The 7 Best Illuminating Moisturizers
If you’re committed to the cause of looking like you just dipped your face in liquid mercury, you need one of the best illuminating moisturizers, featured ahead — the foundation of your radiant skin care routine, if you will. These moisturizers are formulated with light-reflecting minerals, like titanium dioxide and mica (the same particles you’ll find in shimmery or sparkly makeup) for a dynamic, luminous effect. At the same time, you’ll get all the moisturizing, firming, and plumping benefits you’d get from a normal, non-glowy moisturizer.
The effect you’ll get with these moisturizers is much more subdued than, say, slathering a liquid highlighter all over your face, but you’ll still see an undeniable radiance. But for an even subtler effect, mix your luminizer of choice with another moisturizer, your foundation, or “spot-treat” the high points of your face (like your cheekbones, Cupid’s bow, and the bridge of your nose). Also, note that this list includes creams, balms, lotions, and serums; so in addition to the concentration and payoff of their shimmer/glow, you can cater your choice based on your preferred consistency.
From a cult-favorite Korean balm to a cream infused with literal 24-karat gold, scroll on to shop seven of the best illuminating moisturizers you can get right now.
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1. The Budget Pick
This e.l.f.+ moisturizer rings in at just about $9 — though the subtle, golden shimmer infused in this deliciously creamy formula looks much more expensive than that. Hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and coconut oil are responsible for that smooth texture and moisturizing feel. Meanwhile, an SPF of 15 provides some sun protection, though not quite enough to forgo your usual, daily sunscreen (which should have a minimum SPF of 30). A great pick for anyone looking to spend less than $10.
2. The Splurge
Only for Tata Harper would I even consider spending $126 on a moisturizer. But here they are again, with their certified-organic, Vermont-grown botanical elixirs, frosted jade glass bottles, and promise to make my skin look like it’s been permanently run through a tasteful Photoshop session. This illuminating moisturizer contains five radiance-boosting minerals, rose water and aloe for hydration, and hyaluronic acid to plump and firm your skin. This also has diamond powder in it, both for its radiance and as further justification for that price tag.
3. The Multitasker
Some of the best things in life are hybrids (Goldendoodles, tangelos), as this By Terry CC Serum — a cross between a CC cream, a primer, a hydrating serum, and a luminizer — further proves. It blurs, smooths, moisturizes, and makes you glow, thanks to its soft-focus, light-reflecting prisms, while a hint of color helps temper your complexion. Rose stem cells provide antioxidant protection and an almost-literal lit-from-within glow, as well. You can apply this as a luminous base for your makeup, but it looks lovely on its own if you’re going (semi) makeup-free today.
- Available shades: Immaculate Light, Rose Elixir, Apricot Glow, Sunny Flash
4. The Balm
This ELEMIS balm/moisturizer is packed with light-reflecting mica for an instant glow and rice starch for a naturally “perfected” finish. But it’s also infused with powerful plant-based ingredients that work to brighten and even out your complexion over time — like niacinamide, vitamin E, and bisabolol, an anti-inflammatory derived from chamomile. Use it often enough, and your skin may outgrow the need for outsourced luminizers. The consistency is on the richer side, so it works best for people with dry or combination skin.
5. The K-beauty Favorite
Glow Crème is essentially an unpigmented take on Erborian’s cult-favorite BB and CC creams (albeit with a higher glow quotient, thanks to the addition of mica and titanium dioxide for a pearlescent effect). On a deeper level, niacinamide, licorice root extract, and vitamin E work to brighten, smooth, and soothe your skin both immediately and over time. Although it’s technically a primer, reviewers say it provides plenty of hydration on its own, especially for skin that's on the oily side.
6. The Drugstore Classic
L’Oreal’s Lumi Glotion is an absolute staple in the drugstore-highlighter universe. This lightweight lotion boasts a more intense, pearlescent payoff than the other moisturizers on this list, though your skin will still look like skin, not an inanimate object (namely, a disco ball). All four shades have a slightly sun-kissed finish, so it could technically work as a glowy bronzer, as well as a moisturizer and/or highlighter.
- Available shades: Fair, Light, Medium, Deep
7. The One With Gold
While we’re on the topic of indulgent ingredients: This Peter Thomas Roth cream is infused with colloidal gold, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and barrier-repairing properties, in addition to being incredibly fancy. Elsewhere, there’s witch hazel to soothe redness, hyaluronic acid for weightless hydration, and fatty acid-rich avocado oil. Considering its contents, and its universally enthusiastic reviews, its $42 price tag is surprisingly reasonable.