Best Illuminator Primers: The Definitive Guide (2018)

Updated 5 years ago

People say that beauty comes from within. They also talk about that gorgeous glow that people have when they are happy, pregnant or in love. That’s great, but we’re here to remind you not to discount the power of a good makeup routine. Of course, every great makeup routine starts with a good primer. If you’re looking to get a gorgeous glow, an illuminating primer will help you achieve just that. We have consulted with the best beauty experts and product reviewers to share the best illuminating primers with you.

Luminizing face primers provide an all-over natural glow. For everyone who is not an influencer or model, it is a safer option than trying to apply and successfully blend ultra-glowy highlighter. More on that later. First, let’s go over the basics.

What is primer?

Primer is a pre-foundation makeup product that helps your makeup apply, look, and feel better on your skin while making your makeup last longer, too. Primer even eliminates and prevents shine from occurring throughout the day. Primers are available in the form of creams, gels, and powders and are made for all sorts of skin types. Primers can help you achieve a flawless look and helps keep your makeup looking fresh all day long. Some primers are even formulated with anti-aging properties to help combat wrinkles and fine lines. Like what you’re reading? Here are the best illuminating primers to help you achieve a beautiful glow.

The Best Illuminating Primers

Smashbox Photo Finish Radiance Primer

Smashbox’s Photo Finish Radiance Primer is one of the best illuminating primers out there, leaving users with a gorgeous glow. Even better, this primer is full of hyaluronic acid, which keeps skin moisturized and fine lines blurred. This long-lasting primer will keep your skin smooth and glowing, while helping your foundation to look better too. A favorite among beauty professionals, you are guaranteed a gorgeous glow with this primer.  

BECCA Cosmetics Backlight Priming Filter

This lightweight primer feels more like a moisturizer than a makeup primer, leaving your skin soft and smooth. Reviewers found that the primer left their skin glowing, even with foundation applied on top of the primer. This brand is known for beautiful shimmery products, and this one is no exception.

jane iredale Smooth Affair Facial Primer and Brightener

This primer is essentially an all-in-one product. This hydrating primer keeps your skin smooth and moisturized all day long, while also providing anti-aging effects with green and white tea extract. The primer’s grapefruit extract helps promote radiance and luminosity and even minimizes fine lines and pores. A small amount of this goes a long way. This primer gets glowing reviews (see what we did there?) and many users have found this to be their favorite illuminating primer. Though it’s not much of a surprise this primer is so popular, as jane iredale is a respected and beloved brand by beauty professionals and users alike.

L’Oreal Paris Makeup True Match Lumi Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer Highlighting Lotion

This Glotion (Glow lotion) can be used as a moisturizer or as a primer. It provides an all-over natural glow. Available in four shades, select the shade that is closest to your skin tone for optimal result. Reviewers found that the primer gave a natural, glow from within look. This primer will give you a more subtle luminizing glow.

Elizabeth Arden Flawless Start Instant Perfecting Primer

The Elizabeth Arden Flawless Start Instant Perfecting Primer will give you all the radiance without the shine. This multi-tasking primer reduces the look of fine lines, pores, and wrinkles, leaving you with a flawless, retouched look. Experts love this lightweight, oil-free and non-comedogenic primer because it will help keep your makeup looking fresh and flawless all day long, while also fighting shine and releasing and accentuating your inner glow.

JAPONESQUE Radiance Primer

Inspired by backstage beauty techniques used at fashion shows, this primer radiates a pearlescent glow and gives a blurring effect to banish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This weightless and silky smooth primer restores your natural radiance and luminous skin, depositing a youthful glow to your skin.

Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Illuminating Primer

This organic illuminating primer is made with antioxidant-rich botanical juices and coconut alkanes, which help naturally reveal your inner luminous skin. Unlike most primers, this product is silicon-free so it is great for those with ultra sensitive skin. It is also full of vitamins and anti-aging ingredients to help battle signs of aging.

Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Skin Liquid Lighting, Candlelight

Perfect for long and busy days, this Celestial Skin Liquid Lighting primer guarantees a glowing complexion for 12 hours. This primer is also versatile, giving you different options for use. You can use this as a normal primer, applying before foundation, you can mix this with your favorite foundation to get a super luminous look, or you can even wear the primer alone, sans foundation, for a natural but glowing look. Whichever way you decide to wear it, you can trust that you will have a glow from within look that will last you from the office to your evening plans.  

BECCA Cosmetics First Light Priming Filter

BECCA Cosmetics earned two spots on our list for best illuminating primers because the beauty brand just knows how to make a great illuminating primer. This purple primer helps cool and smooth uneven skin tones, banishes signs of aging and fatigue, and illuminates skin to reveal just the right amount of glow.

