In my holiday post from last year, I wrote at length about the things that would need to be different in order for me to be willing to purchase another palette from the brand. I had hoped for a more accurate reflection of the shades in their marketing images, a clearly designated palette suitable for tan to deep skin tones (or darker) or at least an extension of the permanent bronzer range. I also believed three face palette options should be the standard minimum (although I’d begrudgingly continue to accept two). In the mockup section for holiday palette ideas, I mentioned that I would have been satisfied if they swapped out Radiant Light and Coral Flush for Transcendent Light and At Night in the Universe Unlocked Palette and that would have made it appropriately deep skin friendly.
The deepest powder face products Hourglass has created thus far plus two other blushes not pictured here (The deepest blush in Universe Unlocked ’21 and the darkest blush from the Unlocked Butterfly ’22 palette).
This year, they actually did put in Transcendent Light. Iridescent Rose isn’t as deep as At Night, but it’s at least workable for me. So, because the Tiger palette hit so many of the marks I specifically was critical about in the past, I decided to give this holiday palette a chance. It also helps that the Tiger design is beautiful!
So, this will be my review for the Tiger palette. Even though I had been stalking the website and was among the first to purchase one even ahead of the early access launch, I haven’t had the most time to spend with this palette because of my post-surgery recovery process, then losing power for over a week due to Hurricane Ian, and getting COVID. Thankfully, Hourglass powders perform consistently, so there weren’t any surprises. The formula is solid. Whether this palette is a good one to purchase really depends on a person’s skin tone and makeup preferences about the blush vibrancy and pigmentation level, highlighter intensity, and opinions on shimmer and texture.
Transcendent Light is a warm dark brown finishing powder that leans a bit red-orange and that I use as a very subtle bronzer. It first debuted in the Ambient Lighting Volume III trio palette, but I could swear the one from the Tiger palette is a hint darker and a touch more neutral. However, I have mixed my other face powders (which are lighter and lean yellow or golden) with Transcendent Light, so perhaps my original one looks different on the surface level for that reason.
Brilliant Glow Strobe Light differs from the Ambient Lighting face powders in that there’s a shimmer quality to it. I find it interesting though that the intensity level of this shade is significantly more tame than the other two Strobe powders in this palette, in addition to the other “Strobe” formulas from Hourglass that I own. This product is more similar to the original Guerlain meteorites that can be used all over the face, though the particles are still visible, so I prefer to use meteorite-esque products as very subtle highlighters. Or, at least I would if this wasn’t borderline ashy on me despite the added peachy-brown swirl that gives more pigment to the shade. Because of the shimmer level, it keeps me from wanting to use it to brighten under my eyes. This is essentially a less refined version of Radiant Light. That aspect is disappointing as I wish the color stood out a little more within my Hourglass collection. It feels like getting more of the same again, with a different name. This isn’t to say this shade is pointless, as I’ve been successfully using it on top of the Copper Flash highlighter to lighten that color and make it more suitable for my skin tone.
Speaking of getting more of the same, Divine Strobe Light looks an awful lot like last year’s Solar Strobe Light from the Universe Unlocked palette. The main difference is that Divine Strobe Light is more of a traditional gold while the undertone of Solar Strobe leans toward a champagne gold. The differences are minor, but I do prefer Divine Strobe Light. It’s perfect for me! It would be great to have more of a shade variety among what I have, but since this slight tweak gives me an even more flattering highlighting option, I don’t mind. The formula for this one is more of what I expect from Hourglass Strobe powders with the metallic finish that can be built up for more intensity or present without being understated.
Unlocked Tiger on Top Compared to Universe Unlocked Below
Copper Flash Strobe Light is deep highlighter that’s a bit difficult for me to pull off if I’ve been too heavy-handed with it, but I can add Brilliant Glow on top to make it lighter. It also still works if I apply the barest layer on top of a pink or brown blush as a sort of blush topper, but not adding it too low on the face since this strobe formula isn’t the most texture-friendly depending on how much unevenness one has in the highlight and cheek zones. I don’t consider myself as having an issue with texture on the high points of my face, but I have some bumps and moles in my cheek area, so I personally just use Copper Flash as a highlighter and not a glowy blush. Even though I have to be creative with making this work for me, I appreciate that there’s such a rich option for those who are darker than me.
Burnished Glow is the blush I was the most excited for because Hourglass hasn’t done an orange blush in the past, let alone one that’s such a rich pumpkin color. In addition, my Oden’s Eye blush purchases this year made me forget how much of a struggle it used to be for me to find a shade of orange I liked. I usually love blushes with a sheen, but for some reason I really don’t like the intensity level of the sheen in this one. The shimmer is super finely milled, but the finish is a bit pearlescent, which is okay but not preferred. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was matte. I also wish it was closer to a terracotta color to be better suited to my preference, but it’s objectively pretty, it shows up, and it’ll likely look great on others who are of a deeper brown skin tone than mine. I don’t think this tone of orange is bad on me, but it’s not going to be one I reach for by itself. Adding a bit of pink from another blush (like Incandescent Rose) creates a more pink-orange coral tone, and then I really enjoy that combination! Also, this blush is buildable. I can get it to look sheer easily, but it can be packed on for a more intense orange look.
