If you’re even just remotely on the makeup side of Tik Tok, there’s a 99% chance you’ve heard of the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter. I feel like it’s almost an understatement to call it a cult favorite. It seriously seems like everyone and their mother swears by it. If you’re not familiar, the product is a complexion booster that blurs, smooths, and illuminates for a real-life filter effect. A real-life filter effect. That’s a big promise, and something I definitely want to get in on. So, what’s the catch? Well, it’s $50. You know what that means—it’s time to go hunting for alternatives.
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Before this experiment, I’d never actually used the Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter before (or any of these products), so I went in with a totally unbiased point of comparison (you’re welcome). We’ve gathered four of the most talked about alternatives that don’t break quite as much of your bank, and I’m here to give you the low-down. After some light research on how to apply each product, I’ve decided to treat them as I would a foundation. I simply put on enough to cover my face in a thin layer, and blended each product with a damp beauty sponge. I wore no other makeup at all (with one exception), forcing the products to shine on their own accord.
Each product is scored on a scale from 0-5, with 5 being a “must-buy” and 0 being a “never-buy”. I took off half of a point for every con I ran into—except price. Because we’re talking affordable alternatives, price is noted in the pros and cons, but doesn’t affect the overall rating.
Okay, with the technicals out of the way, it’s time to test. Can any of these Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter alternatives beat the OG? Let’s go:
Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter
Pros: lightweight, blends super well, glowy but not shiny, amazing filter effect
Obviously, we had to start out with the star herself, and I am here to confirm that it 100% is worth the hype. Like, Charlotte Tilbury is that girl for this. I usually assume any liquid product that’s supposed to make you “glow” will feel at least a little bit sticky or heavy. But, the consistency is extremely lightweight and almost feels like there isn’t even any makeup on my skin. The finish is a lot more natural looking than I thought it was going to be, too. As someone with red undertones and lots of acne scars, it’s super hard to find any foundation-type of product that gives coverage without looking cakey—but guess what? Charlotte did it. Plus, the amount of glow it leaves is just *chef’s kiss*. I don’t look like an overly glazed donut, but more like golden hour is following me everywhere I go. Long story short, I’m on the bandwagon, folks.
It’s no shocker that my main qualm with this product is the price, coming in at $49 for one fluid ounce of product. As someone who doesn’t usually splurge on makeup, this scares me. But, you really do get what you pay for, and I’d easily say it’s worth it. If you’re in the market for a little treat yourself moment or just want a reliable everyday go-to, literally look no further. CTHFF, you have my heart.
e.l.f Halo Glow Liquid Filter
Pros: price, glowy but not shiny, good filter effect
Cons: shade, a little thick for my liking, not very natural looking
Out of all of the alternatives out there, this is the one that people rave about the most, so my hopes were very high. Overall, I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either. I will say that I am a big fan of the glow factor and level of coverage. It looks way better on camera than it did in real life, so if you’re looking for a product specifically for on-camera moments, this could be your winner. You can only take my word for it, but it looked a lot cakier in person—and it felt like it, too. I also picked up their lightest shade, yet it still was too dark for me. The texture and color were just kind of giving peanut butter.
However, I can totally see why people would be a fan of this product. If you’re used to thicker consistencies for face makeup (which I’m not) and are able to find the right shade, I understand the hype. Plus, its $14 price point and availability in pretty much every drugstore is a huge bonus. I don’t think it’s for me, but it could be for you.
Kosas Glow I.V Skin Illuminating Enhancer
Cons: price, way too sparkly, literally does not blend at all, no coverage, sticky, the least natural looking thing I’ve ever put on my face, etc.
This was definitely…something. Okay, upon my first application, I immediately assumed I was doing something wrong. But with a quick Google search, it gave pretty much the exact same instructions as the CTHFF and e.l.f Liquid Filter. It got to the point where I was convincing myself that I had to have gotten some sort of defective bottle—like this was from the production’s testing stages and it accidentally fell into the Sephora shipment container. I won’t waste too much of my time or yours, as I think the rating and photo speak for themselves (zoom in on that photo…seriously). Also, mind you, I put a very normal amount on my face—maybe 3 pumps at most. For $38, I got every con in the book. I really am not trying to be a hater right now, but Kosas…what happened?
Maybe if you’re going to a music festival or costume party, this could make for a fun highlighter if you use a super small amount. But other than that, I’d explore other options for sure.
Saie Glowy Super Gel Illuminating Fluid
Pros: price, lightweight, glowy but not shiny
Cons: maybe a little too subtle of a glow
I’d actually never heard of this brand before doing this review, but I was oh-so pleasantly surprised. It’s important to note that this is a skin illuminator and isn’t really meant for giving any kind of filter-esque moment on its own. So, I applied it like all of the other products, then finished it off with a layer of my own personal everyday skin tint on top (I use the Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint—it’s sheer coverage, more so just tones down redness, and it’s been my go-to for years). Because it’s completely sheer, I honestly just loved the subtle glow it left before I applied the skin tint. I would definitely wear it on its own for the sole purpose of bringing some life back into my face. It sort of feels like a cooling gel, and it definitely leaves the look of it, too. As I said, it doesn’t have any level of “filtering” effect (or at least any that I noticed), but the dewy finish is so cute for a light, natural moment.
Priced at $28, I would 100% incorporate this into my routine. However, this product is very natural looking, so if you’re in the market for something with the filter effect that really leaves a glow, it may not be your absolute fav.
Versed Mood Lighting Glow Drops
Pros: price, lightweight, perfect level of glow
Cons: too bronzey to wear on its own for my complexion
Once again, this product doesn’t give any coverage, so I went in with my trusty Glossier skin tint after applying. And let me just say, I’m obsessed with how it turned out. The amount of/type of glow it leaves is super similar to the CTHFF, and it has the same type of cool, lightweight consistency as the Saie product. If it had that blurring and filtering element, dare I say it’d be the perfect product in my eyes on its own. I seriously don’t think I’d have to put anything else on my face ever again. With Versed being known as a skincare brand, I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I do, but here we are. And for only $18? A steal. We love an underdog.
The only reason I’m deducting half a point is because the product doesn’t stand on its own like the CTHFF does. But, if you’re in it for the glow alone, you need to try this ASAP.
At the end of the day, I think I still have to give the crown to Charlotte Tilbury. That’s a lot coming from me, as I am a find-a-more-affordable-alternative girly ’til the day I die. But alas, it just truly has it all. However, you definitely can’t go wrong with any of these products, and they all have their own perks that make them worth a try (well, except Kosas…but if you want to prove me wrong by all means give it a go!). I’d personally recommend the Versed Mood Lighting Glow Drops first, but if you want a filter and glow in one, the e.l.f Halo Glow Liquid Filter is the way to go. All in all, there are some 10/10 options out there, but our girl Charlotte definitely knows what she’s doing.