Recently, the e.l.f. Illuminating Palette ($6 at elfcosmetics.com) came back after a hiatus over the summer. When it first debuted in June, it was called the Ambient Palette and it disappeared pretty quickly leaving a lot of people upset and speculating that maybe they didn't have enough stock to fill the orders they received.

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But if I had to guess, my theory is that they had to pull it because the name was too similar to another famous "ambient palette"... and the reason I'm thinking that is that now that it's back, it has a different name but the palette is exactly the same. But I could be wrong! So not only will I be reviewing this palette on its own, but I'll also compare it to the Hourglass Ambient Palette to see if this is a possible dupe. Let's get started!


The e.l.f. Illuminating Palette comes in a box, and when you open it up, the palette itself is a square shape with a matte black finish on the top and shiny plastic on the edges and bottom. The bottom of the palette actually looks unfinished because you can see the outline of the pans, but I discovered that you can actually pop them out and swap them into different e.l.f. palettes that you own (such as the blush palettes).

Inside, the e.l.f. Illuminating Palette has a large, full-size mirror which is such a great thing to have and four illuminating finishing powders.

These shades aren't overwhelmingly shimmery, they're much more subtle than your average highlight, so right away, that makes me think of the Hourglass Ambient Lighting palette! I tend to use the Hourglass powders more liberally than I would use a more shimmery highlighting powder and I've been using this e.l.f. powders in the same way.

The top left shade is a white shade with a slight yellow tint to it, while the top right shade is a pale pink. On the bottom left, is a beige shade and on the bottom right is a golden bronze shade.


These swatches may be a little hard to see because they sort of blend into my skin tone especially the middle two. But these are very pigmented, finely milled and soft and they blend beautifully into the skin. Everyone will likely use these in different ways, depending on their skin tone, but here's how I've been using them:


The brightest shade on the top left is the perfect setting powder for my concealer underneath my eyes. I also take it up into the inner corners of my eyes to brighten the whole area.

The light pink shade has a little bit more shimmer and is great for highlighting my cheekbones when I just want a subtle, lit-from-within look as opposed to a full-on highlight.

I use the bottom left beige shade (which reminds me so much of Hourglass Dim Light) all over my face as a finishing powder. It's the least shimmery of all the shades in this palette, so I can do that without looking like a disco ball. It's close to my own skin color, but just adds a hint of glow and warms up my cool skin just a little without completely changing the color.

I haven't really found a use for the bronzy shade yet since pulls a bit orange on me. I'm so cool-toned, almost every bronzer tends to look orange against my skin. But even if I can't use this shade, I can't complain. The other three work beautifully on me and this palette is a bargain.

So how does this compare to the Hourglass Ambient Lighting palette...is it a dupe?

Texture-wise, they feel a bit different than the Hourglass powders. When I swirl my finger into an Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder, it feels dry, but not in a bad way...the powder is very compact so there's no crumbling or fallout at all and they're super pigmented. 

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The e.l.f. Illuminating powders, on the other hand, are super soft and buttery but also have a tendency to crumble a little bit and cause fallout. Still, they are very pigmented (just slightly less so than the Hourglass powders).

Neither one is better or worse for me because the end result is still very similar. I just wanted to make you aware of the different textures, but for me, it's mostly about the end result. If I can get similar results from a $6 vs a $58 palette, I'll deal with a little bit of fallout!

Again, I'm sorry if these swatches are hard to see on my skin, but I was surprised to see how close these shades are to the Hourglass Ambient powders!

When compared to the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette, the beige shade on the bottom left looks just like Dim Light, which is supposed to create a radiance that balances cool and warm tones. The pink shade on the top right of the palette looks very similar to Incandescent Light, which is an opalescent pearl shade to brighten your complexion.

The bronze shade on the bottom right looks a lot like Radiant Light to give your skin a sunkissed look. The only shade that doesn't have a match in the Hourglass Ambient Palette is the lightest shade on the top left of the e.l.f. palette.

e.l.f. Cosmetics Illuminating Palette Review and Swatches 1

Overall, I'm really impressed with this palette and have found it to be a great alternative to the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette. I can use the e.l.f. palette in the same way and it's a fraction of the price! I definitely recommend getting this one if you can, and depending on your skin tone, you can use it in many different ways.

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