Get Your Glow On: The Best Make-Up Illuminators and How To Wear Them

a picture of The Tin Man from the Wizard Of OZ

Illuminators, Illuminating Primers and Illuminating Bases are all the rage in the beauty world and for good reason – glowing, hydrated skin looks fresh and youthful. But when is a glow not a glow? When it’s giving too much wattage, that’s when. When your nose stands out like molten metal your glow has gone metallic it’s no longer fresh and pretty but more Tin Man than Dorothy.  After a certain age, metallics might be ok on your eyes but on your face, well, if you only had a heart. So here’s a list of my favourite Illuminators, and tips on what to avoid.

two girls wearing very strong metallic illuminator makeup
These girls are maybe….fourteen? Of course it looks good on them but does it translate for the office or the school pick-up? You get my drift?

The ultra-highlighting or “strobing” trend is best left to the yoots, but to be honest, I don’t like it much on them either. Those of you lucky enough to have heard me rant on about the state of Brit makeup (sorry, friends) will know how I really feel about the over-processed beauty that shows up everywhere on the streets of London, Brighton, Newcastle, Liverpool, wherever my kit will take me. The constant glare of make-up as mask, metallic noses, huge dark eyebrows and ugly contouring is doing my head in and whoever is telling real women to wear it needs some serious talking to, IMO. Yes, makeup should be fun enjoyable and I encourage all women to try a trend if they fancy it, but if it doesn’t flatter, best leave it on the shelf. I have taken to counting the number of metallic noses coming my way on a daily basis. It’s not a fun hobby and though I’m sounding like a makeup granny who just doesn’t “get it” I strongly advise you to rethink your glow go-to’s if your aim is to look realistic and not robotic.

Black woman with very strong illuminator makeup on her cheekbones

Simply put, illuminators that give metallic highlight do you no favours if your skin is past perfect. Any fine lines, deep lines, redness, dryness, rosacea, or anything that falls under the “imperfection” umbrella will highlighted by too much highlighter.  Apply a little to the lines around your eyes or on your hands, get into daylight and have a look.  Applying powder over highlight to then disguise said imperfections turns into a too-much-makeup mess, so unless you’re taut and extremely smooth-skinned go for a glow instead.  Fortunately I am here to explain the difference and to tell you how to do it.

What to Look For In An Illuminator and How To Wear Them

Think cream or lotion, not powder or drops, for all the reasons mentioned above, and because liquid formats will boost hydration and nourish your skin at the same time, which is always a good thing. Think golden, warm tones, even if you’re very fair-skinned, because those are the tones that flatter and give us a healthy look. Anything pink/purple/cool-toned will ramp up the robotic, and even more so on dark skin.

I am not a fan of drops, which are super intense and strobe like Studio 54. The effect we want is a dewy, natural look, and here’s how to do it, once you’ve found your best match.

How To Get Glowing Skin With An Illuminator

  • wear it alone (over moisturiser and your daily sunscreen of course :)) for a healthy no-makeup look: I have done whole films with actresses wearing only Wonderglow for the best natural look.
  • use it as your primer: so apply to your face, neck and decolletage before your base of choice – tinted moisturiser, foundation, BB Cream, whatever your preference. Note that this doesn’t work if you use a powder foundation, which I hope you’ve all ditched, because I really don’t like them. Powder foundations look like a load of powder sitting on top of your face and are one of my make-up pet peeves, so even if you have the oiliest skin, there is a liquid foundation which will work for you. If you need recommendations, leave a comment below.
  • mix with your foundation choice – this is my fave for a beautiful, glowing look. I use a 50:50 mix (mix it on the back of clean hands) and apply with fingers or the amazing Beautyblender Beautyblender Pro for a flawless look.
  • for an added boost of glow in the evenings (think candlelight, low light situations) pat a drop or two on your fingertips, and pat lightly over cheekbones and around eye area for extra loveliness.

So those are the basic rules, so easy. Remember we’re using makeup and beauty products to help us achieve the best versions of ourselves and boost confidence in the real world, right? Best Face Forward.

The Best Illuminators for the Over 30’s 

Four makeup illuminators lined up in a row on a shelf - Kiehl's Glow Formula, NARS Radiance Primer. Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow, Armani Fluid Sheer #10
Simply The Best, Better Than All The Rest

These are my top picks and since I’ve tried loads so let me take the guesswork out of the equation for you.

  • Kiehl’s Glow Formula Skin Hydrator – credit where credit is due, Kiehl’s do brilliant skincare, so I am excited to see them branching out into more adventurous beauty products like this. The name says it all, delivering glow in a gold-toned lotion which is my favourite product of the year so far. This one’s beautiful on younger and mature skins, is formulated with 95% naturally derived ingredients*, works with all skin types and skin tones, aids hydration and has the antioxidant properties of pomegranate extract

A small blob of Kiehls Glow Lotion Skin Hydrator on an arm to show the colour

  • Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow – Primer – 40ml is a lightweight and moisturising gold-toned illuminator which is lovely on all skin tones from porcelain to black. Paraben-free, with hyaluronic acid  and light-diffusing particles that help make imperfections “blur”, it’s vegan-friendly, gluten-free, paraben free, sulfate-free, and not tested on animals. This one gives a really soft skin enhancing effect while adding a bit of a golden hue, the colour of which is mostly imperceptible so do not be afraid, this is one of CT’s best sellers and for good reason.  A travel sized version has arrived on the shelves recently, but it’s not heavy so the full size is better value and will last ages.
A blob of Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow to show the colour of it
Wonderglow spread on arm to show the effect
…is gentle and wonderful
  • Nars Radiance Primer SPF35 is one of the juiciest and best smelling primers around, it’s been a staple in my kit since it launched in February last year as one three new NARS primers. Formulated with SPF 35, an added bonus, it looks lovely on the skin and is oil-free, so is great on skins that over-produce, if that’s a concern for you. My skin is definitely on the parched side and I don’t normally do oil-free but I still love the feel of this one on.  Not as golden-toned as the others but  delivers a natural beautiful glow, not a metallic.
blob of Nars radiance Primer on an arm to show the colour of it
This one’s a bit peachier..
Nars Radiance Primer spread on arm to shoe the peachy colour effect
…and juicy like peaches with a spicy aroma