Monica Ann Beauty Dual-Action Face Primer (Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Acid)

Users love this product because of multi-purpose. The primer acts as an illuminating makeup primer, as well as an anti-aging skin care product. Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid provide your skin with a vibrant and youthful glow. This primer nourishes your skin while also providing a great makeup base.

Primer: Why Is It Important?

A great makeup application routing and end result starts with a good complexion, which is achieved by using a primer. Primer allows your foundation, tinted moisturizer, or BB cream to apply easily and smoothly. You will also find yourself using less of your product with a primer underneath, as it applies smoother and fills any holes. Primers guarantee a flawless makeup application by smoothing out uneven skin texture, filling in fine lines, and prolonging your makeup so it lasts all day and evening long.

Who should wear primer?

Everyone can and should wear primer. Just like there is a skin coverage product for everyone, there is a primer for every skin type and need. Primer is great for addressing skin issues, too. From sensitive, uneven, and even oily skin, primer can help tame your skin to allow your face makeup to work and look better.

How to Apply Primer

Primer is essentially the in-between step between your skincare routine and your makeup application. As the first step in your makeup routine, apply your primer a few minutes after applying your moisturizer in order to give your skin a few minutes to absorb your moisturizer (or your favorite hydrating face oil). Always apply primer with clean hands onto your face with your fingers for best results - though as you’ll see below, you can also apply primer with a brush or sponge. If you are having a good skin day or prefer a more natural look, an illuminating primer can be used alone and still provide you with a glowing and even-looking skin.

Here is another tip: you can use primer on your eyelids, too. Just as primer helps keep your foundation looking flawless and lasting all day long, using primer underneath your eyeshadow will give you the same effect with your eye makeup. It can even brighten and enhance the colors in your eyeshadow to make your eye makeup pop.

What are the different types of primers?

There are many different primers out there to fit your needs, skin type, and desired look.

  • Illuminating: Illuminating primers give you a natural, but not over the top, gorgeous glow all over. Perfect for any occasion, all year long.
  • Hydrating: These primers are great for those with dry skin. It is important to opt for a hydrating primer if you find that your foundation often looks dry, flaky, and patchy. You should definitely look into a moisturizing face oil if you have dry skin, as well as a foundation that is formulated especially for dry skin.
  • Pore-minimizing: Pore-minimizing primers really do work for those who struggle with disguising large pores. These primers blur and hide big pores and also provide you with a matte finish, avoiding shine and oily skin, which often go hand in hand with large pores.
  • Blurring: These primers are like magic, creating a flawless, airbrushed appearance that will make people think you have an instagram filter on your face.  
  • Color correcting: Color correcting primers are available in various colors such as green, purple, and yellow. Green is the most common, as it corrects red discoloration on all skin tones. Blue is great for correcting and removing sallow tones.
  • Anti-aging: If you want a primer that gives you a gorgeous makeup look and tackles fine lines, skin discoloration, and wrinkles, there are anti-aging primers out there that do both.

How should you apply primer?

Should you apply your primer with a brush, sponge, or your fingers? While it is most common to apply primer with your fingers, you can definitely apply your primer with a brush or a sponge, too, depending on your preference.

  • Sponge: If you want to apply your primer with a sponge, slightly dampen your sponge first in order to allow your primer to absorb into your skin rather than the sponge. It also allows for a smoother application. sponges let you blend expertly and achieve a perfect finish.
  • Fingers: Applying primer with your fingers allows you to work the product into your skin. It also uses up less product and reduces waste, as sponges and brushes absorb much of the product. The heat from your fingers also gives the primer a smooth and silky texture, and applies well to your skin. This is the preferred method by many makeup professionals.
  • Brush: If you want to apply primer with a brush, it is best to apply the primer on smaller areas on your face and using a small brush, such as a lip or concealer brush.

What is the difference between illuminating highlighter and illuminating primer?

Highlighters are having a major moment right now. Highlighter usually goes on after your foundation, blush, and bronzer, on your cheek bones. It requires extensive blending in order not to look silly and totally obvious that you’re wearing it. Highlighter usually comes in a compact powder or creme stick form, and is extremely shimmery. 

There is a fine line between a gorgeous glow and accidental over-the-top makeup. Applying highlighter is not as easy as it’s made to appear in those makeup tutorials. It takes a lot of blending, the right product for your skin, and precise application on your cheek bones in order to nail that look. For this reason, an illuminating primer is a good alternative. It goes all over your face, but underneath your makeup. So you will still get a gorgeous, all-over glow, but it will be more subtle and is much more fool-proof - and faster to apply for all the busy women out there.

Now that you know what primer is, why you should use it, and how it will transform your makeup application and look, you now can actually experience the magic of using primer. An illuminating primer is so easy to use, and will instantly give you a gorgeous glow that will leave people wondering what’s giving you that natural ‘glow from within’ look.