We independently select and review the products we recommend. We may earn a small commission on purchases made through our affiliate links below. Learn more about how we review products and our sources of information.
Under-eye brighteners are making a huge comeback. Well, they’re trying! The problem is that with all the different names being thrown around like under-eye illuminator, brightening pen, or highlighting pen, they’re slipping through the cracks and often mistaken for an under-eye concealer. Well, you’re going to want to know the difference because you’re missing out! Under-eye brighteners are so versatile that you might even want to swap your concealer with one. So, what is an under-eye brightener, anyways?
An under-eye brightener is an eye makeup product that provides low/medium coverage. Its main purpose is to brighten the eye area without much coverage for a more natural look. It’s sometimes called a brightening pen, or an illuminating pen because of its brightening effects. And it can multi-task as an overall face brightener too.
But what’s so good about an under-eye brightener? Well, an under-eye brightener is helpful when you’re going for a no-makeup makeup look. It brightens without giving the undereye area a cakey look.
Its light consistency makes it convenient for light summer makeup. And it’s great for mature skin and when you have a lot of creases under your eyes and concealer tends to make them look worse.
In light of this information, it’s actually understandable why people sometimes confuse them with concealers. But trust me, even if it’s subtle, the difference is there. Keep reading to find out about the differences between an under-eye brightener and a concealer.
Under-Eye Brightener vs Concealer
Under-eye brighteners differ from concealers in three ways; purpose, consistency, and coverage.
The purpose of an undereye brightener is to brighten the under eyes whereas the purpose of a concealer is to conceal imperfections under the eyes. Obviously, a concealer can have a bright, radiant finish, but you still expect that concealing effect. A brightener simply illuminates and opens up the face. In essence, a brightener draws attention to the area of application whereas a concealer draws attention away.
Under-eye brighteners usually have a very thin consistency compared to concealers. Brighteners don’t dry down easily. Because of their thin, runny consistency, they tend to spread more and stretch thin. You only need a tiny amount. Concealers, on the other hand, tend to be thicker and they dry down faster.
In terms of coverage, under-eye brighteners provide low, or at best, medium coverage. Because their primary purpose is to freshen up the eye area and not necessarily with coverage. They smooth out the eye area just enough to give you a fresh base. A concealer, on the other hand, is mainly used for coverage. It’s supposed to conceal undereye discolorations and dark circles and smooth out fine lines and wrinkles.
How to Use Eye-Brightener?
Under-eye brighteners are multipurpose products. Here is how you can use an under-eye brightener in different ways.
1. Use an under-eye brightener instead of a concealer.
You can use an under-eye brightener instead of a concealer when you don’t need much coverage under your eyes. With concealer, there’s always the potential for creasing and looking cakey. But undereye brighteners’ light consistency allows you to look instantly awake without looking heavily done.
2. Layer it on top of your concealer.
You can pair your undereye brightener with your concealer too. If you’re dealing with very dark undereye circles and you need a perfectly smooth base, you can layer the two. In that case, you apply your concealer first and cover up anything that needs covering up. After that, you apply a very light layer of undereye brightener. It gives you that final touch and brightens the undereye area.
3. Prep your under-eyes for concealer.
You can also try applying the brightener first if you wish to give your concealer a radiant base. Doing this will help you rely less on concealer too. A brightener preps the under-eyes and gives you a headstart.
4. Illuminate your complexion.
You can use an undereye brightener to illuminate. But hear me out, this is not the traditional highlighting where you contour and highlight. It’s not the highlighting where you make the high points of your cheeks glow either. What I mean is you can use your brightener to give your complexion a more bright, light, and illuminated look. For example, you can use it on the inner corners of the eye. You can use it on the brow bone or the cupid’s bow and the bridge of the nose. Because eye brightener doesn’t provide much coverage, you illuminate your overall complexion and open up the face without looking like you’ve contoured or highlighted.
The Best Under-Eye Brighteners
Find below the best under-eye brighteners on the market.
1. Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat All-Over Brightening Pen
Pros: Light consistency, convenient pen, perfect for bright eyes, multi-purpose skin luminizer
Without a doubt, this iconic pen is the best under-eye brightener on the market. This is actually the first ever undereye brightener I used way back when I was in college. And I’ve never found anything better since. This multi-purpose pen has a clickable bottom on the end and an incredibly soft brush at the tip. You can use it as your concealer or as your overall illuminating pen. It has low coverage but gives the under eyes and the complexion the luminosity it needs to look more fresh and awake. Because of its hydrating formula, there is no flakiness or dryness on the skin. This is like an overall skin perfector and an amazing option for mature, aging skin too.
