An Easy, Foolproof Way to Look More Alive

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Some days when it feels like the nearly two-year-old baby fog is beginning to lift, I remember that important self-care thing and Oprah-esque “live your best life” kind of motivation kicks in. I’m drawn to the idea of “feel better, look better”, and finding time here and there to go for a jog or nap on weekends, but neither of those things provides instant results to counteract years of sleep deprivation and non-clean (filthy, really) eating. Know what does? Snapchat filters. Specifically the butterfly crown one – I want it to permanently follow me around. Until someone invents that, makeup’s the next best option to mimic glowy, lit from within skin.

Here’s what happened when a minimal makeup-wearer tried five highlighting palettes, powders and creams to find the fastest, easiest, foolproof way to look alive.

There are tons of YouTube tutorials on how to recreate Snapchat filters with makeup, but the whole contouring/highlighting/strobing trend is definitely above my skill set and far outside the 5-10 minutes I usually spend on makeup (when I remember to wear it). I’d been admiring that natural looking glow I’d seen in magazines and on instagram, and I found out it has a name – the much less intimidating “non-touring”! Since concealer, eyeliner and tinted lip balm are the extent of my usual routine, I wanted a super easy, quick way to look like my favorite things aren’t caffeine, carbs and reading way past my bedtime.

I spent a stupid amount of time reading reviews on Sephora before finally settling on these five highlighting products – my main criteria were easy to use and a natural, not disco ball, effect. Handy Snapchat filter illustration below.


I don’t know if this makeup application method is even non-touring, more like slap on some shimmery stuff while helping my kindergartener spell the names of every kid in her class (for fun?) and debating an appropriate timeframe for letting a nap-resistant toddler cry it out – “mom-touring” is probably more accurate.

Since most of the ladies doing the YouTube makeup tutorials are probably still in high school, I used superlatives to help with reviews. I tried snapping selfies in natural daylight and under artificial lighting to show the range of shimmer. (NB: The pics are quite literally all up in my grill because some of the highlighters showed too subtly at a more comfortable camera distance. So…hey, welcome to my face?)


Best dressed: Tarte Rainforest of the Sea™ Skin Twinkle Lighting Palette – I really wanted to love this palette, the packaging is gorgeously mermaidy and the two highlighters plus matte finishing powder look beautiful. When I first opened the palette I got excited and just swiped some of the sunlight color on my forehead. This was wrong. Horrified, I started over by following the video tute on this page. Unless you have the flawless skin of the woman in the video, the powder will accentuate every tiny bump (texture) and settle into any lines/wrinkles as you can see on my forehead & under eyes. Not exactly the areas I wanted to highlight! The matte setting powder was a bit too yellow for me, and the stripe of highlight down my nose is too blingy. Probably amazing on medium skin tones that’s really smooth.



Smartest: bareMinerals Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream in Vanilla 02 – (comes in a million shades, also travel size) It’s advertised as a multitasking BB/CC/tinted moisturizer hybrid, but all I know is it’s good. It’s subtle enough to wear daily, but definitely has a brightening, glowy effect and SPF 30.  I painted on a thin coat with a foundation brush to get even SPF coverage all over and because the cream is a bit thick, but it’s not sticky or heavy at all. I like that I didn’t have to think about where to strategically apply it but the high points are still highlighted and imperfections are blurred. I wear this if I’m going out at night, too, perfect for summer when the sun sets later than dinner time.



Most likely to succeed (in blinding family & friends): Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit –  I love Anastasia Brow Wiz (Scotti’s pick) for my non-existent brows, but the Glow Kit is giving me a bad case of disco fever. Could be partly user error and a too-dark palette but even with copious blending, there’s nothing natural about this glow. Even with a pretty light application, there’s a heavily frosted 70s look. However – there are many talented instagrammers who get great results with this palette so savvier makeup appliers may love it. It’s a good value, since there are four large powders that are pretty as eyeshadow, too.



Most likely to look natural: Burberry Fresh Glow Luminous Fluid Base in Nude Radiance 01 – also comes in a more bronze color.  You know that slightly iridescent luminosity little kids’ skin has in the sun if you look closely? That. In a bottle. It gives a really subtle glowiness that looks like it’s actually coming from your skin. I only have it around my browbone & cheekbones here, but you can apply it all over or mix it with foundation. The texture is beautifully lightweight and easy to blend – it literally gives your face life.



Friendliest (for novices)Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder Compact in Highlight 01 – My favorite things about this highlighting powder are it’s a single shade and application instructions are on the back of the box. Also, there are handful of colors to choose from – this ‘golden nude’ is the lightest, possibly too light multitask as eyeshadow but gives a medium-intense shimmer for nights out or special occasions. Probably a bit much for daytime for me and definitely looks like makeup, but essentially foolproof – just brush it on a few high points and you’re done.


Hope that was helpful for any of you looking for an easy way to look more alive and fresh without that much effort. If you have any favorites I didn’t mention I’d love to hear about it in the comments, especially for different skin tones! Bonus points for your mom-touring selfie.

P.S. – Want highlighting & contouring tips from an actual pro? Scotti’s got you covered.





About Author

Dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, wife of a superhero and mum to 2 curly carrot-topped girls. Passionate about creating kid-friendly, beautiful interior designs that won't break the bank.

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  1. Thank you for this review, just right for someone time-starved but still wanting to look the best I can. I was sitting here thinking “must do something about finding something new for my face to make me look alive, not too heavy, not too shiny, just right” and up came your post. I’m off to find myself samples of the Bare Minerals and the Laura Mercier asap. Your skin looks amazing anyway – but definitely appreciate that you made the effort to provide so many close-ups under different lighting conditions – it matters!…

  2. Becca LIQUID illuminators are amazing- their powder versions are just too intense for me with the under-eye baggage and crows feet…Sigh. A life well lived! The price is a bit high, but a bottle will last forever and you can wear alone, under or over foundation, mixed with your moisturizer, foundation, body lotion, however you want to use them-and the color variations cover all skin tones!

    • That totally makes sense! The liquid versions all ranked higher for me, maybe since they’re easier to blend and more forgiving on not-twentysomething faces. Love the idea of mixing with moisturizer and body lotion, too. Thanks, Katie!

  3. So Tarte everything is always my favorite- I have loved everything I’ve tried from them. But, I have to mention here that the NYX liquid illuminator has been lovely- mine is a pinky peach color and it brightens up my face for tough mornings. I cant recommend it enough!

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