Review: Illamasqua’s Gel Sculpt

Illamasqua’s Gel Sculpt was heralded as the new thing in contouring. It would usher in a new era of defining the face, they said. But, for what it’s worth, I’m unconvinced.

I remember the social media posts leading up to its launch: monochrome, abstract, mysterious. The hype surrounding the unveiling was huge and I was completely sucked in. I had my phone on my desk at work, continually checking my emails until it dropped into my inbox: ‘Available now.’ But then the delivery arrived and compared to the enormity of its billing, the box was teeny tiny. 

It’s so good that you won’t need to use a lot…It’ll last forever, I told myself.

And yes it probably will, because – two months later – I’ve only used it once.

Take off the cap and you’ll find a cylinder of solid gel (it reminds me of roll-on deodorant) with a fresh floral smell. Weird, but I can handle weird. Scoot the gel across your hand and it gets weirder. What, in the bullet, looks like the perfectly cool, deep IMG_4456taupe transfers to the skin as a pale coffee hued smudge. Gel Sculpt is really a glorified cheek tint and a strange one at that.

In their quest to create the first ‘natural’ looking contouring product, Illamasqua have skimped on the colour-punch that typifies their brand. Silhouette, so far, is the only shade intended to ‘sculpt’ the face so I understand that they needed to produce a shade that would suit every skin tone, but the truth is there isn’t a universal colour that will please everyone and, even if there was, I don’t imagine it would be as warm toned as this. I guess the name ‘Silhouette’ implies its intention to mimic natural looking shadows, but I can’t help but think it should be called ‘Obvious.’

The picture on the left was taken after just one stroke on my hand, immediately after application. As you can see, the colour is wish-washy, the coverage sheer and the finish oddly glossy. When I first used this on my face, I quickly applied more coats, presuming the colour would deepen as desired, but the sepia only became more opaque… in patches. With a slight hesitation, I took up my make-up sponge to dab off the excess and start again, but by that time the gloss had turned to matte, the gel had dried and my contour was fit to survive pollution on a nuclear scale.

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L-R: One stroke; Two strokes; A desperate amount of strokes.

A waterproof contouring product that won’t fade or rub away throughout the day? Amazing!

If you actually like it…

I just can’t seem to get my head around this product. I’ve tried applying it straight from the bullet onto my cheeks, but it dries too quickly leaving an unyielding streak of bronze that refuses to blend. I’ve also tried Illamasqua’s recommended method of application: the gel is applied to the fleshy part of your palm beneath your thumb on one hand; then bounce your palms together to distribute the product over both hands; finally, with your thumbs parallel to your ears, dab the product onto your cheeks, cradling your cheekbones.

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What I mean by “the fleshy part of your palm beneath your thumb.”

This method is great for creating a subtle hue around the face… if you’re careful. But as there’s little to no precision involved, it’s quite difficult to stop the product from straying into your hairline or down onto your jaw (and there’s no hope of neatening it up afterwards). I tried this method just before writing this post and had to apply more foundation underneath to try and sculpt some sort of shape from the brown splodge, which I eventually completely covered in NYX’s Taupe blush. Fail.

Perhaps, in a different shade, I’d appreciate Gel Sculpt a little more. The formula is innovative, but fraught with practical issues like ‘how on earth do I apply this?’ If the gel wasn’t to set as quickly as it does, it would be a whole different story, but for now it will sit gathering dust on my dresser.

What do you think of Illamasqua’s Gel Sculpt?

Hope you like!

Molly x

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Laura Mercier’s Priming Duo: Foundation Primer + Eyebright

Primers have become an increasingly important part of my daily routine as I’ve gotten older. In my early teens, I had woefully dry skin, particularly around my nose, and found no way to remedy it other than to pull away the loose flakes (GROSS). In my late teens, I seemed to miraculously develop a T-zone and experienced ‘angry spots’ and open pores for the first time along with my already crispy nose (DOUBLE GROSS). Now, in my early twenties, my skin has plateaued at a manageable, if sometimes frustrating, combination of greasy and flaky (triple gross?). So along with my usual concoction of moisturising products, primers are a staple of my make-up kit.

Laura Mercier’s Foundation Primer, £29

Before now, my first and only primer had been Revlon’s Photoready which, despite having used it religiously for three years, wasn’t always up to scratch. Though it keeps my makeup in place for around 4 hours without noticeable creasing, its chalky paste-like texture does little for my already dry skin. It not only makes my rough patches more pronounced but can make my whole face feel tight and uncomfortable. So having scoured the internet for an alternative, there was one primer that seemed to stand out from the crowd – Laura Mercier’s Foundation Primer.

