Is The Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette Worth The Hype?

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One of the Most-Coveted Items of 2013

I’m not one who normally gives in to hypes (okay, sometimes I do). Most of the time, it’d have been months or years till I discover a once hyped-up product to be a true gem worthy of all the praises. This particular palette got me all intrigued at first, but when everyone seemed to be love love love for it here, there, everywhere… my initial curiosity ultimately died down and I declared it a pass.
But then I just had to be active on Twitter during the Sephora Friends & Family sale when people were going crazy for this palette that it actually sold out. I even had it in my cart during the sellout point, but instead of breathing a sigh of relief that maybe it just wasn’t for me, I felt a tiny hint of regret for not checking it out instead. Bea pointed Tina (a fellow Ambient Palette hunter) and I to the direction of SpaceNk and the rest is thanks to GCASH-AMEX Virtual Pay*.

Follow the Light

Ever wonder why you sometimes look better under warm lighting such as in restaurants as compared to the harsher fluorescent lighting in school or in the office? That’s what the creator of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting palettes had in mind when she created these babies. Her line of powders are made to mimic those lighting effects so you can walk around as if you have a magical lightbox aimed at your face.
The much-coveted Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette is a trio of those soft, finely-milled individual powders that are designed to give dimension to the face, after it has been evened out with foundation and further mattified with other products leaving the skin flat. I don’t know what kind of “state-of-the-art technology” they have going on but, these powders are made to simulate different lighting effects by diffusing, softening and tinting the skin. Insert magic lightbox here.
The trio includes two permanent shades in the Hourglass Ambient Lighting powders – Dim Light and Radiant Light. The third one included is an all-new, exclusive and limited-edition shade, Incandescent Light. The individual powders cost $45 for 0.35oz, while the palette contains a total of 0.348oz of product with each shade containing 0.116oz or 3.3 g each.
To give you an idea, a Chanel baked blush contains 0.14oz each or 3.9g each. And while I’ve never hit pan on a Chanel blush, I can see why those who plan to use this palette daily may have some qualms on the tiny size. Personally, I find the palette overpriced to begin with, quantity aside.
Dim Light is a neutral beige toned powder that remains to be the only shimmer-free among the the three. To be honest, it doesn’t do much for my skintone. I use it all over and found that there’s not really any significant pore-blurring action. Maybe I’m using it wrong, but so far, Dim Light seems to act like a normal finely-milled powder on me. Updating this if I figure out how to use this one better.
Edit: I think what a dear reader and fellow blogger Rae said rings true to what Dim does for me, too. It brings back a beautiful skin-like sheen after the face is mattified with foundation and other loose powders. Also, I’ve tried not using foundation beneath this, only sunblock and/or tinted moisturizer, and that’s when I saw how beautifully it works in setting the base without being powdery, as well as blurring the pores and super minor blemishes in sight.
Incandescent Light is a straight-up highlighter with a slightly pinkish beige that contains visible but very fine shimmer particles. You can see above how it glistens when the sun hits it directly but from afar, you won’t be able to see those shiny bits at all. On the skin, it almost becomes undetectable. It does give off a pretty visible sheen on the skin, though.
When I first applied it in a dim, not so well-lit room, I was afraid that it looked ashy and patchy on my skin. But stepping out of the darkness, I was surprised at how glowy I looked when I saw my reflection in mirrors wherever I went that day. I like how even my husband complimented me for having good skin that day, when in reality, I was still healing from a derma treatment. So, yes, I’m liking this highlighter more and more as I wear it.
Radiant Light is a golden beige that has slight shimmer particles but aren’t as visible as Incandescent Light. I thought I would like this the least because I’m not really a bronzing girl, but I made forced it to work as a slight contour shade. Used unsparingly, it gives off a definite sunkissed look.
I like that it gives my tired and sullen face warmth and vibrance as if I’ve just come home from a 2-week Boracay vacation. I definitely use it sparingly, though, because I once used it a little too much and it made me unnaturally darker.


The powders and how they transform on the skin. Check the shimmer particles that are almost undetectable and how the powders meld into the skin.
I wore Dim all over, Incandescent on the top of the cheekbones, browbone and down the center of my nose, Radiant below the cheek area. I love how Incandescent looks barely there, a kind of glow you can’t really pinpoint or detect, but know in your gut is there. Radiant is a little too orangey for my contour tastes, but works for giving warmth that complements the pearly glow of Incandescent. Dim, as I’ve said above, I really can’t make anything of right now.
As if the above photo isn’t close enough, I leave you with an even more close-up photo of the powders in action (look past the bumps and whiteheads plz). See how Incandescent doesn’t enlarge pores and Radiant passing off as a contour shade.

