Battle of the Highlighters: Ilia Illuminators vs. RMS Living Luminizer

I’ve been using RMS living luminizer for what seems like years – it was one of the first new makeup products I bought after I read The Book.  I think I’ve used it nearly every single day since then.  But I’ve noticed that one of the things that has changed about my product buying habits since going clean is that I’m more adventurous, and more tempted to try new things.  I’ve had my eye on Ilia for a while, and finally took the plunge and bought both shades of illuminators.  Let’s compare and contrast.

To begin, both brands are very clean and have never caused any problems for my skin, which is pretty picky about what goes on it.  The cost is pretty much the same, and both feel high-end to me, in performance and packaging.  So, what’s the difference?

RMS Living Luminizer:  This product contains coconut oil, which my skin loves, though I know others feel differently.  I’ve heard some say they are nervous because it can be easily overdone for daytime looks.  The up side is that you only need a tiny bit of product for a big effect, so the cute little pot really lasts.  And, if you do accidentally apply too much, it’s easy to fix.  Just wipe any excess off your fingers and keep patting your skin gently until it tones down.  Its creamy consistency and packaging make it very easy to scoop out and mix with other products for DIY creations.  I especially like it applied to eyelashes (sans mascara, of course) and if I press into my lashes it gets to my lids as a nice highlighty liner/shadow too.  I also love it on lips and collar bones.  The effect is kind of silvery, and works well for my pale olive skin.  It doesn’t stay on full force all day, but there’s always enough left to make a difference by the time I’m removing makeup at bedtime.

Ilia Illuminators:  No coconut oil here, so that may be an important point for some.  It comes in a stick, which in some ways makes it easier to apply.  The consistency is much firmer and drier than RMS, and it seems to stay put longer, though it’s more of a challenge to apply to eyelashes.  On the other hand, I like this consistency better for brightening under the eyes.  One huge plus is that it comes in two different colors.  Polka Dots & Moonbeams is the most similar to RMS, though the effect is much more subtle and I’ve found it impossible to overapply by mistake.  The color is more beigey/neutral too, so if RMS is too silvery this may do the trick.  The other color, Sway, is an incredibly subtle bronze.  It looks very dark in the tube, but it is quite soft on.  I can practically do a whole look with these two colors.  Just some sunscreen and powder as a base, and between PD & M and Sway my eyes, lips and cheeks look polished without looking at all made up.

The swatches are a pretty heavy application, to get them to show in the photo.  I tried to do a fade with Sway, so you can see it can be darker or more subtle. Bonus points if you know what my tattoo says.

My conclusion?  Don’t fight, girls.  You’re all pretty.  I’ll keep buying both brands.

What are you using to get your glow on?

23 Responses to “Battle of the Highlighters: Ilia Illuminators vs. RMS Living Luminizer”
  1. Rachel says:


  2. Mercedes says:

    Huge devotee of RMS living luminizer here, but you’ve intrigued me to want to try the Ilia ones…they look gorgeous swatched! Thanks :)

  3. Susannah says:

    I love your conclusion, Rebecca! Very sweet. I also have the RMS highlighter, which I see popping up all over the place these days. It’s gaining cult status and rightly so. I’ve tried a tiny sample of Ilia’s Moonbeams – I think it came in a Goodebox. I really agree with your description of the differences in consistency and color. Both fantastic, just different. Another highlighter I’d throw into the mix is w3llpeople’s Universalist 2 color stick in Moonstone Glow (thanks NMDL Quarterly!). I actually reach for this one the most. The color is right between Living Luminizer and Moonbeams, not as silvery and not as gold – just right!

  4. Kathryn says:

    Just wanted to give a shout out for W3LL PEOPLE’S Universalist 2 (Moonstone Glow) which has a lovely consistency and color. I have not tried Ilia’s Illuminator, but I have used the RMS Living Luminizer and I prefer the Universalist by W3LL PEOPLE. I have also used Vapour Organic Beaty’s Trick Stick in Star (703) and the color has a lot of sparkle which I do not like for all over highlighting, but it can look pretty on the eyes.