Incandescent Rose is not a new shade like I thought. It looks quite ashy on me in swatches and barely shows up on my arm, but on my face with a dense brush I can build up the color easily enough and blending it in mixes the pink with the base color and takes that ashy powdery look away. I’m a bit at the mercy of the pink marbling because I need that deeper pink for it to show on my cheeks, but thankfully more of the pink is available deeper underneath and I can get to it when I swirl my brush around enough to shed more of the top layer. I was worrying about that with my At Night blush in using too much of the darker pigmented veins in the blush. At Night is still a better fit for me than Iridescent Rose, but since I mix Iridescent Rose with Burnished Glow (plus it pairs well with Copper Flash), it’s still useful for me within this palette. Ironically, I ended up mixing both of last year’s blushes together as well to create a shade that I liked more.
Tiger Palette Used on My Face
I can use every shade in this palette. The powders all show up on me. However, I have to admit that though I like this palette, I don’t love it. I’m very happy that Hourglass has given more options for everyone, but just as I said about last year’s palette, it still has to suit my taste in order to be worth buying and to be something I’ll continually want to select out of my vast makeup collection to use. I’m not confident that this will become a favorite face palette, though I do prefer Unlocked Tiger over Universe Unlocked. I think one day I’ll do a DIY project and depot the powders to form one ultimate palette of my favorites. However, for that, I would need Hourglass to finally make a mini of the At Night blush so it can fit in the 6 pan tins. If possible, I would put Transcendent Light, At Night, and Divine Strobe Light. I’m less certain about the other three spots.
In the photos above I didn’t fully blend Copper Flash Strobe Light because the shimmery pink from Iridescent Rose blush blends in with the pink tones within that highlighter and on camera just looks like an extension of that shade. That’s why I prefer using those two together, but I had to keep it partly unblended so it would be easier to see in pictures. Also, when I wear a dewy foundation base, it’s harder to mix Brilliant Glow Strobe light with Copper Flash Strobe Light for the lightening effect. I also built up the Iridescent Rose shade of blush, but I did not build up Burnished Glow to full intensity and just showed it as lightly as I would likely use it.
I still don’t understand why the Butterfly palette with the palest face powders was the one with the deepest blushes of them all. I wish Hourglass could have committed to making deeper bronzers this year and had actually given the Tiger palette a true bronzer for deep skin tones rather than a face powder that is also deep enough to be used as a bronzer for those with skin tones in the dark tan and lighter range. However, the brand’s effort is admittedly better than last year and last year was already a small step in the right direction. So, I give Hourglass some Kudos. I also think it was brilliant to make the cases customizable because if the darkest palette didn’t have the Tiger print, I would have been sad to have missed out on it. I wish it was possible to make the actual powders inside customizable as well, but the price already went up this year by $5, so perhaps that kind of option would likely put us in the territory of being $100+ instead of $85. Also, how fun would it be if Hourglass used their “miscelare technique” to mix two medium or darker colorful shades in a series of blushes instead of pale beige bases with a single color? As it stands, I’m happy someone at Hourglass is doing more listening to their customers. I am still tentatively watching and waiting to see if the improvements towards inclusivity continues and if I can get to the point of feeling confident about the direction the brand is going. I truly hope they continue on this path.
Thank you for reading!
Also, thank you to those who have been understanding of my scheduling issues due to recovery, but also after being hit hard by Hurricane Ian. Being without electricity for nine days made it impossible to work on my blog during that time.
For today’s post, I swatched and demonstrated how two of the three newest products from Hourglass performed for me. I also included plenty of comparisons between all the Hourglass products in my collection to spot any similarities and show nuances of differences. After finishing the review portion, I ask you to please take a trip with me through my history with the brand because it will give more insight as to why I’ve been attached to them, how Hourglass lost some of its luster in my eyes, and what I hope for them going forward.
Hourglass Ambient LightingPalette Volume 3
The swatches are a bit difficult to see, but the left set were taken with flash off and the right set shows the tones of the powders with flash on.
Eternal Light is a golden brown finishing powder that matches my face perfectly! It’s a stunning beautiful color. It gives a luminous sheen but also has a few flecks of gold glitter throughout. I wish those larger gold particles were not there, but I’m willing to overlook it because of how nice the sheen is and the overall effect on my face. If I want to avoid having glitter specks in random places, sometimes I don’t set my entire face with this powder and just apply it in the areas of my face I would normally highlight. I have especially enjoyed using this powder with the Wayne Goss 00 Powder brush.
Transcendent Light is a warm dark brown finishing powder that leans a bit red. The tone isn’t suitable as a finishing powder for me. However, it works as a very subtle bronzer that sculpts a little if I build it up with a dense packing type of brush like the Rephr 17. Unlike Eternal Light, I do not see any visible glitter in this powder.
