Welcome back to the If I Could Only Buy One series, in which I give myself a week-long headache trying to decide on my absolute favourite beauty product from a given category. Please do read the disclaimer on the first post if you’re in any doubt as to how this incredibly important and (potentially) historically significant beauty challenge works.
The given category this time is “tinted moisturisers”: a tricky one to navigate in some ways, because it’s such a broadly-used term. Where do you draw the line? When it a tinted moisturiser no longer a tinted moisturiser? When the coverage becomes so opaque that it’s basically a foundation? (IT Cosmetics CC Cream comes to mind.) Or when the pigment level is so low that it just gives the tiniest hint of warmth and glow to the skin? (I bung these into the “complexion enhancer” category.)
For me, a tinted moisturiser is just that: a product that you can apply as you would a face cream, reasonably haphazardly, with no real need for a brush or applicator sponge and that gives enough coverage and colour to make you look less like an old parsnip. I like a tinted moisturiser to be a moisturiser – it should feel as plumptious and look as dewy as my face cream – and I like it to give a real-skin-but-better sort of radiance. Coverage needs to be relatively comprehensive – enough to even out skin tone and knock back dark circles and redness slightly. I’m not expecting coverage miracles from a tinted moisturiser – it’s more about the fresh, glowing finish – but I am expecting to look much, much better than I did before I put it on.
So which one would I buy if I could only buy one for the rest of my life? When I think of the cult favourites over the years – the Laura Mercier and the Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue, to name a couple – there’s one product that most definitely stands out from the crowd and that is the NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser*.
This glossy, hydrating face base is the gold standard of tinted moisturisers; it is glowy, fresh-faced base perfection. Supremely hydrating, my skin feels as moisturised at the end of the day as it did when I first put the tint on – there’s a tangible springiness and dewiness to the finish that simply doesn’t fade as the hours pass by.
In terms of coverage, I’d say it equates to a light-to-medium coverage foundation, somewhere in the realms of Clinique’s Even Better Glow. But with even more glow. It does well over redness at the sides of the nose, it makes a brave start on dark circles and it gives an overall evenness to the skin. It doesn’t mask, not quite, but the coverage is enough to distract. And you can always go over the danger zones with a lightweight concealer. (I find that a very heavy, opaque concealer looks odd over a sheer face base.)
There’s a broad spectrum sunscreen in this formula, SPF30, which is a bonus on days when I’m just nipping out on the school run but not being particularly outdoorsy. (I wouldn’t ever solely rely on the SPF in makeup for being in the sun, mainly because I rarely apply enough product to reach the stated protection level but also because it’s a pain to reapply.)
Sixteen shades, the most beautiful scent (not that scent should matter in a face base, but oddly it adds significantly to the whole application experience for me!) and with added Vitamin C for helping with longer-term brightness, it’s basically faultless. If I had to scrape the fault barrel to find something wrong with it, I’d probably say that people with oily skin might want to steer away slightly. Not because of the rich texture – the formula’s actually oil-free, which flabbergasts me because it has all the plumpy effect of a luxury oil! – but because the finish is so glossy and shiny. It just never feels that comfortable, having shine on top of shine and in my PMT week I tend to avoid tinted moisturisers for this very reason.
But that’s it – a minuscule caveat. Everyone else, knock yourselves out. You can find NARS Pure Radiance Tinted Moisturizer for £33 at Space NK here* and also at Cult Beauty*, LookFantastic* and Selfridges*.
I use the shade “Groenland”, which I think is a new shade, but previously used “Alaska”. If you need help finding your shade without going in-store then the website Findation.com is pretty accurate and brilliant at working out your shade in pretty much any face base currently in production.
The Cheater’s List
Because I couldn’t do this “one thing” decision without namedropping some others:
For those who want similar coverage but less on the outré glow front and plumpy residue, try Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer – one of, if not the, original product in this category. It dries down to a more manageable finish if you don’t like too much dew – find it at SpaceNK here*, £36.
For less coverage but a fresher, lighter feel, Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Gel Cream is unbeatable. The ultimate “slap it on” sort of base, this comes in 20 shades and has a subtle, healthy glow. Find it at Cult Beauty here* – it’s £30.
For similar coverage, slightly less dew but an ethereal, lit-from-within sort of radiance then try Trinny De-Stress Serum, I use the shade “Claire” but I think I could get away with a shade darker for summer. It’s £39 here*.
