The One Trick Makeup Artists Rely On For Glowing Skin All Year Round

Illustrated by Olivia Santner
Dear Daniela,

How do I make cream makeup products work for me? I love the way they look on other people and I find watching TikToks or Reels of them being applied so hypnotic, but is it actually as easy as it looks? What about if my skin is quite oily? Will the products just slide off? How do I blend them without rubbing off my foundation? And also, which ones should I try?

Lili, 31
I’m so with you on finding those makeup videos hypnotic. There’s something mesmerising about watching someone paint on stripes of makeup and then blend it in seamlessly, the product melting away like butter sliding down hot toast. Their skin always looks so radiant and sculpted, and seeing the product daubed on is like watching a painter at work. But if you’ve never really explored cream makeup before – at all, or just not successfully – recreating the effect can be a little bit, well, Instagram vs Reality.
I asked makeup artist Keeley Wilson, who’s a master of all things radiant, creamy and dewy, to give me a breakdown. “I love cream products. They’re so youthful on the skin, and look great on most – if not all – skin types,” she said. “They give a really gorgeous, dewy finish to the skin that’s hard to replicate.” While many products come in cream form, Keeley said she was especially drawn to blush, bronzer, highlighter and eyeshadow. These categories lend themselves well to a kind of finger-painted, satiny finish – you want your blush to look skin-like rather than stripy, and cream eyeshadows make a smoky eye effortless.

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♬ Glitter - BENEE
In terms of application, cream makeup products can take a little bit of getting used to but the learning curve is so worth it, according to Keeley. “They can be harder to blend, but this is usually down to the product needing to be ‘worked in’ a bit. For example, running your finger over the top of a product like a contour stick or cream blush tends to break the ‘seal’ and make the texture softer and creamier,” she explained. I find that if I ever skip this step, products are much harder to apply and tend to make my base slip, so definitely take the time to warm it up some. The oils in the product will need to come to skin temperature, rather than go on cold and hard.
Also important? Skin prep. “You need to ensure you’re using a good hydrating moisturiser beforehand, otherwise the cream can be much harder to blend. Also, don’t use any powder products until you’re done applying the cream,” advised Keeley. But you don’t necessarily need a whole host of new tools to apply them. “Fingers are great for this kind of application as they pick a good amount of product, and the natural oils in your fingers help warm the product and really blend it in,” added Keeley. 
Keeley said the key to longevity is all about light layers. “Start with your cream product and then set it with a light layer of powder. This locks in the product to ensure it won’t budge, but shouldn’t take away too much of the cream finish,” she advised. You can set things like for like, and set a cream bronzer with a powder bronzer, or you can use a translucent powder for everything. The former is a good option for a special occasion but for everyday wear, regular powder is great.
Personally, I like to use a good few spritzes of Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray, £29, between layers if it’s going to be a long day (or night). My skin’s not super oily so I often skip powder and embrace the dew but if you’re worried about too much shine, Keeley's method of powder setting ought to keep everything locked in.
Okay, application and technique complete. Now it’s the fun bit: which products should you get? I love Tower28's BeachPlease Luminous Tinted Balm, £18, and Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer, £18. You can use them as intended but they also make great eyeshadows. Chanel’s Les Beiges Bronzing Cream, £43, is my all-time favourite bronzer and I love to contour with Bobbi Brown's Skin Foundation Sticks, £33 – two products I picked up from Keeley.
Trinny London has to be one of the top brands for cream products. They come in these stackable little pots – they’re great sizes to keep in your handbag and also perfect for multi-use, lip and cheek. I also love Glossier’s whole range of cream products, especially the Cloud Paint, Solar Paint and Haloscope highlighter,” she added. I’d also highly recommend trying VIEVE Eye Wand, £21, for a really easy, smudgy-but-sophisticated smoky eye. Oh, and that Pat McGrath Skin Fetish Highlighter? So worth it. Trust me.
Have fun!

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