Tom Ford Illuminating Primer Review & Swatches

Tom Ford Illuminating Primer

I finally had a chance to try the coveted Tom Ford Illuminating Primer. As you may have guessed, yes I love it overall but there is just one thing that prevents me from using it more regularly. Curious what it is? Then please read on!

Tom Ford Illuminating Primer
Tom Ford Illuminating Primer

The product is housed in a double-walled frosted bottle with the Tom Ford logo displayed on the gold band that separates the bottle from the cap. The clever thing about the packaging is the twist-up pump dispenser. Simply twist the cap to reveal the pump and twist it back to retract. It also has a lock mechanism where you twist it to the “lock” position to keep the pump secure when traveling. Pretty fancy! Not to mention sanitary! :)

Tom Ford Illuminating Primer
Tom Ford Illuminating Primer

The primer itself has a pearly texture that is thicker than most face primers. It feels like a hybrid product between a moisturizer and primer. It comes out off-white in color but spreads to a transparent layer that imparts the most gorgeous iridescent glow on the skin. No shimmery or glittery effect. It's a rather unique type of glow if you ask me and one that I think so worth checking out. It does not feel silicone-y at all and I think those who prefer not to use such formula will really appreciate this product.

What I don't appreciate, however, is the scent! My goodness, a product this expensive and luxurious should have a better or cleaner scent or better yet, no scent at all. I can't describe it in a polite way so I'm just going to say that it has an unpleasant, sour smell. And it lingers. I was hoping that I could hold my breathe until the scent wears off because it is an excellent primer after all but I just couldn't do it. So as good as it makes my skin looks, I only reserve it only for when I layer a fragranced foundation over it. Let's just say I would never wear this primer by itself. Such a shame since it gives my skin such pretty illuminating glow.

Tom Ford Illuminating Primer unblended (L) and blended (R)
Tom Ford Illuminating Primer unblended (L) and blended (R)

And when I use it under my foundation, I make sure to only apply it sparingly on the high points of the face such as under the brow bone, center of the forehead, Cupid's Bow, and top of cheekbone. Applying too close to the visible pore and fine line areas will only highlight them (as you will see in my face shot below). Using it this way will give the skin a subdued highlighting effect that looks so natural and effortless. I'd advise against applying it all over the face unless you have a decent skin with no visible pores or if your skin is dry to normal. Oily skin must apply it strategically on the face to avoid looking oily/greasy.

Tom Ford Illuminating Primer
Tom Ford Illuminating Primer

When used as a base, it primes the skin and gives the foundation a “dewy” look without lightening the color. It is a nice option for when you want to add a little bit of dimension to your matte foundation. I do find that it helps the foundation go on slightly smoother but it doesn't necessarily prolong the wear by any means. It works well with all sorts of formula be it liquid, cream, or powder. You can also mix it with your foundation and apply for an overall pearly skin effect.

It feels rather nice and hydrating going on and I appreciate that it hasn't caused me any breakouts so far. It feels just slightly tacky on its own but once I apply my foundation over it, my skin feels comfortable throughout wear.

Wearing Tom Ford Illuminating Primer (R)
Wearing Tom Ford Illuminating Primer (R)

The photo of me wearing it (above) actually seems unnecessary since you can't really see much of a difference here but I thought I'd give it a try! I applied it all over my bare face (on the right) so you can see that pores around my nose and fine lines under my eyes are visibly emphasized. It truly gives off a nice illuminating glow on the rest of the face, though. So for those who have oily skin and/or skin with less than ideal texture, try to apply this primer on the areas that you want highlighted only! :)

It doesn't conceal redness, or control oil production. It is basically a primer to add luminosity to the skin with added skin benefits. If you have rather decent skin that is on the dry or normal side and don't mind the “unique” scent, I think you'll get along really well with this primer. :)


US$75 at Sephora ○ Nordstrom

At Tom Ford counters



  • Too bad – but thank you for the honest review! I’m always glad to see confirmation that a favorite blogger is willing to tell it like it is :)

    • You’re welcome! I like reading honest reviews myself so it only makes sense if I’m being honest to my readers, too. :)

  • Hey Jaa, I can see this primer makes a subtle yet beautiful difference, but I’m so sorry to hear about the scent! That could be a real deal-breaker. Now I know I can’t buy this blind. Will at least have to take a whiff first!

    • DEFINITELY! Gosh, the smell. LOL! But then again, it might not even bother you at all since I’ve read reviews where they said they LOVE the scent! So odd!

  • That is the most thorough makeup review I have ever read. I was intrigued but for 74 I think I’ll skip it. What camera and lens do you use for these gorgeous pictures??

    • I remember sniffing it at the counter a while back but didn’t purchase it because of the scent. Then I completely forgot about it and bought it online, then it hit me why I didn’t purchase it in the first place. LOL

      Reviews on Makeupalley also mention about the scent although some of them say they really love it! Maybe it’s just a personal thing! :)

  • It’s a subtle difference but I can see it. I would think under makeup it wouldn’t look too different though!

    • It wouldn’t shine through heavy makeup in my experience unless I mix it with my foundation and apply! :)

  • Hey Jaa,
    I’m not a primer person and “unique” scents throw me off. LOL!
    I only have an eye quad from TF and I’d like to try more of this brand. If only it’s actually available here. Buying things sight unseen is really risky ;-)

    • What quad do you have, Lily? I’d love to collect more quads from the brand but the price tag for 4 shadows is just a little steep! (Even though you get quite a lot of product per pan!)

  • Hey Jaa! I can see a very subtle difference between left and right and I can only imagine this to be a great illuminating primer, but what a shame of the scent! I’m so sorry to hear that :(

    Alice ♥︎

  • Bahah you are TOO polite. For shame for shame sir!!..that’s what you should say to Tom Ford ( when he asks to buy advertising space on your blog some day). Im not into I wont bother with this one but the glowy goodness sounds fun!

    • Haha I doubt that will ever happen on HelloJaa! ;) I love love love the glowing effect it provides but the scent is yeah, a little too much! It’s not so bad under a scented foundation, though! :)

  • That’s so strange about the scent…you have me so curious now that I want to go a counter just to smell it…too bad we don’t have any counters here, lol. :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *