Friday, 13 January 2012

Highlighters -- rambles and swatches

To bring a little light into your Friday the thirteenths, highlighters to complete this series of RBR swatches and to supplement my earlier post about base makeup.

I was born with very dry skin with absolutely no natural glow, and a perverse and stubborn nature. This means that I've been trying to fake a glow for over a decade -- coupled with my extreme pickiness and absolute intolerance of any visible shimmer on my face (in direct sunlight, viewed in a magnifying mirror), this means in fact that I've also been failing to fake a glow for over a decade.

You name the illuminating product, and I'll bet you a lipstick I've tried it and found fault with it.

Then, with a suitably fairytale twist, came Rouge Bunny Rouge Seas of Illumination highlighters. And they are simply perfect. Extremely blendable cucumbers-and-roses-scented light liquids, they offer a wide range of finishes and effects used alone and mix very well with foundations/primers or with eyeshadows. Fellow tinkerers and makeup 'rules' breakers may like to know that they layer excellently OVER as well as under powders.
I own Sea of Clouds and Sea of Tranquility (two on the left), and the liquid bronzer As If It Were Summer Still (on the right). The two pots in the middle are Sea of Showers and Sea of Nectar, free samples (!) ordered from zuneta.

Paper swatches, natural light with flash

I found these beauties impossible to swatch realistically without becoming totally invisible to my camera, so first up we have some moderately heavy swatches:
natural light with flash

dark with flash

And then, some extremely heavy swatches, using about ten times my usual amount. Seriously, a faint breeze would leave ripples in these stripes.
natural light with flash

dark with flash
Notice how the bronzer texture is even more refined than that of the highlighters? And its total lack of orange/ruddy tones even in the stupidly heavy swatch? Even at my wintry palest, I can use this ALL OVER MY FACE, yo. I know people from NW5 to NC40 who love it equally. Magic.

It's taken me over a year of using these highlighters almost daily to decide, but I now think the RBR Seas are uniquely effective because of the refinement, variety and complexity of the shimmer particles within, and the way they're integrated into the opalescent bases. Most highlighters rely on:
  1. all-out bling through glitter (Nars multiples, Lunasol illuminating powders and most of the MUFE uplights and Armani fluid sheers)
  2. densely-packed, finely-milled metallic frost (Laura Mercier Rose Rendezvous, Dior Amber/Rose Diamond, Bobbi Brown Shimmerbricks)
  3. a shimmer-free glossy 'wet' look or sheen (MAC cream colour bases or strobe, Benefit Moon Beam, other Armani fluid sheers, Illamasqua Lies).
The first two finishes don't work for me because I'm a shimmerphobe (except for eyes) and my skin texture is not up to having every bump, flake, pore and hair magnified. The third, while superficially the most attractive option, doesn't work either, because:
  1. I'm not vapid/fabulous enough to walk around with my face angled precisely just so that they catch the light (I save that for FOTDs, ahem)
  2. highlighting down the centre of my face is more flattering than tops-of-cheekbones-and-browbones. A 'sexy' glossy effect usually just translates as 'greasy' when it's manifesting down someone's nose, forehead and inner cheeks.
  3. this one also took ages to work out, but for a highlighter to actually highlight (add dimension as well as glow), it needs to be noticeably paler than my skin. Most sheeny products blend out to a clear glossiness -- great for photography, when that contrast will translate as dimension, but not enough for real life (especially subject to the vagaries of London sun, flourescent supermarket/office lighting etc.)
My collection is subsequently very highly edited. Firstly, whites.
Rouge Bunny Rouge Sea of Clouds (refined shimmer)
MAC Cream Colour Base Luna (sheen)*
Illamasqua powder blush Intrigue (matte)
Shiseido Luminizing Satin Face Colour WT905 High Beam White (satin)

natural light

dark with flash

You may have to do some monitor angling to see these -- sorry! MAC Luna is starred because it didn't make the final cut -- too similar to Shiseido HB White which I prefer. It is however hopefully useful to see how the sheen of Luna throws back light in a more solid way than the delicate shimmer of RBR, which is much more flattering on imperfections (like the complex light-reflecting particles in such cult undereye illuminators like Touche Eclat). Illamasqua Intrigue looks a little chalky here, and honestly it kind of is, but you need so little of this pigmented stark white that the chalkiness doesn't really translate on to the face.

Next, pinks:
RBR Sea of Tranquility (refined shimmer)
Guerlain Parure de Nuit LE holiday 2011 (satin)
Shiseido Luminzing Satin Face Colour PK107 Medusa (satin)*

natural light

dark with flash
Guerlain is the palest and subtlest once the overspray has been thoroughly swept off (it looks just off-white here, but is a very pale pink in reality), and the only one I use as a highlighter. As I've said before, Shiseido Medusa functions more like a blush topcoat/mixer for me, while RBR Tranquility is mainly a foundation-mixer/colour-correcting primer, enabling me to wear more pink- and red-based shades.

Long post is long. But hopefully somewhat helpful.

Post script down under:
My favourite highlighters before discovering RBR were by Becca. I completely agree with this excellent review on visionarybeauty -- the finer microglitter particles in Becca Shimmering Skin Perfectors are more densely packed and uniform, so while they swatch 'better', they look less refined and flattering than RBR in practice.


  1. Insanely helpful! I love Sea of Tanquility, but was not as fond of Sea of Showers. I am now intrigued by the bronzer :)

  2. I need the liquid bronzer, now, right? Right.

  3. I need to investigate RBR further!!

  4. You must write your blog forever- you are awesome! Ok, so how do you apply the RBR bronzer?

  5. Such a great detailed review and thank you so much for the mention :) You make me wonder if I need As If It Were Summer Still now ;)