Fall 2011 Highlighters: Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Estée Lauder & MAC

August 27, 2011

This year designers have brought us some of the most beautiful bronzers and highlighters I’ve ever seen. For the summer releases we saw gorgeous bronzer palettes from Chanel, Dior & Guerlain with intricate embossed patterns woven with different shades. The trend has continued into the fall season with the release of new highlighters that have unique formulas & textures. When it comes to highlighters, I’ve traditionally been very open to all intensities of shimmer and frost. These days, my preferences have changed and I now look for powders that have a finely milled shimmer without the intense frost and that are also easy to apply with a single swipe on the cheeks or temples. The highlighters I tried this season include Dolce & Gabbana Illuminator in Shimmer, Chanel Ombres Tissées in Beiges, MAC Mineralize Skinfinish in Semi Precious Crystal Pink, Chanel Pearl Glow Powder and Estée Lauder Pure Color in Modern Mercury.

My thoughts and close ups of each shimmer powder:

Dolce & Gabbana The Illuminator Powder in Shimmer ($47 at Saks, reviewed here and also on Makeup Magpie): I find this shade to be more of a contouring powder for my skin rather than an illuminator/highlighter. On the skin, the powder applies slightly darker than what you see in the compact. The texture is buttery smooth with a finely milled finish. It blends naturally with my skin and to give a gentle glow. It makes the perfect nude contour. This product doesn’t really fit the bill as a highlighter, but as a nude blush or soft contour it’s a winner.

Chanel Ombres Tissées in Beiges ($75 at Chanel.com, reviewed here): I personally adore this palette. The texture and blend of light pinks mix together beautifully to give a lovely glow. The texture is predominantly powdery but has a slight cream texture which I believe helps this adhere to the skin to last all day. In terms of uniqueness for the color payoff, I think you can achieve a similar effect with other pale highlighters. However, the design of the quilted texture is exquisite. (Note the sparkle is an overspray.)

MAC Mineralize Skinfinish in Semi Precious Crystal Pink ($28 still at Maccosmetics.com, reviewed and swatched on Temptalia and Karla Sugar): This is described as having a pink champagne base with an inner circle having a fusion of pink, dirty green and bronze. It’s almost impossible for me to pass up any Mineralize Skinfinish from MAC. The frost and shimmer is high, but they have the most beautiful multi-colored shimmers. At $28 the beautiful swirls of color are hard to resist. Semi Precious Crystal Pink goes on a nude pink frosty champagne (no glitter). Applying with a skunk brush in one sweep on the cheeks to temples over any blush or bronzer will give a beautiful glow. I tend to use a lighter hand as MSFs tend to have a high impact shimmer and are easy to overdo. It’s versatile and easy to use on the eyes as well.

Chanel Pearl Glow Powder ($60 at Nordstrom, reviewed here and also on Cafe Makeup and Orange to LA): This is currently exclusive in limited quantities to Nordstrom. It’s a subtle glowy highlighter that I find less pink and less frosty than Chanel Beiges. If you asked me to pick only 1 Chanel highlighter this year, it would be the Pearl Glow. The texture is sheer but I love the finish as it gives the most exquisite wash of shimmer that makes the skin simply glow. If you’re looking for something sophisticated, subtle and refined, this is the highlighter for you.

Estée Lauder Pure Color in Modern Mercury ($40 on EsteeLauder.com, see it reviewed on Cafe Makeup): This is a unique powder + liquid + gel in one highlighter with a highly reflective peachy gold shimmer. Modern Mercury gives a highly pigmented glow without any glitter although it makes the skin glimmer like a crystal in sunlight. I highly recommend you read Cafe Makeup’s review if you haven’t already. She has a lovely set of comparisons as well as a few looks that are highly inspirational. The texture is slightly creamy with a highly metallic finish when applied with a heavy hand. The product blends beautifully and adheres to the skin well to melt into the natural texture of your skin. It makes the skin glow with or without direct light.

All lined up plus swatches on the arm:

I know many of you will want to know which highlighter I think is best. This is an impossible question for me to answer. All these highlighters have their own unique quality that makes them different for  achieving different effects. The best highlighter will depend on what you’re preferences are for price range and shimmer intensity. My recommendations:
  • For the most subtle glow, I’d recommend Chanel Pearl Glow.
  • For a contour nude suitable for even the fairest skintones, try the Dolce & Gabbana.
  • For the most unique texture/finish, Estée Lauder Pure Color in Modern Mercury is a must have (this also lasts long on the cheeks).
  • For the best price, MAC is your best bet.

