Can’t pick a team in the battle of the balms? Step this way…
Recently, a number of women have asked me which is better: Bobbi Brown’s Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm, £42.50, or Estée Lauder’s Revitalizing Supreme Global Anti-Ageing Wake Up Balm, £46. The slightly annoying but nonetheless honest answer is they’re different, and it entirely depends what you want. Ostensibly, these balms perform the same functions – moisturisation and glowy light reflection. But there are several variables at play here, and I’ve decided it might be helpful to break them down as plainly as I can, one by one.
The Estée Lauder balm is not enough to use as a moisturiser, unless you’re oily or combination. It sits on top of skincare, rather than melts into it, and so, while it can very satisfactorily replace primer, it’s no substitute for a day cream, in my opinion. Mostly, I use the Bobbi balm in the same way – applying it over a hydrating moisturiser, but the point is that I could easily wear it alone over serum if I wanted (and I have done, especially on book tour when I was trying to pack light and on weekends when I’m generally wearing not much else – it perks me up nicely). It is rich, buttery and can be rubbed into the skin instead of spreading it over the top. Which brings me to…
On certain days, the Estée Lauder bumps up against skincare or foundation and peels under my makeup during application. To be clear, this isn’t always the case, but it does happen occasionally and it’s infuriating (and I would suggest you don’t even attempt to use it with a separate primer). Your mileage may of course vary. By contrast, I can rub in the Bobbi balm quite vigorously without any bumping or peeling and it layers very nicely with every primer I’ve tried it with. That said, if you’re someone who’s likely to want to apply the balms in the afternoon, to revive your already made-up complexion, the quickly spreadable texture of the Estée Lauder makes this slightly easier.
Skin type suitability
Both brands claim their balm is suitable for all skin types, from oily to dry (and extra dry in the case of Bobbi Brown). But I beg to differ. I would be amazed if oilies liked the rich, buttery texture of the Bobbi balm, which is labelled as part of the brand’s “Extra” range for dry skins. It also contains plant oils, which may cause some sensitive skins to react. Meanwhile, the Estée balm is lighter, and should agree with most skin types.
Both balms give instant, noticeable glow and in that respect, you’ll be disappointed with neither. The difference is in the kind of glow. The Estée Lauder balm has light reflectors with more of a fine, golden sparkle, whereas the Bobbi balm is subtly more pearlescent. The optic particles in the Estée balm do have more clarity than in the Bobbi balm and for that reason, women of colour will, I think, prefer the former. Both can be patted on in localised areas – cheekbones, nose etc – as a subtle highlighter.
If you like the signature herbal, plant-oil aroma used in Bobbi’s extra range (I happen to love it), then you’ll be right at home. If you hate it (and I hear you – it’s pretty strong), give this balm a swerve. The Estée balm has an altogether more conventional fragrance to which it’s nigh on impossible to object.
On balance, I think the Estée Lauder has better fine line plumping and blurring capabilities – probably because it seems, at least from the texture, to be higher in silicone content.
The Bobbi balm mixes extremely well with foundation to create a sheerer, more radiant coverage. I had little success in mixing the Estée balm with other colour cosmetics.
Airless pumps for both. There is a God.
I genuinely like both but could no longer live without the Bobbi Balm. If you’re a normal to dry skin type, with no sensitivity to plant oils, I think you’ll love it. If you’re oilier, or you want a clear rather than pearlescent glow, go for the Estée Lauder.