foundation

Review: e.l.f. Studio SPF 45 Sunscreen UVA/UVB Protection

Buy this now.

Oh, did you want more? Sorry.

Buy this right now.

Seriously, this is an amazing product. As you may have gleaned from the Wall, I was recently in Hell a tropical location, and this performed like freaking gangbusters. I absolutely could not have been more impressed.

I have never been super-tolerant of hot weather, and since coming down with heat exhaustion at last year’s Commencement, have been even less tolerant than before. (A Biologist warned me that that could happen, and unfortunately she was correct.) So in terms of climate, this was a difficult trip.

Because we were nearly in equatorial climes, I wanted to be sure I had plenty of good facial sunscreen options. I brought with me my Cosmedix Reflect SPF 30 liquid mineral sunscreen, a Dr. Jart SPF 45 BB cream (soon to be reviewed), and this e.l.f. powder sunscreen. I figured the e.l.f. would probably be the easiest way to preserve some semblance of glamour rather than being a slick, shiny, sunscreen-y mess. Most days I put the Cosmedix and the Dr. Jart on in the morning, followed a little later by the e.l.f., and then reapplied the e.l.f. throughout the day as needed.

I am beyond amazed at the performance of this product. Did I sweat? Of course — it was 100º and excessively humid. But the surprising thing was that I sweated through the powder. I don’t know how to explain this. When I toweled off my dripping face gently touched a tissue to my brow, the tissue came away with sweat glow on it, but no powder. The powder did not streak or smear — not even a little bit. It was bulletproof. Bulletproof! And I know bullets, because I was sweating them. The tissue came away damp, but my face looked matte and flawless, as if I had just put on foundation. Same goes for swimming — for all but the most extended swim sessions, the water just beaded up on my face and was easily brushed away.

Now, of course all of this amazingness has to come at a price, right? That price is this: because it does such an excellent job of repelling moisture and clings to your skin so closely, this product is a son-of-a-bitch to get off. I ended up scrubbing most of it off with a Buf-Puf (yes, I learned to love them as a teen in the 80s, and they’re so convenient for travel!) and removing the rest with my Clarisonic. When I tried not using the Buf-Puf, all I ended up doing was staining the bristles of the Clarisonic. I was not pleased.

The other drawback to it is that the container is really much larger than it needs to be and the lid is difficult to close completely. It’s a screw-top lid that closes into place with a snap, but the lid can be sticky as you approach that last bit. It comes with a powder puff, which you will probably want to throw out because powder puffs do such a good job of collecting oil and re-depositing it on your face. Use a powder or blush brush instead.

I should mention that unlike some other mineral powder sunscreens, this one is not colorless. There is a slight tint to it; it looks more tinted in the container than it does on skin. It’s pretty neutral in undertone — neither too pink nor too yellow — and I would say it clocks in on the MAC scale at about NC/NW 25. This means that it will probably work on most people of Caucasian, Asian, or light Mediterranean descent. People with deeper skintones might not find it such a good match.

If you intend to spend any time outside this summer, I can’t say enough good things about this product. E.l.f. is sometimes a little hit-or-miss with quality, but this one knocks it out of the park. Did I mention it’s only $6?

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e.l.f. Studio SPF 45 Sunscreen UVA/UVB Protection: $6

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent, amazing, fabulous, and awesome.

Purchase again? Try and stop me. Go ahead, try.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Let us know in the comments!)

Photo from the e.l.f. website. I usually take my own product photos, but mine is no longer in any condition to be photographed.

Review: Paul & Joe Creamy Matte Foundation

Is there a conspiracy in the cosmetics world against those of us with pink-toned skin?

There is! I knew it! <exasperated sigh>

I’ll give you the tl;dr version up front: this is a lovely, lovely foundation IF YOU DON’T HAVE PINK-TONED SKIN. If you do, you have just purchased a very pretty container, which you will want to empty of its contents as soon as possible so you can repurpose it for something else.

In all seriousness, the product is very nice and I like almost everything about it except its color. But just because it’s wrong for me doesn’t mean it might not be right for you!

Paul & Joe Creamy Matte Foundation comes in 8 shades. I got “Fresh,” which is the lightest pink-toned color (the two shades lighter than “Fresh” being distinctly yellow-toned). Even in the jar it didn’t look too yellow, but on the skin it’s just not right for me. However, the formula is light, with medium coverage that you can layer for fuller coverage on areas that need it, and it sets to a matte finish that is, indeed, creamy. The language of foundations is tricky: you can get products with a satin finish, with a dewy finish, with a matte finish, with a velvet finish, or with an airbrush finish; ones that have sheer, light, medium, or full coverage; and ones that are dewy, creamy, hydrating, mattifying, “invisible,” skin-matching, anti-aging, and my favorite meaningless buzzword, “natural.” For heaven’s sake — buying house paint is easier than this.