  • Armani Fluid Sheer #10 – the Armani Fluid Sheers were my first illuminating loves and still hold a special place in my heart. But only because they are incredible. A few drop mixed with Nars All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation became my favourite foundation for film and looks beautiful not only on camera but in real life to make skin come alive after sleepless nights and long winters. You may think it looks too warm for light skins but it’s not – once it’s on it’s basically imperceptible and as these are the tones that occur naturally in skin you only need a tiny bit to get glowing, so less than a pump added to your base of choice is the way to go. Pricey, but a little goes a long way so it’s a beautiful beauty investment.

swatch of Armani Fluid Sheer #10 showing the gold tones

  • Oskia Get Up & Glow has been on my wishlist since I spotted it a few weeks ago and although I don’t own it yet it deserves a special mention for a couple of reasons.  This one is a superfluid gel that’s all glow with not a metallic in sight, with some serious beauty science behind it. Milk Peptides and light reflecting particles for lift and brightening, plus their signature antioxidant Swiss Apple Stem Cells to boost collagen production and fight free-radicals so it’s not only a beauty booster but a skincare heavyweight.
swatch of Oskia Get Up and Glow
Oskia Get Up And Glow is very liquid, slightly luminescent and very nurturing.

The Best Illuminator For Black Skin

  • The Armani Fluid Sheer#10 above is the best illuminator for black skin, beating all the others hands down. On black skin it can be worn alone for lovely luminousity.
  • if your skin is very olive toned, Armani also do a Fluid Sheer #4 which works beautifully to warm up medium to dark skins (a couple drops) or as a sultry natural blush.
swatch of Armani Fluid Sheer #4 showing red tones
As with all of the illuminators, only a tiny bit is needed to get the effect of glow.


The Worst Illuminators and Why You Should Avoid Them

Mentioning names would be rude (so tempted as some of the best sellers are right here) but if they look like this, put them back on the shelf.  Look carefully at the undertones and the ingredients of any Illuminator you’re interested in – anything with an opal / pink / purple / undertone will ramp up the robotics and if there’s a high mica (a naturally occurring shiny silicate mineral found in granite and other rocks) content, you’ll end up with a Tin Man Tint, and we don’t want that.

An arm showing 4 swatches of very metallic looking illuminators


Hydrating Facial Mists – Another Way To Get A Glow On

Hydration boosts glow, makes senses doesn’t it, and facial mists are my favourite way of boosting glow throughout the day, helping skin feel it’s best as well as looking I t’s best. I love Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist – the rose scent is so calming and delivers instant surface hydration. It’s in a glass bottle and fairly heavy so if you want one for your handbags the smaller version would be good, or there’s Hydrating Milky Mist from Pixi with hyaluronic acid.

I hope my recommendations and tips have been helpful. I am so happy to report that Skin Is In, that beauty trends are moving on from the mask  of heavy makeup and that the beauty houses are trumping blush and flush, freckles and glowing skin again. Hurrah to that. Let’s hope the High Street embraces it too. May your search for the perfect illuminator be over because now is the perfect time to get glowing x


*retaining more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source.

PRODUCT REVIEWS does not receive any monetary compensation to review products. Most reviews are based on products purchased personally, and preferred, or not. Occasionally I will receive products from makeup companies and will choose whether or not to review them here. Receiving products has no bearing on the opinion of the review, nor whether I choose to review it or not. All opinions are just that, and are honest and unbiased. Recommendations are based on the knowledge I have gained during almost twenty years as a professional Make-Up Artist. is not to be held responsible if you decide to purchase an item and are dissatisfied with it. – all the products in this post were purchased or tested (Oskia) by me. 

Taking The Plunge: A Review of Spa Aqua Azul in Ghent

Jery Hall in red bathing suit and swimming cap standing on a pedestal

Lucky me to have had the good fortune to escape to Belgium to see in the new year, a trip that was as much about moving towards something positive as about escaping the negative, but still, a trip nonetheless. Because travel takes you to different places, physically and psychologically, whenever I’m stuck, and if time and budget allow, I pack a bag and change the scenery.St Pancras train station on sunny day

Belgium and I had met briefly once before, during a bad-weather diversion on the way to Calgary years ago and is ancient history. I really only remember the airport and with it’s armed security which I found very alarming then, before it was as commonplace as it is now, sadly. This time I was booked an early evening Eurostar and set off from Brighton with a smallish suitcase and a positive outlook. St Pancras does departures well. A good friend met me for a  belated birthday celebration, his not mine, at the lovely Fortnums which may be a tourist hot spot, but we like tea and scones as much as the next person, so after indulging it was all au revoir as I whisked through customs, settled happily into my seat and sped off to le continent with a copy of British Vogue kindly left by the previous occupier.

In critical need of self care, I meant to treat myself on this trip, so some spa-ing was in order; I’d done a bit of research before leaving and booked a massage in advance (hate to get there and find no appointments available) at Spa Aqua Azul in the centre of medieval Ghent because it looked to be the best. I had a couple of days to wander around the city, drinking lots of coffee with chocolate chasers, before spa day. Ghent is a charming city, a stunning combination of medieval and modern so as a modernist with a history minor, I was in my element. Started to feel better very quickly, a new perspective will do that to a and biscuit on wooden table

Brutalist concert building in Ghent
Brutally beautiful

Spa Aqua Azul is in a fine old building in a city centre I found strangely disorienting. However, I found my way and was greeted at the front desk, credit card checked and all that before being shown through to the glamorous deco changing rooms in order robe up for my massage. The manager wondered if I wanted to sauna after my massage: I said I’d see how I was doing for time.

