Saturday, April 20, 2024

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Water Cream Is an Editor-Loved Twist on the Original Formula | Review, See Photos

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As with a spin-off of a popular TV show, the next iteration of a beloved skin-care product has a lot to live up to. It has the potential to be a timeless nod to its predecessor and achieve success in its own right (à la Melrose Place or Vanderpump Rules) or it could become a major flop (remember Joey? Yeah, we didn’t think so).

Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Water Cream, by Allure editors’ standards, is a hit — a new incarnation of the brand’s original Magic Cream that we didn’t know we needed. “It’s been 10 years since the launch of my iconic Magic Cream,” says brand founder and makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury. Her reason for creating this water-enhanced version of it now is simple: These days our skin is more dehydrated due to our environment and “on-the-go lifestyles.”

I was both excited and skeptical of the Magic Water Cream. The original was one of my favorite moisturizers and I thought it would be hard for the brand to top it, as well as follow through with its seemingly lofty claims (which we’ll get into later). I put it to the test on my extra-dry, thirsty skin and tapped my fellow editors and skin-care experts for their thoughts too.

Meet the experts:

  • Kelly Dobos is a cosmetic chemist with expertise in skin care who is based in Cincinnati.
  • Mona Gohara, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in Hamden, Connecticut.

In this story:


According to the brand, both the Magic Water Cream and the original Magic Cream were developed for use on all skin types and with makeup layering in mind. Beyond that, though, the two moisturizers are very different: The Magic Water Cream is fragrance free, while the original has a subtle floral scent; and the Magic Water Cream has a bouncy texture, somewhere between a gel and a cream, while its predecessor is emollient and on par with a traditional, rich moisturizer.

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Water Cream

The biggest difference between the two is the new cream’s ability to deeply hydrate skin — fast. Tilbury calls this a “targeted solution” for thirsty skin, which, as dermatologists have taught us, can manifest as tight, dull, and flaky, but also congested and extra-oily. The new cream — which went through 60 iterations and was tested on Tilbury’s many celebrity clients — is formulated with aquaporin-boosting technology. This leads us to…

The Ingredients

A quick biology lesson: Aquaporins are proteins that naturally occur in your skin cells’ membranes and are critical to your skin’s health (and ultimately how radiant, plump, and firm it looks). “They allow specific materials into and out of the cell, like glycerin and water,” says cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos. “The right levels of water and glycerin are essential to proper skin hydration.”

The Magic Water Cream contains what the brand calls “waterlocking fusion technology,” a blend that includes glyceryl glucoside and beta-glucan to boost the skin’s aquaporin function. “Glyceryl glucoside can increase aquaporin activity,” says Dobos. “There is a synergistic effect between glyceryl glucoside and the glycerin in the formula, boosting hydration from within the skin.”

The beta-glucan, a polysaccharide, impacts overall efficacy and the moisturizer’s feel on skin, according to Jonathan Reynolds, Charlotte Tilbury’s director of scientific development. “It creates a super lightweight film on the skin, helping the formula instantly hydrate the skin and reduce transepidermal water loss,” he says. (Trans-epidermal water loss is when water leaves through the skin and evaporates into the environment.) :Over time, it boosts the skin barrier function, reduces the appearance of redness, and makes the skin look and feel smoother.”

The Magic Water Cream also contains vitamins C and E, which, together, can help with uneven tone and the reduction of fine lines, says board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. She also notes the cream’s use of hyaluronic acid, which pulls moisture to the skin, and peptides, which can help with firming.

Dr. Gohara says this moisturizer is formulated for all skin types, but could be particularly helpful “with both mature and perimenopausal skin — estrogen drops and so does hydration.”

How I Tested It

For the best results, Tilbury suggests a five-minute massage that incorporates her Tilbury Tap technique: “Gently tap from the center of your face outwards in a pitter-patter motion,” she explains, claiming it will boost skin’s microcirculation.

Every morning and evening for three weeks, I dabbed dime-size amounts of the cream onto my cheeks, forehead, and chin. I used its slippery texture to give myself a mini lymphatic drainage massage before adding some of the taps Tilbury suggested. I’m not sure if the taps did anything for my skin, but they felt amazing.

The moisturizer made my skin feel slick on first application, but quickly dried down. When I applied it in the a.m., I layered sunscreen and concealer on top of it. In the evening, I applied the moisturizer after my prescription tretinoin, before I went to sleep.

Before and After

Senior editor Jesa Marie Calaor before (left) and after (right) using the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Water Cream.

Jesa Marie Calaor / Design by Bella Geraci

Immediately after application, my normally dry, dehydrated skin looked juicy with moisture, which was in line with what Dobos expected. “In the short term, you’ll see intense and immediate hydration,” she says. That effect was accompanied by a selfie-ready, semi-dewy glow.

