No shade to people who love their matte foundations, concealers, and lipsticks, but a glowless makeup aesthetic will never be my vibe. In fact,
really glowy skin has kind of become my thing, and over the years, my bedroom and bathroom have reached science-lab status—every inch decorated with pans of twinkling highlighters, dew-inducing face potions, and every other type of illuminating beauty contraption you could find in the aisles of your local beauty retailer. Of course, there has been a lot of trial and error, and since I’m naturally breakout-prone and have combination/oily skin, I’ve had to pick through and say nay to plenty of products that were too over-the-top shiny or flat-out caused an explosion of pimples across my face (sad but true story).
It’s only been in the past year or so, however, that I feel I’ve truly honed the ultimate glowy-skin lineup, and while I always feel a little weird
sharing my personal routine (I’m an editor, not an influencer, after all!), I’ve gotten so many DMs and questions requesting a play-by-play of my glow-happy skin-and-makeup routine. So here it is! From the very first steps, including an exfoliating cleanser and hyaluronic acid serum, to the finishing touches, including radiance-inducing blushes and eye shadows, I’m sharing every last detail of my product roster and application ritual below. Of course, everyone has different skin types and shade needs, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt, and feel free to skip or add wherever you see fit. Keep scrolling! My favorite glowy skin and makeup products are just ahead.
I’m obsessed with getting my skin as clean as possible (without aggressively stripping it) before I apply my makeup. So before I go in with my normal cleanser, I like to do a quick sweep with this purifying water from Sephora Collection. I’ve tried practically every micellar water on the market, but this one is especially great for anyone who struggles with breakouts, clogged pores, or oiliness. (Hello, it’s me!) It’s Sephora-approved clean, and special additions like zinc and aloe vera soothe and keep imperfections at bay. I’m glad it’s a steal because I go through a bottle a month!
Then, I cleanse. I want my skin as smooth as possible—like a canvas—before I go in with products like foundation and concealer, so I like to use something that has a combination of physical and chemical exfoliation. The fact that I’ve used this blemish-control face wash from Renée Rouleau for almost four years is a testament to how fabulous it is. It’s gentle enough for daily use, but it kicks excess oil to the curb and helps clear existing breakouts in addition to lingering redness or scarring.
Fun fact: I’m not a huge serum person, and I like to keep my roster super streamlined with just two staples—a high-quality hyaluronic acid serum and a safe-for-oily-skin vitamin C serum. I’m obsessed with SkinCeuticals’ new Silymarin CF Serum ($166), but it is a tad tacky, which I’m not a fan of pre-makeup. I love that hyaluronic acid serums give my skin a plump, glass-like finish, so that’s what I go for instead. If you’re down to splurge, I highly recommend Dr. Lara Devgan’s Hyaluronic Serum ($245)—she’s a renowned plastic surgeon and definitely knows what’s up in the glowy-skin department—but I also love this one from IS Clinical. It has a light, cooling effect, which is great for beating redness, and it absorbs super quickly with zero residue or tackiness.
Here’s the bad news: Bliss used to make the most epic SPF-spiked face lotion that was low-key the most important step in my glowy-skin prep routine, but like all of the best beauty products in life, it’s been discontinued. I went nuts and bought about 10 tubes of the stuff when I found out it was about to go AWOL a couple of years ago, but now that I’m on my last one, I’ve been on the lookout for a new favorite. I think Bliss is one of the best affordable brands on the market, so I have my eyes set on this moisturizer, which I think might yield similar results to my current favorite.
Hydrating your under-eyes is key for keeping every last inch of your skin looking supple and radiant. (A crusty, flaky-looking eye area is def not my jam!) I have two ride-or-die eye creams that I rotate. The less expensive option is Belif’s Moisturizing Eye Bomb ($48)—this stuff is possibly the best eye cream I’ve ever tried—and the more expensive option is Sisley Paris’s Black Rose Eye Contour Serum ($158). The former is especially great for moisture, while the latter smooths, illuminates, and moisturizes all in one go. Since it really helps diffuse the look of dark circles, it’s typically the one I reach for when I haven’t logged as much sleep as I should have (which is 80% of my mornings, if I’m being honest—whoops).