Open door of Spa Aqua Azul in Ghent with ivy growing around it
The doors to another era…or so I thought

Stain glass sign for Spa Aqua Azul Robed and ready, I plodded up the stairs to the top floor for my appointment. The massage was just ok, mildly relaxing but not outstanding. Understand I’ve been living in a land where massage therapists are proper professional, whether treating you for sports injuries, stress or relaxation, and this one wasn’t like that: I got the impression she was a bit of a hobbyist and though very sweet, not all that convincing. The room was decked out in bog-standard Asiana style which felt out of place and really unnecessary in the gorgeous building, and which, you may not believe (I have a thing about spaces) irritated me so much I got anxious.  Big paper fans and bamboo water features will do that to me. So contrived and slightly racist? When my hour was up I felt less than blissful. It’s me not them.

Art Deco lamp on dressing table
Shedding some light on my foggy brain

As I prepared to make a hasty exit, I wondered if there was some way to salvage the experience. After all, this was my one and only spa day during my holiday to rest and recover. Shedding some light on the matter, I decided to explore the sauna options which were what the spa was known for in any case. The thought of a nice dry sauna followed by an icy plunge was strangely appealing (not least as an antidote to my chocolate consumption. Freezing temperatures inhibit fat cells or so they say. Further reading below and an interesting theory I subscribe to when the waistbands get too tight).

So I signed up for access to the saunas, let my friends know I’d be staying longer and enquired if there were any swimsuits to rent. No need, I was told, it’s a naked sauna. JIKES. No mention of any of this when doing my research before the trip! In my ordinary life I’d have turned around and fled, but my grief-stricken state of mind and the realisation I may never be back to this spa or indeed this town spurred on a new course of action with a different thought crossing my mind, interrupting all the negative mental chatter: CARPE DIEM. I followed my female guide to the nether regions of the building, to it’s maze of saunas, hot tubs and ice pools, which were busy, and this on a weekday afternoon. They live the life these Belgians. No need for special articles on selfcare in the weekend supplements here: it seems to be an important part of life.

A magazine while you relax, madam?

Unfortunately, the first sight I saw was a public willy washer, who was rightly admonished by my guide for speaking to other customers- it’s a silent spa you see. As my gran would have said there’s always one. Extremely off- putting but I decided to avoid all eye contact and soldier on with my liberating adventure. Fat busting is a strong incentive.

There was nothing for it, having come this far: off came the robe. I have not an exhibitionist bone in my body but being on my own in a foreign city made the whole thing feel less daunting and my very British responses to nudity rather silly: one of my Danish friends insists that community nudity is totally normal and has partaken all her life. To many of you reading it may not be an issue in the slightest, but to me…well, it felt like an elephant in the room, so to speak. In the plus camp, the chance of seeing anyone I knew was slim or fat, pardon the pun, and so dear readers, I did it.


The very worst bit was the initial reveal of my birthday suit, in a roomful of absolute strangers all around! My mind was on override to deal with the stress: “steely nerves, challenge thineself, who cares, nobody’s looking, nobody cares, get over yourself, it’s just bodies”. Once done, it wasn’t as bad as all that and there was a towel to use as cover when walking around, after all. From steaming sauna to icy waters, I did it all, I really took the plunge. The fact that most of the clientele were friends and couples made it less weird: if it had been full of singles I would have fared less well. These were not couples in their twenties lounging about being young, taut, perky and beautiful, but mostly seniors probably past the point of caring, just being, in what seemed a very ordinary pursuit. The bravest I became was a little later into the visit. In the middle of the house is a courtyard. In said cobbled courtyard are a few recliners, another ice pool and a makehift shower consisting of a bucket full of icewater, and a rope. A naked ice bucket challenge. Imagine that. Or don’t, it wasn’t pretty.

At the end of my endurance test (tbh it felt like one, but I passed ) I donned the robe and went upstairs to the lounge/bar for a cup of peppermint tea, where, I kid you not, I espied a special message: carpe diem in gold paint on the wood panelling of the lounge! Part of the original decor, the employees assured me but so odd, as the building was originally a trading house built in 1911 and not a public sauna encouraging public nakedness for all and sundry.

Carpe Diem painted in gold on wood panelling

Obviously I had a lot to think about as I sipped tea and tried to slow my heartbeat. I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed my time there, I really would have been happier in a bathing suit but I did meet a challenge that presented itself in a carpe diem kind of way. I do quite a few things differently these days, these days since I have lost someone most important to me. Life is short, so am I, and sometimes I will take the plunge and at the very least I will think about it when challenges present themselves. because I might end up feeling like this lady…

In last weekends Sunday Times Style mag there was an article about Francesca Gino’s new book : “Rebel Talent” which is about rebellion in the workplace, as it relates to career choices and in it she says “rebels are willing to stand naked in front of others” so I guess I became a  rebel at a personal level by knocking myself out of my comfort zone. I’m not saying that your personal revolution is about a public nude jump into ice cold water, but whatever it is may you recognise when it presents itself because it will be an opportunity for change, small or seismic. Nothing changes if nothing changes.  Here’s to  a year of possibilities and to feeling more powerful because of them. Tis a good way to start a new year xo

walking on cobblestones wearing ankle boots and black skinny jeans
Onwards and upwards


Further reading:

Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Filters

Jeepers Creepers, Howdjya Get Those Peepers? Bigger Eyes?! Not for me thanks, if my eyes look any bigger someone will call the Marty Feldman police, but for those of you not endowed with bulgers, there’s some gorge new palettes from Charlotte Tilbury to help you make your peepers pop.

P.S Please remember to do your eye makeup according to your eye shape and not according to the rules on an eyeshadow palette xo

Charlotte Tilbury (UK)

Do You Believe In Pixies? Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic

I do believe in pixies, so much so that the wonderful Glow Tonic was on my best of list last year! If you’ve never tried it, spring’s the time to reveal a healthier skin with the help of this gently exfoliating toner.

