Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hourglass Diffused, Dim, and Mood Ambient Lighting Powders: Swatches and Review

Before the six Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders were released on the market, there was a ton of buzz about them online. Each powder is meant to be applied lightly all over the face and provide a flattering, softening effect to the skin. Each one claims to mimic the way light reflects off of your skin in one of six different lighting conditions. The Ambient Lighting powders were so hyped-up that I, among many, was very curious about them - I remember saying at one point, not even knowing at the time whether they were meant to be face powders or highlighters, "I don't understand these but I want one." I think many other makeup lovers felt the same way.

When they hit my local Sephora, I rushed to check them out. Unfortunately, they didn't have any testers yet, so I had to choose my colors based on the way the powders looked in the compacts. The sales associates were kind enough to let me open one of each up in the boxes (without touching the powders, of course) and compare them, and then even take pictures! Here are all six in their compacts, with flash and without - my Sephora doesn't have the best lighting:

L-R, top to bottom: Diffused, Dim, Ethereal, Luminous, Mood, and  Radiant
L-R, top to bottom: Diffused, Dim, Ethereal, Luminous, Mood,  and Radiant

By the way, the blog Fab Over Forty has a guide with more details on the tone and intended effect of each shade, taken from the descriptions on the back of each box. I couldn't narrow it down to just one or two, not knowing anything of their opacity or texture, so I purchased the three shades I thought would be most likely to work for me: Diffused (pale yellow), Dim (neutral peach-beige), and Mood (pale pink-lavender). (Ethereal, a soft white, was also an option. However, I thought it might be too similar to Shiseido High Beam White powder, which I already own.) Here they are in my better lighting at home:

Diffused, Dim, and Mood

Here are my swatches of them, in the same order:

Diffused, Dim, and Mood

I was disappointed to see upon swatching that while Diffused looked very close to my skin tone, about a N10, Dim looked like a pale bronzer and Mood a pale blush. Both of the latter swatched darker on my skin than they appeared in the pan - they are even slightly washed out in the above picture. Regardless, I gave each one a turn lightly applied to my face, given that that is their intended usage. Nope, I was right: Diffused worked for me color-wise, but Dim was definitely too dark on me, and Mood just made me look odd. Please keep in mind that this is coming from someone who often wears a powder that is one shade too dark (I make it work because I love the formula), and who has a hard time telling when a foundation is too pink (I didn't see it myself when I wore MAC Studio Fix NW10 - others had to tell me). Dim was clearly at least two shades too dark, and Mood clearly too pink, even to my eyes, even lightly applied.

So, I decided to try them used a different way before throwing in the towel. I applied Diffused as an all-over powder, Mood as a blush, and Dim as a contour shade. Unfortunately, this didn't work well for me either. Mood made my cheeks look metallic when I tilted my head away from the light, and Dim went orange almost immediately and despite my best efforts to blend it in, refused to be anything but patchy. Here they are below - please ignore the white spot on my eyelid, I accidentally used too much eye primer and I fixed it after I saw it in the pictures.


See how blotchy the contouring looks?

I wasn't thrilled with Diffused either, at first. It didn't do anything for me that I wouldn't expect from a $5 drugstore powder - it set my foundation and slightly evened out my skin, but I didn't observe any added luminosity or softness. The texture (of Diffused and the other two) was also much drier than I prefer; I like for my powders to have just a little bit of creaminess to them. Regardless, I test-drove it as my main powder for morning application and touch-ups for a few days. I found that after just a few hours after application, I looked as if I had nothing at all on my face... not in the "my face but better" sense, but in the "blotchy and shiny" sense.

Diffused worked well for me for touch-ups in that it went on smoothly and didn't look cakey in the least, but again, it was always completely gone a few hours later. This was over a mattifying tinted primer that works wonderfully for me when paired with other powders - the look will last all day and require blotting in my T-zone just once, mid-day - so I knew it was the Hourglass powder that was not measuring up. I wore Diffused to work for several days, and the first day I stopped using it and went back to using one of my other regular powders, I got three compliments on my "glowing skin."

That was the last nail in the coffin for me. Every one of the dozen blog reviews I've read of these powders has contained nothing but raves. Perhaps that was because all of those bloggers received the products free for review, or maybe it's just that my fair, combination skin is not as well suited to these powders as their skin types are, or perhaps it's that I've already found many face products that work well for me and so I have higher standards for new products than your average blogger. Regardless, I was completely disappointed in the Ambient Lighting powders and will be returning mine to Sephora. Sorry, Hourglass.

