The first step in the evolution from natural mica was the move to using a transparent synthetic pearl. These are smaller and more uniform in shape than natural particles and have the crucial property of transparency, creating a very luminous effect. It’s the quality of transparency that allows light to travel through the pearl that has made the difference in the subtlety of today’s products. Presynthetic pearl makeup had a crude look (think of 1970s eye makeup and highlighters) due to the large, jagged metallic particles that just sat on top of the skin.
Very fine satin-finish synthetic pearls are often used for highlighters, blushers, and foundations, as they give a much more subtle, glowing sheen.
From a makeup artist’s point of view, highlighters always used to appear a bit metallic. But now they are so natural-looking that it is as though the luminosity is a real and intrinsic part of the skin, like it is coming from within, instead of just sitting dully on top of your face. It looks very youthful, but with a polish.
After this came pearl made from glass particles called borosilicate glass. Like synthetic transparent pearls, these are coated with pigments; however, with glass particles, the power of reflection is increased, allowing color changes using the natural prism of light. It may sound complex, but just think of a chandelier when the sunlight hits it the principle and effects are the same.
The next, more extreme level of pearl development is where the glass particle is coated with metallic silver or gold pigment, so that it acts like a mirror. This is mostly used in lipstick, eye shadow, or eyeliner. If you have ever wondered how your eye shadow can look so incredibly metallic, this is the answer!
There’s a flawless, polished professionalism to the makeup available now and pearl plays a massive part in this. It’s a perfected look that still appears natural, with sheen and an almost hyperreal quality.
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