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The Best Skin Illuminator I’ve Used in 18 Years as a Beauty Editor

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Main image – Charlotte Tilbury

As a beauty editor, I’ve been lucky enough to call testing out beauty products ‘work’ for the last 18 years. Yep, it’s a serious perk of the job. 

But before you resent me completely, please know that this doesn’t mean beauty editors get an endless supply of their favourite products forevermore. Oh no. 

In fact, it can be pretty soul destroying when you’ve been kindly sent something to test out, you’re reeled in by its beauty, fall head over heels with how it makes you look…and then you read the price tag. I often think to myself, “well it was fun while it lasted because once I’ve run out of this, there’ll be no going back.”  

This happened with Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter (£39 from Cult Beauty UK /$49 from Sephora US). Call me cheap, but almost £40 for a highlighter seemed a bit steep. 

I know, I know, it’s Charlotte Tilbury! Makeup artist to the stars etc, it’s all very impressive. But is Ms Tilbury’s clientele going to pay for my next food shop? No, just hers. 

So, I happily counted my lucky stars that I got to try it even once and resigned myself to the fact that this would be a one hit wonder for my makeup bag, never to adorn it (or my face) again.


Image – @charlottetilbury/Instagram


But as it turns out, the more I used it, the more I realised that, in the long run, this product wasn’t going to cost me as much as I thought. And suddenly £39 was looking pretty damn reasonable.

Find out why I think this might just be the best highlighter and primer hybrid ever and, after doing a bit of maths homework, why I actually think it’s a product worth investing in.


Beauty, bottled 

The first thing you notice when you open the box is the size of the product. It’s not a plastic round pot or a flimsy compact. It’s a chunky 30ml glass bottle, with a sturdy gold lid. 

Twist open the lid and out comes a huge doe foot applicator, doused in gleaming highlighter. You feel like you’re about to apply a really OTT lip gloss. The sound of the applicator makes a satisfying ‘pop’ as you pull it out and the whole thing just feels chic and expensive. Like you’re about to step into your supermodel era with the aid of just one product. 


Dream formula

So, you’ve got a quality glass bottle mixed with feeling like a supermodel before you’ve even applied the product. Great start.

But the proof is in the pudding. And this one is smooth and gorgeous. When you first feel the liquid on your skin, it’s velvety soft and you do kind of want to lick it (don’t.) There is zero glittery-sparkle too which is a bonus, and annoyingly rare when it comes to radiance boosters.


Image – Courtesy of writer


Aimed to be both a filter-giving radiant primer and a shimmery highlighter (available in a whopping 12 shades), Flawless Filter can be applied anywhere on your face using the applicator and then blended in with your finger. 

This can be before foundation or after, the choice is yours. But whatever happens it’s going to seriously improve the look of your skin in one quick slick. Trust me. 

There are two things I absolutely love about this product. The first is that the liquid is as light as air and doesn’t feel cakey or heavy on the skin like some silicone-based primers can.

The second is that you don’t need to use much to cause a stir. If my complexion is looking a bit dull, even after doing my usual skincare routine (thanks hormones), I’ll apply a little along my cheekbones, a bit on the chin and down my nose before applying my base. 


Image – @charlottetilbury/Instagram


That’s all it takes to feel instantly glowier. Then, when my foundation goes on over the top, the two mix beautifully together. The light-reflecting shimmer of the primer shines through and my skin looks even and dewy.

If my skin is playing ball after my morning regime, I’ll apply my base first then use Flawless Filter as a normal highlighter in the same areas. Whilst some ‘normal’ highlighters can look a bit phoney, this one makes my skin look naturally glossy, gleamy and expensive. It truly is like a light bulb has been switched on in my skin. 


Why I’m ok with the price tag

Like I said, £39 for a highlighter is pretty extortionate when there are others available for less. Especially if highlighter isn’t the ‘main event’ of your daily makeup look. You’d probably rather spend that on a foundation or even a skin serum, I get it.

But we all have days when our skin needs an extra pep-up. When your skincare or foundation isn’t quite cutting it and you need a quick glow-fix. 

The next best thing to a glowy skincare regime is a liquid radiance booster which happily sits under or over your base and that really, really works. And Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter is it, despite it costing a little more than you ever imagined spending on a highlighter.

This is because it’s so big, and you need to use so little to make an impact, that it lasts, and lasts, and lasts. Would you believe me if I said I’m still using the same one that was sent to me a year ago? This means that if I were to replace it once a year, I would only need to save £3.25 per month over 12 months to pay for the next one. 


Image – @charlottetilbury/Instagram


It should be noted that this product’s shelf-life marking says ‘12m’ which means 12 months. These are just guidelines. Mine doesn’t smell, it isn’t congealed and is still working as normal. I keep it out of direct sunlight, screw the lid firmly back on after use and I always have clean skin when I use it. 

As a result, I reckon I can keep this one going for another six months. There is still so much left in the bottle, and I use it pretty much every day. This is quite the opposite to some of the other similarly priced products I’ve reviewed recently that don’t last even half as long (Victoria Beckham Satin Kajal Eyeliner).

So, that’s 18 months of use, at £2.16 per month. £39 for a highlighter? All things considered, and maths calculated, I’d say Flawless Filter is actually worth every penny.


The takeaway

Let’s be honest. A highlighter isn’t going to be top of your expenditure list, especially if you’ve nailed your skincare regime and found a glowy base you’re happy with. 

But for days when you need a little bit of extra help in the radiance department or if you want to take your finished makeup look up a notch, I would highly recommend using Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter. 

Because it’s not just a highlighter. It’s an all-round skin illuminator that you can apply as much of or as little as you want. It radiates from beneath your base when used as a primer and naturally highlights the bits you want to stand out when applied on top of your foundation. It’s almost like an extension to your skincare regime.

The bottle is so big, it feels like a bottomless supply of glowiness. It lasts and lasts but it’s not so big that I can’t travel with it or store it neatly. Little pots get lost, palettes get cracked. This bottle is sturdy, it’s become a non-negotiable item in my makeup bag and my skin looks better for it.

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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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