Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Highlighter for Highlighter Haters: ILIA Beauty Illuminator in Polka Dots & Moonbeams*

Do you remember my rave review of ILIA's Multi-Stick in A Fine Romance (here)? It was one of the only two cheek products I took with me on our Icelandic getaway and I literally COULD NOT put it down for those two weeks - and beyond. So I was very excited to give another of Ilia's 'cheek sticks' a try - it's their cream Illuminator in Polka Dots & Moonbeams* ($34 for 0.15 oz/ 4.5g, available on iliabeauty.com), a shade aimed for fair and light skintones. What's even more exciting is that ILIA Beauty has now made their Sephora debut with their three Illuminators, available both in-store and online (click!), and I'm crossing my fingers to see the full line there in the near future - pretty please? :)
The packaging of Ilia's Illuminator is exactly the same as their Multi-Sticks: a simple burnished metal tube with a chubby bullet inside. One thing worth noting is that when you first get the product, it's important to remember to push the cap all the way down until it clicks securely, because it's very easy to leave the tube half-open and potentially have the product dry out if you're not careful.
All of ILIA Beauty's line features certified organic nourishing ingredients. The Illuminators contain sunflower, castor, sesame seed and avocado plant oils, as well as cocoa and shea butters. The product is fragrance-free but there is a very faint 'natural' scent to it when you put your nose to the tube - I can't smell it though once it's applied on my face.
I find taking color-accurate photos of highlighting products extremely hard, but I tried to do my best here. As you may be able to see, Polka Dots & Moonbeams (btw, first prize for a super adorable shade name) is a pale ivory pearl. While on its own and in the bullet, it looks like it may be leaning warm and slightly yellow, when you look at my comparison swatches you'll notice that this shade is in fact extremely neutral. It has neither pink, peach or white gold undertones but it's not a stark white pearl either - I'm making a terrible job of describing it, am I not? Let's just have the photos speak for themselves then.
In terms of formula and texture, again I find Ilia's Illuminator quite similar in feel and performance to the brand's Multi-Stick. It's a bit of a firm consistency in the tube but it becomes more emollient and easy to pick up with the warmth of your skin. It's definitely on the sheer side when it comes to pigmentation, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your preferences. If you like the look of a strong, mirrorred, strobed cheek, I would steer you away from this product. However, if you dislike most highlighters because you find them too unnatural and obvious - well hello, meet the product of your dreams :) 99% of the time I firmly belong to the second camp so I absolutely love the natural luminosity Polka Dots & Moonbeams brings to my face. The texture is so soft and easy to blend that I virtually can't tell I have any product on my cheekbones, and thanks to all the lovely plant oils and butters, it leaves a bit of a moisturized sheen on the skin as well. On that note - mind you, the Illuminator doesn't set, so if your skin type is very oily, you may not like this creamy texture.
I have tested Polka Dots & Moonbeams on bare skin, on top of a liquid foundation, on top of a cream blush and under a powder blush and it blended in and sat well on the skin in all four instances. In fact, I find Ilia's stick highlighter easier to work with than Marc Jacobs Glow Stick in Spotlight (reviewed here); the Glow Stick is actually a bit thicker and more emollient and sometimes I find it looks a little funny when combined with powder products. I also like the shade of Polka Dots & Moonbeams better than Spotlight; in my heavy arm swatch, Spotlight looks a lot more yellow/ pale gold on my fair skin with cool undertones, while Ilia's product seems to be the perfect natural match for my coloring.
L-R: Ilia Beauty Illuminator in Polka Dots & Moonbeams, Marc Jacobs Glow Stick in Spotlight

L-R: Ilia Beauty Illuminator in Polka Dots & Moonbeams, Marc Jacobs Glow Stick in Spotlight, Surratt Eyeshadow in Scintillante, Anastasia Beverly Hills Illuminator in Starlight
In these swatches, you can also see that both Marc Jacobs Spotlight stick and Anastasia Beverly Hills (powder) Illuminator in Starlight (reviewed here) are more pigmented and reflective. Surratt Beauty Eyeshadow in Scintillante that I like to use as face highlight is sheerer just like the Polka Dots & Moonbeams, but has this somewhat strange subtle grey cast.
I'm sorry for the weird lighting in my face shot - the day I took this photo was really grey and overcast and I don't think it showcases Polka Dots & Moonbeams to its full potential. However, you can still see how natural this Illuminator looks on the skin - it's definitely not too much for everyday wear. Even if you normally hate how highlighters look on your face (or, as a fellow pale person, find most of them too dark for your coloring), I think you'd be surprised by how much you like the ethereal glow of Ilia's Illuminator - definitely give it a swatch next time you're in Sephora!

Have you incorporated highlighting into your regular make-up routine? What is your favorite texture for a highlighter - liquid, cream or powder? I'd love to know!

Disclaimer: Product featured in this post is a press sample I received from the brand's PR for review consideration. All links are non-affiliate. All opinions are 100% honest and unbiased, no matter if the product featured was purchased with my own money or provided free of charge. Thank you for reading!


  1. You and Larie make me want to try the brand! I don't highlight much, so it's their cheek stick that caught my eye :-)

    1. From what I've tried so far, I really do think ILIA is an overlooked brand. I mean, they're not just good for a natural make-up line, they're just good full stop. I also love the versatility and ease of wear of these cream sticks :)

    2. I agree - they are good, period.

  2. Oooh, lovely! I don't usually opt for stick highlighters because I highlight last, and don't want to muddy stuff up, but these are so pretty, I really still want to try, LOL. I figure I can try highlighting first. And the bronzing one looks so pretty, too!

  3. It looks really natural. Me likey!