Finish: Radiant Shades: 14 shades Size: 0.1 oz
2. Fenty Bright Fix Eye Brightener Concealer
Pros: Instantly fresh-looking under eyes, can be used on the face, long-wearing
Cons: Squeeze bottle squirts out too much product
This is a very lightweight and low-coverage under-eye brightener and one of my current favorite summer makeup products. Literally, nobody can tell you’re wearing this. When you don’t want to wear makeup but still want to look fresh, apply a teeny tiny amount on the under-eyes and blend away. I personally drag this down toward my cheeks and use it to cancel out redness around my nose too. It’s illuminating but without any shimmer. And it’s great for all skin types.
Finish: Natural Shades: 16 shades Size: 0.33 oz
3. Milk Makeup Sunshine Under Eye Tint + Brighten Light Coverage Concealer
Pros: Roll-on applicator, beautiful finish, instantly illuminating
This is a very hydrating, and very light formula. It’s packed with hyaluronic acid squalane to plump up the eye area, which helps minimize the look of fine lines too. And it has low coverage but high radiance all because it’s formulated with light-reflecting powders. Think of it as a skin tint but for the under-eye area. It just wakes you up and smooths out the under eyes a bit. It’s an absolute gem for no-makeup makeup days.
Finish: Radiant Shades: 7 shades Size: 0.2 oz
4. E.l.f. Flawless Brightening Skin Concealer
Pros: Clickable pen, multi-purpose, affordable, brightening
OK, this is probably the most affordable under-eye brightener out there. It’s a clickable pen, just like YSL, and comes with a brush tip. So you’ve got that convenience from this drugstore budget-friendly under-eye brightener. Plus, you have low but buildable coverage too. The radiant finish is subtle and elegant as opposed to downright glittery. I wouldn’t say this is a dupe for YSL, but it sure comes close. So you can use it as an overall multi-purpose illuminating, highlighting, and brightening pen all over your face.
Finish: Radiant Shades: 18 shades Size: 0.07 oz
5. Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Correct and Brighten Concealer Duo Stick
Pros: All-in-one stick, travel-friendly, high-coverage concealer
This is an all-in-one formula. I mentioned before that you can pair your concealer with your brightener. Well, this one has both. So you really have your whole base makeup in one stick. The dual-ended brightener has a medium/high coverage concealer on one end and a brightener on the other end. You can use concealer to do your base makeup without needing foundation, as your spot concealer, or as your undereye concealer. After that, the super lightweight brightener opens up the eyes and provides a brightening touch on the under eyes. The stick form applies super easily. And because it’s oil-free, it’s amazing for people with oily skin too. So you can brighten your complexion and the under eyes without the glow or the dew.
Finish: Natural matte Shades: 16 Size: 2×0.03 oz
6. Wander Beauty Dualist Matte and Illuminating Concealer
Pros: All-in-one formula, high coverage matte stick
Another duo is this stick concealer and liquid illuminator combination. The concealer provides superior coverage in that you can do your whole makeup with it without needing foundation. Just apply the stick under your eyes and continue to spot conceal redness and spots and blend it until you get an even base. Then go in with the other side to emphasize the brow bone, the nose bridge, and the chin to open the center of the face. The stick glides on easily allowing you to blend it seamlessly. The illuminator has a natural finish so you can comfortably highlight any part of the face.
Finish: Natural Shades: 18 shades Size: 0.16 oz/0.12 oz
7. Kaja Cat Nap Under Eye Brightener
Pros: Doubles as a color corrector and eyeshadow primer
Cons: Only one shade
If you’ve tried covering up your dark circles with color correctors before, then you probably know that peach, and orange tones are the perfect color to neutralize dark circles. With that in mind, this undereye brightener works like a color corrector. So there’s only one shade. If you don’t have prominent dark circles but just very light shadows under the eyes or you haven’t slept well, you can cancel out the discoloration with this undereye brightener. But moreover, you can use it as your color corrector under your concealer to achieve a perfectly smooth, bright, and even base. The coverage is very little but because of the tint, you even out the discolorations very well.
Finish: Natural Shades: 1 shade Size: 0.19 oz
So these are some of the best under-eye brighteners out there. You can use them instead of your concealer or with your concealer. Either way, the brightening effects are instantly visible and super flattering.