This brand has amazing products at amazing prices. Beauty bargains galore and spring has sprung, so it’s time to get glowing Glossaholics xo

Cult Beauty Ltd.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses: Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist

I absolutely love the calming and beautiful Jurlique holistic skincare line: Rosewater Balancing Mist is one of my all time favourite products and always in my makeup kit. Jurlique Holistic Skin Care

PRODUCT REVIEWS does not receive any monetary compensation to review products. Most reviews are based on products purchased personally, and preferred, or not. Occasionally I will receive products from makeup companies and will choose whether or not to review them here. Receiving products has no bearing on the opinion of the review, nor whether I choose to review it or not. All opinions are just that, and are honest and unbiased. Recommendations are based on the knowledge I have gained during almost twenty years as a professional Make-Up Artist. is not to be held responsible if you decide to purchase an item and are dissatisfied with it.

Purple Haze: Pantone Colour of the Year and The Best Purple Eyeshadows

What I love most about what I do is helping people feel good. This was a great makeup to do on a busy mum who loves makeup and wanted to try a look to work with her fantastic new pixie cut. I did a soft purple smokey eye which is amazing with her eye and skin colour; 2018 may be the year of Pantone’s violet but not all our purples have to be vivid xo.

I bought these Bourjois shadows and lipgloss in Belgium, where they still have a really good selection of colours.

bourjois purple and taupe eyeshadows and lipgloss on a table
it may not look very purple, but this shadow packs a beautiful purple punch once it’s on a brush
Belgian Bourjois customers have a confection of colours to choose from. Not fair!

For some reason shades available in the UK have shrunk to a shadow of their former selves and the Bourjois sections in Boots seem to be in a particularly bad state, which is a shame cos I’ve also though they did good makeup and still have a look at what they’ve got. Counters in the States and Canada are well-stocked and clean so maybe it’s just Britain that’s lost the love. Annnnywayyy, I brought these back on the Eurostar and was happy to try them out on this lovely woman, but as I was setting up dropped them both! There was still enough in the purple to use on her and I’ve found two replacements to suggest as you’ll be lucky to find the purple here anyway. The taupe on is available at Boots and is my new favourite shaping colour.

Nora has beautiful skin and lovely features and once wanted to become a makeup artist herself so we had lots to chat about. As a mum of two small children her free time is at a premium so she wanted an easy smokey eye that would look great without taking ages to do.

Th smokey eye/nude lip makeup look is classic and beautiful, working really well with Nora’s haircut so that all the attention is on her eyes. I absolutely love it on her. Here’s what I used but remember that her colours may not be your colours so with foundations and concealers you have to choose for yourself.

Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Skin Clay Mask – Face Mask
Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Magic Cream – Moisturiser – 50ml
Makeup:I did a lightweight, dewy look for Nora, evening out her skintone but staying natural.Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer – my favourite, creamy undereye concealer with fab coverage that doesn’t cake

Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Contour Stick

Daniel Sandler Cosmetics Watercolour Liquid Blush in “Cherub” for a natural soft blush that will last all day.

I do not like using a load of powder but if you need at least use one that still brings light to your face. This one is one of my favourites because it will control shine where you need it without dulling your whole makeup…

All blended with the Beautyblender classic pink egg of course!

The Eyes Have it:

Charlotte Tilbury Brow Lift Stick  – to define and shape her brows but not paint on crazy ones!

As a light eyeshadow base with a touch of sheen:

Bourjois Paris Eyeshadow Parme-Ticuliere 15 with MAC – Eye Shadow – Shale over it for intensity.

Bourjois Paris Eyeshadow No 06, Utaupique 06

For a smokey, smudgey liner, Charlotte Tilbury Colour Chameleon in Amethyst Aphrodisiac

L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara in Carbon Black

For the classic nude lip to complement a smokey eye:

In the end I didn’t even use that gloss because the look didn’t need it. As a substitute for the Bourjois purple eyeshadow I’ll be using M.A.C “Shale” shadow and  NARS Single Eye Shadow (till I get back to Belgium). Have fun playing with purple eyeshadow , it’s the colour of the year xo

heavily pigmented but shimmery and lightweight for blending, Strada might make it to the top of my purple pile xo

PRODUCT REVIEWS does not receive any monetary compensation to review products. Most reviews are based on products purchased personally, and preferred, or not. Occasionally I will receive products from makeup companies and will choose whether or not to review them here. Receiving products has no bearing on the opinion of the review, nor whether I choose to review it or not. All opinions are just that, and are honest and unbiased. Recommendations are based on the knowledge I have gained during almost twenty years as a professional Make-Up Artist. is not to be held responsible if you decide to purchase an item and are dissatisfied with it.

Wendy in Wonderland

I loved creating this look for Sophie Lowe playing Alice in Once Upon A Time: Wonderland. Sophie has porcelain skin with a beautiful splattering of freckles and her character called for a natural easy makeup. In a few scenes we got to bump it up with lavender tones but this was a beautiful makeup for her as she wound her way through all kinds of adventures. The look may have been designed for her  TV character but it translates perfectly into real life if you want a simple, pretty, fresh-looking best face forward.

What I used:

Skincare: to boost hydration (important for long days in front of the camera under hot lights) and induce a sense of calm for early morning starts, I always spritz with rosewater. It’s lovely to use throughout the day to refresh your skin. If you love roses, this is your mist:

Makeup: For a healthy beautiful glow (I’m not a fan of heavy foundation, especially on camera, yuk) I used one of my all-time favourite bases, NARS’ Sheer Glow formula, mixed with a few drops of Armani Fluid Sheer 7 for amazingly-looking skin, on camera or off:

Under her eyes, a little Amazing Concealer  from Amazing Cosmetics in Ivory. Best concealer ever, I rant about it in a previous post. Available at M&S Beauty if you live in the UK, otherwise it’s a special order or a trip to Sephora.

To complete, the tiniest trace of this powder which doesn’t look at all “powdery” so I love it.  It dulls shine where you want it to but adds a touch of radiance as well, how brilliant is that? LOVE this one. Loads of powder in film (and in real life) is a no-no which looks terrible and is always ageing.
A simple sweep of colour over her lids, using a big blending brush so it’s soft and pretty:
And to add some definition and bring out the colour of her blue/green eyes, this cult pencil from M.A.C which had excellent staying power and blends easily for a smudgey bottom liner. This colour, Powersurge, is a must-have in my kit.For delicious lashes, or rather audacious ones, this one from NARS gave Sophie that doe-eyed look.