For inquiring minds, I did check out the beautiful Jacquard Face Palette from Armani but found the frost too strong even though the texture and design were to die for.

Did you fall in love with any highlighters this season? Or did you find them to be duplicates of previous releases? What caught your eye this year? If you see any you like I recommend you purchase soon – most are limited edition!

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  • Chanel Pearl Glow is my favorite highlighter out of the bunch. It doesn't look too pink on my NC30/35 skin tone.

  • I love the both Chanel!

  • at this very moment, I was/am trying to decide between Beiges and Pearl Glow. I still don't know. Colorwise, both seem like a good choice. Husbandwise, I would die if I purchased both. So I'm at a quandry. I want the subtle sophisticated glow, so I guess Pearl Glow is it, but something a little pinker is always nice on my lightly olivey toned skin, so the Beiges would be good. God forbid this should take me so long to figure out that they'll both be long sold out, right? 🙂

  • I LOVE that you did this review/comparison! I have been contemplating getting the EL Modern Mercury, but now seeing all these swatches I might just go with the MAC MSF.

    Perfect timing on the post! 😉


  • I have in my possession Chanel Beiges and Estee Lauder compacts… love them both 🙂

  • Amaaaazing swatches!!

    I swatched the D&G one the other day and you're right, it's better as a contoure than a highlighter..

    The EL one looks stunning!!! Will def pick that one up when I can..

    Thaaaanks =)

  • Gorgoeus!!! your blog is the highlight of my day 🙂 I have to get my hands on the EL highlighter.

  • Eileen

    Hi Polarbelle,

    Chanel's Lumière Perlée also looks stunning layered over any blush you might have on, so don't worry about wanting "something a little pinker". This particular highlighter is the epitome of refined elegance and can be worn subtle during the day or more dramatically during the evening. It gives a soft and sophisticated glow.

  • OMGGGGG!! Now I wantttttt! lol

    Thanks for posting 🙂

  • I love the glow of Chanel Pearl Glow, but Chanel Begies is beautiful, too

  • Anonymous

    How would nars albatross highlighter compare to these? I am very pale with a pink undertone and surprisingly look best in very light but slightly yellow toned foundations/ powders ( Bobby brown light yellow powder and warm ivory foundation stick used mostly to spot conceal) to cancel out redness. Besides nars albatross I am leaning towards channel pearl glow if it would even show up on me!

  • Polarbelle – tough question! Perhaps we should ask Amy for her thoughts. She always knows best!

    Anonymous – NARS Albatross goes on quite yellow on me, since I have olive tones I find it extremely unflattering (on me). It does however look so lovely on my pink-toned friends. The Albatross will have quite a bit more yellow/gold and more frost/shimmer with more pigment. The ones reviewed in this post from fall all have a more finely milled shimmer/glimmer without the yellow/gold. Hope this helps.

  • All your highlighter choices have such beautiful packaging. While EL modern mercury and the Chanel are certainly gorgeous, I'm most smitten with the MAC packaging. There's something about the organic marbleized eye of blush that is so appealing to me. I can't believe I passed. (I'll also admit that I rushed over just now to the MAC website to Crystal Pink was still available.)

    Also, I agree with your comment about NARS Albatross. On olive tinged skin, it looks too yellow gold which is not good! Lately I've found a newfound love for my Bobbi Brown Beige shimmerbrick.

  • Ooh these are all beautiful! I keep debating whether or not to get Pearl Glow & Beiges! They are so tempting and look absolutely gorgeous in your swatches! 🙂

  • Yu

    Chanel Pearl Glow definitely catches my eye out of these! I haven't seen them around though maybe they aren't out in the UK? 🙁

  • I have Modern Mercury and I love both the texture and colour!

  • Anonymous

    I went to buy Pearl glow & then looked at the MAC Semi Precious ones – Like you said MAC is the best deal but and you show the Crystal Pink one – Do you have the pearl one from the same collection – Take a look – I bought that instead of the Pearl Glow by Chanel – like you said its a better deal – I might have to get the Crystal Pink also

  • ahhh, I am in heaven! how to pick just one for fall?! As always, thanks for posting!