Under-makeup primers are often used in order to obtain a smooth matte finish and provide a nice base so that the foundation can glide evenly over the skin. However, other types of primers contain special particles that reflect light and almost make the skin appear to glow from within. They are a great addition to any makeup routine, lending a temporary illusion of youth and health to the complexion and supplying a much better “quick fix” than most overpriced “wrinkle creams” and “look younger now” scams can ever hope to achieve.
How Illuminating Primers Impart Glowing Skin
Most modern facial highlighters and skin-illuminating primers use a chemical variation on old photographic tricks to allow the wearer to get the appearance of glowing, youthful skin. To minimize wrinkles, remove shadows and bags under the eyes, and draw attention away from discolorations on the skin, photographers used a variety of key lights that sometimes took well over an hour to set up. They also used a number of different substances, including a sheer chiffon-like material called mousseline de soie, on or in front of the camera lens to softly blur the resulting image.
These techniques perfected a subject’s skin without requiring an overly thick, fake-looking mask of makeup to be applied beforehand. (Of course, after-development retouching helped a lot, too.)
Illuminating primers place a sheer layer of crystallized minerals like mica and pigments like titanium dioxide or iron oxides over the face; thus light is diffused by the small shiny particles, flaws are minimized, and the skin is very subtly tinted all at the same time. The tint, which tends to be either whitish or pinkish, may be further lessened by wearing foundation and powder over the illuminating primer. This is why illuminating primers are not as obvious as highlighting powders, which are usually applied over foundation and may end up looking just plain strange in direct sunlight.
Great Illuminating Face Primers to Try
- Pixi Brightening Primer No. 1 Pearl Essence: Light pink and very pretty, though using too much can definitely look overly sparkly in daylight.
- Clarins Instant Light Complexion Perfector in 00: Mainly nicely matte, whitish-pink finish; but provides a very subtle glow using alumina; this one could actually be worn instead of foundation as long as the skin is relatively clear overall. Great for brightening up dark undereye circles. This also comes in two shades (light/02 and medium tan/03), which are not very natural-looking.
- Benefit High Beam (silvery pink) and Moon Beam (golden pink): These are restrained but effective and the brush applicator makes them easy to apply.
- ERA Glaze in 24 Karat (whitish gold) and Platinum (silvery white): Can be sprayed over entire face or sprayed onto a sponge or contouring brush to highlight specific areas: the top of the cheekbones, tip of chin, or bridge of nose.
- Stila All Over Shimmer Liquid Luminizer: 4 different softly pretty shades that give a natural opalescent glow rather than a blinding shine.
- Tarina Tarantino Pearl Glow Primer: Leaves a lovely pearly luminescent sheen on the face that can help blur minor flaws. Comes in an illuminating eye shadow primer, too; try it under the eyes for dark circle camouflage.
Try Testers or an Inexpensive Facial Highlighter Product First
Some of these products are fairly expensive; so to see if you like an illuminating face product, make sure the brand you try has an in-store tester and then check the results under different light sources. Or test out a cheap drugstore shiny primer such as Wet ’ n Wild MegaGlo Face Illuminator ($3) or e.l.f. All Over Color Stick (1$). Cheap illuminating primers tend to be greasier, shinier, and more brightly colored than their expensive cousins, but can give consumers an indication of whether or not they like the effects of such products before they splurge on one.