Every year, as September approaches, I come to terms with the inevitable: In a few weeks, I’ll transform into a pasty ghoul. My summer skin is luminous: I’m confident going out (to parties!) with little to no foundation at all; my long-standing dark circles are less vampiric; even when I wake up with a hormonal breakout in August, my skin looks more radiant, even-toned, and bronzy. Honestly, the effect is likely a combination of sweat and the fact that my skin actually sees the light of day (instead of being cooped up and huddled next to a space heater). Regardless, fall puts an end to that glow, and I’m constantly striving to re-create it.
The only product that has ever helped me successfully emulate that dog-days-of-summer glow is Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Flawless Filter, a luminosity-boosting complexion product that the brand calls “J.Lo skin in a bottle.” I use it all over for a super-glowy, no-coverage base or just on the high points of my skin (like cheekbones, bridge of the nose, and Cupid’s bow) for a highlighter effect. But what differentiates this product from all the other glowy makeup on the market is how insanely natural it looks when it’s applied to the skin; it isn’t shimmery or glittery but rather a pearlescent sheen that makes your complexion look as though there’s a lightbulb sitting under your skin. In all my time writing about beauty, no makeup product has ever gotten my skin more compliments, which is why I’ve purchased it twice and gifted it to both my mom and sister for Christmas.
But like most Charlotte Tilbury products — its “Pinkgasm” blush that I covered back in February, for example — TikTok has made the Hollywood Flawless Filter a viral success. These days, it’s nearly impossible to find; my shade was sold out at two different Sephoras, the Charlotte Tilbury website, and nowhere to be found at any airport Duty Free I’ve visited this year. On the one hand, I’m happy the product is getting the shine it deserves. But on the other, I’m dreading my ghoulish skin without it.
TikTok broke my heart, but it also pieced it back together. A few weeks ago, I searched for Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter dupe on TikTok. Within seconds, I was inundated with videos raving about E.l.f.’s new Halo Glow Liquid Filter, which launched in July. According to TikTokers, the product was not just similar but practically identical, so I had to try it out for myself.
One morning, I applied E.l.f.’s $14 Halo Glow Liquid Filter on one side of my face, and on the other half I used the last bit of Charlotte’s $38 Hollywood Flawless Filter in order to see if I could spot any major differences between the two (besides the price tag). As far as packaging goes, the doe-foot applicator on the E.l.f. product is about double the size of Charlotte’s, but that didn’t really make a big difference in how it applies to the skin, so I don’t suspect this would make or break why you prefer one over the other. When you buff the product into the skin, the formula and finish is nearly identical — both give off that incandescent, healthy-looking no-makeup-makeup sheen. If you stare closely enough, the E.l.f. product does give slightly more coverage, but, again, nothing very dramatically different.
While this wasn’t the case for me, it seems the major distinction between the two is shade range. In my case, the shade two in Charlotte Tilbury and two in E.l.f. is quite similar, the latter having a bit more yellow than olive to it. However, I have seen some folks online say the E.l.f. shades are a bit too warm and that if you have a cooler skin tone (meaning you have blue and pink undertones), they don’t give as perfect of a color match as Charlotte’s.
Having said that, as far as texture and finish go, this is without a doubt one of the most similar beauty dupes I’ve ever covered here on The Strategist. So if you’ve long coveted the lit-from-within glow that’s all over TikTok but for whatever reason can’t get your hands on Charlotte’s Hollywood Flawless Filter, this E.l.f. product is a fierce competitor.
As for me, I’ve reached the last few drops of my Charlotte Filter, so Halo Glow has officially been swapped in. After I’ve done my skin care, I dot Halo Glow all over the skin and blend it in with my fingers, creating a minimal-coverage, glowy base. Afterward, I apply a concealer (Kosas in shade two, for those who are curious) and place it anywhere I might need a little bit of extra coverage — under eyes, around the nose, and on any little hyperpigmentation marks — and blend it out with my fingers. This glowy, fresh-faced effect is a nice touch in the summer months, but it’ll be crucial once my tan fades and autumnal pastiness sets in.
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