A Giant Guide to Highlighters + Skin Tints.

Guide to Highlighters & skin tints

Over the past couple months, I’ve reviewed a LOT of skin tints, tinted moisturizers, highlighters, primers, illuminators… the works. And as a result, the DMs and blog comments have added up: “how does this one compare to that one?” What’s the difference between X and Y?” I feel badly for confusing you all, but I like to give you all options! So today I thought it would be helpful to round them all up to do a big compare/contrast.

Giant Guide to Highlighters & Skin Tints

If you take one thing away from all of this detail, it is that you probably only need one item per category. It is literally MY JOB to thoroughly test all of these things and review them for you. But if I were not in this industry (and didn’t have access to so many brands sending me PR samples to test!), I would probably have one illuminator, one tinted moisturizer, and the Drunk Elephant bronzing drops. (Amid the confusion, people have been asking about those. They are totally different – they’re bronzing drops, which you can mix into any of these products, for a “just got back from vacation” kind of glow.)  I also make sure one of the two products has SPF in it!

My two favorite combinations would probably be:

ALSO – don’t forget about the big Sephora Sale! Today, it opens to those with VIB status and you can shop through 4/29! Most of these products are included.

Guide to Highlighters & skin tints

OK let’s start out with illuminators!

These go on before your tinted moisturizer/makeup. After moisturizing/skincare, I apply one of these, all over my face!* If forced to choose a favorite right now it would probably be Glowscreen, though I do genuinely love all of these so much!

(*You’ll notice I stuck the Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter off to the right as this one is a little different than the others. More info on why below!)

Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow (no SPF)

This one is the first illuminating primer I ever tried and I remember being so enamored with the results. You just look so radiant and glowy! I would say that coverage-wise it’s between the Saie and the Glowscreen. A medium amount of glow! Sometimes I will also pat a drop or two on my temples after makeup.

Supergoop Glowscreen (spf 40)

This is probably my favorite product I’ve tried all year. It just makes you so glowy and pretty and it has SPF so you don’t need much else. I sometimes skip makeup altogether (most of the time now during quarantine) but with tinted moisturizer over it you just look perfect! Out of all of these products, this has the MOST glow, which I love. I want to be as dewy and radiant as possible. (Read my full Supergoop review!)

Saie Glowy Super Gel (no SPF)

This one is the most lightweight, and also the most subtle! The biggest question I get is how this differs from Glowscreen and I would say that with Glowscreen it’s obvious you have something on your face whereas with this one you can’t really tell. You just look like maybe you worked out or are extra radiant. So I’d say pick this one if you want a more natural glow! (Read more about this one here.)

Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter (no SPF)

Again, I don’t use this one as a primer. You totally could, but it’s pretty pigmented and could be a LOT on your whole face. It has a sponge like applicator that I like to drag along the high points of my skin (temples, bridge of nose, cupid’s bow, brow bone) and then blend in with a BeautyBlender! Also, this comes in shades… each of the other products comes in one universally flattering shade. I wear shade 2 in Flawless Filter.

Guide to Highlighters & skin tints

And then we move onto our tinted moisturizers.

Again, you only just need one! If I had to pick one favorite right now it would probably be the Milk tint, just because of how easy it is to apply and how hydrated it leaves my skin!

Beautycounter Dewskin (I wear shade 2) and the Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint (I wear “bom bom”) are probably the most alike. They both have mineral sunscreen in them, so they’re both a bit more opaque – the mineral sunscreen makes them a little more full coverage by default.

I included the Ilia Serum Foundation (I wear “Tavarua”) because I use it like a tinted moisturizer… it’s really pretty and sheer. I like this one over Glowscreen since it doesn’t have SPF.

And at the sheerest ends of the spectrum are the KOSAS Face Oil (full review in this blog post – I wear shade 4!) and the Milk Sunshine Tint (full review here – I wear shade “medium!”). The KOSAS is more like skincare – it really does feel like a face oil, but it does not have SPF. It was my fav for so long but now I use the Milk one more, probably bc it’s less messy if we’re being honest. The Milk one also has SPF 30. A lot of you complained that you didn’t like the packaging here but I actually really love it! I roll a little bit on to each section of my face and then blend in with a BeautyBlender.

bronzing drops

Lastly, the bronzing drops! These are an ultra concentrated bronzer. You can skip makeup and just add a drop to your moisturizer (it mixes nicely with Bader!) OR add a drop to your tinted moisturizer or illuminator!

Really hope this was helpful! If you have any further questions leave ’em in the comments!

Photography by Carter Fish


Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment


  1. I love your super thorough guides and reviews! Thanks for the recommendations as well! ❤️✨

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    4.21.20 Reply
  2. christina:

    I am an avid fan of the Becca Luminizing Skin Protector, which I found on your site yearssss ago (just searched for the post – https://thestripe.com/becca-luminizing-skin-perfector/). For those working from home, highlighters/glows/tints are great for video chats, it’s the only reason I am still doing my makeup!

    4.21.20 Reply
    • Ugh I LOVED that one (though I did it over makeup, not before!) but stopped buying it because every time I dropped the bottle (it happened twice!) it would crack. Bad for my wallet and my floors! But you’re right – it’s such a good product, and if you are careful with the bottle (ha ha) it will last forever!