Dobos says that with continued use, one can expect a “stronger and more resilient skin barrier.” Adds Dr. Gohara, the skin might appear firmer and more radiant.

I’ve been using the cream consistently for the past three weeks and have experienced all of the above. What’s even better is how seamlessly I have been able to work this cream into my routine: It doesn’t break down my makeup in the morning or leave stains on my pillows at night. And it feels oh-so-good to knead into my face.

More Allure Reviews

Sarah Han, commerce editor

Commerce editor Sara Han after using the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Water Cream.

Sara Han / Design by Bella Geraci

I have normal/combination-leaning skin, and I was thrilled to hear that Charlotte Tilbury was launching a lighter version of its Magic Cream. Yes, ingredients matter, but I find with moisturizers, that texture plays an even bigger role for me.

On contact, the Magic Water Cream feels more lightweight and refreshing than its richer counterpart. This means I can wear it under makeup and not fret about it emulsifying my look or pilling (the worst). Simply put, it’s a real joy to apply.

I keep my morning skin-care routine simple, sometimes even skipping moisturizer in favor of a moisturizing sunscreen. I have noticed, though, that when I use this cream before, my skin looks brighter and a bit calmer (some redness improved, not all).

My T-zone, however, looks as shiny as usual, and I can’t say much about the formula’s pore-refining abilities because I didn’t see change there either (even though the formula contains niacinamide, known to smooth skin and minimize pores).

All in all, Magic Water Cream is a keeper. I love that I can wear it anytime without feeling like, well, there’s a huge glob of moisturizer on my face.

Talia Gutierrez, associate special projects manager

Associate special projects manager Talia Gutierrez after using the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Water Cream.

Talia Gutierrez / Design by Bella Geraci

When I first unscrewed the familiar octagonal glass jar of Magic Water Cream and felt the gel-like texture on my index finger, my sensitive/normal skin couldn’t wait to indulge.

Initially, I grabbed a dime-size amount, which was quickly absorbed into my skin. Curious to see how my skin would react further, I applied a second dose of the same amount of product. There were no red flags like pilling, tingling, or redness around my laugh lines, so I turned to my mirror to see the finish.

My skin drank up this cream like an ice-cold glass of water after a sweaty summer commute. My cheekbones gave off a glistening effect, and my cheeks felt bouncy, as if I’d just had a hydrating facial treatment — all this from a quarter-size amount of this stuff.

It’s not often I switch out my nighttime moisturizer, but knowing how well this gel-textured cream works during the day, I feel like I’m giving my skin a real treat by opting for an additional application before bed. I have repeated this application process ever since. To sum up my experience: lightweight, no reaction, total glow. Who doesn’t want that?

Angela Trakoshis, shopping market editor

Shopping market editor Angela Trakoshis after using the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Water Cream.

Angela Trakoshis / Design by Bella Geraci

I love the original Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream for overnight use. It’s great as the last step of my nighttime routine because its thick formula really locks in everything.

But this new version is great for daytime because it not only leaves my oily skin looking dewy and fresh, it layers extremely well under my makeup. It gives glass-like skin and never feels greasy or slimy.

I’ve yet to see any texture- or acne-improving results, but I’ve only been using the new formula for a few weeks. I’ll continue to use this water-based moisturizer during the day and switch to the OG option for nighttime to achieve the ultimate dewy effect.

Sarah Hoffmann, commerce producer

Commerce producer Sarah Hoffmann showcases the texture of the magic water cream on her cheek.

Sarah Hoffmann / Design by Bella Geraci

I’m a sucker for a cooling, easily absorbed formula that doesn’t feel too heavy on my skin. I have combination skin that errs on the side of oily during sweaty summer months, so I was chomping at the bit to try this new watery iteration of Charlotte Tilbury’s editor-favorite Magic Cream.

On first application, the formula felt a lot thicker than most water creams I’ve come across. It’s still quite lightweight in the grand scheme of things, it just wasn’t the bordering-on-jelly consistency I expected. As is tradition with Charlotte Tilbury, the finish was capital-G glowy, and the dry areas of my face drank the hydration right up.

It’s billed as a gel cream, but it definitely lives more in the cream moisturizer category for me. For this oil-slick of a beauty editor, it’s a bit too rich for sweltering August days, but I love applying it at night and waking up in the morning with soft, radiant skin.

Pricing and Value

The Magic Water Cream retails for $100, which when compared to other luxury creams that boast similar technology, is about $25 to $50 dollars more expensive. But between the packaging, texture, and overall experience of using the product, all of our testers felt that this jump in price was worth it.

Where to Buy It

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Water Cream is available for early access on the brand’s website and mobile app, Easy Beauty for You, on August 29. If you’d rather test it IRL and feel the moisturizer’s unique, bouncy texture (we don’t blame you), you can do so at Sephora on August 31.

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