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HD makeup: how to look camera-ready at all times

It was around 1998 when I began to hear rumours that high-definition makeup was on its way. The showbiz and beauty industries were fizzing with stories of American televisions actors and news anchors, mortified to suddenly see every pore, blemish and wrinkle amplified by the newly introduced and extremely sharp high-definition picture, throwing hissy fits and demanding better makeup to disguise them.

Clinique duly launched a special hi-def range of foundations, powders and concealers to perfect skin even when under such scrutiny, and rolled it out to the public. But as cosmetics technology improved vastly across the board (a foundation in 2015 and its 2000 counterpart are incomparable in terms of comfort, weight, shade selection, coverage and finish), the range was scrapped after a couple of years and hi-def makeup was confined mainly to professional brands and specialist suppliers (such as Guru and Screenface in the UK), who sold niche tools including airbrush guns and their corresponding products to TV and film makeup artists.

This technology (where very thin, liquid foundations are blasted very finely and almost imperceptibly on to the face, neck, hands and limbs) was used as standard on the stars of Friends. It is still the method of choice at news channels, on male and female newsreaders and guests because, as with all HD products, airbrush foundation makes skin flawless without looking “made-up”.

But the selfie phenomenon has put HD makeup back into the mainstream. Make Up For Ever, a pro makeup brand from France (currently available only from professional stores here), is launching into the UK retail market this summer, thanks largely to the huge success of its HD foundations and powders in mainstream French stores such as Sephora. It would appear that selfies, Instagram and higher-resolution smartphone cameras have caused us civilians to demand even better, yet undetectable, coverage.

So what does HD makeup offer that normal makeup doesn’t? You could argue that the answer is very little, since normal makeup has come on in such leaps and bounds anyway. “HD” is certainly, in some cases, merely a marketing tool without real substance. But, broadly speaking, consumers should expect proper HD makeup to have superior light reflection, as demonstrated in Smashbox’s Liquid Halo HD Foundation, which uses gel-covered pigments inspired by lens filter technology to soften and blur fine lines and uneven tone.

“Blurring” is a key term in HD makeup, the idea being that when the modern camera is so harsh, our makeup needs to step in and recreate the effects of an old-fashioned soft-focus lens for a more flattering and forgiving look. Make Up For Ever’s HD Invisible Cover Foundation is a good example of soft-focus technology (and is a product I’ve personally worn for many a television appearance).

Chantecaille HD perfecting powder.
Photograph: PR company handout

Another HD non-negotiable is an extremely fine texture and finish, as in Chantecaille’s excellent but eye-wateringly expensive HD Perfecting Powder, to ensure a non-cakey, almost invisible finish even in close-up. (Despite being bright white in the pot and looking suspiciously like class As, HD powders should blend to invisibility on almost all skin tones.)

Finally, smoothness. HD products usually harness high-grade silicone to smooth any uneven texture on the skin’s surface (imagine your face has been through a virtual laminator and you’ll get the idea). Temptu’s HD-proof airbrush foundations, concealers and blushers (all applied with an airbrush gun) are silicone-based to create this effect.

Inevitably, there will be those of us who feel it’s a shame if women have begun to feel as though they must now be camera-ready at all times; that mere “makeup” is no longer good enough; that we should now appear as though fresh from a film set or celebrity dressing room. I fear it is irreversible – the selfie phenomenon is real and advancing daily with new products, better filters, retouching apps and customising software.

But while the advent of HD makeup is certainly a marker for a less innocent time, it also replaces an era when women were forced to accept that foundation was thick and often uncomfortable; that powder was dry, cakey and unnatural-looking; that concealer was hard to colour-match and apply. The new generation of products is a comparative picnic and looks effortless, healthy and real. And you needn’t face the camera to enjoy it.

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