I think that Chanel’s new Les Beiges Healthy Glow Makeup is an absolute triumph of a foundation relaunch. It’s so tweaked that it’s barely the same product. I didn’t ever properly review the original Healthy Glow foundation because – to get straight to the point – I wasn’t that keen on it. I had my favourite Chanel foundation already (Perfection Lumiere Velvet, now discontinued) and the Healthy Glow, for me, didn’t bring much extra to the party. Perfection Lumiere Velvet gave the most refined, flawless finish with the lightest of touches and subtlest of glows (God only knows why you’d stop making such an absolute gem of a base) and Les Beiges gave sort of the same coverage and semi-matte finish but didn’t seem to so seamlessly disappear.
But here it is, relaunched and with twice as many shades available; it’s fresh-feeling where the original sometimes felt slightly claggy, the coverage is more sheer, more buildable and more elegant – no opaque masks here! – and the makeup feels as though it’s part of the skin rather than sitting on top in a layer.
The new version is way more hydrating too – it’s not quite on a par with Pat McGrath’s or Lauder’s Futurist, but it’s on its way. Layered over a good juicy moisturiser it looks and feels dewier and more alive than the original, but with good longevity and very little in the way of slippage in oilier zones it offers the best of both worlds: the real-skin benefits of a tinted moisturiser, the finish and coverage of a semi-velvety foundation.
Let’s take a look at the before and after photos…
This is just one very light coat of the Healthy Glow Makeup, applied with a flat-top kabuki-style foundation brush, but you can see how effortlessly it perfects the skin whilst leaving a believable, healthy sheen. This version of Les Beiges Healthy Glow really lives up to its name – there’s glow but it is very much on the natural end of the spectrum. No strobing effects here! Coverage is on the lighter side of medium but you can easily build up where you need more base and it never looks heavy or caked.
Here are the close-ups – you can see how fine and chic the finish is and that it doesn’t obliterate every imperfection but leaves a gorgeous, flexible sort of veil that evens out the skintone and adds a hint of glow:
I usually find it really hard to get into my foundation reviews – I dither about this and that and spend weeks trying it out in every sort of condition, with heavy face creams beneath or with powders on top – but I have to say that this review has been easy. Les Beiges was such a spectacularly pleasant surprise even on the first application – it’s nothing like Perfection Lumiere Velvet, my old favourite, but it definitely offers up a solid replacement.
On a practical note, the new version of Les Beiges Healthy Glow doesn’t contain an SPF. I actually prefer this because I tend to wear a dedicated SPF anyway and apply foundation on top. Many like to use the sunscreen in their makeup product as a sort of light protection against incidental sun exposure, but I’m usually either all in or all out and I quite like to tick off my SPF requirement as I do my skincare routine.
Either way, it’s easy enough to add the sunscreen step before foundation if you need to, but I think that the formula feels lighter and more elegant without it built in.
So to recap: the changes in this new formula are many and varied. No SPF, much more hydrating, a lighter feel and a sheerer finish, more of a dewy glow. Over twice as many shades and slightly different packaging.
Who will love this? I honestly think that it will suit most skin types, including those on the oily side so long as they use a primer in the places they tend to have trouble with. It’s not a greasy finish by any stretch of the imagination but the formula is really hydrating so drier skin will love it – those who want a discrete, grown-up foundation that looks barely there but is actually working quite hard behind the scenes will also rate this.
I’m wearing shade B30 but will need to step back to B20 in the winter months as my lockdown tan dissipates and I apply using a brush. I usually wear a hydrating serum and moisturiser combo beneath this base – I find that too rich a cream makes most foundations just a little bit slidey – and I never need to set it with powder.
You can find the new Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow foundation at Chanel here* – it’s £41. Don’t confuse it with the old version, one that most stockists still seem to be selling! If it says SPF25 on the bottle or in the title then that’s not the guy you want…
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I don’t think I’ve ever had so many questions and comments about a foundation as I have about the Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection. I photographed myself oh-so-casually wearing it on Instagram stories and it has made background appearances in some of my videos; each time I’ve mentioned it I’ve been inundated with DMs about how long it lasts, how good the coverage is and which shade I wear.
And so here’s a proper, in-depth review. I’ll start out with the same warning regarding the price that I gave on Instagram: it’s £60 in the UK. Incredibly pricey, but I have to say that very few people I spoke to seemed perturbed by this quite considerable financial outlay. Surprisingly. Which makes me think that Pat McGrath and her marketing team have done an epic job of carving out a niche in the highest end of the cosmetics market – if you can establish yourself to the point where beauty-aficionados don’t flinch too much at a sixty quid face base then I’d say you’re doing pretty well!
The brand showcases clever formulations in luxurious packaging and is most definitely powered by Pat’s reputation as one of the world’s most successful and inventive makeup artists. I’d say that the Sublime Perfection foundation is one of the hero products, but then I’m really into “skin looking like skin” and so I’m possibly biased.