Last step! Lips. Similar to the eye area, I like to make sure my lips are topped up with hydration first thing so that when I get to my lipstick application later on in my routine, they have a smooth, luminous look to them. I can’t stand sticky or overly glossy balms, and this Advanced Therapy option from Fresh is my absolute favorite lip balm of all time. It keeps my lips chap-free for 12 hours (no touch-ups necessary!), and it has a smooth finish with a little bit of slip to it, which makes it a great base layer for lip products I want to layer on later in my routine.
I know a lot of people are going to think this is super extra, but mixing two different foundations is my secret for creating an even, satiny base. I avoid matte foundations like the plague, but I also avoid anything too shiny or luminous. The reason being if I start with something too glowy, it starts to look overly shiny and greasy after I start adding in my other key glow-inducing products like blush and highlighter. So it’s a satiny, demi-matte finish for me when it comes to foundation. Of course, it’s perfectly fine to choose just one foundation with that kind of finish, but trust me when I tell you combining Too Faced’s oil-free Born This Way Foundation ($40) with It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare ($40) is next-level satisfying for achieving an even, lit-from-within result. I stumbled upon the combo accidentally a few years ago when I was simply trying to lighten up my Too Faced foundation (I had packed a shade that was too dark for my winter skin and tried diluting it with my mom’s super-light It Cosmetics CC+ Cream With SPF 50+, $40), and I’ve been hooked on the Too Faced x It Cosmetics combo ever since. I’m sure I could find one formula just as great, but so far nothing has compared, and if it ain’t broke…
Next comes concealer. Urban Decay’s Stay Naked Correcting Concealer and I have been happily married for a few years now, and it’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s long-wearing, barely creases (I pretty much think it’s impossible for a concealer not to crease at all), and it has super-high coverage so that just the tiniest bit goes a long way. That said, unlike other full-coverage concealers, it still looks insanely natural and invisible once you’ve buffed it into your skin. I should point out that I do like to go with a matte concealer because I apply it to the parts of my face that are most grease-prone—the creasy under-eye area, my chin, and my T-zone. If I use something super glowy, it will look disastrous in two hours’ time. Make sense?
It might be surprising, but setting powder is still a high-priority part of my glowy makeup routine. That said, I use it strategically and sparingly. I’ve used this cult classic from MAC Cosmetics for years, and while there are some newer formulas I also like (such as Kosas’s Cloud Set Baked Setting & Smoothing Talc-Free Vegan Powder, $34 ), I find myself coming back to it again and again. Unlike lots of setting powders, it has a low-watt satiny finish that is highly flattering. I use a small eye shadow brush to lightly dust it over my concealer application under my eyes, and then a big fluffy powder brush to quickly cover my chin and T-zone. A light hand is key! Again, my goal is dewy, not oily, so a tiny bit of powder helps a sister out when the witching hour (aka the mid-afternoon greasies) hits.
Okay, again, so sorry to be extra, but under-eye concealer creases are my absolute biggest pet peeve. So to avoid them at all costs, I pull double duty with my powder and apply this under-eye brightening powder from Laura Mercier on top of the MAC formula, concentrating on the creasy area where product would normally collect. Not only does it have a subtle illuminating effect on my eye area (thus further enhancing my glow goals), but it also keeps my concealer looking freshly applied hours and hours after it’s been laid to rest on my face. This stuff is gold, and it’s actually my favorite product from Laura Mercier. (I’ve gotten so many friends and family members hooked on it!)
I use a similar strategy with my bronzer as I do with my concealer: Keep it matte so the shimmery, fun things, like highlighter, blush, and lip gloss, can really shine. I’ve experienced a lot over the years with bronzers. You name it, and I’ve tried it, but IMO, nothing beats Too Faced’s Chocolate Soleil Bronzer ($32). There are a few different shades to choose from, and while the whole “smells like cocoa” thing is a little teenybopper-y, the formula itself is too perfect for me to turn my nose up at it.