Prismatic Strobe Light is a dark golden-copper highlighter. I typically prefer using medium-golden and warm champagne highlighters, but I can still pull this one off. It’s quite beautiful on the skin with fine shimmer that isn’t too glittery and goes on the skin smoothly. For my usual preferences though, I would likely mix this with a lighter highlighter to add extra brightness. *This highlighter contains Zea Mays (cornstarch). Just noting for those who may be allergic.
These are the deepest highlighters I own (excluding Solar Strobe Light) out of the most popular brands I have.
Overall, the formula of these powders is the high quality Hourglass is known to have. They’re smooth and blurring even on my dry skin. They look great in person and on camera. According to Hourglass, this particular palette is “ideal for medium-deep to deep skin tones.” I agree that those with medium deep skin will benefit the most from these shades because they have a choice of using either the golden or red finishing powder as a bronzer. They won’t work as bronzers for someone with a deep skin tone and the undertones of the finishing powders are so different that I’m not certain that someone with a deep skin tone would equally enjoy using both of them to finish the face. The highlighter is a little more geared toward the deeper side, but it can work for medium-deep to deep.
This palette is only available through Hourglass directly and has sold out, been restocked, and sold out again. It’s my belief that limited quantities were made, which is supported by this comment on their Instagram page. It’s nice to know this will eventually come to retailers in 2022, and since it’s in the permanent packaging, I assume this will be a permanent item and not just an extension of a holiday release.
Even though I used a “10% off your first purchase” code on the Hourglass website a year and a half ago, I was somehow able to use another one to get this palette. I would have happily paid full price for this anyway.
To my knowledge, the Universe and Universe Unlocked palettes this year mark the return of Hourglass’ five powder face palettes since 2016. That one also had a marble print on the packaging, but it was made out of hard plastic whereas Hourglass switched to tin this year.
Radiant Light is a light golden-beige finishing powder from their permanent line. I always assumed it was too light for me, but this shade isn’t visible on my skin. It doesn’t lighten my foundation or anything, which is great, but I don’t notice any difference at all when I wear this besides mattifying the skin. I can’t see a sheen either. It does nothing for me besides depositing the occasional visible glitter particles like Eternal Light. I’m glad it at least doesn’t make anything worse, but I prefer to use other finishing powders that accomplish something I need like blurring, smoothing, or adding a healthy glow.
Rose Heat is the deepest powder blush Hourglass has ever created thus far. It’s a dark pink berry shade that is a vibrant color that keeps it from looking too dark on someone with a tan to medium and possibly light skin tone, but also not too light for someone with dark, deep, and possibly rich skin tone to be unable to wear. It is extremely pigmented and I’m able to use it gently with my usual blush brushes, but I have been loving to pair it with the Smashbox Buildable Cheek Brush I purchased recently. I’ve made it no secret that berry tones are not a preference of mine, but having a shade like this adds to how usable this palette is for me, and I like it more if I mix or pair it with Coral Flush.
Radiant Bronze Light is a medium warm-toned bronzer that is the current darkest shade in the permanent bronzer line. While this “miscelare technique” can cause some people to get more or less of the darker marbled color, overall there seems to be a consensus that the bronzer in Universe Unlocked is lighter than the bronzer in Universe. This is an odd choice considering all the other shades in Universe Unlocked are darker than the powders in Universe, so logically shouldn’t the darker bronzer be in Universe Unlocked too? At the end of the day, this choice doesn’t matter for anyone darker than tan because neither will be usable as bronzers. As I mentioned before, Radiant Bronze Light is the darkest shade in the permanent line, so the only hope people of color had for a product to bronze the skin was if Hourglass released a brand new shade. Golden Bronze Light from the Mini Sculpture Unlocked and Ghost Palette is the tiniest bit darker than Radiant Bronze Light and I use Golden Bronze Light as a subtle highlighter on my skin tone, so that says it all in terms of depth. I’ve tried using this on top of cream bronzers and contours to see if I could somehow utilize that warmth and sheen, but that didn’t work. I also find it interesting that although the Radiant Light finishing powder is a lighter shade than Radiant Bronze Light, Radiant Light blends into my skin with no cast, but Radiant Bronze Light leaves a grey cast over areas that I have hyperpigmentation showing. So, I can’t use it as a glowy face powder and it only works as a subtle highlighter on me that provides a little glow but low reflectivity. I figured this would be the case ahead of time before I made my purchase, so it wasn’t a factor as to why I wanted this palette.
Coral Flush is described as a bright peony and although pigmented, I need several layers with at least a medium-dense packed brush to build it up to the point I like. I can wear Coral Flush on its own, but I prefer to add a little of Rose Heat to give it a tad more depth and turn it from being, “Kind of cute,” to “Nice! I like it!” This shade is more geared for light to medium-deep skin tones. I think someone a few shades darker than me could still pull it off, but not that much darker if using Coral Flush on its own.
