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Luminous, glazed donut-inspired skin has become beauty’s biggest draw. Our Glow Guide cherry-picks the best products to achieve it.
There used to be a time when the default question that followed “You’re a beauty editor?” would be, “What’s the best mascara?” But times have changed, and now how to achieve the perfect lit-from-within glow has usurped all others to be the question I get asked on repeat. Such is the phenomenon that is ‘the glow’.
I come from a generation where shine was something to be subordinated; stripped, covered and blotted out using astringent toners and powders the consistency of cement dust. And yet, 20 years on from the birth of Mac’s ubiquitous Strobe Cream, glow has become currency for every new beauty launch (Charlotte Tilbury’s new Glow Toner had a waiting list before it even touched the shelves). In fact, there are whole businesses dedicated to the pursuit of glow – Glossier being the most obvious, as well as sumptuous, balmy brands such as Westman Atelier and Jones Road.
So what bumped matte off its long-serving throne? Make-up historian Sara Long says it’s not that people didn’t want to glow in the past, it’s more that we didn’t have the means. “The high-matte make-up look that became iconic with the dawn of 1920s Hollywood was more to do with limitations in technology in terms of film, lighting and make-up formulations than an aesthetic choice,” she says. And, like a #skingoals Venn diagram, we weren’t able to hit that sweet spot of glow until ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, retinol and AHAs entered the beauty stage at the same time as blurring polymers and micronized minerals (that reflect light like tiny flesh-coloured prisms) and the world learnt to manipulate lighting in real time on the small screen.
Long adds that there’s also an important distinction to be made between the shift towards the glowy skin of the Noughties and the trend we’re seeing today, which has less to do with light-reflecting pigments and more to do with our ever-growing wellness obsession. “The further convergence of beauty and wellness is driving a desire for ‘aesthetic health’”, says Olivia Houghton, senior foresight analyst at The Future Laboratory. “The objective is no longer to achieve optimal cosmetic appearance, but instead to look healthy and radiant – plus, a glow is a key sign of good skin health.”
Lan Nguyen-Grealis, make-up artist and founder of Studio 1 Makeovers at Urban Retreat, concurs, adding that all her clients ask for glowy skin, though most have no idea how to achieve it. “Shimmer and glitter used to be what people understood it to be, but it’s shifted to a luxury aesthetic and it’s more about having fresh, plump, juicy, and ultimately, youthful-looking skin,” she says.
The good news? There’s a raft of new cutting-edge products to help you achieve just that. Consider this your ultimate cut-out-and-keep list of beauty editor-approved glow-givers.
Supplements for glow from within
WelleCo The Skin Elixir, £35
When a supermodel (Elle Macpherson, FYI) and top nutritionist collide, the result is a match made in ingestible skincare heaven. Welleco combines super greens like barley grass and broccoli with skin-boosting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and gut-loving turmeric, black pepper and aloe. Two capsules a day keeps dullness at bay.
The Nue Co Skin Filter, £30
Perfect for older skin, this patented blend of grape seed, melon and vitamin C has been clinically proven to improve sun damage, pigmentation and breakouts in just 60 days. Touted as a ‘retinol serum in a capsule’, it delivers almost 50% of your daily vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene without the tell-tale retinol dryness.
The Beauty Chef Glow Inner Beauty Essential Powder, £40
The words ‘gut’ and ‘glow’ seem incongruous, yet a happy microbiome is the key to radiant skin. Ideal if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends, one teaspoon stirred into your drink everyday contains a hearty dose of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and pro-, pre- and post-biotics.
Votary Super Glow Skin Nutrition food Supplement Capsules, £35
This vitamin-packed vegan supplement is designed to support skin heath, with selenium and vitamin A to stimulate cell repair, anti-inflammatory niacinamide and skin-boosting vitamin E alongside vitamin C to help to elicit a healthy, radiant glow.
Vida Glow Original, £43
Collagen not only contributes to a healthy glow, it plumps wrinkles and prevents sagging, too – but levels deplete as we age. Vida Glow is a highly bio-available hydrolysed collagen peptide powder designed to restore a youthful, radiant bounce. Mix one of the flavoured options with water or add the original to a cup of tea.
The radiance-boosting make-up
Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Blush, £39
Don’t want to spoil your glow with flat colour on your cheeks? Try this blusher/highlighter hybrid with photoluminescent technology to create depth and dimension. Use a fluffy brush to swoosh it onto the apples of the cheeks and the bridge of the nose for a natural-looking flush.
Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter, £36
Make-up maestro Charlotte Tilbury describes this liquid radiance-booster as ‘a confidence glow filter, bottled’. Use as a primer, or dotted either all over the face or directly onto the cheekbones and where the light naturally hits the face, for an illuminating finish without a hint of sparkle.
Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish: Highlighter & Balm Duo, £39
A double-ended glow-giver: the highlighter side imparts a luminous shimmer to the high points of the face, the cupid’s bow and inner corners of the eyes, while, the argan oil and hyaluronic acid-infused balm can be dabbed on top of the highlighter, or used on its own for a dewy finish.
Chanel Les Beiges Illuminating Oil Face, Body And Hair, £70
Glow that stops at the face is an instant giveaway that your luminous complexion isn’t born from mainlining green juice. Apply this soft copper and gold shimmering oil – think spun silk rather than oily – onto collarbones, shoulders, shins and ears for a truly expensive-looking sheen.
Nars Light Reflecting Foundation, £37.50
Skincare actives make up 70% of this light-as-air formula and promise to improve skin clarity over six weeks, while photo-chromic technology and a light-reflecting complex feign the effect of perfect lighting. There’s a reason this stuff has gone viral.
Skincare to make your face light up
Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial, £25
Offering baby-soft skin as well as instant glow, beauty editors are obsessed with this. Apply once a week, leaving it on for 20 minutes. But beware: while it contains soothing matcha tea and milk thistle, the blend of 25% AHA and 2% BHA acids should be respected (slight tingling is normal).
Beauty Pie YouthBomb 360 face lift Serum, £46
This glow-booster contains a potent blend of 15 active ingredients carefully selected to support how the skin reflects light. It slots seamlessly into any routine and is best used after cleansing each evening – just remember to wait 60 seconds before applying moisturiser.
Glossier FutureDew, £23
A real game-changer, this oil-serum hybrid serves up glazed skin with added skincare benefits thanks to ingredients like squalene, fruit extracts and rosehip oil. Thicker than a serum, it melts into skin without being sticky. Use it as the final step in your skincare routine, as a primer or on top of make-up for a sheer, your-skin-but-better glow.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Sunscreen, £31
A chemical/mineral hybrid sunscreen formula enriched with niacinamide to tackle dullness and afford extra antioxidant protection. The light, silky lotion leaves skin hydrated and glowy, not greasy. Apply with pure, wild abandon.
Sunday Riley CEO Afterglow Brightening Vitamin C Cream, £60
Powered by THD ascorbate – a powerful, stable, non-irritating form of vitamin C (beauty’s favourite brightening antioxidant), this gold-standard moisturiser also contains hydrating hyaluronic acid. The result is plump, juicy skin.
Main image: Karina Twiss/Trunkarchive.com, other photography: Dennis Pedersen