One of the foundations that I suddenly became very eager to try after my experience with Make Up For Ever HD foundation was NARS Sheer Glow. I watch a lot of Pixiwoo (and a bit of Tanya Burr), and I've seen numerous videos where NARS Sheer Glow was the foundation of choice. Two videos that mainly pushed me over the edge were this one, where Sam describes NARS Sheer Glow as her "current favourite foundation" and this one, where Sam lists NARS Sheer Glow as one of her top five foundations (along with YSL Le Teint Touche Éclat, Shu Uemura Face Architect, Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua and Bobbi Brown Moisture Rich). She later names Illamasqua Skin Base in a separate video. I was a little underwhelmed with MUFE, but purchasing it essentially upped the limit I was mentally prepared to spend on a foundation, and I consequently felt liberated to spend an equal or higher amount in trying out more expensive brands.
I bought Sheer Glow in the US, where it retails for $42. With tax, it came to about $46. In Australia, it'll set you back $68. There was only one bottle of Fiji left in the Sephora that I visited, and I didn't even notice until I'd already purchased it that there were foundation marks on the black cap. Someone must've opened it up and tested it. I don't really know how the store's return policy works, but I'm hoping it isn't the case that you can buy a new product, use it a couple of times, return it, and the next day it's back on the shelf for the next person to purchase. I also set my sights on Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua, but I left it until the last moment thinking I'd buy it at the airport duty free, only to find that they didn't have the shade I was after.
As many have noted, the main point of annoyance about Sheer Glow's packaging is the lack of a pump. It makes it inconvenient to have to unscrew the lid and essentially pour a bit onto your hand each time. When it's new and you haven't used much, it's not so much a problem because after shaking the bottle, a layer of foundation will kind of collect at the entrance, and you can dip your finger into it to get a sufficient amount, rather than having to tilt the bottle and pour it out. But I'm envisaging it might be a bigger problem once the foundation starts running out. It's just not as sanitary or easy as a pump.
The instructions state that you're supposed to warm the foundation in the hands and apply it with the fingers. I first started testing out Sheer Glow while still on holiday in the US, using a small amount applied with the fingers, mainly around the edges of my nose and corners of my mouth, then spreading whatever remnant amount was left onto the rest of my face. The thin layer really made a noticeable difference in brightening up my complexion and evening out my skin tone. Back home, I need more coverage in the mornings in less time, and I now prefer using Sheer Glow with a Real Techniques Buffing Brush. I don't find there's that many issues with the foundation not melting into the skin because of the lack of warmth from the fingers. I use the buffing brush mostly in circular motions, but sometimes I stipple it as well, and if there's still the slightest streakiness, I go over parts of my face with my fingers to smooth any unblended lines out.
There are a lot of things that I like about NARS Sheer Glow. It's not as temperamental as Make Up For Ever HD foundation, in that you don't need to make extra special effort to moisturise and exfoliate and prime for it to go on smoothly. That doesn't mean that it effortlessly flatters imperfect skin. I still find that it can cake and emphasise dry patches (especially if you want more coverage) if the skin underneath isn't smooth and well moisturised. The finish is glowier than MUFE in a lit-from-within, subtle way, which is a big plus. I powder my T-zone after applying this in the morning, but still find I need to do a major blot after about 2 hours, which then makes me sufficiently matte for the rest of the day. I think Sheer Glow photographs better than MUFE, as the latter has a more matte finish. It feels comfortable and lightweight on the skin. I'd say it has medium coverage, in that it evens out skin tone and redness and covers mild blemishes, but I'm not sure about anything more than that.
Is this foundation necessarily better than lower end ones that I've tried? It's a good shade match, the finish is beautiful, with powdering and blotting I can control oiliness, it is fairly long lasting, and a little goes a long way especially when spread with the fingers (with a brush, you do have to use more). All those aspects make it a superior foundation to say, Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum (I need to mix #52 and #53 to get my shade, it starts to seriously fade by the end of the day) or Revlon PhotoReady (too glowy for everyday wear, extremely shiny after 1-2 hours, cakes on me for inexplicable reasons). But at the same time, I'm finding that I have been making more of an effort to improve my skin, namely using serums and oils, moisturising well, and regularly exfoliating and using masks. Without those steps, it's likely that a foundation, no matter how potentially impressive, would probably not work as well on me.