Face illuminators!

That is all!


Hello there! Many of you have been asking for my opinion on face illuminators and I have to salute you because one thing I know for sure is that face illuminators are going to blow. Yes! This is going to be the big story for this late Spring and coming Summer.

I’m not a beauty journalist, simply a very enthusiastic amateur, so I’m basing my findings simply upon what I’ve been stumbling upon, at make-up counters and in magazines and dropped casually into conversations by people I want to be when I grow up (I am referring to my editor, the very fabulous Louise Moore.)

However, I find myself in a thicket of products, so please bear with me and we’ll go on this journey together. 

I’ve 2 illuminating sparkling powders to ‘explore’ with you. I’ll start with Guerlain’s Meteorites, which I believe are very famous and have been on the go for a long while and I must say I found them intriguin’. They are little balls in pink, peach, yellow, lilac and silver and you apply by dabbing a big, soft puffy puff thing at them and then onto your face and it did feel odd to be putting these strange colours onto my skin, but when they’re actually on your face, you don’t see individual pigments.

However, I suffer from the disease of ‘More’, I cannot exercise restraint in any area of my life and clearly I put on far, far too much Meteorite stuff because I looked like I’d been rolled in sugar. My face was glinty and silvery and almost crunchy, the way your floor is when the builders are in and have been making tea and spilling sugar everywhere. I looked like I’d come straight from a low-budget science-fiction film. Or like I’d had my head dipped in a candy-floss machine. Let me be clear on this, I do not blame the product, I blame myself.

The second illuminating powder I’ve encountered is Bobbi Brown’s Brightening Finishing Powder. First, a word on Bobbi Brown - it’s a great brand, one that makes a busy life easier. It’s the ideal range for women who have a thousand different demands on their time and who are asked to play a multitude of different roles every day (mum, worker, partner, friend, dentist-goer....) The products are glamorous, but fuss-free; reliable without being dull and on-trend without being fashion-victimy. I always feel in safe hands with Bobbi Brown.

The Brightening Powder looks very different from the Meteorites but it’s based on the same sort of principle. It’s a palette with 6 different colours that you sweep your brush over and then swoosh across your face to give a lovely diffused finish. Honesty compels me to admit that in harsh sunlight I could detect tiny, tiny little hints of silver glinting – clearly I have a bit of a fear of silver glints - and I felt a teeny bit mutton. However, the effect in general was to light up my face in a lovely ‘bursty’ way and that was very nice.

Finally, both of these products would work better at night than in daytime, in my humble.

Moving on, what interests me, much more, are the illuminators that come from ‘beneath’. That is to say, ‘beneath’ the foundation.

The thing is that there are many many things that go ‘beneath’ a foundation these day and I’m not even talking about skin-cream, which is a whole other conversation in itself, in fact it’s several conversations. I’m talking about stuff like BB Creams and now CC Creams (which I have taken agin, but again that’s a conversation for another day) and primers and – yes – illuminators.

In order to calm the twitch in my left eye, I’m going to forget about all the other things and for the now, focus just on liquid illuminators. They’re not a new concept - I still miss my lovely discontinued Dermalogica one, which had a pearlescent glow that always perked me up when I was looking grey about the gills - but they’ve been rebooted.

Beginning with Tom Ford. I make no apologies, I am besotted with his Traceless Foundation and I am a total loss to explain how I managed to miss his Illuminating Primer until recently. Anyway, I know about it now and oh God, how lovely it is. It’s entirely colourless, it doesn’t even have the pearlyness that some illuminators have, it spreads like a dream and it works with the foundation to make my skin look radiant and fresh and dewy and funnily enough, like I’m not wearing any make-up at all! (Isn’t that ironic? I’m being mildly ironic saying that. Also because despite everything I’m still not sure exactly what ‘ironic’ means, having spent a lot of my life confusing it with sarcasm. Anyway, I digress…) You could use the Tom Ford illuminator with a non-Tom Ford foundation (I’ve done it! Like the wild woman I am!) and it works equally well. You could even – if you’re one of those brave types – wear only the illuminator. But I couldn’t. I haven’t left the house without foundation since 1976.

The thing about Tom Ford though, is that it’s pricey. And I always feel apologetic about recommending dear stuff and I think there are many really good, less-costly brands out there. I read in my trusty Grazia that Revlon have a face illuminator called Photoready SkinLights out, but I haven’t tried it.

However Rimmel is after bringing out something called Wake Me Up Instant Radiance Shimmer Touch, which I have tried! It comes in 2 shades – a pink one and a non-pink one. Because pink-based skin-stuff makes me look like a bet-down turnip-picking peasant serf in feudal Russia, I went for the non-pink one, which is called Shimmering Sands. This Wake Me Up illuminator is very different to the Tom Ford one. This has a little bit of colour and it has sparkle but not in a bad way, it’s very fine so it’s very diffused. There’s a ‘companion’ foundation called Wake Me Up Anti-fatigue effect and radiant glow. Which is really very good, especially seeing as it costs half nothing.

My next pick is from Shu Uemura and I have to tell you a little story. A while ago I was in London and I made the appalling discovery that I had to have my photo taken and few things make me more miserable because I am horrifically unphotogenic. To make matters worse I had no suitable make-up with me. So with a heavy heart, I set off down Neal Street, heading for Mac, because Mac – you might know this - do great make-up for photography and also for telly. Thick coverage and also the right colour-base to hold its own under brutal photographer’s lights. However, I find Mac shops to be dark, loud and frightening. The music feels like an assault and my lumpen-peasant state-of-mind is never more pronounced than when I’m in a Mac shop. I usually find it hard to get anyone’s attention because I don’t look like what a Mac customer should look like. I suspect the staff think I’ve just accidentally wandered in from 19th century Russia where I live as a turnip-picking serf and soon I will leave again. I’m not criticising. It’s a simple fact. We can’t all be everyone’s target customer, can we? That’s why there are different brand with distinct personalities. And the truth is that Mac’s products are really great, especially for professional make-up. And Mac do good works.

So there I was, going down Neal Street with, as I say, my heavy heart, when I passed Shu Uemura and my heart gave a little leap of joy because I am awful fond of Shu Uemura, awful fond, ah say! Their cleansing oil is my very favourite of all make-up removers in a life where I find taking off my make-up to be a chore that hangs over me all day like a hatchet. So I went in and began a-browsing and having a lovely time and I found myself wondering if I might be able to buy suitable make-up for my dreaded photo and avoid Mac altogether.

Now and again a staff member asked me if I needed helped, but no-one bum-rushed me into anything and eventually something extraordinary happened – I voluntarily ‘took the stool.’ Vol. Un. Ter. Il. Ee. Yes. Has that ever happened before? To anyone? In the past, any time I’ve been press-ganged up onto the Stool of Hard Sell, I perch in a rigid state of brain-racing panic, doing my sums and wondering just how much of the stuff I’ll have to commit to buying before they unshackle me and let my feet touch the floor again.

But this time, a wonderful make-up artist called Nozumi was explaining a couple of their products to me when I said, “Listen. Why don’t I hop up on the stool and you can show me?” And one of the things I fell in love with is the Shu Uemura Youthful Radiance UV Under-base Mousse. How can I describe it? Well, you shake the bottle and it comes out like hair-mousse and it slides super-glidily over my skin and dries instantly and makes me glow-tastic. It does have a tiny amount of colour but not enough to interfere with the colour of my foundation.  

(One other lovely thing happened with Nozumi. My eyes alighted on a lipgloss and suddenly I wanted it with a bad wanty wantingness. Nozumi explained that it was the wrong colour for me, that it had blue tones and that my face needed warm tones and I said, “I don’t care. I want this one,” and she smiled and let me. Overall, it was a WILDLY positive experience.)

So there we are. This is my personal experience of face illuminators. Please bear in mind that I have ferry ferry dry skin and some of you on the twitters are saying you have oily skin, so what’s good for me might not be good for you. Although both the Tom Ford and the Shu Uemura are so feather-light that I can’t imagine them exacerbating oiliness.

A final few words. I’ve also been trying out Nanoblur which a few of you have asked me about. It promises, “Immediate correction of the appearance of skin aging, including the look of lines, wrinkles, crow’s feet, sagginess and enlarged pores,” and I’m so sorry, amigos, it’s not for me. I find it all very odd. You put it on OVER your foundation, but it’s a cream, so all my carefully applied foundation gets smudged and patchy. But it was the feel of the stuff that I couldn’t take. After about half-an-hour, my face tightened and tightened in a really unbearable way and I was desperate to take all my make-up off. I don’t like to be negative and please bear in mind that I have dry skin and if you don’t, you might enjoy Nanoblur.

Now, if I could come back to Tom Ford for a minute. I have discovered that ‘coming soon’ (May, I think) they’re doing a limited edition Skin Illuminator for summer skin, that is to say, skin with a bit of a tan. Unlike their regular illuminator, this comes in 2 Summer-tastic shades, which you can wear alone, mixed with your foundation or under your foundation. I am STREEEMLY excited about this!  

Before I finish, can I say a couple of things about beauty products in general. For a long time, as a feminist, I’ve felt conflicted by my great enthusiasm for beauty products and I’ve finally made peace with it. What I think is, if you’re interested in beauty stuff, you’re interested in it and don’t apologise, it doesn’t make you an airhead – after all, men are allowed to like football and that doesn’t make them meatheads. However, please never feel you have to spend lots of money on beauty-stuff - if you don’t have the lolly, please don’t buy it but instead get the stuff you genuinely need (for example, carrots. Or electricity.) However, if you do have the money, it is your money and you’ve worked hard for it and you can buy what you ruddy-well like!

Go forth and may the illumination be with you!