Charlotte Tilbury's Charlotte's Magic Cream is the bedrock upon which the brand was built; its flagship product, so to speak. Charlotte's Magic Cream claims to be many things, including an anti-aging blockbuster on all counts, though it just can't quite live up to the hype. It earns an average, two-star rating from us because it lacks an array of truly beneficial anti-aging ingredients, and comes in packaging that will render the good ingredients it does have ineffective over time.
If you haven't heard of Charlotte's Magic Cream, it comes with its own superhero-esque origin story 20 years in the making: According to the brand, Tilbury herself came up with this cream's formula to help rejuvenate the skin of models backstage at fashion shows, and it became such an in-demand product that she had to share it with the world.
Back to the product, Charlotte's Magic Cream comes in a clear faceted plastic jar with a rose gold-colored twist-off lid. It is indeed attractive but more form than function—we'll get to that in a moment. The formula itself is very creamy, yet absorbs quickly into skin, leaving it feeling immediately softer. The finish is slightly pearlescent, which helps impart an attractive glow, though people with combination or oily skin might find this emphasizes shine where they don't want it. Those with very dry skin will find this isn't quite moisturizing enough for their needs, but if you have normal to slightly dry skin this definitely moisturizes enough for skin to feel comfortable throughout the day. Note that as this doesn't contain sunscreen, you will need to pair it with your favorite SPF 30+ broad-spectrum formula.
In addition to providing moisture to skin, like many other skincare products (including serums and moisturizers), Charlotte's Magic Cream can serve as a makeup primer. In that capacity it serves well, providing a smooth canvas on which to apply foundation, as well as helping that foundation last longer. Plus, there's the added glow this cream's finish has which can serve to add depth to any foundation applied over it.
Ultimately, Charlotte's Magic Cream only earns an average, two-star rating, and that's for two reasons: Its inability to live up to its anti-aging claims, and its packaging. Charlotte Tilbury claims its BioNymph Peptide Complex "fights the ageing process on all fronts… stimulates collagen production… fights free radicals, to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and smooth the skin." While this cream does contain two peptides, they're near the end of the ingredient list, and there's no independent research yet showing they can fight free radical damage as effectively as antioxidants.
Charlotte's Magic Cream does contain some great emollients such as shea butter and rosehip oil, along with anti-irritants like oat kernel extract and aloe. There are also some anti-aging ingredients like antioxidants tocopheryl acetate and ascorbic acid, plus moisture-boosting sodium hyaluronate. The issue is that many of these come after the rose water in the ingredient list, making their amount rather tiny for a product making such anti-aging claims.
Rose water isn't as bad for skin as rose oil, though it does gives this cream a scent that lingers for a couple of hours after you apply it, which is an issue if your prefer your skincare products to be fragrance-free or if you have sensitive skin.
Even if the antioxidants and additional anti-aging ingredients were here in abundance, there's the issue of this product's packaging to consider. Because it's in a jar, the ingredients will begin to break down as soon as they're exposed to light and air, meaning you're not getting your money's worth—and for this much money especially, you should be! See More Info for the additional details on why jars are always a problem for skincare products.
Overall, while Charlotte's Magic Cream does have its merits, the fact that it is fragranced, lacks much of any anti-aging ingredients to support its claims and its problematic packaging are enough cons to keep it from earning more than an average rating. For some great alternatives, you can see both our list of Best Moisturizers and Best Foundation Primers.
Note: The UK version of this cream lists it as having SPF 15, and while it does include sunscreen ingredients (such as homosalate and avobenzone), none of them is listed as active on the U.S. packaging, and it is not labeled as a sunscreen product in the United States. This is why it is not being rated or categorized as a product that contains broad-spectrum SPF.
The fact that it's packaged in a jar means the beneficial ingredients won't remain stable once it is opened. All plant extracts, almost all vitamins, antioxidants, and other state-of-the-art ingredients break down in the presence of air. Therefore, once a jar is opened and lets the air in, these important ingredients begin to deteriorate. Jars also are unsanitary because you're dipping your fingers into them with each use, adding bacteria that further deteriorate the beneficial ingredients.
The vast majority of ingredients that are most beneficial for your skin are not stable in the presence of light and air, which is exactly what happens when you take the lid off a jar (Pharmacology Review, 2013 & Journal of Biophotonics, 2010).
One of the critical factors in any anti-aging or skin-healing formula is the amount and variety of antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and skin-repairing ingredients, and the more the better. These function in a variety of ways to reduce the effects of the constant environmental stresses your skin experiences (Dermatology Research and Practice, 2012 & The Journal of Pathology, 2007).
Once you open that jar you bought, you immediately compromise the stability of the anti-aging superstars it contains. (You can visualize their benefits disappearing like puffs of air each time you open up that lid!)
Water (Aqua), Homosalate , Glyceryl Stearate SE, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Octocrylene, Cetyl Alcohol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Steareth-21, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Carbomer, Dimethiconol, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Chlorphenesin, Caprylyl Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Hydrolyzed Viola Tricolor Extract, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Disodium EDTA, Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Michelia Alba Leaf Oil, Sodium Lactate, Coco-Glucoside, PEG-8, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopherol, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Plumeria Rubra Flower Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Nicotiana Sylvestris Leaf Cell Culture, Linalool, Citronellol, Geraniol, plus a little bit of top secret magic...
*Note: This ingredient list is taken directly from the product packaging.
Charlotte Tilbury At-A-Glance
Charlotte Tilbury’s journey into creating her own makeup line began back in her teen years when she discovered the transformative power of makeup. Fast-forward several years and celebrity clients later, Tilbury made a name for herself as a makeup artist who epitomized the glamorous beauty of the supermodel era in the 90’s. Along the way, she became a consultant for beauty brands, and eventually decided to create her own line of makeup and select skincare products in 2013.
One of the strong suits of Charlotte Tilbury’s makeup is her take on color. The woman knows her way around flattering a complexion and making features pop, and you can see that in her shade range. That doesn’t mean you won’t find some misses along the way, but as a whole, the line offers an impressive selection of color.
Tilbury’s skincare, on the other hand, doesn’t fare quite as well. Between the use of jar packaging and some highly fragranced formulas, skin is left compromised (see individual reviews for details).
In no small way Tilbury’s years of painting beautiful faces has helped shape what her makeup line is today. If you don’t mind the $$$ factor, it’s worth taking a look at the standouts which earn our highest rating.
Strengths: Excellent color selection; natural-looking foundation and concealer.
Weaknesses: The iconic Magic Cream comes in a jar; some highly fragranced formulas.
For more information about Charlotte Tilbury, call 646-828-7431 or visit www.charlottetilbury.com/us
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