This Super Glowy Highlighter is So Good It Replaced My Foundation

My skin looks bronzed and glowy, and, over time, the illuminator gave me soft, plump skin

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Milk Makeup Bionic Glow Hydrating Liquid Illuminator Review

InStyle / David Hattan

My skin goals are similar to an excellent cinnamon roll: Golden, glazed, and prone to compliments. I cycled through foundations, I tried fake tanner, and I diligently layered on serums to no avail until I found the solution was right under my nose or, rather, on my cheekbones. Milk Makeup’s Bionic Glow Hydrating Liquid Illuminator starts as an ordinary highlighter before transitioning into an all-over skin tint that delivers enough glowy coverage I skip foundation altogether.

Celebrity makeup artist Grace Pae previously told InStyle she uses it on “as many clients as she can.” And we can see why: The 90% vegan and cruelty-free formula contains hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, snow mushroom extract, and plant-derived collagen that can help you achieve a plump, dumpling-like complexion. Offered in two light-catching shades, Virtual (a sheer peach) and Reality (a shimmery bronze), the highlighter provides my skin with a luminous, natural finish.

It’s so good that I decided to forgo any other coverage while wearing it. Here are my results:

Milk Makeup Bionic Glow Illuminating Liquid Highlighter

MILK MAKEUP Bionic Glow Illuminating Liquid Highlighter



Typically, I layer on the Milk Hydro Grip Primer — our team’s top choice — and wait for it to dry before applying three pea-sized amounts of the shade Reality. Similar to the Milk Bionic Liquid Blush, it comes in a mini toothpaste-style tube (like the ones you get at the dentist), which makes it easy to squeeze directly on the skin and control how much you apply. 

Whether I use my fingers, a brush, or a sponge, the product blends seamlessly across my face and neck without dragging, including over dry patches. I also experimented with swiping the highlighter across my eyelids, and it rewarded me with a complete and understated shadow look.

Its shape-shifting qualities don’t stop above the neck, either. Mix it into your body lotion and slather it across your legs, arms, and chest to feel cherubic from head to toe.


Call it the naked dress of skin tints — it feels and appears like you’re wearing nothing at all, but it effortlessly enhances your look. Even when I apply it bare-faced, the formula is creamy and doesn’t leave behind a tacky residue. This product is so lightweight, I’m sure it’ll feel fantastic on the skin even during warmer seasons. 

For now, it’s earned a permanent place in my cold-weather beauty arsenal. Wearing the illuminator is like having a post-tropical vacation glow that never fades throughout the sunless winter weeks. 

As a bonus, those hydrating ingredients I mentioned earlier help maintain moisture during arid months, and improve the look of your skin. After using it consistently for about four weeks, friends and coworkers took notice of my visibly brighter, plumper complexion.


Will it erase fine lines and hide every blemish and acne scar, essentially turning back time to when you were 10? No, but that’s asking a lot from a highlighter. 

The formula is pigmented to the point where it blurs pores, conceals redness, and smooths out your skin tone. I noticed it covers the broken capillaries around my nose, too. The shade Reality is also the perfect copper hue for sneakily disguising my self-tanning mistakes — like where my jawline meets my neck and around the bridge of my nose. It’s super blendable, so you can build up layers, and it won’t get cakey. 

For a neutral makeup look with more coverage, I suggest mixing it with a matte foundation to achieve a natural, satin finish. 


Since anything described as “dewy” translates to “perpetually sweaty” on my oily skin, I appreciate that this product dries down quickly to a slightly matte finish (I even started ditching my setting powder). And, while body glitter will always have its time and place, this formula manages to shimmer without making my face resemble a disco ball. Instead, it has just the right amount of natural radiance to give a brightening finish. 

Plus, the illuminator stays that way all day without budging. For reference, I apply my makeup early in the morning and go through two train rides and a 10-minute walk that encounters every element (wind, rain, crowds of slow walkers, etc.). 


At $34, similarly priced foundations offer more intense coverage (Milk even carries a best-selling one for around the same price). However, if you’re looking for a multi-purpose product that has the potential to replace your foundation, highlighter, and bronzer, it's worth the investment. 

Even better, since you can apply the product generously, it will last longer than a less-pigmented formula. Plus, as trends like skinimalism continue to rise, can you deny any makeup that pares down how many products you put on your face?

Why Shop with Us

Irene Richardson is a Commerce Producer for InStyle. She tested this product for around a month, using it with a primer, bare-faced, and other products. 

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