On cheeks and lips for a natural, very pretty stain: iT Cosmetics Vitality Flush Colour Stain Stick. It’s tricking you into thinking it’s clear, but will adjust it’s pinkness to your skintone once applied. I love that you can use on cheeks and lips too, always handy for quick touch-ups. Now available in the UK at Selfridges only. So far. This company has cult status in the U.S so I expect it to start growing in popularity in the UK soon (see below for further reading). Get to

That’s it, seven products not including skincare but don’t forget how important that is: with a great canvas, you’ll achieve great makeup xo

Jurlique Holistic Skin Care

Further reading:

PRODUCT REVIEWS does not receive any monetary compensation to review products. Most reviews are based on products purchased personally, and preferred, or not. Occasionally I will receive products from makeup companies and will choose whether or not to review them here. Receiving products has no bearing on the opinion of the review, nor whether I choose to review it or not. All opinions are just that, and are honest and unbiased. Recommendations are based on the knowledge I have gained during almost twenty years as a professional Make-Up Artist. is not to be held responsible if you decide to purchase an item and are dissatisfied with it.

(Over) The Edge of Seventeen: The Best Makeup, Beauty and Skincare of 2017

As far as the beauty industry is concerned we are already well into 2018; you may have noticed all the new product launches and spring colours arriving at a makeup counter near you. I love the spring releases but remove my rose tinted specs to try to figure out which will stand the test of time before I buy anything. Before I launch into reviews of the new crop here’s a round up of last year’s standouts. Last year when I wrote “We Are Sixteen Going on Seventeen” I wondered how long I’d be able to carry the numbers theme. So far, so easy. 2017 gave me more than seventeen makeup and skincare finds to rave about so though the last year may have been s–t in many respects, it was a bumper year for beauty. I’ve gone over the edge of seventeen but maybe you’ll find something good you may have missed.

The List consists of the things that rocked my working and non-working world in 2017, but not necessarily in that order.

PIXI SKINTREATS GLOW TONIC – found this on my first visit to a Marks and Spencer beauty department, just after I got back to the UK. My toner had run out so I asked the friend who went with me   if she liked it and with a resounding “yes” as an answer I bought a jumbo size with a 20% discount – a common occurrence at M&S apparently. This yummy toner smells as if honey and rose and gold have been mixed together. It gets the last bit of grime off your skin after cleaning and preps it in the morning before whatever you use goes on with a 5% glycolic acid formula for gently but effective daily exfoliation. Conclusion: worth the £18.00 and a beauty bargain when you think about it. Not newly released in 2017 but new to me so it’s on the list. What makes it even better is that the Pixitreats line raises money for local charities – I happened to be at the flagship store at Foubert’s Place, off Carnaby Street, to get another Pixi Glow Tonic for me plus a couple of small ones for my kit, while they were in the throes doing a lovely fundraiser for Wellbeing Of Women, a charity championing women’s health across the breadth of reproductive health and childbirth (Did you know folic acid is key in the healthy development of babies? If you did, it’s because this charity pioneered that research). All you had to do was kiss a piece of paper wearing one of their lip colours, and they donated £1. I gave another pound for such an important cause. Thanks to the Pixi women for putting up my pucker print and a card for the blog btw. Holly Dale’s is much nicer than mine.  Pixi Glow Tonic is also available in Canada and in the US at TARGET. I think xo

Me holding a bottle of Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic
It may be backwards but so am I and I still love it
Hand outside Pixi store in Carnaby Street holding up bottle of Pixi Skintreats Glow Tonic
All hail to Pixi Glow Tonic

Lots of lipstick liprints on pieces of paper pinned to a board


NARS AUDACIOUS LIPSTICK IN ANITA -the Holiday Edition of Anita, in a gold ManRay inspired case was an immediate hit with me when I tried it and not only because of the excellent lighting! [sidebar: watch out for that, lighting in beauty departments is invariably awful so always go outside for a second opinion]. This mid-toned pinkish neutral, full coverage lipstick in a very good velvety matte texture is flattering on everyone (it is, I’ve tried it). Also loved the brilliant packaging so the ManRay edition had to be mine…well it matches my glasses holder doesn’t it? Nars Anita lipstick in Limited Edition Man Ray case

Nars Anita Lipstick and gold lips necklace on metallic table
Man Ray got Lippy


My JADE FACIAL MASSAGE ROLLER  which I found when I went to grab a juice on Vancouver’s Main Street. Not sure why they were in Juice The Two Of Us but of course I bought one and now wish I’d bought all three because I don’t see them around often. The rollers are a beautiful and calming tool for facial massage. Keep it in the fridge and roll away tired and puffy faces in the a.m or whenever your need arises.  The rolling technique stimulates facial muscles and aids in lymphatic drainage hence the de-puffing. Asian tradition believes jade holds special healing properties and draws out negative chi: as it turns out, moderns scientists discovered that jade is a natural transmitter of far infrared rays so it does in fact warm up and boost microcirculation in the skin. I recently heard the term “jadonic” from a top London facialist confirming the trend towards jade in skincare. My roller is double ended so very handy but Yu Ling Rollers Jade Facial Roller (Medium) and Yu Ling Rollers Jade Facial Roller (Small) can be had for £30 combined which isn’t bad for a lifelong beauty tool. Plus, it’s green and I went mad for green in 2017. My favourite natural beauty tool.