Final Thoughts

I’m on the fence with this palette. While I do enjoy the beautiful effects it provides, I don’t see how it differs from other beautiful highlighters, powders, bronzers that are currently in the market. I have Burberry Nude Radiance that is much more pigmented than Incandescent, but provides the same glow I enjoy when I use the latter. Maybe I’m just using Dim wrong (see edit above), but if I were to use it as an all-over powder, I’d much rather go with my Meteorites, thank you. And as for Radiant Light, I like it because I don’t have a single bronzer in my stash so I’m enjoying experimenting with it. But if you have, let’s say, any of the Guerlain Terracotta bronzers, then I don’t see why you’d need Radiant still.
However, for those who don’t have a stash of highlighters, powders and bronzers in their collection and are looking for a versatile, all-in-one palette, then this would be a good buy. Not necessarily cheap, but the quality you pay for is definitely there. Also, I’ve been using the palette more often than I imagined because it’s just so convenient that all three powders used to finish, highlight and contour/bronze are all in one place.
One thing to note, how the powder looks vary from skintone to skintone so it is highly suggested you swatch these and try on the counter to see if it will work for you. For others, Dim creates a color cast, while others experience darkening of foundation.

Your thoughts on this Ambient Lighting Palette? Have you tried it? What are your favorite highlighters, finishing powders?

EDIT as of 4/04/2014: Final thoughts – I love this palette! Been using this almost everyday and I bring it with me everywhere, especially when I travel. It’s super convenient and I’ve learned how to properly apply Dim Light.
EDIT as of 08/26/2017: I’ve completely finished up this palette a year and some months ago. I have contemplated on repurchasing it many times as I have grown accustomed to using it as a touch up when I’m out since it’s so light and compact. Definitely one of my well-loved items!

*GCASH-AMEX Virtual Pay made this online purchase possible by giving me a US-based credit card with a US address complete with shipping straight to my doorstep. To know more about the service, I blogged about the process here. **I bought the palette myself at

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  1. December 12, 2013 / 3:11 am

    Thanks for the honest review! Everyone is seriously in love with these powders and I’m just sitting here wondering if I should join, lol! I feel a bit like you: they look great but are they really that different/unique from other highlighters/powders/bronzers? Sure it looks very convenient to have them in one palette tho. I still have to think about it, hehe ^^.

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:17 pm

      Teri, with your collection of finishing powders, highlighters and bronzers – I dont think you’d need this still! I think though, if you find any of the Hourglass powders does something for you that nothing in your current collection can, it’s worth picking that one single powder up! For me, Dim doesnt do anything special except erase the extreme matte-ness of foundation. But to others, it does magic so maybe if that one does work for you, it’s worth having. You can maybe try Mood or Diffused too – next on my to-try ambient powders 🙂

  2. indie
    December 12, 2013 / 3:47 am

    I picked this palette up too, but haven’t even opened it yet. I was really interested in Radiant and Incandescent. I purchased Dim when they first launched and wasn’t impressed, so I traded it on MUA.

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:18 pm

      Please do update us how you find it when you’ve opened yours up 🙂 Maybe Dim will work for you this time? 🙂

  3. December 12, 2013 / 4:18 am

    Thanks for your review, Shari. I am very worried about the palette because I am so pale.. I’ve been contemplating getting it, but perhaps I should just go for one single shade of these that actually fits me perfectly. I hope I don’t end up regretting not purchasing it!

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:24 pm

      I think Radiant will be too warm on your super pale skin! Do you have Hourglass counters over there in Belgium? 🙂 I would suggest personally swatching because I think it’s more worth it to have a single shade of the most suited powder than three that does nothing for you 🙂

  4. December 12, 2013 / 1:32 pm

    im so glad i read this review shari, the palette sold out when i was finally about to order it and i felt really bad that i missed incandescent light. now i feel less regret. if id like to buy something similar to incandescent light aside from the Burberry highlighter what would you recommend? 🙂

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:25 pm

      Hi Shayne!! Yup, I dont find anything unique with Incandescent Light. It’s nice but you can get a nice highlighter in Kevyn Aucoin Candelight for more product and at much less cost. I’m eyeing that one for my next highlighter purchase 😉

  5. Keiti Dontcare
    December 12, 2013 / 3:34 pm

    I don’t think it’s something so special either, there are a lot of other products out there with the same quality 🙂 Thanks for the review!

