top 10 cream and liquid highlighters

On June 7, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Let us be clear that the first step to glowing skin is an excellent skincare regime and faithful hydration of the skin inside and out. That said, I like to glow much, much more than that. Enter highlighters.

cream and liquid highlighters

Highlighters and blushers are my favorite face products, and the ones I most consistently wear. They are my desert island categories, the first things I reach for if I don’t have the time or the inclination to do more. Even if I am wearing nothing else, I am usually wearing these two things (and chapstick. Then brow gel, then lipstick, then mascara). And, just as I—and my oily skin—slightly prefer cream blush to powder, I slightly prefer cream and liquid highlighters to their powder counterparts. They are capable of an extremely sheer, seamless look on the skin, nearly undetectable with the right formula (also sublimely detectable with the right formula). I like  the glossy, gleaming finish they provide and how effortless it is to apply them.

Looking for some glow inspiration? Don’t miss Lisa Eldridge’s definitive glowing skin tutorial.

In honor of summer, here are my top 10 cream and liquid highlighters.

Gold tones first, obviously my favorites:

Pat McGrath Skin Fetish, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal, Josie Maran Argan Illuminizer, Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere, Benefit Watts Up

Pat McGrath Skin Fetish, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal, Josie Maran Argan Illuminizer, Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere, Benefit Watts Up

Pat McGrath Skin Fetish in Golden, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal, Josie Maran Argan Enlightenment Illuminizer, Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere in Brilliance, Benefit Watts Up

Pat McGrath Skin Fetish in Golden— The most golden of these options and the most natural on my skin. This has a firm, balm-like texture and leaves a sheer, even film of gold shimmer. I absolutely love this. The other side of the stick is a clear balm, great for giving a dewy, ultra natural look (Vaseline is also good for this, but a bit stickier). Totally effortless to apply, I just swipe it on my cheekbones and down my nose and pat a little around the edges. This will look yellow on very fair skin tones. Sadly limited edition.

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal— I recommend getting a travel size of this as I can’t imagine getting through the whole thing. This has a moisturizer-like texture and is great to add to sunscreen/moisturizer to give an overall natural glow. Pat it on the high points of the face for a beautiful glow. This is a peachy gold (the other colors in this line are nice as well, the beauty community has been raving about these for years) that I can imagine flattering most skin tones. You only need a drop and the finish is lovely, grown up shimmer.

Josie Maran Argan Enlightenment Illuminizer— This is what I reach for when I want a more conspicuous glow. This is the thickest consistency of the group, and the most opaque. This is not especially subtle but it is stunning. This is a slightly rosy but still true gold with serious impact. Use sparingly, a little goes a long way. Also cannot imagine needing the full size of this, I picked up a travel size on eBay. Perfect for high summer.

Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere in Brilliance— Most similar to the Josie Maran in consistency though a bit thinner. Excellent for mixing with moisturizer or foundation to add a general glow. Like the Josie Maran this gold shade is stunning on darker skin tones. I like a lot of the highlighters offered by brands that focus primarily on skincare, they tend to have lovely textures. I would say Josie Maran is in this camp as well, along with Lancome and the other luxury brands offering full skincare and makeup collections (Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, etc). I didn’t include the Dior Glow Maximizer Primer here but it can be used alone as a lovely, subtle highlighter as well, as can the Becca Backlight Priming Filter, both most similar in texture to the Lancome below.

Benefit Watts Up— Again, get the travel size if you can, this thing will last ages. This is a firm, stick formula, a little drier than the Pat McGrath but similarly effortless to apply and blend. I find these stick formulas the easiest to use in that you don’t have to worry about them moving around much on you. The more liquid formulas can start to take over your face if you aren’t attentive with your blending, which I usually do with fingers. They are also the kind of formula you can spend the least amount on and still get great results. Sonia Kashuk has a great little glow stick, and the LE Wet N Wild ones are surprisingly nice, too.  Where the higher end ones tend to stand out is in the fineness of the shimmer particles and their uniform consistency (less patchy). The Benefit one is what I keep in my bag as it is so tiny, and so quick and easy to use.

The pearl tones:

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Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Intensity One, rms Beauty Living Luminzer, MAC Strobe Cream, Lancome Eclat Miracle, Homeoplasmine

Alas, I couldn’t capture these at all, despite heavy swatches. Really it’s a testament to how subtle they can be on the skin.

Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Intensity One— True white pearl color. This gives a lovely dewy finish, probably the best balance of natural yet difference-making in the bunch. That said, I’d say not worth the price unless you had definite plans for both products here given how many great alternatives there are.

rms Beauty Living Luminzer—A coconut oil base with great skincare ingredients, note that some skintypes won’t like coconut oil. Super sheer and natural, also a true white pearl shade, very pretty. Not my favorite packaging.