Solar Strobe Light is a golden leaning metallic champagne. Somewhere between this shade and Prismatic Strobe Light is where my perfect shade exists, but I’m certainly happier with those two than any other Hourglass Strobe Light product that’s been released by them. In addition to liking the color, I’m happy this isn’t the Metallic Strobe formula because the type of ingredients used to make those so bright are not flattering on deep skin. This shade is best suited for perhaps medium up to my skin tone, but I still don’t think it’ll be as flattering past my shade. *Unlike the Metallic Strobe formula, the Non-metallic Strobe highlighters contain Zea Mays.
Overall, those with medium to tan (but not dark tan) skin will get the most out of this palette, followed by those with light and dark tan to medium-dark skin. Anyone else could still use perhaps 1-2 shades, but I’m not certain it would be worth getting at that point. Universe Unlocked mostly works for me, but “working” doesn’t mean it’s as flattering as it could be. I don’t feel that it enhances my makeup the way the Volume III trio did. Even the best blush look I can create with a mix of Coral Flush and Rose Heat doesn’t surpass the way the At Night blush looks on me. So, while this palette is technically still worth the 20% discounted price I paid with a coupon via Ulta, I’m conflicted as to whether it was worth getting for the actual results and how much I will realistically continue using it.
With the exception of the Surreal Light palette, all the powder products I purchased from Hourglass are basically the ones supposed to be usable by me from 2016 until now. I’ll let the swatches speak for themselves as to whether that’s the case or not. And since I believe the finishing powders from Volume III can still work as bronzers, I included them in the bronzer swatch section even though they technically should not be included there.
Hourglass, A History
I first became intrigued by the brand in 2015. Everything was out of my price range, but I purchased a mini of the Veil Mineral primer that was considered one of the best on the market at that time. It really lived up to the claims of being incredibly smoothing and minimizing the appearance of fine lines, but it left a visible white cast so strong that it made my foundation look lighter too. So, I ended up using it as an eyeshadow primer instead. I believe 2015 was also the year Hourglass started to make the larger holiday face palettes. Their previous holiday releases were in trios, but from 2015 and onward, customers began to expect and look forward to those 5-6 powder palettes. Because it was the best bang for the buck, I hoped with each year that a palette suitable for me would become available and was willing to save up for it. By 2017, when Sephora put limited quantities of the previous year’s palette in the Rewards Bazaar, I snapped it up immediately despite knowing I probably couldn’t use any of them.
Ironically, that 2016 release Surreal Light Ambient Lighting Edit was possibly the lightest palette Hourglass made, so it definitely did not work for me. I got some use out of the powders through “Franken-Makeup” creations. For those who are not familiar with the term coined by Safiya Nygaard, it’s when someone plays Dr. Frankenstein and combines multiple products together in the hopes of making something better by capturing the best qualities of all of them, though one could end up with worse results. I scraped out some of the powders to use as fillers or to sheer out an over pigmented mixture in custom Franken blush, highlighter, and eyeshadow mixtures. Despite everything in that palette looking like chalk on my skin and rendering it unusable for the intended purpose, I still cherished having it! In the earliest years of my makeup journey, I became obsessed with having a holy grail product in every category and I viewed Hourglass powders as the absolute best in existence (such was the level of hype it got). So even one that didn’t suit me was treasured because it brought me closer to being able to experience what everyone else could.
Year after year, I waited for Hourglass to release something where I could use more than just 1 or 2 powders out of the bunch. By 2019, I began to view the brand differently when they continued to re-release shades without even having covered the full color spectrum. That’s like if a brand started releasing monochromatic palettes for the holidays and came out with a purple one, a blue one, and then a green palette. The following year, rather than release an orange, yellow, or red they shift instead to making a purple-blue palette, and then a blue-green palette, and so on. Many customers began to wonder why a particular range of skin tones were being catered to while everyone else was ignored. Fun facts: Dim Light and Diffused Light were repeated 5 times. Luminous Bronze Light, Iridescent Strobe Light, and Mood Exposure were repeated 2 times. All of the shades in the Sculpture Ambient Lighting Edit Quad were repeated shades from the previous year’s Ghost Ambient Lighting Edit Palette. There are also several shades in the full face palettes that were from the permanent line already. In addition, so many of the powders that are labelled as “new” look similar to what Hourglass has already produced.
In early 2020, I began to research and take a closer look at all the current and discontinued products that were available from Hourglass. I thought to myself, “Their liquid and cream range is inclusive, so surely there has to be something I think won’t work for my skintone but is actually darker than it looks.” After countless videos and swatch comparisons, the only one I could see was the Diffused Heat blush, provided I was very lucky and could get one that had a lot more of the pink shade than the lighter marbled shade. I was fortunate to find one like that, but it is still ashy if I’m not careful about which area of the blush I dip my brush.
Mid-June people really started to draw attention to Hourglass hardly featuring models of color, but this is because they didn’t have many products to showcase that would suit them. Instead of admitting they lacked a good range, Hourglass tried to show things that were supposedly used, but they could not have matched the models without “adjusting” the photos. This was the start of what led to Hourglass coming under fire later in the year.