Hand holding double ended jade roller
The best facial massage tool to date. If you see one out there, don’t walk on by xo


CHARLOTTE TILBURY INSTANT MAGIC FACIAL DRY SHEET  was another spring 2017 arrival. It made a big impact as the first dry mask in the mainstream market using new beauty science tech to deliver professional results in fifteen minutes at home. I’m a big fan of CT products so here I am with yet another Tilbury recommendation. As the UK’s fastest growing beauty brand (a world takeover is imminent, CT shops popping up all over the place) her product development department keeps hitting it out of the park and this one was pretty amazing. Inspired by the technical innovations of Korean beauty, it has all that tech stuff going for it and works with ingredients such as vitamins, floral extracts, peptides, oils and butters to reduce wrinkles, smooth, brighten, lift and hydrate your skin. There’s a load of science here so have a read about it on the site. Because it’s a dry mask it doesn’t harbour bacteria AND you can use the same one up to 3 times saving some dosh. Win for face, win for wallet. A single mask is £18.00 (make sure to pack it back up tightly so you can use it again, I put the whole pack in a large ziplock). It’s one of the scarier -looking masks around but isn’t that part of the fun?picture of Charlotte Tilbury Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet MaskbENEfIT HOOLA CONTOUR STICK – this one arrived in February 2017 just when we needed a boost of bronze in those paler months. Taking their award-winning, amazing Hoola powder bronzer and turning it into a cream formula was an inspired beauty move by benefit and though I’m not mad about their brow obsession, this San Franciscan company does cheeks very very well. Using a contouring stick is the easiest way to contour, if you have to. I do it sometimes, but not in that weird ashy way. This one has a really good SLIGHTLY cooler tone, but because it’s based on the traditional bronzer colour, it’s not ugly ashy, which makes it a very good contour colour for light to medium skins. The formula blends very easily which is all important because having two big stripes under the cheekbones is not the way to achieve more dimension in your life! I have seen that on the street. Not even joking.

The stick is a great size for making marks all over your face 🙂 and sturdy packaging means it can survive a makeup bag or a handbag
Paint it on. Blend it. Contouring 101

KEVYN AUCOIN THE VOLUME MASCARA is a tube mascara, which are essential for bottom lashes IMO- they won’t smudge or come off until you want them to. My favourite UP UNTIL NOW had a great formula but the applicator brush was too big to get to those little lashes and deposited mascara on the skin under my eyes almost every time. Very annoying. I had to use the mini brush of a different mascara to put it on which became quite a complicated procedure! When it ran out I needed a new one but couldn’t find the brand in the UK. Went to SpaceNK in Brighton and was directed to this beauty of a tube mascara……with the PERFECT BRUSH. Tiny, dense and easy to handle, it gets to those bottom lashes and does the bizz. Now I don’t leave home without wearing KEVYN AUCOIN The Volume Mascara which only comes in black. My other one was dark brown but until they fix the brush issue I’m sticking to this one.

brush on the right belongs to the Kevyn Aucoin and gets to those bottom lashes no problem


MICRONEEDLING or DERMAL ROLLING was my skincare revelation of 2017. No porcupines were injured in the development of this practice, at least I don’t think so, but as forms of it go back centuries we cannot be entirely sure. The modern version of microneedling, aka dermal rolling, using a tool with medical grade titanium alloy needles, elicits a response from the skin to heal itself by producing collagen so the treatment is known as collagen induction therapy. My personal results were so good (glowing skin, softening of lines, better skin tone and texture) and natural that friends commented without knowing what I’d done. So impressed was I that I trained in the therapy and am now a certified microneedler. The most effective course of collagen induction therapy consists of six sessions (a week to ten days apart) with a .5mm needler which is considered a “medical” tool and can’t be purchased for home use. You can very easily buy dermal rollers needling with shorter needles but as they do not reach as far into the dermis the results won’t be the same. After your six sessions, one more six months later is all that’s required for the year. Not bad and better than injectables of toxin, n’est-ce pas ? 

Rolling Rolling Rolling.

M.A.C “PROUD TO BE CANADIAN” LIPSTICK arrived in the summer to honour Canada’s 150th birthday – and as I’m a half Canadian, half British and was living in Vancouver for the celebrations on July 1st, I would have been very remiss not to participate! M.A.C  (Makeup Art Cosmetics in case you didn’t know) is Canada’s proudest beauty export, and was once a small Toronto based company that started making neutral matte lipsticks in the mid 80’s when nobody else did. The rest is history. It’s also where I started my (surprise) makeup career.  Sadly this red isn’t part of their regular stock which is a shame because it was a beautiful true red and inspired patriotism, eh?

A true red that does actually make me Proud To Be Canadian
A very rare sighting on social media of my most favourite small person, on a very special day in British Columbia


DECIEM “THE ORDINARY VEGAN HYALURONIC ACID 2% + B5 – good segueway into another great beauty product from Canada and a very definite Beauty Bargain Alert! This Toronto based skincare line is anything but ordinary and their vegan, cruelty-free hyaluronic acid is a no-nonsense hydrator from a no-nonsense company. Not funny that it took me a trip to Covent Garden to find it. Deciem and it’s ten (hence the name) brands which include The Ordinary, NIOD, The Chemistry Brand, White RX and Hylamide (that’s only half of them) get to the root of essential skincare. Last year on a trip to the UK I was on a mission to find a pure hyaluronic. In Canada and the states you can walk into any health food store and find it but I was a bit miffed that it was so hard to find in England, certainly not on any High Street. The times they are a-changing. Enter Brandon Truaxe and his extraordinary vision for skincare. The store in Covent Garden’s Beauty Quarter which opened in July 2017 (there’s five more across London) offers complete skincare at very competitive pricing, the 2% hyaluronic + B5 is a mere £5.90 so no wonder it sells out. Hopefully you all know by now that hyaluronic acid is essential for hydrated skin and hydrated skin equals youthful-looking skin. HA can attract up to 1000x it’s weight in water and there’s lots more science behind this formula with added B5 so it’s worth a visit to one of the stores if you want to change up your routine without breaking the bank.

So good it flies off the shelf


K BEAUTY  shook up my beauty world  in 2017, in a good way, not in a bad earthquake way, though there were a couple of nasty tremors in Vancouver last year. “K Beauty”, the generic term for Korean beauty products, packages really good product in a very appealing way so it’s ideal for teens first makeup forays and for grown-ups because it puts the fun back into your makeup bag.  The easy eye tints from By BelleMe were a game changer for my kit last year, delivering quick and beautiful summer makeup, wonderful on their own or with a bit of a cat liner for nights in tropical places. Or anywhere else. Read the post I did on the curated selection of K Beauty that Nordstrom did last year if you want to know more.


