Foundation Review: Clarins Skin Illusion

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Clarins Skin Illusion foundation review

Well here’s a lovely new foundation for lovers of lightweight makeup: Clarins Skin Illusion Natural Hydrating Foundation. It’s a brand new makeup launch and it replaces Clarins’ original Skin Illusion, which came in a more traditional, pump-action glass bottle. I liked that one very much, but I like the new, serum-inspired foundation even more. It’s lighter, more hydrating and – I think, though it’s barely perceivable – slightly more radiant in finish.

Clarins Skin Illusion foundation review

I really should say “bare skin finish” rather than radiant, because the Skin Illusion foundation has an incredibly sheer and natural sort of look to it – it doesn’t conceal imperfections, rather knocks them back, and it just leaves everything just that bit more even-toned and fresh.

Clarins Skin Illusion foundation review

Something that’s not an improvement on the original is the packaging – the foundation comes in a serum-style glass-dropper bottle. These bottles drive me mad. I end up dribbling bits of foundation onto my face from the pipette, tilting my head backwards as though I’m administering eye drops to myself. Albeit inaccurately. I honestly cannot fathom why anyone packages foundation in this way (the Bobbi Brown serum foundation is like this, so is Armani Maestro Glow) other than to drive home the whole “skincare as makeup as skincare” sort of message.

Clarins Skin Illusion foundation review

Go away dribbling pipettes! But that is my only gripe. And, in fairness, it doesn’t take a genius just to plop a bit of foundation on the back of your hand and work from that with a brush or sponge or fingertips.

The Skin Illusion is so lightweight that you have to work reasonably quickly – it’s runny! – but it applies like an absolute dream, so smoothly and easily, blending out seamlessly so that you’re left with skin that’s nicely luminous, but not suspiciously so.

Here are some before and after photos:

Clarins Skin Illusion foundation review

Clarins Skin Illusion foundation review

I would point out that it was a particularly good skin week – I really had to do a double take when I was searching for the before pics in my photo library! – but you can hopefully see a change in overall tone (more even) and texture (smoother) if you scroll between the photos above. Perhaps easier to spot things closer up:

Clarins Skin Illusion foundation review

Clarins Skin Illusion foundation review

I usually judge coverage by looking at the redness to the sides of my nose, examining my undereye circles and focusing in on any little moles or blemishes that are lurking about. As I said, difficult week for foundation testing, as I was in tip-top shape (this was a couple of weeks ago, before I drank my own bodyweight in prosecco and got roped into singing Madonna’s Like a Prayer with a live band, in front of an audience, let’s never speak of it again) but you can see the degree of coverage quite clearly. It’s enough to take down the colour of my mole, or freckle, or whatever that thing on my nose is but it’s not enough to cover the darkness beneath my eyes. Which, to be fair, wasn’t at all bad either. (Again, I refer you to the current week, post-Madonna performance, where I look approximately seventy-three. I’d do the photos again – might still happen! – but I’m lacking the motivation to get my camera out. All I’m good for is typing, hunched over my laptop like a wizened crone.)

So, this is a foundation that’s virtually weightless, with sheer coverage and a beautiful silky feel. Possibly thanks to the addition of some new non-greasy oils, which give a pleasant slip but still allow the foundation to set properly. I have been impressed with the longevity – after a few weeks of testing, sometimes for long days of wear, I’ve never gone to the mirror in the evening and wondered where all of my base has disappeared to. Mind you, I suppose there’s not a lot of it to disappear in the first place – if it was a fuller coverage then perhaps movement would be easier to see.

Clarins Skin Illusion foundation review

Who is this for? Someone who hates heavy makeup, who wants speed and simplicity when it comes to application and who wants a glow but nothing too OTT. It’s incredibly similar in effect to Clinique’s Even Better Glow, though that one is oil-free, and it’s not far off Armani Maestro Glow, either, even if that one looks much more spangly and glimmery in the bottle. If you’re seduced by the hydrating aspect then this one pips Clinique’s to the post – I have both on my face right now, and the side with the Clarins on feels much bouncier to the touch than the side with Clinique’s, despite the Clinique formula being creamier and bouncier in texture. Armani Glow, which is on my forehead (never say I’m not thorough, ha!) has a very slightly greasy residue, so it feels not-quite-set, which those with very dry skin may like but others may feel uncomfortable with.

