Do instant radiance balms really do what they say?

three tubes

Do skincare balms that promise a quick fix ‘radiant’ glow actually work? The combination of dark mornings and winter weather the past couple of weeks made me feel a bit lacklustre so I thought it was about time to test a few out.

I’ve tried to cover a range of prices so I’ve grabbed (from L-R below) Boots’ Radiance Balm from their Botanics range, the much lauded Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, and the recently released Pro-Radiance Illuminating Flash Balm from Elemis.

all three on skin

The one thing that struck me during all the road-testing was how many products I’m layering on my skin every day. I always spritz with Lavender Toner after cleansing, then dab on eye cream, follow with moisturiser, and finally slap on a good spf (essential, even in winter). All this before even thinking about adding a veil of foundation, so I wasn’t overly happy about adding yet another layer into my already quite long-winded morning routine. But, I decided if it was going to make me look lusciously healthy and glowing, I was willing to give it a go.

Elemis Pro-Radiance Flash Balm

Spree – Elemis Pro-Radiance Illuminating Flash Balm £35/50ml

The most expensive of the radiance balms I tried out, Elemis promise this will instantly brighten my complexion and give it ‘dewy luminosity’, which is definitely what I’m after. The balm has quite a noticeable smell, which reminded me a bit of putty rather than being fragrant. It has a medium-weight consistency, so you feel as though you’re putting on a decent layer of it, and really does have a shimmery/pearlescent look to it.

I did feel this brightened to look of my skin, however, my skin still needs coverage with foundation to even out tone and some blemishes and once I’d added my foundation over the top, I really didn’t see any difference. My skin didn’t feel any different during the day either, even though this balm is formulated with a ‘powerful vitamin complex that protects against moisture loss’, so this balm can be worn instead of your daily moisturiser (although it didn’t feel hydrating enough for my skin).

I did also try this balm mixed first with my foundation, applying them together in one layer, and the results were better, although it’s a lot of money to pay for a negligible effect.

I think if you have skin that’s even toned, and you don’t need to wear foundation over it, this would give you a great radiant look. Unfortunately though, for all of us who wouldn’t leave the house without foundation, I don’t feel this was of great benefit.


SensibleClarins Beauty Flash Balm £29/50ml

This has become one of Clarins’ iconic products and is always championed by beauty experts, so I thought I’d better include it.

The Beauty Flash Balm has a very strong floral fragrance, not as nice as so many Clarins skincare products I’ve experienced before (and dare I say, a bit ‘old-ladyish’), so not the best start. It’s got an apricot tint to it, compared with the Elemis balm, which was much lighter, almost white in colour.

This beauty balm is meant to instantly moisturise, brighten and tighten facial contours, while Bisabolol is meant to help restore my youthful glow. And this balm should be pressed onto your face, rather than rubbed in. Despite the grand promises, I found this balm performed similarly to the Elemis one. Again, great for adding a nice sheen if you have good skin to start with, but I didn’t see – or feel – any benefit once I’d smoothed my foundation over the top. I also found the fragrance quite noticeable throughout the day, and it wasn’t a smell I liked – and it slightly irritated my skin.


StealBotanics All Bright Radiance Balm £5.99/50ml

My very affordable final trialist was from Boots, and was actually on offer at just £2.99 when I bought it to test. This is a thinner consistency than the other two (Elemis is the thickest) and is a similar apricot shade to the Clarins balm.

Hibiscus is the magic ingredient in this product; it contains natural AHA’s (alpha hydroxy acids), which act as mild exfoliators and promise to help leave skin looking smoother and brighter. As I only tested this product a few times, it’s not had the chance to brighten my skin, which will take several weeks at least of daily use.

In the short term, I would compare this to the Clarins balm – but with the benefit of no annoying smell (and much smaller price tag).

The Botanics All Bright Radiance Balm is meant to give a subtle glow, and I agree it does. But, as before, the effect was lost once I layered my foundation over the top.

In a nutshell…

For anyone who doesn’t need a foundation, these products are all great. I think Elemis gives the best glow but the Botanics balm performs well, especially given the great price. For me, the Clarins balm was let down by the over-powering fragrance.

However, for people like me who don’t have naturally even-toned skin and therefore need to wear foundation, I don’t think these balms are worthwhile. If you do mix the balm with your foundation, you may as well buy a BB cream and get the same effect but save time and money. The Elemis balm can be applied over foundation as a highlighter on the apples of your cheeks, but there are other products which will do this better, and cost less.

If you have discovered the mother of all radiance balms, please comment and let us all know!



  1. Love this article Joni! Do you have any advice on where I can find out about the state of my skin to start with? I confess, I’ve properly neglected any notions of looking after “me” and it’s maybe time to start thinking about it before the damage is too obvious. I will definitely be trying the Boots balm though x


    • Many thanks for your email Sue and your nice comments re the post – that’s great to hear. With regards to your skin, I’d really advise you to get a few opinions and test out a few different brands to get an idea of the ones you like and feel suit your skin.

      As with many things, it depends how much you’re looking to spend but you could start with approaching the product counters in Boots (recommend No7 highly, and Clarins) or stores like Debenhams. The product specialists should have a look at your skin, ask you some questions, and be able to tell you a bit about your skin type. They’ll also recommend some products – and if they’re good at their job, should offer you some samples to take away and try. Don’t feel pressured into buying anything there and then – often it helps to start by approaching them and stating you’re not looking to buy anything today, but would like some advice – and don’t be afraid to ask if they have some samples you can try.

      You could also approach a local beauty salon and have a consultation and see what they say about your skin type and what they recommend (and see how this compares to what you’ve already been told). They’ll also recommend products, and probably monthly facials to to boost the benefits of your products and address any specific concerns you may have. Look at which products they use as this may help influence your choice of salon; Dermalogica salons tend to have well qualified therapists and the products are fuss free and deliver good results (but can be a bit more expensive).

      The ‘high end’ would be visiting a salon which is more geared towards medi-beauty, as these salons (more often they refer to themselves as clinics) can do a high-tech computerised skin analysis. While this is great, unless you have a real concern about a skin condition, I think you would be wasting your money.

      I hope this helps – and please do let me know how you get on!


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