I'd say that I have a love-hate relationship with this. It is one of those things that you hold very dear because it's expensive and find different ways to make it work for you. My bestie, F, is a highlighter junkie and that is the ONLY makeup item she wears/likes. She was a big fan of e.l.f. Shimmering Facial Whip and wanted something higher end in a liquid form with warmer undertones to use it as highlighter + tint for cheeks. Since she was fixated on it being a liquid and there were rave reviews about NARS Illuminators along with the swatch pictures, we chose Super Orgasm. The first time I swatched, it was a tad too glittery with no tint or peach-pink color. My friend is a cool-toned NW15. She applied a couple of times with fingers and felt the same. It vanished, leaving visible chunks of glitter. On her sister, however, NC35 this looked more flattering, but did not last well. Over time, its consistency changed to being more liquid-y. She passed it onto me to use and finish. I tried incorporating it in my routine, but couldn't bring myself to like it beyond the swatch. With great sadness, had to pass this on. I have heard great things of Copacabana Illuminator, but I am wary of trying that out after this fiasco. Grade: D

Mary Lou-Manizer - Golden Lights - Undress Your Skin - Peach Lights - Sleek Highlight - Baked Bronzer

Mary Lou-Manizer - Golden Lights - Undress Your Skin - Peach Lights - Sleek Highlight - Baked Bronzer 

Super Orgasm - Pink Light - Girl Meets Pearl

Super Orgasm - Pink Light - Girl Meets Pearl
These photographs were taken from my point-and-shoot camera under not-so-flattering lights & focus. I am salvaging the photographs collected over time, so I would request your patience in the future posts with lower picture quality :-) Once the stash and backlog of these end, I would only be sticking to DSLR shots :P

It's a relatively dated post and I have almost doubled this number of highlighters, so there will be a Part II real real soon <3 Just trying to stream-line so much more for you all! Hoping that you liked the first installment.

Would love to know your feedback - which highlighters do you love in your collection? Which ones are you looking to try out next?




  1. (*_*) I love my Carli Bybel palette highlighters! Man you need to grab that palette I tell you! Those are THE SMOOTHEST highlighters ever I have used. I do have MUA Golden Lights, OFRA dupe that ones but even OFRA ones don't beat the ones in Carli palette. Those double as amazing amazing eye lid highlights too :D


  2. Spot on swatches. Beauty UK baked bronzer looks incredible. The MUR highlighter always looks very pretty in pictures but whenever I go to buy it, I never like the feel of it. It feels very glittery and rough :(.

  3. This Sleek highlighter is so underrated. I am more on the diffused with blush and bronzer kind of person these days and this is just wow for that. It's too perfect for neutral people like me.Mary Lou seems like a good option for me but I know I'll never splurge on it. I'm falling for this baked bronzer. I agree Beauty UK has great shimmer nature for large pores. I'm all for liquid and cream highlighters but Girl Meets Pearl is too gold for me I know. I'm so going to get Becca's liquid highlighter in Opal sometime! My current favourite is You Dew You from Ofra :)

    1. Sorry I meant Ofra You Glow Girl is my current fav. Also I fee like ELF Gotta Glow is a closer dupe of NARS Albatross...anyways it's on my wishlist too *prances away*

  4. This has to be the highlighted post of all that I read this week :D Which illuminator was it that had no glitter? I'm looking for something like that. Super orgasm looks beautiful in the swatch, too bad it didn't work on the cheeks like that.
    Love love this post, good work Bia, as always ��

  5. i love the review i always wanted to know much about the highliting nd contouring stuff thank u sooo much for this wonder review dear mujhey pasand aya review or me ab koshish krungi ab lagana b seekhaye pls issey face pe according to shapes

  6. Drool-worthy highlighter collection ma shaa Allah. Mary-lou looks really different on you. Beauty UK Baked bronzer looks gorgeous and super pigmented. Need to try this soon. Great post for all highligter-oholics :D

  7. lovely swatches marylou 8s everyones fav do let us in if u find kiko dupe n wats the name ive also heard good things about beauty uk halo n essence so waitin for part 2 ����

  8. Thank you for letting me know the little difference b/w Highlighters and Illuminators;)
    Another helpful and intresting post though i get bored og reading at sone point as it was sooo long but no issues.U really describe each product very well.This one post is enough for a person going to buy any of these highlighters.Atleast i don't think so that after reading this i need more detailed reviews on highlighters before buying them.Hehehe!! Thanks for sharing dear:)

  9. I Love Photoready Skinlights and Mary Lau Manizer <3 Cannot imagine my life without them!!

  10. Thank you for a beief description of highlighter and illuminator. Telling us great benefits and differences awesome post. And i like the review of THE BALM. Apart from that Mary Lau Manizer are wow. 😍

  11. girl u put so much effort into ur posts and i love it <3 great collection mashaaAllah.

  12. Very well written and comprehensive blog,i really like your style of writing.

  13. Really loved your Highlights collection! I have MUR & MUA & NARS illuminators and they are really good!

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  14. You have such a pretty collection! Loved it MASHA ALLAH 😍😍

  15. This is really fabulous collection of highlighters
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