NYX Highlight & Contour Palette ($25.00 for 0.72 oz.) is a set of four highlight powders and four contour powders. All of the shades included in the palette can be purchased individually, and the palette is refillable, so shades can be removed or rearranged. The only downside is that they don’t sell the palette empty, and there are two additional highlight powder shades (Bone, Soft Peach) and two additional contour powder shades (Sienna, Saddle) available as singles (each single is $5.00). I liked that two of the four highlighters had some shimmer to them, so for those who like a little sheen to their highlight, you’ll have those options, and you can always tamp down the satiny sheen by dusting one of the more matte highlight powders on top to stretch out the others if you like less shimmer. The contours all had a semi-matte to satin finish, so none were totally matte, and they looked natural on the skin without looking too shimmery or too flat. I had some trouble blending out the contour shades at times, and I had the best luck by applying with a more feathery brush to lay down the general outline of the contour, and then going back to darken as needed. The highlight shades are soft and smooth but powdery.
L’Oreal Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator ($12.99 for 0.67 oz.) is a liquid highlighter that can be used as a specific highlighter (like on cheek bones) or all-over (likely mixed in with a base product, like foundation or moisturizer). The biggest con to these is that they have a very, very short working window as they dry down almost immediately, and they dry down and don’t want to move much and instead the shimmer/sheen flakes off than diffuses or blends out. The texture is liquid but thicker than your typical liquid-based highlighter (which are often a little watery or thin) and is viscous enough to hold its shape in a dollop when you squeeze it out. The squeeze-tube offers a good amount of control over how much you get per use, which is nice. The liquid highlighters seemed to have less visible sparkle/glitter than the powders did, though there are a few bits. It gave the skin a metallic sheen that’s by no means subtle, but it didn’t seem to emphasize pores or the skin’s natural texture. They can be mixed with a base product, but you’ll want to use something with a thinner consistency to help this spread out. The shimmer is larger and may be too intense when mixed in for all-over use, but it will depend on your preferences.
L’Oreal Lumi Powder Glow Illuminator ($12.99 for 0.31 oz.) is supposed to be a highlight powder that can be used all-over or on the high planes of the face, and there are three shades. Each shade is divided into four colors, though you’ll end up using at least two together unless you use a very, very small brush. I didn’t feel like it mattered a whole lot whether you mixed evenly or leaned towards one side or the other. The texture of these feels soft and smooth in the pan, but it’s a drier powder where the shimmer separates from the powder to a degree, which makes the shimmer emphasize the skin’s natural texture even more than it already does do to the high shimmer and micro-sparkle amount. It read more like a glittery highlighter on the skin than a luminous sheen. I can’t imagine using this all-over as a highlighter unless you were going for a very over-the-top, disco-ball effect, but I don’t think that’s going to work for most. The wear was eight hours across the board, but the sparkle and shimmer travel all over–I had sparkle on my neck and around my nose, so by the end of the day, all of me was effectively highlighted. On my skin tone, there isn’t a big difference between Ice and Rose; on very fair or cooler-toned skin, you might pick up more of a difference applied. What’s funny about this particular highlighter is I think it looks ten times better in photos than in does in person, so maybe if you aren’t actually going out and just need to take a photo, these might do the trick! I’m very disappointed, because the powder seemed promising just touching the powder itself, and there aren’t nearly enough budget-friendly highlighter options on the market.
Smashbox #SHAPEMATTERS Palette ($65.00 for 1.06 oz.) includes a brow wax, two brow powders, four face powders, nine eyeshadows, and a double-ended brush. The palette is neutral-to-warm in tone overall, with the contour powder leaning neutral, almost cool in tone. All of the products in the palette had fairly soft, finely-milled textures that were blendable and easy enough to use. The eyeshadows can be a little powdery to work with when applying without a primer for the powder to adhere to, so that would be my bit of advice when working with them: use a primer, though they are workable on bare skin. The more matte highlight shade may look chalky on medium and darker skin tones, and the more shimmery highlight powder has a strong white base and can be stark when not buffed out.