      4.21.20 Reply
  3. Jessica Macintosh:

    Thank you for the roundup! I bought Glow Screen and the Drunk Elephant drops recently. I can’t wait for them to arrive and test them out! As always, appreciate your research!

    4.21.20 Reply
  4. I really want to try the DE bronzing drops and the CT Wonder Glow!


    4.21.20 Reply
  5. Oooh thank you for this round-up! I need to try the Supergood Glowscreen + Milk Skin Tint for sure

    4.21.20 Reply
    • It’s such a good combo!

      4.22.20 Reply
    • Lyn:

      Hello:) was wondering if you’d recommend kosas skin tint or the milk makeup sunshine skin tint?

      5.22.20 Reply
      • Not sure if this q is for me or for Lyn but if I had to choose I’d pick the Milk tint! I do really love them both though, you can’t go wrong!

        5.22.20 Reply
  6. Juliet:

    Love this! Been wanting to try an Ilia Beauty product and might do this – any other Ilia favs you suggest for a newbie to the brand?

    4.21.20 Reply
  7. Kelly:

    Love your recs! I bought the glow screen because of you and it’s incredible!
    I noticed you said you would pair it with the milk tint…. even though milk tint has spf too? Debating between the milk tint and kosas to buy!

    4.21.20 Reply
    • Honestly, I like them both! The Kosas would be great too. I have just preferred the Milk over KOSAS lately even though both have SPF. I don’t really care about using 2 products with SPF… as long as at least one has SPF, I am more concerned about what looks best and find this combo to be my fav!

      4.22.20 Reply
      • Kelly:

        Thank you so much! You have the best recs and this roundup was so helpful!

        4.22.20 Reply
  8. Lisa:

    Love this post! My new favorite combo is the Glow Screen with the Milk tint!!! I have really only been wearing the Glow Screen, but the couple of times I have had to look presentable () on Zoom I’ve used this combo. And, I bought both of them based on your recommendation! I love your so honest, and helpful, reviews.

    4.21.20 Reply
    • YES such a good combo!!!! And same, right now I’m just doing Glowscreen, no need to put on “real” makeup!! Glad this was helpful!

      4.22.20 Reply
  9. Morgan:

    A year or two ago you mentioned the Kiehl’s Glow skin Hydrator. I LOVE it under the BeautyCounter Dew Skin. I know it’s not clean but it’s sooo good! Also great with just Farmacy Green Defense on top. I mix in the Isle of Paradise drops every few days for a nice sun-kissed glow.

    I’m surprised that everyone likes the Ilia skin tint. It felt so heavy on my skin and looked so chalky. I had to send it back. I was so disappointed because I love the brand and the product sounded great on paper.

    4.22.20 Reply
    • Oh good!!!!!

      And I’m bummed that you don’t like the Ilia skin tint! I have had a few people tell me they don’t like it. It’s interesting, this stuff really is so personal and depends so much on your skin and what it likes.

      4.22.20 Reply
    • Sydney:

      As someone who hasn’t worn a foundation in a very long time (years!) would you recommend the Ilia skin tint or the Drunk Elephant bronzing drops mixed in with my moisturizer?

      7.22.20 Reply
      • Either one! Totally different results. Ilia Skin Tint is a lot like Beautycounter Dew Skin – a tinted moisturizer. Very pretty results, sheer coverage, etdc. DE Bronzing drops in your moisturizer is going to be no coverage but you’re going to look a little tanner! Hope that’s helpful.

        7.22.20 Reply
  10. Lisa Autumn:

    CT Flawless Filter is my absolute fave x

    Lisa | lisaautumn.com

    4.22.20 Reply
  11. jill:

    so helpful! thank you!

    4.22.20 Reply
  12. Betsy:

    This is such a great post! Thank you! I have what might be a dumb question: which of these is most like a true primer? As I age, I find a good primer really improves my skin appearance but I definitely want one that does some heavy lifting without looking like too much. I was leaning toward Flawless Filter but am leaning toward Wonderglow now? I was going to get Glowscreen but it seems like it actually sparkles?

    I love your skin care posts the most – I have learned so much! Thank you!

    4.22.20 Reply
    • Hi Betsy! Honestly, none of them!!! Maybe the Glowscreen but the benefits are really more cosmetic than prepping your skin for makeup.
      For a true primer I would say maybe do the Milk GRIP primer or the Laura Mercier illuminating primer. Also really love the Augustinus Bader one, there’s a review here if you use the search!

      Flawless filter is far and away the least like a primer, I think I mentioned this in the blog post, but I use that on top!

      4.22.20 Reply
  13. Hannah:

    So excited for when the shops re-open and I can test some colours 🙂
    Saving this!

    4.26.20 Reply
  14. Nadia:

    Have you tried Isle of Paradise and/or Tan Luxe face? How would you compare them to DE drops? Thanks!

    5.9.20 Reply
    • Hi! Yes I have but those are self tanner and not makeup which is why I didn’t include them in this roundup. The Drunk Elephant drops are bronzing drops (makeup) whereas IOP and Tan Luxe are self tanners. BIG fan of the Isle of Paradise drops, I do them a couple times a week!

      5.9.20 Reply