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:25 pm

      Thanks for always reading, Keiti! 🙂

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:26 pm

      Thanks, Sarah!

  6. December 12, 2013 / 7:09 pm

    You always write good reviews, Shari! Always worth reading kahit hindi ako nagpplano bumili ng product na nirereview mo! Heehee!

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:26 pm

      Oh wow, thanks Ish!!! :* :* Kisses kisses to you! I’m so touched naman hehe 🙂 Any products that interest you and you wanna read about? Suggestions are appreciated!!

  7. December 12, 2013 / 8:27 pm

    I’ve seen so many ladies of all different skin tones buy this and review and love it! I think its beautiful but I’ve got enough highlight from my shimmery blushes that I can skip this painlessly! thank you for reviewing dearie!

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:28 pm

      Of course, Sharlynn! 🙂 I’m sure you have something in your stash that highlights your beautiful skin as well as Incandescent or even better. The beauty of Dim is blurring pores but I think if you have a good foundation beneath, it already does the job for you. I think what Dim does great is un-matte-ing what has ben flattened by foundation and loose powder!

  8. December 12, 2013 / 8:48 pm

    I have Dim and am not in love with it, it’s okay but nothing spectacular. It also changes the colour of my foundation (darkening it) which is only useful if my base is slightly too light, otherwise a disaster. This is the second post I’ve read reviewing these Hourglass powders that mentioned the superiority of Guerlain’s Meteorites – think I need to really try them now!

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:36 pm

      YESSS – I thought I was the only one who thinks I’ve darkened a bit when I apply Dim! :O Thank you for sharing! I think it suits a certain type of skin tone so for those who are a bit pale, this has a slight darkening / color casting effect. And RE: Meteorites – what I like about it is it awakens the matteness/flatness without changing the color. I like its brightening effect, too 🙂

  9. December 13, 2013 / 2:21 am

    I can’t wait to get mine and see how I like Dim! LOVES Dim and actually wrote about how she wears this palette about the same time you did.

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:40 pm

      I saw how she wore Dim and it’s perfect on her! 🙂 I dont see the blurring of pores significantly as she did, though! I like how it brings back a semi-sheen on the skin though after the matteness of foundations and powders as well as perfectly setting a dewy base, I’m warming up to it the more I use it. 🙂 I’m eyeing Mood and Diffused though. Will wait for your review on this palette and when you complete your Hourglass powders collection – so I can see how they all differ and compare to each other!

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:38 pm

      Thank you for your insight, Rae!! Really appreciate it. Might even edit this post and include those thoughts cos they’re how I feel too!

  10. December 13, 2013 / 9:26 am

    I started lusting after this too when I saw your pictures of it. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get my hands on it here. But from your review, it sounds like if I had to buy one shade it would be Incandescent – the only shade that’s not permanent! Convenience aside, I do have powders that I like so maybe this wouldn’t have been a good buy for me anyway.

    Oh how I wish I could make my own face palettes with the powders I like!

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:43 pm

      I would love to do that too – a face palette with all the powders you need and like! 🙂 And yes, since you have so many powders, I think owning this would be redundant. HOWEVER – if you find one powder that suits your skintone and does something other powders cant have, like Dim bringing back sheen and dimension to an otherwise flat complexion as well as blurring out pores, then it’s worth having! 🙂 However, it differs from skintone to skintone so I cant suggest in general!

      • December 14, 2013 / 1:50 pm

        Hm… but your review said that Dim didn’t do much for you? Maybe I’m just really unskilled, but I have such a hard time trying to figure out whether a powder works on me. I feel like my face looks exactly the same before and after haha. This even happens with powder foundation – I can’t tell if it’s on my skin or not!