  5. Hello Rebecca! Such a great post for a makeup junkie like me :) I use the RMS Beauty living luminizer, and are very happy with it. I like the consistency, the color, and pretty much everything about it. With that being said, I am also a huge Ilia Beauty fan, (you probably already noticed that on my blog, lol) so I have also purchased Sway and I plan to purchase Polka next. Why not? They are all so gorgeous!

  6. Rebecca Bailey says:

    yay @Rachel! : )

    @Susannah and @Kathryn, good call on the W3ll People – I’m glad there are really great options out there.

    @Lilly, I do enjoy your blog! I think we share an obsession with Ilia. I have much more to say about them in upcoming weeks. I bet Sway will look fantastic on you – and you are totally gorgeous.

  7. Emma B says:

    I’m definitely on team Ilia. I gave up on RMS after paying so much money for eyeshadows that crease in a millisecond. Plus I find Ilia’s packaging more hygienic and gorgeous.

  8. Jessica says:

    The Ilia polka dots looks great. I haven’t branched out into illuminators yet, but I’ll be adding this to my beauty arnesal.

    We Are Oceans | beauty, food, & lifestyle blog

  9. Susannah says:

    @Emma B Have you tried RMS eyeshadow in Solar? For some reason this one hardly creases, whereas the other RMS shades I have do crease unless I dab on some loose powder over the top. Solar is also a gorgeous color – my favorite of any eyeshadow I own. It compliments blue eyes really well, but would probably look fab against any eye color.

  10. Stefanie says:

    I have both highlighters and catch myself reaching more often for the Ilia one. It’s a bit more subtle which I prefer. That being said, it really depends on my mood and makeup I am wearing that particular day. I’m glad I have both to alternate:)

  11. Beth says:

    Thanks for this post. I’ve had my eye on the Ilia illuminator for a while. I’m one of those people with coconut issues plus I have a peaches and cream complexion so I like something a little more yellowy. I’s so much easier to take to take the plunge and buy myself a treat when I’ve gotten a little more information.

  12. Ariel says:

    I think the Polka Dots and Moonbeams looks prettiest of the 3 in the picture.

  13. chloe says:

    Ok make-up peeps, I’m sure I must be doing something wrong here, please help! I tried RMS LL many times, in different lighting. I tried using a lot and I tried using a little. And it did nothing for me. It didn’t look bad, it just didn’t make any difference in my appearance. At all. I keep hearing great things about it though, so I’m thinking I’m doing something wrong? I have a light to medium, neutral complexion, if that helps.

  14. Tara R. says:

    Thank you for the comparison! I have been wanting to try both products Nd this review doesn’t help :). I recently tried Vapour Beauty’s bronzed and I LOVE it!! I’m excited for all these great products in different delivery systems.

  15. Emma B says:

    @ Susannah No I haven’t tried Solar, but it sounds nice (I have blue/green eyes). I think I tried Lunar eyeshadow, (didn’t stay on whatever I use under or on top), the uncover up (didn’t offer enough coverage for my needs), and the Lip2cheek in Modest (too cool for my skin tone, but that was a bad choice on my part).
    Meanwhile I have quite a few Ilia products and I love them.

  16. @Rebecca: Blushing… Thank you so much♡
    Can’t wait for you to share more about Ilia here on NMDL :)

  17. Sireesha says:

    Your tattoo says “Namaste” :)

  18. Impi says:

    Tattoo says ‘Namaste’ in Hindi.

    I have ILIA Polka dots and Moonbeams and I like it. I am dark-skinned and it still looks fine.

  19. dilka says:

    I have problem with castor oil as an ingredient considering that it may stimulate growth of unwanted facial hair. It is known to be used to help your eyelashes grow. I am not sure how it would affect the face and hair growth???

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