Readers, I hope this review was helpful to some of you! Sorry for how lengthy it is, but I wanted to show that I really did my best to give the powders a thorough testing.

22 comments:

  1. That's such a bummer they didn't work for you. I ordered diffused and it should arrive tomorrow, i'm still hopeful about it's magical properties, haha. These newfangled products suck me in every time.

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    1. I hope it works better for you than me. You made me want to try the NARS loose Light Reflecting Powder next, miss Hunter! :)

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  2. Hm... I was quite hopeful that these powders would work for me, but since my skin tone is almost as fair as yours, I'm a little concerned. Definitely going to have to try them out before I plunk down the coin. Thanks for the warning!

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    1. You're welcome, and that is what I would advise. They may work for you, who knows, but after my experience I wouldn't suggest anyone drop that kind of money on them without testing them out at a counter first, unless there's nowhere to test and returns are easy!

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  3. I am not a fan of these at all, your review was thorough and the pictures and looks a bonus.

    I prefer ballz!

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    1. Thanks - I prefer my Guerlain ballz too :) and their pressed powders!

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  4. I love your blog because of posts like this -- it's so nice to see someone write about a product honestly. I've only seen raves about this product as well, and quite frankly, I'm pretty sure if I received six of them free in the mail, I'd find something nice to say... For those of us who actually read blogs to find out about how products *actually* perform, it's nice to see more than just marketing copy!!

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    1. Thank you so much. Your comment means a lot to me! :)

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    2. LOVING your thorough, honest reviews--new favorite makeup blog. I also love that you represent the fairer-skinned makeup lovers...I'm even fairer than you!

      Which powders do you love? Have you tried Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Candlelight powder?

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    4. Anonymous: Not sure why I can't reply to your comment directly, but here you go!

      Thank you so much! What a lovely comment. I do own KA Candlelight and I think it's a lovely spot highlighter (like for cheekbones, center line of face, anywhere I want added glow) but it is far too shimmery for me to use all over my face - I would look like a walking disco ball! I have swatched it but apparently I never posted the swatches, oops. I will have to find them and do that soon.

      For general all-over face powder that gives my skin a bit of luminosity or glow, I love to use Guerlain pressed Meteorites (the Mythic Voyage one). My absolute favorite is their older pressed Poudres de Perles, but it was long discontinued and is quite hard for me to come by. I also love the look of MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural but find it doesn't work super well on my combination, semi-sensitive skin, so I mostly use that on others or if I'm just going to have it on for a few hours.

      The other two powders I love that are less illuminating but still have a beautiful natural skin finish are Smashbox Halo and Milani Multitasking powder. The Milani runs a bit dark for me so if you're even fairer it would certainly be too dark for you, but I make it work by using it lightly and only over my palest foundations.

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  5. Sorry the powders didn't work out for you!
    Luckily there is so many other products on the market!

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    1. Very true! Thankfully I've already found a few I love :)

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  6. Wow - you and I have the exact same coloring. My skin is dry, so I am hopeful these will be flattering on me, but I am going to keep my receipt just in case!

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    1. I hope they work for you too! With dry skin I agree that you may have better luck. Let me know how they work out for you! :)

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  7. Thank you for your honest review. I am NC20-25. Not sure if they will work for me either but at $45 a pop I might pass..

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  8. I really do appreciate your review of these. I am also pale and, because there have been so many positive reviews of these, I'd been seriously considering picking one up despite the high price point.

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  9. Sorry it didn't work out for you. I've read nothing but rave reviews too, but I need to swatch in person to decide if I want to invest in these.

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  10. Thank you for your honest review. Wow, wish I had read your review first! Every post I read until yours was all raves & glowing reviews I right away ordered online Diffused & was almost gonna buy 2 others, but thank God I held off! I am returning the Diffused now, I saw no difference in my complexion & found it wore off quickly too. Not worth the money :(

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    1. Sorry to hear you had the same disappointing experience I did :( hope you find another powder you like better soon!

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  11. Did you try Ethereal light and apply it as a top coat to your usual powder routine? I did not understand that they were to be used in place of a normal covering powder but some kind of top coat veil like thing. They are terrifically expensive no matter.

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