In late 2020, Hourglass released the At Night shade of blush and I was ecstatic! I still need to focus on the darker marbled section for it to work, but I don’t have to struggle with it as much as other products. I was so optimistic that I took a chance on the 2020 re-release of the 2017 AmbientMetallic Strobe Lighting Palette, but the pearl powder made it looking quite icy on my face if I used too much. Because of At Night, I was still hopeful the actual holiday release for 2020 would finally work for me, but the larger palette did not. The Mini Sculpture Unlocked quad “worked” if I used the bronzer as a subtle highlighter, the blush if I built it up heavily, and if I was willing to have another icy highlighter. I always had to find ways to get my money’s worth out of the Hourglass products I bought and I ended that year sick of it. I’ve already discussed the scandal of the misleading advertising of the Ambient Lighting Volume 2 Palette in the Jasmine Tooks campaign in past posts. I do not appreciate their photos always being more saturated and deeper than the products actually are and using tricks to make products seem to work for more skin tones than they really do. For instance, with their recent line of Vanish Blush Sticks when demonstrating how the shades look on multiple skin tones, for the model with dark skin they put a very light concealer from the under eyes all the way down to her lips. The large triangle concealer technique is still popular with some people, but it’s not supposed to be applied all the way across the entire cheek to the ears. It’s quite apparent that the best way to get Sacred to show on Sydney Harper’s skin was on top of a very light base several shades too light for her. I nearly fell for it! Trickery like this is why my view on the brand took a deeply negative turn in 2020.
Sydney Harper wearing the shade Sacred on Hourglass’ Youtube page.
I personally think having two deep shades out of the six blushes is inclusive enough, so I don’t understand why this decision was made. I like medium toned blushes, but it’s always a hassle to figure out if a medium blush is on that cusp of being too light or actually working for me. How they showed Sacred in the video makes it look like it would work for skin even deeper than mine, which I’m not convinced is actually the case. If the shade doesn’t show up on the model or looks ashy, then I’d rather they just show that so I know not to spend my money on them rather than buy it, find out for myself it doesn’t work, and either absorb the cost or return it knowing it’s just going to be thrown away.
Since I never did review the Blush Stick, I’ll go ahead and say I think it’s nice but nothing special. The majority of the cream blushes I use from other brands are just as good (or better) for at least half the price. I use a light layer of Revel, but it can be built up more intensely and it’s the kind of shade that will work on a lot of skin tones. The other deep shade Hourglass makes is called Adore.
Regarding Hourglass’ tendency to misrepresent shades in their advertising, I think they did a better job of showing Volume III but it definitely needs improvement. I still caution against relying on Hourglass’ images alone for an idea of what the products look like.
The left side is a more accurate photo of Volume III, but both images are from the brand’s Instagram.
Now, in my seventh year of waiting for a dark powder palette, I can finally say I have Hourglass products that I can use (mostly) for their intended purposes! If I’m looking for an all-in-one palette, the most important thing to me is to have a usable blush, highlighter, and bronzer. I don’t believe I am alone in thinking that way. While Universe Unlocked offers the biggest variety to date of who can use the palette, only a limited group can use all three. It’s the bronzer specifically that limits things. Rather than Hourglass making a palette with 2-3 shades for some people and 2-3 shades that will work for someone else, I would have liked to see full palettes dedicated to the skin tone groups who still haven’t gotten a full face palette that will work. I am happy to have Volume III and am glad at the possibility that it’s permanent, but so many of us have been specifically wanting a full size Deep face palette. If they took all the shades from Volume III, Rose Heat from Universe Unlocked, and threw in At Night as the second blush (since they like doing repeat shades anyway) that could have been an amazing third holiday Ambient Lighting Edit palette. Indie brands like Sydney Grace and Adept Cosmetics release dark and light versions of the same eyeshadow palette and I think this would be fantastic for other companies to adopt regarding face palettes. Below are some examples of swaps that could have been made. Creating two versions of Universe Unlocked with even just a bronzer change would have made all the difference in the world.
The third concept palette that I nicknamed “Universe Aligned” is what I proposed above if Hourglass took the three Volume III shades and At Night blush and put it in the Universe Unlocked packaging with Rose Heat.
