Asian Makeup Must: Luminizers (Highlighters) and How to Use Them

Aube Couture Designing Highlight, 3,700 JPY
Aube Couture Designing Highlight, 3,700 JPY

While complexion enhancers may not be an everyday necessity for westerners (who typically have relatively more prominent bone structures and don’t need as much contouring as we do), they certainly are essential in Japanese makeup. Every Japanese brand has at least a few luminizers (or highlighters) in their lineup. If you are afraid of using luminizers, you really shouldn’t be; after all, they will only give you a nice, natural glow if used correctly.

First of all, some people may confuse luminizers with glitter. While some luminizers tend to be overly shimmery, most of them in the Asian lineup or even some western brands are not glittery. They all leave the skin with a pearl finish, and the trick is to use it in the right spots and not all over the face (which will make you look greasy rather than radiant).

Highlighting makeup technique as seen on gorgeous model Karine Chu in VoCE magazine (Japan).
Highlighting makeup technique as seen on gorgeous model Karine Chu in VoCE magazine (Japan).

Basically, there is little to highlighting – all you need is a pearl-finish luminizer and apply along the bridge of your nose, bow above top lip, chin, and under the eyes (as seen on the Aube Couture Designing Highlight to brighten the often-dark undereye area). This is the basics of highlighting – giving a nice soft glow to your facial contours and is especially flattering on Asians since our bone structures aren’t as prominent as our Caucasian counterparts.

I used Photoshop (albeit poorly) to show where the luminizer was applied on Karine. You can use products like High Beam by Benefit Cosmetics or Stila’s Liquid Luminizer (I use #3) if you prefer a light fluid texture and if you don’t wear powder or foundation – these are great on bare skin. If you need coverage, you can use a highlighting powder such as Aube Couture’s Designing Highlight or Laneige’s Makeup Brighter.

Laneige Makeup Brighter's instruction sheet showing where to apply the highlighting powder.
Laneige Makeup Brighter's instruction sheet showing where to apply the highlighting powder.

Besides using a highlighter, I usually use a liquid/cream blush such as Stila’s One Step Primer Color in Bronze Babe (great for summer!) or MUFE’s Microfinish Blush on my cheeks too. The results are very natural and radiant. Most of all, very seamless if you apply correctly (for beginners, start with the smallest amount and build your way up).

Laneige Makeup Brighter, a great highlighting powder I used on my wedding day!
Laneige Makeup Brighter, a great highlighting powder I used on my wedding day! (Available in 2 shades: Blooming Pink and Glowing Beige)

As for the full facial contouring (with a dark shade as sculpting powder in addition to highlighting), personally I don’t really recommend it for everyday use. First of all, it’s tricky and takes practice, and unless you are really experienced doing it, you could risk looking heavily made up. The picture of Karine from VoCE magazine has full facial contouring on – and it’s done perfectly – the trick is to use the right product with the right shades. The darker sculpting shade shouldn’t be too dark – even a shade or two darker than your normal foundation shade or skin tone is enough to create a contouring effect. A light-shade bronzer (stick with a neutral shade, not orange-toned bronzer) in powder form and a large flat facial brush will do the trick. Just be light-handed – like salt, it’s easy to overdo but hard to come off!

If you want that extra glow without the extra pigment, you can always mix a liquid luminizer (e.g. High Beam by Benefit) with your cream/gel blush and apply on the apples of your cheeks. It’s so natural and yet radiant!

Extra Makeup Tips:

  • Always do your makeup in natural lighting.
  • If you are doing full facial contouring (highlighting + dark sculpting powder), have your digital camera nearby and snap some pictures of your face before stepping out. Sometimes you will be surprised how dark the contouring looks! And pictures don’t lie – they will show you the seams where your makeup needs to be blended better.


19 comments on Asian Makeup Must: Luminizers (Highlighters) and How to Use Them

  1. Cathy
    July 5, 2010 at 2:57 am (7 years ago)

    Thank you so much for doing this tutorial for me! 🙂 I will definitely try high beam again and maybe Laneige’s makeup brighter, since I love the line. I went by sephora today, and my mother urged me to try the shiseido’s white lucent line. She is of the old belief that what costs more is usually better, and wanted me to switch. Do you think shiseido is better than laneige? Sorry for my incessant questions. Yours is my favorite blog and you are so informed about everything makeup & skincare. 🙂

  2. Joseibi
    July 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm (7 years ago)

    Dear Cathy,

    You are very welcome! Your kind comments always make my day!

    In many ways I also agree with your mom, the cheap stuff is what you pay for, mostly water and chemical fillers, very little active ingredients! however, I didn’t have great success with Shiseido White Lucent. There has been a upgrade though – maybe it works better now. The best way is to buy the starter kit – I think it costs CAD$68 and it comes with the cleanser, toner and moisturizer. Whitening takes long to see effects – I would say at least 1-3 months depending on your skin condition.

    Laneige vs Shiseido – hard to say, Shiseido has better makeup in my opinion, Laneige has good skin care for the twentysomethings. Each has good products but I always felt the Shiseido International line has very good makeup and great skincare (Bioperformance) but the basic stuff is just that – basic. If you are younger (in your twenties) and need skin care Laneige is probably better for you. 🙂

  3. Rowena
    July 31, 2010 at 2:18 pm (7 years ago)

    I can’t believe I’ve only just found your blog, I love that look in the magazine.

    I have had my eye of the Aube Couture highlighter for a while but its quite expensive! :/

  4. Joseibi
    August 2, 2010 at 3:02 pm (7 years ago)

    Dear Rowena,

    Thank you for coming!!!! Aube was one of my favorite brands!!! Sofina (made by Kao) makes great skincare and cosmetics. It’s not as hyped as Shiseido but I prefer it.

    You can get other highlighters for a lot less actually. Laneige’s Makeup Brighter is almost identical. 🙂 (it costs me less than CAD$30)

  5. mia
    September 9, 2010 at 6:21 pm (7 years ago)

    great blog! i can read through your posts all day and still be interested.
    question though, Im thinking of getting the Laneige makeup brighter online but torn between the 2 shades. Which shade would you recommend that would look very natural? both looks really promising. thanks

    • Joseibi
      September 10, 2010 at 3:10 pm (7 years ago)

      Hi mia,

      Thanks for your kind words! You are so sweet!

      Re: Laneige Makeup Brighter. Did you get to go see this in person or are you buying it online? I have owned one of each shade at one point (used #1 at my wedding!). I feel that if your skin is fair with pink undertones, or fair with neutral tones (e.g. Gong Li) then #1 (blooming pink) will look more flattering. If your skin is the average Asian medium or with mostly yellow or olive undertones, then #2 (glowing beige) will look better.

      However, it depends how you use it too. I used it on the bridge of my nose to highlight and create contours, under my eyes and on the apples of my cheeks too. If you use it a lot then the shade really matters. If you only use a little then either shade is fine.

      I am an OC-20 (Maquillage) or in Korean makeup, shade #21 and #2 worked better for me. When I was really fair (on my wedding day) I used #1 but only on the bridge of my nose so it didn’t matter. I hope this is of help – the sheen is fairly subtle so unless you go very heavy handed it’s not going to be that different between the two shades.

  6. mia
    September 10, 2010 at 11:36 pm (7 years ago)

    thanks for the info. It is very helpful. I am actually purchasing it online. I always feel there is something missing with my makeup until I came across your blog. Its creating contours using a highlighter that is! : )
    One more question if you dont mind, I’ve been using Laneige products for a couple years and it seems to do an amazing job. I will be turning 30 this year and I know Laneige is created for the early 20’s. Which skincare brand would you recommend worth switching to that has good anti-aging benefits? Thanks again.

    • Joseibi
      September 14, 2010 at 9:02 am (7 years ago)

      Dear mia,

      thank you for your kind words!!! If Laneige is working for you and you want to stay within the same manufacturer, you can try Sulwhasoo (it’s for 35 and up but you can use the basic line). Laneige still has one line Perfect Renew that is good until you are in your early thirties but I have never tried it so I can’t really say much about it. Sulwhasoo is very popular and I have been using it on and off since I turned 30. You can try the Balancing Water (toner) and Balancing Emulsion (moisturizer) and see if you like it. The Herb Soap is a great cleanser – very mild and luxurious. I noticed your email is a Canadian one – I believe the Amore stores might have some specials or tax breaks near the Chinese moon festival, and if not, for sure at Christmas they don’t charge taxes if you want to hold off and get better deals. And if you can go to the Korean Amores (the ones at pacific mall and First Markham Place in toronto are not Korean-owned) they will ask you to sign up, give you a membership card and they call you on your birthday and give you 10% off all purchases in addition to the tax-free events at Christmas! Something to think about! 🙂

  7. mia
    September 14, 2010 at 11:24 pm (7 years ago)

    thank you very much!! Its nice to know I can always come here and share my concerns and always get very helpful advice. My friend suggested the Laneige Perfect renew line as well. She liked it and recommended it. I will prabably try it out and see while I wait until the chinese moon festival to pick up sulwhasoo products. Thanks for the tip!