But Sublime Perfection is more than your standard kind of “real skin” foundation – it has a few tricks up its proverbial sleeve that I think sets it apart from the rest when it comes to achieving the holy grail of makeup – a flawless finish that still looks believable. It has the sort of finish that looks supple, dewy, bouncy and fresh yet still manages to blur imperfections and create a perfect canvas, but there are some very notable bonuses, which I’m going to come to after another disclaimer.
I have good skin.
I say this not to brag, but to be helpful, because a foundation that I love, that makes my skin look visibly perfected and dewy, might not feel so magical if you have blemishes that need a full coverage to be concealed. This Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection potion is sheer. Yes it’s buildable, as I’m about to delve into in more detail, but the medium coverage is almost a perceived medium – as in minor imperfections are cleverly blurred and veiled – rather than the solid coverage you might get traditionally.
So, the notable bonuses – what sets Sublime Perfection foundation apart from the rest?
Well as I said, it’s buildable. And I mean properly buildable, not just “let’s see what happens if I tap a bit more under the eyes because I can’t be bothered to look for my concealer” buildable. You can go from sheerest sheer, which Sublime Perfection handles impeccably because the formula is so hydrating, right up to a medium-ish coverage.
Now loads of foundations are buildable; the difference with this one is that it retains its freshness and increases its sheen as the coverage builds. Which is quite a feat. Usually the more you apply, the more you start to look a little flat, but here we have a coverage that is comprehensive but a finish that is expensive, glowing and bouncy with the same feeling of sheerness as with a light application.
You never get a blanket, opaque coverage, so full coverage-hunters will be disappointed; it’s almost as though the pigment is suspended in a kind of pliable, flexible sheen, so the more you build the more sheenier it gets.
Pat McGrath calls this a “customised couture finish” and I really couldn’t think of a more apt description; it’s the classy, non-obliterating type of finish that you get in a Vogue editorial or at a Paris show. It’s about good skin and not creating a mask. It screams expensive – the blurring particles that give an almost soft focus effect, the “lit from within” glow. But then I do think that the finish somewhat also pivots on the user having relatively blemish-free skin, too.
The most surprising thing about this foundation, though? It’s longwear! Name me a dewy, lighter-than-light base with the texture and comfort of a tinted moisturiser but the elegance of a high-end, finely-formulated foundation that lasts for the whole day? I’ll wait.
Estée Lauder’s Futurist comes pretty close, with its plumpy-bouncy texture and ultra-hydrating finish (review here), but it’s not quite on the same level in terms of refined coverage and glow. Zoom right in on the Sublime Perfection –
– and it’s genuinely almost undetectable on the skin, whereas the Futurist has a slightly more visible dewiness. In terms of hydrating finish, they are on a par, but the Sublime Perfection has been specifically designed to be buildable and tweakable to your exact coverage desires, whereas you wouldn’t want to go silly overboard with layering up the Futurist because it’s so moisturising – you’d just go for a higher coverage foundation.
I have to say though that the Pat McGrath base, even at its sheerest, gives such a heady dose of soft-focus glow that you rarely need to build it up unless you’re going “out out”. I hate the phrase “a little goes a long way” but this really does, especially if you apply with fingertips as you would skincare, rather than a brush.
Here are the before and after photos, although I think that moving film captures the glow best. In fact I almost wish I didn’t have to post the comparison pictures, because it’s in real life and when the light is moving that the skin really comes alive! Nevertheless here we are:
There’s no dramatic total-wipeout of the facial features, but the overall skintone is more even, more glowing whilst retaining the nuances of real skin.
You can probably tell that I like this foundation a lot, even with its couture price-tag. Many would want a better return on investment – a more dramatic transformation – but for those who seek the ultimate “my skin but better” finish, it’s a viable option. It comes in a whopping 36 shades with different undertones well catered for and it’s suitable for any skin type. Though you might want a spot of primer beneath it on oily parts of your face, if you get them. After a full (hot) day I might get some minor slippage on my nose, but at certain times of the month my nose becomes a grease factory and so that’s really splitting hairs.
Apply after moisturiser and/or sunscreen (Sublime Perfection doesn’t contain any, which I kind of like because if I’m out then I always have a standalone SPF on underneath anyway) and use fingertips to sheer out and blend or a brush to build up slightly heavier coverage. I wear a mix of shade 13 and 8 (those were the samples sent out, I didn’t go drunk shopping!) with about two parts 8 to one part 13. So I reckon I would be a 10 or 11 if I actually went out IRL and got matched at a counter.
You can find the full Pat McGrath Labs range at Selfridges on the brand website. The Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection foundation is £60 at Selfridges here*.