I’ve heard endlessly, “If a brand doesn’t cater to you, go buy from those who do.” I’ll explain why this doesn’t work so easily for Hourglass: No one else makes powders like Hourglass. If I had an alternative, I would have given up on them ages ago. The silkiness of the powders, the blend, the effect on the skin, etc has not been successfully replicated by anyone else. This is why we “target,” as Hourglass apologists say, the brand specifically more than other non-inclusive ones, because they are the only ones who can do this task. When the Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer was considered top notch, we wanted an extension to those. When Benefit only had Hoola available, we wanted that as well. I have no problem taking my money elsewhere as long as there isn’t something considered the best of the best that they make. In which case, then there isn’t an alternative. If we want the best, that brand is the only one who can create it for us. This is why so many of us keep hoping to have something that we can use too. We want to have that same experience everyone else that Hourglass caters to gets to experience. Hourglass is inclusive except when it comes to the powder products, but powder is all I really want from them. I like makeup from Asian brands, but I accept that I’m not likely to get a base product deep enough for me because the demand isn’t high enough. When it comes to Hourglass, there is a market and a demand, so it would be financially beneficial to meet those demands. This makes it so obvious they were content in leaving a vacancy in their line while their pockets were still being filled. It was not until enough of us joined in a united front (those who could and could not wear what was available) to make our voices heard, especially those who boycotted them and the Influencers who publicly denounced and cut ties with Hourglass, and news outlets who got us to the point where Hourglass has started to give deeper options. I believe the creation of Volume III was to repair their image after the deceitful misleading advertising of Volume II. This is why I question whether Hourglass is going to continue giving deeper options in the future, or if they feel they’ve done enough now and that this is where inclusiveness ends for them. In 2022, if there is no extension of the permanent bronzers or there’s no Ambient Lighting Edit Face Palette suited for at least tan to deep skin tones, if not deeper, then it will be a clear indication once and for all that they won’t begrudgingly create anything like the Volume III again. Essentially what they do in 2022 will determine whether I continue buying from them or not. Eight years will be plenty of time and they’ve had plenty of chances to prove they aren’t focused on a particular demographic. Hourglass prioritizes being cruelty free, sustainable (with their new overpriced custom eyeshadow system), and finding vegan alternatives (with their patent-pending replacement for carmine). They dedicated so much time and research to these projects in order to be a brand that goes above and beyond others by showing their concern for the planet. It boggles my mind that they don’t care about their reputation when it comes to being exclusionary regarding their customers.
I think I’ve finally said everything I’ve wanted to say about Hourglass in this post. I really do hope they become a brand I can be proud of to say I purchase from in the future. As it stands, I’m almost embarrassed to share how long I’ve been pining for their products and how many of them I bought despite feeling as though they really don’t want to make products for those with dark skin. That’s all for this week. If you’re still here after reading that full post and you understand my perspective, you’re at MVP status! Thank you for your time and if you’re considering getting these products now or in the future, I hope this has been helpful.
2020 has been the year of blushes for me. I’m not sure why, but my blush obsession has surpassed even my eyeshadow obsession! That being said, I always buy one blush to start with from a brand, even if they have multiple colors I want. If I end up loving the formula, I still tend to stick with that single shade (or buy a better-suited shade to use instead). However, these are the exceptions to that rule; the blushes I loved so much that I felt compelled to buy another!
I will be excluding MAC, NYX, and Rituel de Fille from this list, as I’ve discussed them in posts before and we know I didn’t stop at just two with those brands!
HOURGLASS AMBIENT LIGHTING BLUSHES
These are the blushes that inspired this post! Hourglass is notorious for having a stunning powder formula but making shades suited primarily for pale to medium skin tones. Diffused Heat was the first one I bought. It takes a lot of building up to show on my cheeks but despite how many layers I have to add, it still doesn’t look powdery! The poppy color gives a healthy youthful flush that I love. It imparts a subtle glow without looking shimmery or glittery due to the finely milled powder Hourglass is famous for.
Since their initial blush launch in 2014, medium tone pinks have been the darkest shades Hourglass has been willing to make. Besides being uninclusive in their powder range, the other issue with making multiple medium tone blushes is that they end up looking too similar on the cheeks. Below is an example of their six darkest blushes using Temptalia’s swatch comparison feature. It should be noted that Vibrant Flush and Mood Flush are only available in limited edition quads/palettes with other products too light for my skin tone. So, to even have access to these blushes, I would’ve had to pay $60-$80. Vivid Flush was the limited edition 2019 Lunar New Year shade that was sold individually but is no longer available.
After buying my first Hourglass blush, I only had to wait six months for a shade different enough from Diffused Heat to be worth purchasing. At Night is described as a brick red. The dark maroon marbling gives the impression that it will be a deep shade, but when mixed with the lighter base powder, it turns it into a warm medium to medium-dark pink. I love this shade, perhaps even more than Diffused Heat because I don’t have to work as hard to get the color to show.
To see how the original Hourglass blushes look on someone with a complexion closer to mine, I recommend this video by The Fancy Face.
10/11/2020 Update: I purchased Radiant Magenta thinking that if Diffused Heat worked on me then this shade would as well. I was mistaken. Despite the gold shimmer, this shade appears too cool-toned on my cheeks and is too light for me. I don’t like the way it looks, so that was unfortunately a bad purchase. At least I got it at a reduced price.
This brand has a decent range of complexion products, so it’s very strange to me that for the past six years I’ve seen customers implore Hourglass to make deeper blushes, bronzers, face powders, and highlighters. The demand is so high, yet Hourglass ignores it. After the release of At Night, I was hopeful that the brand would finally fulfill the barrage of requests for a light version and dark version of their holiday face palettes this year. Instead, they repromoted old products and paired them with “new” powders that look like the old ones, just half a shade darker. I give most brands who promised to be more inclusive in the future some leeway because of COVID-19. However, Hourglass has had over five years to make it happen. It’s disappointing because I like the brand. I like their products. I wish more people were able to use them.