Still with me? Because blush (and a radiant one at that!) is the single-most important part of this entire story. Yes, highlighter comes second, but I’m a true believer that warming your face up with a believable glow comes from a hint of highlight and some “I just ran around the block” color. But—there is a but here—there is a fine line between a subtle hint of radiance and a panic-at-the-disco level glitter and shimmer. The key is finding your perfect color of the former. You absolutely can’t miss with Hourglass’s best-selling Ambient Lighting collection—every single color is stunning (I have three different shades!), and they perfectly toe the line between halo-like and full-on strobe. It’s almost like you’re getting a highlighter, bronzer, and blush all in one go! I like to take a blush brush and apply it to the tops of my cheekbones, all the way to my temples, my chin, the tip of my nose, the creases of my eyes, and the very tip-top of my forehead. It keeps everything cohesive, and natural-looking, like you just spent a week on a yacht off the coast of France. (Radiant Magenta and Diffused Heat are my two favorite shades.)
Just when you thought I was done with blush, psych! You might have noticed that I said I only apply the Hourglass blush to the tops of my cheekbones and around my temple area. A lot of people like to apply blush on the apples of the cheeks, but I’ve found keeping blush away from that area actually creates a more lifted effect, which I’m very much into. That said, it can look a little weird if you don’t have some color at the heart of your cheeks, so I opt for a shimmery blush slightly lighter than whichever Hourglass one I choose. Sadly, my fave from Nars is limited-edition and no longer available, but By Terry makes tons of stunning options I also keep in rotation. I dust it on my apples and lightly blend it upward into the Hourglass blush so it looks natural.
After blush, a balmy highlighter is my next favorite secret weapon for achieving a natural-looking glow. And honestly, nothing can beat this new stick from Merit. It melts into the skin, it won’t clog your pores, it’s made with clean ingredients, and it’s so easy to use. I don’t like to apply it directly to my face. Instead, I work the tip of my finger into the balm, and then I start tapping it on to the areas of my face where I want the light to catch—the tops of my cheekbones and temples, my brow bone, my Cupid’s bow, and a teeny bit down the bridge of my nose.
I never used to wear eye shadow, but now I like to carry the glow from cheeks to my lids, so I’ll add just a tap or two of shimmer. I stick to neutral colors that suit my skin tone (light pinks, nudes, champagnes, etc.) and concentrate on the inner part of the lid and then tap excess outward and upward. Kaja’s adorable little trios are my go-to, but I also love the Pat McGrath Labs Blitz Astral Quad in Iconic Illumination ($65) and anything from Róen Beauty, especially the 75 Warm Palette ($42). In addition to Kaja, another affordable option would be Jones Road Just a Sec ($26) shadows.
I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to my brows. I stick to a pencil for filling in any sparse areas and adding shape or definition where I need it, but then I’ll take a shine- and growth-promoting brow gel (like this new one from Kosas) to set everything in place.
Rarely will I touch a matte lipstick. I respect those who wear matte lipsticks and can pull it off, but my perpetually dry, chap-prone lips just can’t stomach it. So it’s hydrating, pigment-packed lipsticks for me, and Kosas just gets it right. If I could only wear one lipstick brand for the rest of my life, it would be Kosas! They’re incredibly nourishing and chock-full of amazing, skincare-level ingredients like mango seed butter, shea butter, cocoa seed butter, rose-hip oil, and jojoba oil, and the colors are 10/10. It took me years to find my perfect nude shade, and I’ve finally (thank God) found it in Vegas. It gives my lips a plush kick of color and also a touch of soft glow.
All right, so lip liner has absolutely nothing to do with the “glowy” part of my makeup routine, but it doesn’t feel right to talk about my lipstick without talking about my lip liner, you know? Nothing will ever top Charlotte Tilbury’s iconic lip pencil in my book. Pillow Talk is the perfect shade for my natural lip color, and slightly overdrawing my upper lip (and just outlining my lower lip) gives me a nice little dose of fullness that still looks natural.
Even though I’m pretty diligent about choosing products that won’t turn my complexion into a greasy puddle, I still like to finish it all off with a few spritzes of setting spray. Hands down, this classic bottle from Urban Decay is the absolute best for keeping glowy makeup on lock all day (or night) long. Excess shine is expertly kept at bay, but the formula won’t hamper your luminous finish. Up next: 43 New Beauty Products That Got Us Really Freaking Excited Last Month