I know, I’m considerably late to the party, but its continued success since its first release in 1995 is hard to ignore. Winner of InStyle’s Best Beauty Buys Award last year, I figured its £29 price tag was a small price to pay for such an apparently amazing product. And who am I to argue with InStyle? Nobody.

But, as with anything, it has its quirks. Having used such a thick primer for years, the consistency was the first thing to strike me. It is a particularly loose, semi-set gel that turns to liquid as soon as it touches the skin. This carries the usual benefits: a little goes a very long way, there’s no risk of it caking and it feels instantly hydrating. Which are all good, but deceptive.

The formula is so thin that it feels as though it’s not actually doing much to your face, much like splashing it with water. Perhaps I’ve been kept in the dark for too long, but I’ve always associated primers with making my skin feel ‘buffed,’ that crazy smooth, lump and dimple-free, almost furry, feeling when all pores are filled and all wrinkles blurred. This meant, on first application, I assumed I hadn’t applied enough and coated my face in at least three days’ worth only to find my skin as un-‘buffed’ as ever…and a little sticky.

So the trick is to let it set before applying any products on top; if you’re too hasty, the formula has no time to create that desired ‘barrier’ over pores and fine lines and you’ll see no pay off. But give it a minute or so and this stuff makes for a lightweight, but seemingly impenetrable face fortress.

Unlike some, less expensive primers, this doesn’t zap all moisture from the skin in an attempt to prevent shine; instead it sets to a semi-matte, ‘second skin’ finish that allows for a flattering natural sheen. This is great news for those with dry/combination skin like mine, as it doesn’t feel tight or dehydrating and allows for what ‘glow’ you have to peak through. For those with oily skin, though, this formula may not be ‘heavy-duty’ enough to hold back shine for the whole day. On my oilier days (phases of the moon and all that…), I’ve noticed that, although my makeup doesn’t budge, I still need something to blot my T-zone. Those with oily skin types may therefore prefer to give the Oil-Free version of this primer a try as it is specifically geared towards controlling oil production and soothing blemish prone skin.

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The wonders of Laura Mercier’s Foundation Primer have been talked about for almost twenty years, and with good reason, but before you invest, it’s worth testing out the product at your local beauty counter to get a feel for its effective, if peculiar, formula.

Laura Mercier’s Eye Basics in Eyebright, £19

Laura Mercier’s Eye Basics are a small collection of tinted eye primers that work to prime, conceal and correct your eyelids. Seven of the Basics are neutral colours intended for particular skintones, but the eighth, Eyebright, is a striking baby blue. Even when Laura Mercier does colour, it’s in the most sophisticated of ways, with deep plums, navies and emerald greens so Eyebright stood out as something entirely different… I had to buy it.

The reviews of this product on various sites are awful with most complaining about the unusual colour, but I like it…I think. Due to a consistent lack of sleep (and a slight allergy to eyelash glue), my eyelids are always puffy in the morning. This, together with my already pale skin tone, makes for sallow, veiny and swollen skin that needs to be soothed and hidden, pronto. A sweep of Eyebright and my eyelids look instantly brighter and more even; the pale blue colour helps give life to pallid skin and neutralises redness, while anti-oxidants Vitamin A, C and E along with other anti-inflammatories reduce puffiness. Unlike the other colours in the range, Eyebright also has medicinal properties (apparently… LM doesn’t state exactly what these are) to heal and soothe broken skin. Which I don’t have…but when I do, it’ll be helpful.

Once blended, much of the colour fades to an almost sheer, white semi-matte finish which my fair skin can get away with wearing alone, but I’d  imagine that, on darker skin tones, this white wash across the eyes would look too stark. As a base for eyeshadows, though, Eyebright works with any skin tone and helps cling to pigment, making shadows look more opaque and pigmented.

Crease-resistant and waterproof, Eyebright is a good product to have in your beauty arsenal to give a much needed lift to tired eyes, used alone to colour correct and conceal or beneath eyeshadows to prime. That being said, this isn’t cheap. And does it do something that no other product can? Well, no, not really. A good concealer, corrector or eyeshadow base can do pretty much the same thing. For me, the real benefit of Eyebright is the colour; concealers and correctors can hide dark circles and redness, but are rarely pale enough to truly ‘brighten’ my skin. ‘Brightening’ concealers are often very yellow – in an attempt to cancel out blueish shadows. On certain skin tones, this just replaces one problem with another – tiredness with ‘jaundice.’ If you’ve been searching for something to avoid both of these issues, then maybe it’s worth giving Eyebright a go!

Would you consider Laura Mercier’s primers? What are your favourite priming products?

Hope you like!

Molly