Luminous beauties

Long-lasting, easy to apply and universally flattering, the latest metallic eyeshadows shine out as this season’s star trend. Karen Wheeler reports.

Make-up from Chanel’s new Illusion d’Ombre range.
Make-up from Chanel’s new Illusion d’Ombre range.

Every so often a trend comes along – ergonomically shaped mascara wands being a recent example – that creates a little quake at the beauty counter. This season brings another: glide-on glitter eyeshadow. Before you turn the page, I should point out that this is glitter for grown-ups and if, like me, you have been carefully cultivating the “no make-up make-up look” for years, this trend is almost certainly for you. My own moment of epiphany came when, after years of wearing barely-there brown powder eyeshadow, I bought Bobbi Brown’s Metallic Long-Wear Cream Shadow in Galaxy (£17) – a shimmering, metallic brown, which proved to be literally an eye-opener. Since then, I’ve swapped natural-looking eyes for obvious embellishment – for sparkle, shine and densely pigmented metallics – and in so doing have found myself in the vanguard of the beauty world’s hottest trend.

Ever since Prada’s spring/summer 2011 show, where models wore startling blocks of solid silver painted from eyelid to brow bone, metallic eye make-up has been in the ascendant. “Cream eyeshadows and metallics are two of the key make-up trends for autumn/winter,” says Annalise Quest, general merchandise manager for beauty at Harrods. “Some of the new formulations are amazing – just so long-wearing – while the deep pigmentation gives them a depth and an extra dimension.” The “extra dimension” that Quest refers to is key to the trend, for the latest shimmer formulas are light years removed from the frosted eyeshadows of the 1970s, which pooled in the crease of the eye and made the lids look crêpey.

Featuring innovative textures and silky-smooth finishes, the new glitter shadows have a sparkle that blends almost seamlessly with the skin. They have what I call “the glide factor” – they smooth on to the lid, giving a polished finish, no blending or clever brush work required. Once there, they remain in place and crease-free for up to 16 hours. They also offer an interesting sensorial experience. Dip your fingers into a pot of Chanel’s new Illusion d’Ombre Long Wear Luminous Eyeshadow (£22.50), or one of Shiseido’s Shimmering Cream Eye Colours (£20), and suddenly matte powder eyeshadows seem very passé – and ageing. As John Gustafson, the independent make-up artist at Fenwick, says: “If you’re over 40, matte powder eyeshadows are not your friend. On older skin they look very dead. It’s better to wear shadows with shimmer or a metallic-based hue, which won’t look flat and two-dimensional.”

Many will be familiar with radiance-boosting primers and foundations that make the skin look more vibrant. Now similar light-reflecting technology is being used for eyeshadows, too. (What, you might ask, took the cosmetics industry so long?) Iridescence and luminescence are the new buzzwords in eye make-up, which, incidentally, is a flourishing market, according to the findings of market research company The NPD Group in New York. It reports “a return in popularity of eye products”, with the eyeshadow category of the prestige beauty market up 11 per cent in dollar sales, year on year (January to May 2011).

Clockwise from top: Shiseido Shimmering Cream Eye Colour in Magnolia and Purple Dawn, £20; Clinique Lid Smoothie Antioxidant 8-Hour Eye Colour in Pink Biloba, £17; Bobbi Brown Metallic Long-Wear Cream Shadow in Antique Gold, £17; Chanel Le Vernis in Peridot, £17.50; Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colour in Amethyst, £20.50.
Clockwise from top: Shiseido Shimmering Cream Eye Colour in Magnolia and Purple Dawn, £20; Clinique Lid Smoothie Antioxidant 8-Hour Eye Colour in Pink Biloba, £17; Bobbi Brown Metallic Long-Wear Cream Shadow in Antique Gold, £17; Chanel Le Vernis in Peridot, £17.50; Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colour in Amethyst, £20.50.

“Shimmer and light-reflecting properties have been a real trend across the [cosmetics] market for the past couple of years,” says Sarah Coonan, assistant beauty buyer at Liberty. “We’re seeing it in a number of categories this season – not just eyeshadows and eyeliner but nail polish, too.” Chanel, for example, has several metallic polishes in its autumn/winter 2011 cosmetic collection, including Le Vernis Nail Colour (£17.50) in Graphite, Quartz and Peridot (a two-toned blue/gold metallic). The metallic trend is partly a reflection of the 1970s fashion revival – “Khaki green shimmer eyeshadows are currently very popular,” says Coonan – and is bringing some fun and excitement to the beauty hall.

Chanel’s Illusion d’Ombre Long Wear Luminous Eyeshadow is arguably this season’s most exciting make-up launch. The individual pots of metallic colour are truly innovative, most notably because of the texture: it looks like powder (in the pot) but is actually a cream. “The eyelid moves a lot and has lots of small pleats but the silicone base makes the cream less mobile, becoming almost one with the skin,” says Peter Philips, global creative director of Chanel Makeup. “It absorbs the light but at the same time it reflects light, so you get both intensity [of colour] and luminosity. I wanted to use this avant-garde texture in very subtle shades so as not to scare people away.”