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Let’s get down to business, in the words of Captain Li Shang from Mulan. (Can you tell I’ve overdone it on the Disney+ channel binging? There’s no Disney stone left unturned in this house. As well as devouring the classics, we’ve watched every prequel and sequel, some of which, quite frankly, should never have been made. Of particular direness is The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, a weak coming-of-age story involving Ariel’s annoying teenage daughter and an underwater villain wearing what appears to be a latex Roland Mouret dress.) (Sidenote: how buff is King Triton? I actually blushed when he tailed his way into shot, not least because he’s now a grandad and it feels inappropriate to stare. He has a tiny merman waist and then this HUGE, ripped chest! I don’t know, it got me going anyway. Niche but true.)
But back to the business of brilliant beauty and a much-belated foundation review. You know how I love my dewy, low-key bases and Estée Lauder’s Futurist Hydra Rescue was an instant hit with its bouncy texture and healthy, radiant finish. If your skin is dry then you’ll love it – it feels thirst-quenching, it looks thirst-quenching and it doesn’t sit horribly in fine lines or wrinkles. (In fact any but the oiliest of skins will find it gives a gorgeous, understated dewiness.) And if you hate full or matte coverage and want a natural finish that’ll still manage to even out skintone and cover up minor blemishes and bits of redness then this will be entirely your bag. It has the comforting plumpness of a tinted moisturiser but the coverage of a foundation – ideal summertime makeup.
(Or anytime makeup, really; you can build this up really well if you prefer a fuller coverage and it sheers out nicely if you mix it with a little bit of moisturiser.)
Let’s go straight in for the close-ups – here’s the before and after:
You can see that it’s not a blank-it-all-out foundation, but it gives a general evenness in tone, knocks back dark circles and leaves the skin with a juicy sheen. (Unfortunately it does nothing for my side-tache problem, but obviously that requires more drastic action. Something sharp and/or pointy.)
I’ve only applied one quick layer of the Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Makeup here – one thing to note is that it is very moisturising and so if you wanted to build it up to a fuller coverage then you’d have to deal with the extra moisture. If you have very dry skin then that’s all fine and dandy but for anyone else then it’s a bit of a convoluted way of getting high coverage – if it’s blemish obliteration you’re after, but still want glow, then I’d opt for something like Dior’s Forever Skin Glow*.
But with a sensible, medium-coverage application of the Futurist foundation there’s no residue left behind on the skin – it just feels comfortable. Surely that’s foundation finish perfection? In terms of lasting effects I get good coverage for the majority of the day with only a tiny bit of slippage on oilier areas – for me that’s the nose and chin. Again, something like Dior’s Forever would have better longevity, but I wouldn’t get that same plumptious feel and ultra-fresh, informal kind of look.
Estée Lauder’s Futurist gets a huge tick from me – it’s such a welcome addition to their foundation line-up. There are twenty shades (of which six are light, six are medium and eight are dark) the tube packaging with the pump dispenser is lightweight, travel-friendly and non-messy and there’s a built-in broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB protection) with SPF45.
If you’re looking for the same dewy glow but slightly less coverage, I’d highly recommend Clinique’s Even Better Glow – you can find my full review here.
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I just can’t seem to keep away from favourites videos. I stop doing them and then I start again, always returning to make just one more. I stop because I think that they’re generally a bit formulaic, but then, a few months down the line, I start to miss making them. I find myself compiling little lists throughout the month, noting down the brilliant products I’ve used and wishing I had a video to talk about them in.
In a way, it’s sort of like Brokeback Mountain, sort of. (It’s not.) I’m like Heath Ledger’s character, and Jake Gyllenhaal represents the favourites videos. We just can’t stay away from one another.
I don’t go off on camping trips with my favourites videos, obviously, although I have edited them from a tent at a festival once, so maybe that counts.
Anyway, Five Favourites for the month of February, which is pleasingly alliterative, and there’s a real corker of a face cream in it if you have very dry skin. Also one of the best high street foundations I’ve tried, though it’s at the top end of the price range for a high street base.
I don’t want to spoil all of the surprises so just watch the video – I’ll list the products below for those who can’t stand watching videos. Although now you know the special relationship I have with them, perhaps you’ll give them more consideration.
I wish I knew how to quit you…
John Masters Hibiscus Hair Mask, £39 here*: https://amzn.to/3au3WS9
No7 Protect and Perfect Foundation, £17 here*: http://tidd.ly/4db5de40
REN Overnight Balm, £40 here*: http://bit.ly/2VM0Bde
Lumene Nordic Hydracare Rich Day Cream, £26.90 here*: http://bit.ly/2PQ3aqS
Dior Rose Plumping Lip Balm: THIS IS DISCONTINUED! WTF! It’s so, so nice. Bring it back, Dior!