Hit or Miss: Estee Lauder Heat Wave

Ugh. Few things in life are more disappointing than trying something you thought you’d really love only to be let down.

You know how people say you should never meet your heroes? That also applies to cult favorite makeup products, too.


A few years ago, when I first started purchasing high-end makeup, one of the most talked about, sought after products was the Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Illuminating Powder Gelee in Heatwave. It had been released as a limited edition item and people lost their shit trying to find it. In fact, I remember almost purchasing it for upwards of $100 on eBay because I was so curious about what could be so great about a highlighter.


This summer, Estee Lauder released a reboot of the iconic Heatwave highlighter. I used to lose my shit over new product launches. I would stay up late to buy things at midnight or be at Sephora/Ulta when they opened to snag things, but I’m too old (and poor) for that now. If I’m being honest, this had totally fallen off my radar until I was at Ulta with a friend the other day and happened to have a 20 percent off coupon burning a hole in my pocket. I went ahead and bought it because a) I have no willpower and b) when in Rome?


I didn’t go to Ulta in search of this highlighter. I actually didn’t go to Ulta in search for anything. In fact, my friend Jess was sending friendly reminders to save my money while I shopped. Honestly, the only reason I bought this highlighter or even stumbled upon it in the first place was the packaging. I am a sucker for pretty packaging and this definitely fits the bill.

For starters, the packaging doesn’t feel cheap. It comes in this surprisingly heavy, gorgeous gold compact with small turquoise details. Bonus points for the magnetic closure and mirror inside!


It hurts my heart to say this, but I don’t love this product. In fact, I kind of hate it. I coveted this highlighter for years. I even loved it when I swatched it in the store. When I was using the tester in Ulta it looked beautiful and super pigmented. I can’t tell you how excited I was to use this. Unfortunately, when I put it on my face was assaulted with chunks of glitter. Almost no color payoff—just huge chunks of glitter, falling all over my face, making a goddamn mess. It’s awful.


I did some sleuthing online to see if this product actually sucks or if I just happened to get a lemon. It turns out I’m not the only one having issues with glitter. I saw multiple people say that there was a glitter overspray on the product so I swirled my brush in it, I rubbed my fingers all over it, and I even wiped it with a tissue—all to no avail. It’s not a glitter overspray—it’s basically just a $50 compact full of glitter. If I was planning on attending a rave or a Ke$ha concert in the near future, I might consider keeping it. There is a time and place for everything, right? But I’m not. And having chunks of glitter stuck to my face isn’t the look I’m going for.

Even if this product had been sans glitter, I’m not sure I would have swooned over it. I get that this product was one-of-a-kind when it launched, but the truth of the matter is that a champagne-y gold highlight is a dime a dozen now. You can pick up a highlight that is the same shade, with no glitter, and a better formula at any beauty store now, for less money. I’m sorry, Estee Lauder. This just isn’t going to work. And it’s not me. It’s definitely you.


I know that some people think that highlight should be reserved for nights out or special occasions, but I’m not one of those people. I want my face to shine bright every single day of my life, whether I’m relaxing at home or spending the day in the office. It’s just who I am as a person.

If you love chunky glitter, might I suggest trying this? It’s the same damn thing and you’ll save yourself 40 bucks.

If you’re looking for an actual highlighter, I would recommend spending your hard-earned dollars on one of these instead:

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlight in Opal
The real OG. One of the first highlights I ever tried. I’ve tried dozens since then, but I always end up coming back to this one. Flattering on almost every single skin tone, you can’t go wrong.

Anastasia x Amrezy Highlight
The best highlight I have ever purchased. I see that it is temporarily out of stock, and for good reason. This melts into your skin, lasts all day and gives the perfect glow, regardless of whether you’re looking for a lit-from-within look or a blinding highlight.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Luminous Light
Slightly out of my wheelhouse, this highlight is much more tame than what I typically wear. This is perfect if you’re just venturing into the world of highlighters and want to try something subtle.

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