        • December 14, 2013 / 2:09 pm

          On my skintone, it pretty much just melds with my skin 🙂 I’ve seen how it works for others though, blurring pores and all that magic. Also, I’ve realized that when I don’t have a base underneath, that’s when I see it working (the blurring of pores, etc) because there’s no foundation yet to do the job. 😉 I’m still discovering how to use these best so I’ll keep updating this review 🙂

  11. Coco
    December 13, 2013 / 11:45 am

    My thoughts on these are the same. They ARE great quality but so are a lot of other loose, pressed, highlighting, and/or setting powders on the market. I don’t understand the mad sellout in hours craze xx

    • December 14, 2013 / 1:44 pm

      The HYPE is what made the sellout CRAZE. I think they’re great but if you have other powders/highlighters that work best for you, then yup, this might be redundant. However, if you find something unique in one of the powders, then that’s when its’ worth having! 🙂

  12. Ae
    December 14, 2013 / 1:07 pm

    Why am I kinda glad you didn’t like this so SO much? #bitterocampo Haha, i wasnt able to get, so I just might get a single pan..thanks for the review..I’m drawn to Dim..:)

    • December 14, 2013 / 2:57 pm

      Hahaha Ae!! @presidents:disqus will be completing the collection soon! Looking forward to her comparisons 🙂

      • December 31, 2013 / 3:23 am

        I really wish she could get her hands on Diffused Light. That’s what I watned to get before I saw the palette. No regrets though.

  13. December 14, 2013 / 2:49 pm

    Thanks for this review Shari now my eargerness to buy this is somehow tamed. I think I’ll give this a pass for now maybe I’ll get this next year nalang 🙂 Happy holidays! 🙂

    • December 14, 2013 / 2:58 pm

      Sadly, this is limited edition Genzel and unavailable anywhere online na (I think!). But the single powders are available naman 🙂

  14. December 15, 2013 / 12:07 pm

    thank you!! this helps me a lot 🙂 I keep worrying that I need to get this before it is completely gone forever, but everytime i’ve swatched the hourglass powders at the counter, i just don’t really find them to be for me. I’m really curious about those burberry powders, which i’m sure i will LOVE, and I of course love my guerlain bronzers and just picked up the meteorite balls from gummy’s blog sale 🙂 PHEW!

  15. GummyVision
    December 17, 2013 / 6:24 am

    I’m so glad to see someone else not so sure about these!! I didn’t like any of the ones I tried (4 diff ones), but all I read are absolutely glowing and amazing reviews so it’s really nice to see someone that’s not totally raving ha ha!!! Makes me feel like I’m not alone 🙂

  16. dianne
    April 5, 2014 / 10:45 am

    Is there a place where i can still buy this? I regret on not getting this palette. Now im looking where else i can buy this.. 🙁

    • Makeup With A Heart
      April 18, 2014 / 12:27 pm

      Sephora (online only ATM) and Hourglass’ website both carry it now so you can check them out! I think this palette will be a permanent piece now so you don’t have to rush.

  17. dianne
    April 7, 2014 / 8:25 am

    Hope persons that own this and didnt like this can sell theirs to people that would really love to have this. Haha but i now it will be imposible 🙂

    • May 1, 2014 / 1:32 am

      It is now available on Sephora!

  18. Kimberlee
    April 17, 2014 / 1:20 pm

    Dianne it’s available at and on the hourglass website, the brought it back!

  19. Gillian Jeremie Sy Pua
    April 5, 2016 / 1:30 pm

    I’ve been wanting to buy a highlighter that isn’t as in your face as Becca or The Balm and many people have suggested Hourglass Ambient Strobing Powders but I’m not sure if it comes off still glittery? What are your thoughts on this vs Laura Mercier Matte Baked Highlighter which is another option I’m considering!

    • April 12, 2016 / 11:05 am

      Hi Gillian! I’ve been using the Burberry Nude Radiance highlighter which is my ultimate favorite highlighter as it doesn’t have those shimmer specks like the ones you mentioned. It just gives off glowy, healthy skin (a lot of people always compliment my skin when Im wearing it so it really doesnt come off as makeup/highlight). It’s purely finely milled powder 🙂 Hourglass Incandescent Light is a notch lower than Becca and the Balm’s Mary Loumanizer but still has that speckled glimmer. I havent tried Laura’s Matte Baked Highlighter but in reviews, it seems too subtle to show up. Maybe try it in person?

      • Kimberly
        June 14, 2016 / 9:29 am

        Hi Shari! Do you have any suggestions for a highlighter for a middle aged woman? I don’t know if that is something I should be wearing or not. I don’t want anything glitterly or too shiny. Also, what do you use to apply it with?
        Thank you!

  20. Blaise Shang
    June 18, 2016 / 9:50 pm

    Hi! I hope you can update how you are using this palette now and how you use dim light. Thanks!

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