FENTY CHEEKS OUT FREESTYLE CREAM BLUSHES
My Fenty blushes are like deeper cream versions of my Hourglass blushes! I bought Strawberry Drip during the initial product launch and loved it, then immediately purchased two additional blushes. I don’t like to return things, but Daiquiri Dip was too bold of a red shade. I’ve kept plenty of items I don’t care for, but if there’s something I know I will literally never use again, that’s when I will make a return. Thankfully, I loved Rosé Latte and kept that as my second shade. There are several more colors that appeal to me from the line, but cream products don’t last as long, so I stopped at these two.
Strawberry Drip is described as a “soft coral pink” but is a bright intimidating looking shade to me, so I was surprised how much I liked this one!
Rosé Latte is described as a “soft bronzed nude,” which doesn’t look very special in the pan. On the skin, you can see the subtle red tone that gives this shade it’s oomph.
Because the formula isn’t as pigmented, but still buildable, a wider range of people can use these shades. Though they can be built up, I prefer to wear them on natural makeup days. These mostly set, and although they aren’t transfer-proof, I can still rub my finger over my cheek without it turning patchy. It also doesn’t disturb my foundation using the two methods I have tried: scooping out some product onto the back of my hand and warming it up with my finger before applying with my fingers or a sponge.
KVD VEGAN BEAUTY EVERLASTING BLUSH
My goodness, I haven’t discussed any KVD products since the Mi Vida Loca Remix Palette from 2015! Controversies aside, I wasn’t interested in anything from “Kindness Vegan Discovery (Doing Good) Vegan Beauty” until the blush release in January 2020. I have to address the name change. Did they really need to put Vegan in there twice?
I bought Snapdragon at full price shortly after the product launch. At this time, everything else from KVD was going on sale, but I couldn’t resist that rose packaging. I intended to get another blush when I thought it would inevitably go on sale too, but as of September 21st, it still hasn’t. Excluding the new eye primer that was released a month or so ago, the blush is the one item that hasn’t gone on sale yet. What I also find interesting is that these blushes are the only items in the brand that isn’t available at Ulta. Even the new primer is available there.
*DEC 26th, 2020 UPDATE: The blushes are finally available at Ulta!
*MARCH 2021 UPDATE: KVD now stands for Kara Veritas Decors (latin for Value, Truth, and Beauty) in the latest “brand reinvention.” They are to be known as KVD Tattoo Inspired Vegan Beauty.
As you may know, LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) is the parent brand of the beauty retailer Sephora. They also own Kendo Holdings, which owns KVD Vegan Beauty. It makes sense that KVD products would be exclusively sold at Sephora and their own website. Ulta Beauty, Sephora’s competitor, now carries KVD products. This is highly unusual. The only other LMVH brand allowed to be sold at Ulta, to my knowledge, is Benefit Cosmetics. Many speculate that this addition to Ulta is because KVD is struggling with their sales and they hope working with Ulta will change that. Because of Sephora’s marketing structure and trying to maintain a high pricepoint as to not devalue their products, things only go up to a certain percentage on sale before they offload everything else to TJMaxx (where makeup goes to die). Because Ulta carries drugstore items, as well as prestige, they can offer products at prices Sephora is unwilling to sell for. So, to have the blushes kept from Ulta leads me to believe that it’s the top-selling KVD item and probably the only real money maker the brand currently has. They’ve revealed a new holiday palette that I think is beautiful, so perhaps they can turn things around. Anyway, back to the blushes.
KVD was always known for making a statement, so I expected these blushes to be pigmented, but dang! I have to use a light hand with Snapdragon, but especially with Poppy. Poppy creates a lot of kick-up in the pan. The Everlasting Blush formula is very smooth and of good quality. It just comes down to deciding which shade one prefers.
I included comparisons to Lolita because it is so similar to Snapdragon. Lolita eyeshadow/blush was released in 2017. I bought it back then, returned it when I discovered a long hair/fiber embedded in the powder, and then didn’t repurchase it until 2020. The difference between Lolita and Snapdragon is that Snapdragon is slightly darker and redder. Snapdragon is also a smoother powder. Even though I bought this is 2020, Sephora has had issues in the past of keeping products in the sale section for much longer than they should. I remember when Sephora added some KVD eyeshadow trios I hadn’t seen before. The pigmentation was awful, so I did my research and found out that not only were the trios supposed to be discontinued, they were originally released 4 years prior. I have no way of knowing if the Lolita shade I have is from a new batch or the first restock after it became permanent. KVD’s vegan eyeshadow formula tends to worsen in performance quicker than other brands of eyeshadows I have, and since Lolita is technically also considered an eyeshadow, it’s possible that it doesn’t feel as soft in comparison or as easy to blend because of its potential age. However, my hypothesis is just that the Everlasting blushes have a better formula.
MELT DIGITAL DUST DUO BLUSHES
Melt Cosmetics recently released their Royal Blush collection. There are three duos in total. I started with buying Queen Bee with the intent of using both shades strictly as highlighters. MAC taught me how to love brown blushes, but the left side called Queen is a warm bronze that doesn’t have enough depth or richness of brown I’d consider flattering as a blush. It’s perfect as a highlighter though. The same can be said of the lighter honey gold shade on the right side called Bee. It reminds me of the Topaz shade from Becca Cosmetics, and although yellow-toned blushes are very popular this year, I don’t like the way it looks on me as a blush alone. I prefer it as a highlighter or blush topper.