    • Joseibi
      September 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm (7 years ago)

      You are welcome, mia! 🙂 I hope there will be a discount at moon festival too!

      Laneige’s Perfect Renew line has a sleeping mask that comes with powder (which will prevent the mask from ending up on your pillow). It’s like their Water Sleeping Pack but with more anti-aging properties. Sulwhasoo has an Overnight Treatment which is a leave-on sleeping mask too, but more expensive ($55 plus taxes). If you are unsure of the brand it’s good to get one of these treatment products which usually come with a generous sample set of toner and emulsion (the Overnight Treatment comes in a bonus gift box with 15ml of Sulwhasoo Balancing Emulsion and Water – if they still have it in stock). That way you get to try a few different products before committing to buying a whole full size set of products!

  8. mia
    September 16, 2010 at 8:52 pm (7 years ago)

    Hi Joseibi,

    So much for waiting for the moon festival discount. I was at the Amore store in scarborough earlier and just decided to pick up the sulwhasoo basic line after the SA’s advice to go for sulwhasoo instead of Laneige. Her skin looks absolutely flawless and told me she swears by this product. Seeing the results and also with your advice, there was no hesitation there whatsoever. I also picked up the herbal soap and the sleeping mask. I got overly excited there can you tell? hahaha. Anyway, I was trying on some of Laneige’s fall makeup stuff and she recommend I try the Snow Crystal dual foundation(white plus renew) as I think I mentioned to her I wanted something brightening but not greasy looking foundation so now I have something that needed your expert advice..again..: ) SO my question is have you tried the Laneige make-up line and what do you think of their foundations. I am currently using Chanel tient innocence and I have no complains about it but my curiosity of trying new product seems to be bugging me too much and thought Id ask whats your take on their make-up line and what shade is more natural looking. Is it worth trying? I appreciate your help and off I go for now to finally try my sulwhasoo stuffs. : )

    • Joseibi
      September 17, 2010 at 3:07 pm (7 years ago)

      Dear mia,

      Shopping for J- or K-brands always makes me giddy too!! 🙂 I also think it makes a big difference when the sales people look good. the Korean locations are very good at that. Their service is good (a little high pressure) and the salesladies always look nice.

      Sulwhasoo is a lot higher end than Laneige. In Korea Laneige is only a mid-range brand! The soap is very good. You can’t go wrong. Even my husband uses it!

      I have used Laneige’s makeup. It’s pretty good – the latest foundations are a lot finer than say 8 years ago when I first started using it. But Chanel would be better in my opinion. However if you were to try makeup, beware of Sulwhasoo’s foundations – they are very very heavy. Even the powder is heavy. For makeup, if you were to stay within the Amore brands, Laneige is pretty good but for long wearing, J-brands are still better. If you go with Laneige’s foundations, even if it’s for your skin type, expect a little smear midday, this will happen if you don’t use a good setting powder on top.

      Laneige’s powder is good – the sheer ones. I love their sliding pact design! No complaints. But if you go with the twin cakes – the one that comes with the shades like 21, 23, etc., those are heavy coverage foundation powders. I don’t recommend those. You will look heavily made up. The shades 1, 2, etc. are sheer shades and those are pretty good.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  9. Diana
    November 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm (6 years ago)

    Hi Joseibi,

    How do you feel about wearing highlighter alone without any sort of foundation? Powders and blushes don’t really work on me, maybe because I look so young or because my skin greatly changes color according to the season. As I result, I normally only wear moisturizer, sunblock, gel blush, lip tint, and mascara. I’m thinking about getting a luminizer to strengthen the look of my delicate facial structure. Will that look weird without a base covering for my skin?

    Thanks for all the great articles!

