Award for the most unlikely makeup hero of the year, so far, goes to Chanel’s new Baume Essentiel. The transparent version. (There are two.) This is one of the most low-key radiance balms you’ll ever find; it’s so subtle – Chanel’s word is discreet, which I love – that you’d be hard-pressed, as an observer, to work out what an earth someone had done to their face. Healthy skin, a mirror-like shine but not a trace of obvious highlight to be seen.
With no shimmery bits and absolutely no glitter, I had to wonder at what this balm would actually do – surely a swipe of Vaseline would suffice, if you just wanted shiny cheekbones? But even on first application I could tell that Baume Essentiel was something special; smooth and soft, it felt like daubing my face with a lovely, moisturising skincare product rather than applying makeup. I suppose that in a way Baume Essentiel is a skincare product – albeit a targeted one, to be used sparingly. You wouldn’t want to apply it all over, but if your skin happened to be impossibly dry and you dreaded applying highlighter powders or radiance products, it would be comforting to know that this highlighter stick wasn’t going to add to your problems.
“Highlighter stick” sounds clumsy and brash, doesn’t it? I much prefer Baume Essentiel, even if I do have to check the spelling every time I write it. And it’s as far from the traditional highlighting stick as you can get – it’s a slick of dew, a swipe of gleam, a sheeny glow that you can actually touch and feel. I find myself writing about “lit from within” radiance a lot – mainly because that’s how I describe a lot of the best foundations I test – but the Baume Essential is almost the opposite idea. It’s shine on the outside. It’s the visible, tactile sort of shine that you’d get from a very rich and intense moisturiser, except that this shine doesn’t melt into the skin and disappear.
And perhaps that’s the most important point here; use Vaseline on your face, use a buttery moisturiser, use a tiny bit of face oil perhaps and yes, you’ll get that same shine for a limited time. But it doesn’t last. The Chanel Baume Essentiel* sticks around (excuse the pun) and doesn’t slide, blotch or absorb; drawn onto cheekbones and then lightly blended with fingertips, it just gives the impression that you’ve got incredible skin and that you’re the sort of person who exercises for fun.
I haven’t always been into makeup in stick form – there’s something that feels a bit playgroup Pritt Stick about it all – but in this case, it’s the perfect way to apply. Drawing it on in a rustic way, where the light would naturally catch, is quick and easy and decidedly more sophisticated than I thought it would be. Chanel suggest using a little brush to apply and blend, but I like the way that fingertips keep it all very slightly sweaty and sexy – brushing it on seems far too clinical.
You can use the Baume Essentiel very convincingly on eyelids and lips, too, as well as the usual highlighting points (cupid’s bow, under the brows, on the bridge of the nose – a TINY amount!) giving your entire face the sort of lift that would usually only be possible with a time machine and a destination called “1998”. And the beauty of the balm stick is that you can hardly go overboard with it, unless you have an unhinged moment and scribble it all over your face like a demented clown. It’s less a makeup stick, more a good skin stick – instant gloss.
The part you’ve all been waiting for? Baume Essentiel costs £33. This is low-key highlighting the luxury way, but it’s often the low-key stuff that’s the hardest to get right. Or, more to the point, the easiest to get wrong. Glossing the face is risky – you could look greasy and sweaty in all of the wrong places – but this beautiful balm makes getting glowy a total cinch.