MAC Strobe Cream— A cult favorite for good reason, a thin cream great for mixing with moisturizers and foundations. A slightly pink tinged pearl color that is really pretty on fair skin tones. The most holographic of these options. Not especially natural but in a good no-doubt-about-it-we-are-glowing way. Get the travel size.

Lancome Eclat Miracle—My latest acquisition, a classic that was recently re-launched when Lisa Eldrige became creative director at Lancome, picked up entirely because of her strobing tutorial using it. Another one that is great to dilute with moisturizers/foundations and nearly undetectable on the skin. The luminous finish is really similar to the Tom Ford despite the consistency being much more fluid.

Homeoplasmine— The French pharmacy classic, essentially an all-purpose salve similar to Vaseline but a bit firmer. Endless beauty uses, including patting on the cheeks (or eyelids) either alone or on top of existing products to give a dewy finish, pinching onto the eyelashes so they catch the light, wearing as chapstick, rubbing into dry patches of skin, etc. Seems like every makeup artist has this in their kit.

Have you tried any of these? It seems like the whole world wants to glow at the moment, one of those trends I find a bit annoying because: yeah, obviously! I’ve been doing this for years. Psh. What I appreciate about a trend, though, if I happen to like it, is that it usually means a nice new selection of products to meet the demand.

This is rather a lot…but acquired over years of glow-preoccupation. I reach for different textures and colors to meet the demands of a given context and have them spread out over various bags and stations for convenience. And after all, I do have a blogthing…

One I am definitely going to try, too, is the stick highlighter Glossier just launched, Haloscope.

Going to have to give powder highlighters their own post. Really I love both, and layering.

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the RCMA cream cheek color palette

On May 8, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

There were a few months where I didn’t really buy any makeup, just skincare here and there, but this past month I was drawn to a number of new products and quite a few have come home with me. Chief among them at the moment is the lovely RCMA Cream Cheek Color Palette, the acquisition of which I can trace directly to Sali Hughes’ wonderful interview with movie makeup artist Morag Ross. Highly recommend all three parts, Ross speaks to the theatrical side of makeup (rather than, say, red carpet or everyday makeup, which I would argue dominates YouTube tutorials and fashion magazine articles), a whole different creature.

Ross mentions using some RCMA products when doing Cate Blanchett’s makeup for Carol to create a natural, skin-like look for the 16mm film. RCMA is a highly pigmented theatrical makeup brand, with pigment levels around 50% (compare with other theatrical brands with levels around 30 or 40%, and commercial brands with levels around 20%). Their foundations and skin products are oil and wax based, which means they melt into the skin and have excellent longevity. I have issues with my skin just swallowing blush, so I popped over to Beautylish to pick up the cheek palette and see for myself. At $30 it didn’t seem like much of a risk, and have I mentioned how delightful Beautylish is? Fantastic customer service.

RCMA Cream Cheek Color Palette

What an excellent little palette this is. I was amazed at the lasting power. The first day I tried it out I put it on around 9am and and it was entirely intact at 7pm. The colors are great, too, a selection of muted and lively rosy shades that are just what I want for spring/summer. It’s versatile and compact, with something for any lip look I might want to match. I have been mainly using the center three. The second shade in, the most brown, reminds me in both color and blendability of my beloved Kjaer Weis cream blush.  I take only the tiniest bit of this on the tip of one finger, dab on both cheeks, and blend out with clean fingers.

I’ve been using these on their own, mostly, but they are great as a base for powder blush as well. I add powder blush when I want to tweak the shade a bit or add some shimmer. These are all without shimmer and have a satin finish.  They blend so beautifully (hydrate first), it’s easy to get a completely natural look, undetectable, and just as easy to warm up to a bold 80’s style cheek. Easy, too, to layer a cream highlighter over or under. Could not be more pleased with this product.

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distraction: bold blush

On April 1, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I scroll through so many made-up faces in the course of my style and beauty browsing, online or in magazines, that I rarely give a look much attention. Perhaps I note liking a certain color that is used (probably the shade of lipstick), or thinking that there is something appealing about the peculiarity of the model’s face, but it’s extremely uncommon that I pause, am arrested. Am interested.

Stumbled across this image in a more or less unrelated marie-claire article about pro make-up tips, wherein this image was a sort of useless illustration of a category heading in the piece. [Because you can’t have an article without pictures!] I forgive it this superfluity, however. This is a stunning, strange look. The kind of look that makes me want to sit down and play around with make-up.