CHARLOTTE TILBURY INSTANT EYE PALETTE was initially released amidst a huge frenzy, as per usual for something new from Charlotte, for a twenty-four hour window only on Sep 21st. Savvy marketing move to raise the instafrenzy and bloggerbuzz which was to make it one of the must-have makeup  products of the year. The palette was available proper again in mid-October. Is it worth the hype? Containing twelve shadows in a mix of shimmer and silky matte textures, and in the predictable “prime, enhance, pop” Tilbury format you get the makings of four looks but hopefully you know to ignore that rule and apply them to best suit your eye shape and size. I think it’s a useful makeup kit collection for makeup fanatics and makeup artists alike and at £60.00 for twelve shadows you get quite a lot of bang for your bucks. Or pizazz for your pounds. Split the cost and share with family, friends  or flatmates, depending on who’s going to the desk or the disco! Unfortunately it is sold out yet again.

Twelve for One and One for Twelve! Some shimmer, some matte, pretty versatile

This is my version of day eye using date shadows. Don’t follow the rules.

CHANTECAILLE CONCEALER BRUSH  is a brilliant large acrylic brush for smoothing it’s way around the nooks and crannies that need concealing. A concealer brush is IMO the most important brush in your arsenal and I found this one at the Chantecaille counter in Fortnums where I normally only go to pick up tea and fruit jellies but as I’d recently come back to the UK I ventured up to the second floor. Some lovely makeup lines there so pop in if you are so inclined. This brush is nice and bendy, with a great handle for easy use and will be your new fave too if you give it a try. I got one for my kit and one for me because I love it so much. £30.00 at Fortnums and any Chantecaille counter. 


BENEFIT GALIFORNIA BLUSH arrived on March 29, just in time for Coachella . I had to have one (not that I could make it to Coachella, I was working)  and made a dash to the shops to get it for a film I was on. It sits happily in my kit alongside it’s cheeky siblings from this Californian company. I’m not as obsessed by brows as benefit seems to have become, but I do think they do cheeks very well. Galifornia  blends bright pink with shimmering gold and is very flattering on summer skin. I ended up loving it almost as much as the classic, everyone should have one, Dallas, which is a pinkish bronzer that is so natural compared to most of the bronzers out there. The newest blush from benefit comes with a cute little rounded brush for a perfect application.


NARS Radiance Primer SPF35 launched January last year with two other new primers from this beauty giant and became a firm favourite. It really does impart a glow and feels great on if you have dry skin like I do. Wear it alone or under your cream or liquid foundation. It’s peachy toned, luscious and juicy, apply it with your fingertips and radiate. But not in a nuclear way. Added SPF35 helps protect you from that. 


M&S AUTOGRAPH LASTING ALL IN ONE NAIL COLOUR in Emerald.  If you follow me on instagram @glossaholics you’ll know I went mad for green in 2017 and this nail varnish (nail polish, depending where you live) was one of my faves. Most recently it was on sale for £3.00 which means it’s probably being discontinued so I’d better get another one before it’s too late! Great colour, great coverage, great product. The ragged cuticles are all my own xoxo

it’s so easy being green xo


TOM FORD STARTS GARDENING  – the opening of the world’s first freestanding TOM FORD Beauty store in December in Covent Garden was big beauty news and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek. It’s a modern, sleek environment as befits the brand and as well as being full of gorgeousness the store also offers makeup, grooming and bespoke perfume services. I could go a bit mad here so will limit my visits but am very fortunate that Santa really did read my list this year and put a couple of goodies under the tree for me.

Grabbing one’s attention, as TF is wont to do, in the first TFBeauty Covent Garden window
Cream shadows are a sophisticated way to do evening eyes and no-one does sophisticated like Tom Ford
A beautiful cream and powder combo that I bought this summer and rarely put away. There’s a few colour options, believe me, the new store is worth a visit
Don’t forget to pick this up when you go! The most wearable and gorgeous lippie ever! Well of course it is xoxo


STILA MAGNIFICENT METALS GLITTER AND GLOW LIQUID EYE SHADOW  – 2017 was a truly glittering year but now we know there’s a real price to pay for their beauty. I’m putting them on my list because they were big news in 2017 and back in February we didn’t have the information we have now. If you ever wear glitter you must be diligent in removing it, using an oil cleanser that the glitter will stick to so you can put the bits in the bin and not into the water supply. Have a drain catcher in your sink anyway. This glittering but sophisticated look, created by me using  Stila Cosmetics Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow Smouldering Satin and Stila Cosmetics Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow Molten Midnight is a very good way to add some sparkle to your look and the Stila Metals are one of the easiest glitter shadows to use because of the sponge applicator. You have to get it on quick. I am especially fond of the lavender one but don’t know if I can use any of them again in good conscious.

This look created with ” Smouldering Satin”and “Molten Midnight” is bound to get you lots of positive attention at Christmas parties or summer weddings and everything in between


And now for the Honorary Mentions:

BURT’S BEES LIP CRAYONS  There’s a reason crayons are loved the world over.  Easy to use, colourful and sturdy, these ones from the U.S Natural Beauty Co. are lovely on and in a wonderful range of colours. They are beautifully sheer so if dark or bright colours aren’t usually your thing these are a good way to start trying them. The darkest colours are absolutely gorgeous on black women.