    • Joseibi
      November 17, 2010 at 10:53 am (6 years ago)

      Dear Diana,

      Thank you for your kind words! 🙂 I wear luminizers alone over a sunscreen all the time. I don’t wear any foundation or powders (I have no zits and dehydrated skin – no need for foundation and powder dries me out) either, and like you, I use gel blush (Benefit’s and MUFE’s cream blush), lip gloss and mascara too. Same as you! 🙂

      If your skin tone is fair, Benefit’s High Beam is more flattering. This one (Stila) is gold-toned so it’s good on yellow undertones. I personally find High Beam more universally flattering though!

  10. Elly
    November 17, 2010 at 8:42 am (6 years ago)


    I’ve tried the Snow Crystal dual foundation once in #23 – I dont have the lightest skin in the world but it’s a great match. I would HIGHLY recommend it as a starting point if you’re looking to switch to Korean makeup. The coverage was fantastic, even on reddy areas and left a great dewy finish that made my skin so radiant! You only need a little bit too which is always a plus if you want value-for-money. I even went to play touch football after having this applied in the afternoon and after 1-2 hours the make up was STILL intact and still looked pretty! A tad oily which is to be expected after playing sports (hehe) so recommend wearing with light dust of loose translucent powder for longer wear and oil control. Give it a go !

    Diana, if you don’t like foundations/powders yet want sheer coverage I would suggest finding a matte finish, tinted moisturiser – you can even get some with sun protection! The consistency is light, long lasting and blends into your skin color VERY WELL no matter how much it changes. Luminisers are fantastic to give you that glowy look and makes your features stand out so much! I’ve been using them for over 4 years and often with bare minimum make up applied – always looks fab. Can only suggest one should not wear it during hot summer days – your face just looks awful and sweaty all day long. Not flattering in the least!

    Joseibi another fab article. I will look into your suggested luminisers when I have the chance. 🙂

  11. Diana
    November 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm (6 years ago)

    Okay, I caved in and bought one. After comparing high beam and moon beam, I chose the latter because I’m tan (nish now that it’s winter) and high beam was too pink for me.

    I followed your advice as well as the instructions of a few youtube videos but there’s one problem. I can’t see the effects at all! Any suggestions on how to make the most of this buy?

    • Joseibi
      November 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm (6 years ago)

      Dear Diana,

      Moon Beam is equivalent to Stila Luminizer #3 which I have right now – it’s not a very obvious effect though – but you can definitely see something. It is not supposed to completely stand out – it’s more like a subtle glow. You can layer up a little if you don’t see anything but if you step in the natural light, be careful that it doesn’t stand out too much! 🙂

      Do you apply it on bare skin? If you apply any powder over it then you won’t see it. It’s best as the final step. If you have oilier skin and need powders, then a powder luminizer will work better. Alternatively, you can also use a light golden shimmery eye shadow as your highlight powder too. Preferably close to your skin tone, a tad lighter and with a pearlescent finish – it will do the trick just as well.

  12. Winnie
    May 7, 2011 at 8:58 am (6 years ago)

    Hi Joseibi,

    Im glad that i found your blog. it is really helpful. but im new to makeup and i only want to have a natural look…so there are numerous questions. Hope you dont mind =.=

    So i am Asian with fair skin, yellow undertone, which shade of this highlighter do you think is better for me?

    im also thinking about Moon Beam vs High Beam too..

    I have combination dry skin so which brand do you recommend> Thank you so much

    • Joseibi
      May 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm (6 years ago)

      Dear Winnie,

      thank you for your kind words! 🙂

      My skin tone is like yours, fair with yellow undertones, and for myself I find that the pink highlighter looks more flattering on me. I currently am stuck with Stila Luminizer #3 (exactly the same as Benefit’s Moon Beam) which is a gold shade, and it seems to bring out the yellowness of my skin more; when I used Benefit’s High Beam, the pink highlights compliment my skin tone much better.

      I don’t know about the Korean product you linked to, but as far as the High Beam goes, it’s really just a hint of pink so it won’t make your whole face pink, I usually use it along the bridge of my nose, inner eye corners, the bow of my upper lips, etc., not all over my face. If you do use it all over your face, some of the color correcting bases (esp the Korean ones) are more pigmented because they are meant to be used under foundation, so if you want to use it to highlight specific features and not your whole face then the High Beam is better. 🙂


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