After seeing some swatches online, I thought Buzz Kill might still work for me despite looking light in the pan. Though it does look darker and more pigmented in swatches, on my cheeks I get much more of the golden shimmer than the pink pigment, making this not really a blush for me either. Here are swatch comparisons to other light pink blushes with gold shimmer I have in my collection.
The Kill side has bigger glitter specks than any of the three other shades and would only work as a highlighter for me. I wouldn’t even try to use it as a blush topper.
The shade I didn’t buy is called Raw Honey. The Raw side is a mauve bronze. The Honey side is a pink beige. I didn’t think those would work as blush or highlights for me, so I skipped it.
The first digital dust formula I heard about from Melt were highlighters, and these all have that highlighter quality to them. I wonder if Melt marketed these as blushes because the “Glass Skin” trend made products that use glitter/shimmer for shine instead of creating a wet sheen, traditional highlighters, and blinding highlighters drop in popularity. However, blushes have remained popular, if not risen in popularity. I don’t think this is an instance of trying to release unconventional blush shades to be different. Although I can see this being trendy on Instagram, and the packaging/imprint/design is aesthetically pleasing, I don’t know how many people would consider these staple blushes in their collection. I do like the Queen Bee duo, though, as highlighters and eyeshadows. I will continue to use it. Buzz Kill is an example of loving a blush so much I had to get another…but the other didn’t work for me.
COVER FX MONOCHROMATIC BLUSH DUOS
These blushes were initially released in April 2019, but I didn’t buy my first one until that August during Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty sale when it was half off. I bought Spiced Cinnamon and loved it, but didn’t get Warm Honey until this year’s 21 days of beauty at half price again.
I can see why these duos were so hyped last year! The mattes aren’t quite as smooth as KVD’s everlasting blushes, but they are less powdery and very pigmented! The shimmers in the duo remind me of a less glittery version of Melt’s Digital Dust blush formula. For Spiced Cinnamon, I typically use the matte side alone or mix the two halves together. As I mentioned before, it is very pigmented and just two swirls of my brush in the powder are enough for me.
For Warm Honey, although the matte half is pigmented, the shade is closer to my skin tone so it takes a few more layers of building up to get it to show on me. It’s great for days when I want a more neutral looking flush of color. The shimmer side doesn’t have enough pigmentation for me to use on its own and I don’t like the way it looks as a highlighter.
I love the mattes from both duos. The shimmer sides, although nice quality, are not in my preferred shades. The mattes are comparable to MAC, but MAC blushes range from $25-$30. If you like both shades in Cover FX’s duos, then the $39 price is more reasonable since you’re getting two products in one. If you only like one side, I recommend waiting for a sale. I should note that I’m unsure if these duos are being discontinued. Sephora had them on sale for $19 before removing them from their site. It’s possible the brand as a whole is being removed from Sephora (since all Cover FX items have been on sale there for a while) and that these blushes will continue being available at Ulta.
NABLA SKIN GLAZING AND SKIN BRONZING
I mentioned in my 2019 favorites how much I loved the Nabla Skin Glazing Highlighters. I bought Amnesia and followed that up with Lucent Jungle, which is a bit too dark for me, but I kept it anyway. In 2020, Nabla released two blushes which were still given the same Skin Glazing name and packaging. The shades Adults Only and Truth were part of their original launch, but the blushes released this year are called Lola and Independence. I purchased Lola, which Nabla refers to as a “watermelon with amber and peachy reflects” shade of blush. It looked and sounded so beautiful that I had to get it. It’s on the lighter side of blushes, but it still works for me. I really like the way it looks and am happy I bought it. As with the other Nabla products in this formula, these are harder pressed than regular powders. If you like using natural brushes like I do, then I suggest a goat hair brush, although my squirrel-goat mix HS-2 Hana Sakura Blush Brush does the job well. I’m not sure if this will cause some long term damage to the bristles though, so just be careful!
My curiosity got the better of me, and even though I don’t need more bronzers, I picked up the darkest shade called Profile. The packaging on the Skin Bronzing is a slightly different color to distinguish from the two product types. The product swatches of Profile looked so dark that I contemplated getting the lighter shade called Revenge. However, in-person, Profile was nowhere near as dark as I expected. It works for me but I’m not sure how well it would work on someone even a few shades darker. Since this is a blush post, I’m saving a more in-depth review of the bronzer for the bronzer post I have scheduled next week.
This concludes the post! I was debating adding the monochromatic Patrick Ta blush and the Headliner Blush to this review, but they didn’t fit the theme. Although I have two Patrick Ta blushes, I only stuck to one shade from each formula. So, I may save those for the future in a dedicated post or another themed post. I’ve been so inspired this Summer and Fall that I have plenty of reviews planned. It’s just a matter of having the time for this hobby of mine!