According to Hourglass, Ambient Lighting Powder is “a collection of six universally-flattering finishing powders that recreate the most flattering light.” These powders are often raved about and we’ve seen makeup artists, celebrities and influencers use them. They’ve always felt (to us, at least), like a fancy, pretty thing we should have in our collections if we love makeup (which we obviously do). So we each put a different shade to the test and are here to report back on whether or not this powder can actually function as a lighting designer in a compact.
Find it HERE
Tested June-July 2020
Confession: I bought this, didn’t really know how to use it, put it in my makeup drawer and left it there untouched until I took it out again to do this review. As a reminder, this full-sized pressed powder is $48, and a $48 makeup item should definitely not sit unused in a drawer.
What’s interesting about these powders is that all of them (supposedly) work universally across different skin tones; essentially, you pick a shade based on the kind of “light” you want to mimic on the skin (i.e. Mood Light or Diffused Light). I have mine in the shade Ethereal Light, “an opalescent sheer, cool white powder” that is designed to provide “a moonlit glow, even in broad daylight.”
I’ve only tried Ethereal Light on my fair skin, but it would baffle me if the six shades of Ambient Lighting Powder truly work as a finishing powder on all skin tones. I think there are different ways everyone could conceivably use each powder, but probably not all over the face like Hourglass suggests. Side note: a finishing powder is designed to be used after other complexion products (even after setting powder) to diffuse the whole look and “finish” the skin.
When I used Ethereal Light all over to finish my makeup, my skin did look radiant with a slightly icy sheen, but I thought it was a little too much applied light for me. I did only a light dusting with a big, fluffy brush and my complexion looked more “shiny under stage lights” than “gently lit by the moon.” Although I noticed this in person, it was REALLY hard for me to photograph the effect of this powder.
I tried to take before and after photos and can’t see any real difference (see the photos above). Overly dewy in person, but imperceptible in photographs? I had hoped using this powder would make my skin look better in one of these scenarios, but I wasn’t wowed or itching to use it again.
I also used this powder under the eyes after concealer to brighten the area. If it created an overall brightening effect, it was very subtle if noticeable at all.
I applied the powder under the eye with a small fluffy brush as well as a damp sponge, and both worked. Unfortunately, when I looked at the area close up, there were tiny little shimmer particles visible under the eye. Not something I like.
To achieve under eye brightening with a powder, I would absolutely recommend the Pat McGrath Sublime Perfection Blurring Under-Eye Powder over this (read my full review of that product here).
The only way I really like applying this powder is as a subtly radiant highlighter. Brushed over the high points of the face like the cheekbones, cupid’s bow, and a hint on the chin or tip of the nose, this does provide a lovely dose of moonlit glow.
I want most of this glow concentrated on the cheekbones, and can build the powder up in this area without it looking cakey or too intense. While it does look pretty, I can get the same effect with a much less expensive highlighter.
I’m almost upset that I don’t love this powder. I have a feeling most people who are obsessed with it will tell me I must be using it wrong, but I feel like I’ve tried all the ways: finishing powder, undereye brightener, inner corner highlight, highlight on the high points of the face, eyeshadow. I even looked up a few how-tos, like Chanel Temple’s YouTube video on these powders. It’s an incredibly helpful video, and she uses all six powders in one look to explain the different ways they can be applied. At the end of the video her skin looks great, but does it look so different from the beginning that it makes these powders worth the splurge? I’m not sure.
The powder formula here is incredibly smooth and absolutely feels like nothing on the skin, so credit where credit is due. It doesn’t cake up at all, or settle into any of my little lines. It just doesn’t do anything special for me no matter how I use it, and it’s a little too shimmery. I lusted after this luxury product for a long time, and now that I have it, I wish I could go back and tell myself not to bother.
Liz’s Verdict: Skip it. I can’t believe I just said that, but it doesn’t serve any purpose well enough to make it necessary.
I wanted to love Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder. The packaging is gorgeous- I’m not even sure what to call this color…is it bronze? The compact has a nice weight to it and the mirror is clear and sizable. I remember picking this up on a whim at Sephora and thinking that it felt luxurious. If I’m being honest, that’s probably a big part of why I bought it- that and I had recently watched Tati Westbrook sweep it across her flawless complexion and wanted the same results.
I swatched several shades on my arm and concluded that both Ethereal and Diffused Light all but disappeared, and Dim Light at the opposite end of the spectrum seemed too dark for my skin tone. I settled on Luminous Light, which is described as champagne pearl. The formula is fantastic; it isn’t powdery or dry, instead it feels silky and buttery. The shimmer is subtle and sophisticated, not at all glittery or chunky. I had high hopes that using this would make my skin appear luminous and light.
I considered returning this compact almost immediately. $48 is a lot of money for a powder, especially one I didn’t need and am still (over a year later) not sure what, if anything, it is supposed to do. Maybe I’m using it wrong? I purchased it in the winter and concluded that this must be intended for sunkissed summer skin, so I tucked it away. Unfortunately, before I was ever able to make my luminous debut, this compact was dropped and shattered. I found a tutorial that detailed one method for reconstituting shattered powders via rubbing alcohol, so I gave that a try. As instructed I crushed the $48 remains even further (and died a little inside) then mixed them with a butter knife and rubbing alcohol until a paste formed. Once that dried I was left with a lackluster brick that no longer looked or felt luxurious. Something about the formula changed during that process too. Once it reformed, the product became powdery, so much so that even a single swipe of my brush left it overloaded.
I tried this several ways:
○ Mixed with translucent powder to set my under eyes- while there was some shimmer, this shade is too dark for that purpose and the area no longer appeared brightened. I looked as though my concealer had oxidized and turned slightly orange.
○ On its own to set my whole face- similar to the under eye situation it tinted my whole face an unflattering shade of orangey-peach. Even when mixed with translucent powder the color was still off. Additionally, this shade is just too shimmery for my entire face, and nobody wants their concealed acne or slightly-too-big-for-their-face nose to shimmer.
○ As a highlighter- in order to get this to show up on the highs points of my face enough to count as a highlighter I really had to layer it on. With that much product not only was the orange tone amplified but the powder settled into all of the fine lines around my eyes.
○ As an eyeshadow- at best it didn’t show up at all, at worst it (again) came across slightly orange.
When I sat down to write this review I asked myself: What did I want this to do that it didn’t? Ultimately, I wanted my skin to look like a pearl: luminous, smooth, lit from within. I’m not writing this product off completely because I do think it’s possible that another shade might give this effect. But I wonder, would that only happen in pictures, when a flash is bounced off of the light reflecting pigments?
At the end of the day I think this was a waste of money for me, but mainly because Luminous Light is just far too warm a shade for my neutral skin tone. I don’t really need this powder as there’s no hole in my collection it would fill. Ambient Lighting Powder is definitely an extra product. If you set with powder this might layer gorgeously on top, especially if you’re being photographed. But for 30-something, dehydrated skin this misses the mark. There are less expensive, more luminous, hydrating cream products that don’t emphasize lines or shatter when they hit the floor.