Monday, March 12, 2012

Foundation Testing: Thoughts and Comparisons

My current daily foundation is Chanel Perfection Lumière in B20 (review here), but it doesn't photograph well - I get the dreaded "white flash." I do plan on finding a makeup artist for my wedding (searching now! If you have any recommendations in the Seattle area, let me know!) but since I have a paraben-allergy, I decided I should probably put together my own kit so that I could be sure that the products would be compatible with my skin. So, I set off on the hunt. Very resignedly, I might add, as I really don't like foundation searches. So many skin tests. So many trials. So many samples.

Here are the contenders: NARS Sheer Glow in Ceylan, Smashbox Studio Skin in shade 1.2, MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NC25, Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation in Porcelain. I also received a sample of Smashbox's Photo Finish Foundation Primer Light. I was matched at counters for all of these shades, and received samples to try out. I gave each one about a week's wear (a lot of foundation fits into those little clamshells!) to gauge whether it reacted well with my skin, whether it lasted all day, whether it photographed well. And now I'm here to report my findings!

There are some things to mention first, however. The "white flash" from some foundations comes from physical sunscreens like titanium dioxide. Chanel PL has an SPF 10 rating and contains 3.1% titanium dioxide. However, it seems like it's not prudent to simply rule out all foundations with physical sunscreens. Smashbox Studio Skin also has an SPF 10 rating with a listed 4.7% titanium dioxide, and photographs beautifully (S. and I did briefly discuss why this might be. We're chemists, after all). So, the lesson of the day: test it out. There's no other way to know!

Now for the foundations.
Chanel PL is not a contender for the wedding; I swatched it merely as a reference. 

NARS Sheer Glow in Ceylan
I had high hopes for this one, since everyone raves about it. It's on the lighter end of the coverage spectrum (yes, there is such a thing - I just said so) and the color match is good for my skin (high five, Dovey!) It feels light on the skin, and blends well. I didn't really notice a "glow," though. The finish is not matte and not dewy - it's somewhere in between. I don't think it was quite enough coverage for me, and I didn't find it too buildable. I liked it, though, and I could see using this as a daily foundation. It doesn't contain sunscreen, but if I were to use this daily, I use my Clinique Super City Block anyway, so it's not an issue.

Smashbox Studio Skin in shade 1.2
I hadn't even really considered Smashbox, but Monika and I were running around Nordstrom, visiting every counter, so I figured, why not. I had the SA color match me (she did quite well!) and she gave me a sample to test out, along with the light version of their primer (which I dislike). I was surprised by how much I liked this! It seems a bit orange in the swatch above, but it's actually a perfect match for my face, and it glows. Not in a dewy, sweaty way, but in a omg radiant! way. I like. The coverage is heavier than the others I tried (and the SA did tell me this when she recommended it), but it doesn't budge - it's supposed to last 15 hours or something silly like that - and it doesn't feel heavy to me. I am used to wearing liquid foundation daily, though, so that's something to consider. If you want to see it in action, I'm wearing it here.

MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NC25
I didn't even give this one a full face test, because the patch on my chin that the SA tested at the counter was visibly orange by the time I got home. It had looked okay in the store, so I'm guessing, oxidation at its best! Also, I ran my swatch arm under water after I finished taking photos, and guess what? MAC Studio Fix Fluid slid right off in seconds. It was absolutely gone - no trace of it left. The others held on a lot better, and I wasn't rid of them until I scrubbed at my arm and hit it with some makeup remover. I am actually surprised that people use this on their wedding day!

Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder Foundation in Porcelain
This is the lightest shade, and I was surprised that this turned out to be my match. However, the next shade down is peachier and the one after that was significantly darker, so this one (with its more golden undertone) was the best fit, and it actually does suit me. The texture is quite odd, but I don't mind it; it really does turn into a powder finish on my skin - you can see that it has a powdery, matte texture in the swatch above. The feel on my skin is powdery, not dewy or wet. Probably not the best for drier skin. Also, it photographed beautifully with flash when I wore the foundation alone, but when I wore it over Smashbox's primer, it looked patchy and powdery and under flash I had that white ghost effect. Not good at all. I think the primer keeps it from adhering to skin and seems to affect the finish somehow. This one is beautiful for everyday, as well, and if I didn't already have 23948023984 foundations, I might pick up a bottle.

I'm tired of testing foundations, and a lot of them aren't paraben-free anyway, so that's about the end of my testing run. My favorite? Smashbox Studio Skin. It's supposedly made for the camera, but it also looks great in person; I was also concerned about photographing well but then looking hideous and cakey in person, but that's definitely not the case here. I love the glow it gives my skin - a natural, beautiful glow that is not, erm, moist in any way. I am hiring a MUA for the wedding, but the one I have been talking to says that she is willing to utilize some of the things I might have in order to work around my allergy, so I think Smashbox Studio Skin will be one of the things I buy. Plus, it's just a great foundation, and would be good to have for the honeymoon and all of the other wedding-associated events that will probably generate lots of photos.

Okay, sorry for the exhaustive review! Hopefully it was helpful in some way. If you have any questions, let me know - I'll try to answer them as best I can. If you're on your own foundation search, the best thing I can say is: ask for samples! I'm usually a bit timid, but all of the SAs I talked to were perfectly willing to give me a sample (with enough product to last 1-2 weeks) to try out. Apparently nobody expects you to buy foundation without testing it out first, fancy that!