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The pale pastel eyes and lips seem like your usual spring stuff but then these great windburned cheeks pull the look well away from the shores of the ordinary. This is bold, beautiful blush. I love when a look conveys the idea of wearing too much blush on purpose. That is, not too much blush, exactly the amount desired. It seems to me this is the trick with anything outlandish or unconventional: to look as if you did it on purpose.

This is editorial, yes. I mean, this is a lot of blush. The look is so fierce, though. The icy blue of the eyes, such a cool color…probably terrible on me but it is so great here I want to secretly try it anyway. Did you see the Lisa Eldridge tutorial of Tippi Hendren’s make-up from Hitchcock’s The Birds? That was a look that stuck with me, that I also wanted to recreate faithfully, reminds me of this eye look. Pinned.

There’s something to be said for too much blush. It’s dangerous territory but with treasures to be unearthed for the adventurous, those who go beyond the rookie realm of gauche overapplication into that of decisive, savage color.

image via marie-claire.com

NARS Liberté blush

On December 15, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

As it gets colder I turn from the orange and coral blushes of summer and reach for darker shades, especially those within that rosy red spectrum that approximates a cheek kissed by winter. My favorite might be NARS Exhibit A, pretty much a straight red, but this new acquisition, another NARS gem, Liberté, is a beautiful, approachable, alternative.

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This is a rosy terracotta with an extremely subtle shimmer which, as far as I can see, is only distinctly visible in the pan and doesn’t translate to the face. This color is so pretty, no? This is the kind of sophisticated pink I find so versatile, so easy to wear. To me this shade is perfect for the transition from summer to autumn but of course it would be lovely any time. I’m sure there are dupes out there but I don’t have anything else quite like it.

Still loving my NARS yachiyo brush, too.

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Wearing it on my eyes as well, with a little bit of brown in the crease for depth and some brown eyeliner (Urban Decay 24/7) to delineate/prevent that pinkeye effect one can get when using straight pink around the eyes. It comes off quite peachy and warm on me. Oh, this mascara is from a little Canadian brand called Geisha Ink and is excellent, highly recommended by shamelessfripperies (if you have expensive taste, definitely check her out).

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If you only get one thing from NARS, make it a blush, they are famous for their excellent quality (also notorious for breaking easily, though). Unless you don’t need any blush, in which case get one of the lip pencils, satin or matte.

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No lipstick!

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Kjaer Weis cream blush

On October 5, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

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Kjaer Weis is an organic makeup brand designed by Danish makeup artist Kristen Kjaer Weis (pronounced Kē-yar Wīs). They are transparent about their ingredients and the products, made in Italy, are certified organic or natural according to Italian guidelines (not American guidelines, which leave much to be desired). The sleek packaging of this cream blush caught my eye on Garance’s site and my investigations were fruitful in that they also lead to the discovery of the highly promising retailer Eco Diva Beauty. If you want to spend a lot ($54) on a cream blush, this is the way to do it.

I picked up their bestseller, Desired Glow, a muted rosy peach.

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This is truly creamy in the buttery sense, with a texture not unlike a soft lip conditioner, think Dior Crème de Rose…or butter, actually it’s a lot like butter. I tend to prefer cream over powder blushes and have a few I like but this is quite distinct from my other favorites, the Tarte cheek stain (a firm gel) and the Chanel cream blush (a dense cream-to-powder formula). Reminds me of the NYX cream blushes in general texture but is slightly more responsive (softer. Higher glycerin content?), and is executed beautifully. [For $54, it really ought to be.] Excellent, uniform pigmentation, relatively sheer. Not opaque, but not so sheer as the Tarte or other cream-gel formulas. Effortless to blend with fingers or a stippling brush, provides an undetectable brightening of the complexion.

I mean genuinely effortless, too. Completely sloppy, slap-dash application beautifully rewarded. There are a lot of good formulas out there these days, and probably hundreds (and counting) of formulas that are good enough if you are willing to put in the work of blending them, fiddling with them, supplementing them, but this is a good formula with virtually no work at all. This is what makes it stand apart, I think. Does this make it worth it? I can’t answer that for you. But it’s good.

On my light-medium olive skin it doesn’t read pink at all (pink always being suspicious, toddlers aside) but a neutral tanned peach. A soft terracotta. I can easily imagine this working well on much paler as well as much darker skin than my own. Suspect it would be nice on lips as well.

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This packaging looks cool and weighs a ton (much more than you’d think. This is satisfying in the way of all small, unexpectedly heavy objects). Not sure how it would play out practically, chucked in a bag, but most of my stash stays at the home base so I’m not concerned about this. It’s not dangerously easy to shift the cover open but I’m not convinced it’s a great protective seal. Not a problem in a clean environment, which your makeup bag may or may not be. I don’t judge.

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