Choices, choices. Clarins Skin Illusion comes in 22 shades, Armani Glow, just nine. Both of those have the disadvantage of the annoying glass pipetted bottle when compared to Clinique’s Even Better Glow, which is great for carting about, with its lightweight, squared-off bottle, and is plastic so doesn’t smash into smithereens on the bathroom floor. But Clinique’s Glow is possibly the least comfortable on dry skin – Maestro is incredibly rich and nourishing in feel, Clarins is lighter but still juicy – and then there’s the pricing: £28 for Clinique, £30 for Clarins, £42 for the Armani.

The joy of the Clarins, perhaps – and also the Armani – is that you really can just dispense a few droplets and blend quickly into the central area of your face. Knocking back redness, evening out tone and freshening up the areas prone to discolouration or darkness without caking on a huge layer of base. You can apply and blend in seconds and be confident (because it’s nice and sheer) that you don’t have ridiculous tide marks everywhere, or that your fuzz moustache hasn’t become all clogged up with product…

I’ve driven myself slightly batty trying to compare all of these foundations – I almost started to throw a high-street challenger into the mix, but it’s too different in terms of texture and coverage. (Watch this space for a review on that one.) Foundation testing in general is getting harder and harder because so many of the offerings out there are lightweight, radiant, fairly long-lasting and “juicy” in finish – that coveted real-skin effect – and I have to admit that I start to run out of adjectives. I may have to mix things up with some heavy coverage, powdery beasts for a while…

You can find the gorgeous Clarins Skin Illusion foundation at here* and on the Clarins website here* – £30, as mentioned. I have been using shade 110 but I’ve just noticed that Clarins run a “try before you buy” thing where they send you a trial version of the shade that you order; if the tester doesn’t suit you then you can exchange the full size one, which you don’t open, for the right shade. Quite good, really, if you can’t get into the shops to try it in person…

Full review of Clinique Even Better Foundation

Full review of Armani Maestro Glow

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  1. Ali
    February 11, 2019 / 7:24 am

    I live the foundation. Have used it for years. But this new bottle is just horrendous. I will b e changing my foundation due to this. The assistant told me that it will be less waste. Well if it drips all over my dressing table and is all around the top of the bottle how is this possible. It’s hard to determine how much you have in the dropper. Just awful

    • Natasha
      May 1, 2019 / 3:24 am

      I totally agree with you.I have used the old Skin Illusion Foundation for years.I am desperate now.I did go on line and found on eBay the old one and I bought 3.After I used all I want be buying the new one for sure.Now I have to start looking for the new foundation .Armani has good foundation ,so I will try that one.I don’t know why they did it, but they are going to lose many customers.

    • April 19, 2020 / 9:12 pm

      I agree with you on the new bottle – can’t imagine why anyone would think this was a good idea: It happens to be a very bad and very annoying idea!

  2. November 5, 2018 / 4:42 pm

    You convinced me, I got a sample and have found it has more coverage than I’m used to. But I feel like I look very grown up in it. This comes from a woman who is 77! I’ll be buying it today. I do trust your recommendations. Thanks for turning me on to this foundation. I love the array of colors.

  3. September 3, 2018 / 8:27 pm

    I know it’s not in the same range for comparison, but finish reminds me of Clarins BB Detox Fluid. Just as subtle and lightweight, yet covering. Love the review!

  4. September 2, 2018 / 8:08 pm

    Great foundation review. Your collection is really gorgeous, I like it.

  5. Helen
    September 2, 2018 / 2:43 pm

    Did you use a primer with this? I tend to use a primer with SPF (like Laura Mercier) as that feels like one less step. But if this is spf15 anyway that’s good enough for me for the winter (*prepares to be told off*). Looks really good.

  6. September 1, 2018 / 9:00 pm

    Yes, throw in some heavy coverage, powdery beasts, they are still my favorite kind of foundations to wear.


  7. August 31, 2018 / 6:22 pm

    I absolutely love light and fresh foundations like this one! I really love the way this looks on your skin. And my lord, you have had an interesting week! By the way, the close-ups are so nice. I can actually tell the difference properly and the way the foundation behaves on your skin. Very handy!

  8. August 31, 2018 / 9:55 am

    Lovely foundation review Ruth.
    I think this looks great on you however it will be far too glowy for my combination skin.
    What are your thoughts on the Nars Sheer Glow Foundation, I know its such an old classic but I just got it recently and I am really liking it on my skin. It sits really well and fairly lightweight too.

    My all time favourite is still my It cosmetics CC cream though!
    Leanne |

    • August 31, 2018 / 11:00 am

      Oh wow, that was a classic wasn’t it? I must dig it out! Love Nars. Still need to try the CC – I keep meaning to buy it when I’m in London, will do next time! x

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