The degree of glitter varies according to the light. It tones down in natural light, but amps up spectacularly when viewed under the artificial kind. I applied Illusoire (which Chanel describes as a grey-tinged taupe but I would say is more of a minky mauve) in daylight where the effect was subtle; and then viewed it by the light of my desk lamp, where it was dazzling. It was as if I was looking at two different products. Similarly, you can apply the new eyeshadow super-sheer or in full-density colour to different effect. This, says Philips, is deliberate since “not everyone wants fireworks”, and was achieved by including glitter particles of two different sizes in the formulation. “The bigger particles of glitter give bigger reflection and therefore luminosity,” he adds. “The idea was to bring a little magic to the eyes.”

“The texture of Illusion d’Ombre is weird but stunning,” says Gustafson, who picks out Fantasme, an iridescent white, for special mention. “It glides over the eyelids like sunlight sparkling on water and creates a translucent effect that is just magnificent,” he says. “You can use it all over sheer or just below the brow bone in conjunction with a denser colour on the lid to create the illusion of bigger, brighter eyes.” Illusion d’Ombre is available in six shades, all inspired by precious metals. The two most wearable are the aforementioned Illusoire and Epatant (officially a grey-shadowed khaki, actually more of a golden taupe).


Make-up artist Bobbi Brown, meanwhile, has established herself as the queen of sparkle, which is surprising given that she is usually associated with natural make-up. But via her eponymous, Estée Lauder-owned, make-up collection she has made shimmer eyeshadow user-friendly for the older customer. “Today’s iridescent make-up is so much prettier since it is formulated with more finely ground pearl than its predecessor, to give a more sheer, more luminous, and more forgiving application,” she says. “For those with fair skin, I advise pale gold, soft beige or pale silver shadows, while the medium-toned should go for rose or gold.” Darker skins, she says, are best complemented by bronze. The Metallic Long-Wear Cream Shadows are great for day, the two most wearable shades being Galaxy and Mercury – a suits-almost-everyone silver that is quite often sold out.

For those not afraid of vibrant colour – and there is much less to be afraid of with formulas that can be applied transparently – Shiseido’s new Shimmering Cream Eye Colour (£20) is available in 12 shades, running the gamut from neutrals to vibrant green (Moss) and blue (Angel). The new eyeshadow was created by Dick Page, Shiseido’s artistic director for make-up and one of the world’s most sought-after make-up artists. Page previewed the new eyeshadow at New York Fashion Week autumn/winter 2011, where he used Sable, a luxe shimmery brown, to create an (almost) natural look at the Michael Kors show; and Purple Dawn, a 1970s purple, which he applied to models for the Narciso Rodriguez show, along with Caviar, a dense black.

The new shadow has an “extraordinarily luminous quality,” according to Page. This is because the creams contain a colourless powder, which Shiseido refers to as “Jewel Reflecting Powder technology”. Unlike pearl agents conventionally used in shimmer shadows, the particles reflect different colours from every angle. At the same time, a significant amount of light can pass through, creating the all-important luminescence. The cream claims to stay in place for an incredible 16 hours without slipping or creasing (unfortunately not on my lids, where it lasted well for six), and contains ingredients to create a feeling of moisture and comfort on the lids.

Clinique’s Lid Smoothie Antioxidant 8-Hour Eye Colour (£17) also has treatment qualities. Not only does it add a subtle sheen of colour to your lids but it contains ingredients (cucumber, aloe vera and caffeine) to refresh and energise tired-looking eyes, while collagen-boosting peptides help to smooth the skin. Other antioxidant ingredients have been included to help rejuvenate the delicate eye area, including extracts of vitamin E, broccoli, carrot, blueberry and spinach. The cream shadows, which are dispensed from retro-style tubes, are best suited to day wear as the shimmer factor is subtle. The 12 shades range from neutral to the all-important 1970s-inspired violet, blue and green.


Another strong trend is for glitter pencils, which can be layered over eyeshadow or used alone along the lash line. Bobbi Brown’s Dual Ended Eye Liner (£17) is a limited-edition metallic pencil available in three colourways: jet & chrome, chocolate & brown and caviar & gold. Another hot buy is Chanel’s Le Crayon Yeux Khaki Platine Eye Pencil (£17) – a pale gold/khaki metallic glimmer pencil. Laura Mercier’s Caviar Stick Eye Colour (£20.50) is also creating a buzz. “It’s a fat chunky cream eyeliner, some but not all of which have a gorgeous metallic glimmer,” explains Coonan. “It’s available in eight shades, but Amethyst – a deeply pigmented glittery shade – is particularly wonderful.”

The beauty of glide-on cream shadows and pencils is that you can build up the colour gradually and, as Coonan says, “If you make a mistake it’s much easier to make amendments than with powder eyeshadows.” It seems modern shimmer formulations, with their silky, velvety textures, are destined to be more than just a brilliant flash in the pan; they look set to be the future of eye make-up. RIP the powder shadow.

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