O&M PROJECT SUKUROI GOLDEN SMOOTHING BALM is another product that was new to me in 2017, as was the whole Organic & Mineral line which I never came across in N AmericaThis balm has saved my hair from some severe bad hair days and I may not be a hairdresser but I have A LOT of hair which I think makes me qualified to review hair stuff.  Another great recommendation from SpaceNK in Brighton (which deserves a special shout-out. I am more often than not disappointed by service at makeup and beauty counters but the employees here, no matter their median age, know their stuff and are not pushy in the least). Add a good-sized golden blob (depending on how much hair you have) before blow drying and it will smooth it all out. The golden hue adds nice dimension and shine to any hair colour and it smells gorge too. O & M Project Sukuroi has taken my hair from straw to golden tresses on more than one occasion so it’s not a fluke, it’s a really good hair cream. At £30 a pot it’s worth it to me for good hair days and has lasted months.

Before. The results of a very windy and rainy run on the beach!
I may be The Girl With The Golden Hair (on an ABBA kick since I went to @abbathemuseum exhibit @southbankcentre. If you were ever a fan, it’s a must-see) but you do not have to be blonde to benefit from a touch of gold in your hair xo
After: Smooth Operator and good cut thanks to @thebrightonhairdresser


M.A.C HOLIDAY SNOWBALL COLLECTION – M.A.C gave us some sparklers for the 2017 holiday season in a collection worthy of Frosty. I caved and bought two eyeshadows, and a gorgeous (slightly) frosted bronze lipstick. The real beauty of these is that they can be worn all year for some subtle shine or bumped up for intense shimmer depending on the state of your eyelids. Holiday collections are designed with gifting in mind but are also good to share for party season if you’re so inclined. Most of the collection sold out very quickly but there are some nice bits left if you’re curious.

Who would have thought I’d be buying bronze lipsticks again?! This is a modern version of an old metallic favourite and very good for winter evenings xoxo
One light, one dark, can be sheer or dramatic depending on your application technique.


EYELASH PERMING – having a lash perm as a base for any other lash treatments (extensions, individual temporary lashes, full set of false eyelashes) makes them look better because the lashes curve in the right direction. A lash perm on it’s own is a fantastic eye-opener that looks natural and not Kardashian, you know what I’m talking about. I did love lash extensions but a lash perm is less upkeep and you can still use your regular mascara. An easy process that takes about an hour and a half  it’s a beauty investment as far as I’m concerned. Get a tint at the same time and you no longer have to worry about morning guinea-pig eyes. You know, the look before mascara’s applied. Be sure to find a really good practitioner and do a patch test first. I was going to the The Beauty Corner in Vancouver (booking my summer appointment soon!) but will have to find a good place near Brighton. I’m asking around.

M.A.C ROLLERWHEEL LIQUID LINER  – I WISH I could have reviewed this one but I walked out M.A.C on Robson in Vancouver without one on it’s first release, don’t know why I just didn’t buy it, and when I went back it was gone. Haven’t seen it anywhere since though rumours are it’s coming back. An interesting concept and one I would have liked to have tested. It won an Allure Award so fingers crossed for a return of the wheel because as of yet I can’t say if it’s a unique way to apply liner or a beauty gimmick.


M&S BEAUTY ULTIMATE SLEEP CREAM which you’ve all probably heard of by now because India Knight got to it long before I did. I found it during a bad bout of jet lag, drawn by the BIG claim “skin looks like you’ve had 8 hours sleep (even when you haven’t )”. It’s a rich, dependable night cream  that didn’t exactly make me an overnight sensation but is very good for the price and reminded me of Tilbury’s night cream. I love it as a night hand cream and on the décolletage.

Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look In A Palette Beauty Glow Makeup Palette  was yet another beautiful palette from 2017 and her most natural so far. Even my non-makeupey friends like this one. Pop it in your handbag for work and weekend trips, it’s a pretty collection with three very useable eyeshadows, one sculpt, one highlight and two blush colours. A good investment that will give you a lot of mileage.

Very easy palette for your whole face – just add a lippie – brilliant for work with sturdy packaging and a good size for handbag survival xo

MARKS AND SPENCER AUTOGRAPH LINE COMPLEXION PRIMERS – another very good find in the M&S beauty aisles, there’s a primer for everyone and extremely competitively priced, not forgetting the beauty sales that are regularly on. I use the DD Daily Defence anti-pollution primer with SPF for days in London and the Hydrating for no-makeup days when I want to save my more expensive ones.

Pick your poison. Nice collection for different needs and skin conditions


NARS LA PLAGE BRONZING AND HIGHLIGHTING PALETTE – I’m not a fan of severe contouring and strobing but there are products that will do it in a pretty way and this is one of them. It has two very flattering, easy matte bronzers (cult classic Laguna is included) with four soft shimmery tones which add a nice bounce on summer nights, just don’t go too hard with them. Although the shimmers can be water activated, that will really bump up the impact and IMO a single sweep with a big brush is all you need. You can also use any of the six shades on your eyes so this one is excellent for holiday makeup bags. The La Plage palette, released in July, was a Nordstrom Exclusive in North America and didn’t last long so I’m glad I got one of these for the kit.  There are a few of them still around but you might have to search.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside. So would you, in these amazing beach tones with a little glimmer for summer nights.


So that’s it, many more than 17 and I ran out of time before I ran out of things to tell you about. Just so you know, I bought and tried every single thing on the list out of my own pocket, and wouldn’t recommend anything I didn’t believe could give you your best face forward. Wishing you a healthy, happy, confident and beautiful 2018.  And there’s a prize if you kept any of these…I blame everything on 17, it’s where my lipstick obsession began!


PRODUCT REVIEWS does not receive any monetary compensation to review products. Most reviews are based on products purchased personally, and preferred, or not. Occasionally I will receive products from makeup companies and will choose whether or not to review them here. Receiving products has no bearing on the opinion of the review, nor whether I choose to review it or not. All opinions are just that, and are honest and unbiased. Recommendations are based on the knowledge I have gained during almost twenty years as a professional Make-Up Artist. is not to be held responsible if you decide to purchase an item and are dissatisfied with it.


The newest M.A.C Viva Glam collaboration drops today, featuring the iconic and fabulous SIA. A stunning red for a great cause, beauty gives back by raising $470 million to date for Aids Awareness and people living with AIDS. All of which make it a pretty, amazing  Valentine’s Day gift  xo