This is a liquid foundation that for some reason is packaged in a jar rather than a pump or a bottle. I find this a strange decision, because it makes it virtually impossible to use the product in a sanitary way. With liquid foundation in a pump or regularly-shaped bottle, you can dispense what you need for a single application onto the back of your hand or a small saucer or your personal assistant’s coffee mug or whatever you use for that purpose. (That’s probably why no one wants to be my personal assistant.) The P&J bottle is quite beautiful — another one of those that makes me think of the word “unguent,” which is a word I’d like to think of more often — but it’s very, very difficult to pour cleanly from it because of its shape. The shoulder of the bottle is beautifully curved but very impractical for a clean pour. So what are you going to end up doing? Dipping your brush in the bottle. OK, you could also upend the bottle before use with the cap still on, then sit it right-side-up and dip your brush in the product that clings to the cap or to the little cap liner (if you haven’t lost it, ahem). But unless you’re going to have a new cap or liner every time, this is still not the most sanitary way to dispense liquid foundation. And I’m not a germophobe, as you would discover if you saw the disaster area that is my apartment at present, so for me to say it’s unsanitary means it really has to have some flaws.

All that being said, it applies nicely and is easy to blend out. I found the coverage was solid for a good 6-8 hours, and after that it started to look a little less “fresh” (pun intended) on me. If you love the consistency and are willing to put up with the bottle, you can add other products to it to change its color. I made it work for a few days by adding LUSH Colour Supplement in Light Pink to it, but of course the more extra stuff you add to it, the less it resembles the original formulation in terms of performance.

Unfortunately, I remain entranced by lots of Paul & Joe products, so I think they will still be getting some of my hard-earned moolah in future. Hopefully I’ll have better luck with those. (Or, you know, P&J, you could just make some pinkier shades. Just sayin’.)

Swatch!

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Paul & Joe Creamy Matte Foundation (warning: some of you will cringe when you see the typo-ridden and improperly-hyphenated-and-punctuated website): $45 for 1 oz./30 ml at Beautyhabit (you can’t purchase directly from the Paul & Joe website)

Provenance: Purchased (on sale)

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Hard to say. I’m going to go with “fair,” because even though the shade wasn’t right for me, the performance of the product was OK. I’d have liked it to last longer and I really want them to change the packaging.

Purchase again? Not I. But I’ll look at other P&J products.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: LUSH Colour Supplement in Light Pink

Did you ever find yourself dating the same kind of guy over and over again? You get infatuated, you think things are going to turn out great, you get each other perfectly, it’s a match made in heaven, and then suddenly he turns out to be not right for you at all and you wonder why you ever got involved in the first place? And then, instead of learning from the experience, you do the same thing with That Guy 2.0, and That Guy 3.0, etc.

For me, LUSH is That Guy. Versions one through infinity. It always starts out great, you know? Maybe this time, this time it won’t end in tears, irritation, and breakouts.

Fortunately, it’s not often that I’m actually at a LUSH store, so opportunities for falling down the rabbit hole don’t cross my path that frequently. However — you guessed it — while on my summer travels I flirted with disaster and bought some. Dammit.

LUSH Colour Supplement was something I was curious about when it first came out, but I definitely wasn’t going to spring for it unswatched. It’s an opaque tinted cream that you mix with your moisturizer to create … uh, a tinted moisturizer. I’ve previously used Dr. Hauschka Translucent Bronze Concentrate for this, but I’m always open to other options, and right now, in my infatuation phase, this seems like a very nice alternative. Like many LUSH products, it is vegan and contains lots of natural ingredients; you’ll the expiration date (and the name and picture of the person who made that particular batch) on a sticker on the bottom of the container.

The product is not moisturizing on its own, so it definitely needs a moisturizer as a carrier. I think even if you have oily skin you will still want to mix this with something, because it doesn’t spread and settle nicely on its own. Mixed with a dab of moisturizer in the hand, though, it’s quite nice. I used this often while I was away for days when I didn’t want to put on a whole face of foundation but wanted a bit of coverage. It stayed on well all day, performed just fine under makeup, and was easy to remove. You’ll have to determine the right proportions for you; since it’s opaque, you can sheer it out to a certain degree, but it will never be as sheer as a tinted moisturizer made with, say, the Dr. Hauschka product. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a little more coverage, this might work well.

The only caveat I have is that the shades are limited and mixing with (white) moisturizer only changes the tint, not the actual hue, so your skin tone needs to fit into one of their categories for this product to work with you. You might be able to mix it with other tinted moisturizers or with moisturizing foundation if one of your current products needs a color adjustment, but it isn’t one of those super-adaptable color-changing hoop-de-doos. The four shades are Light Pink, Dark Pink, Light Yellow, and Dark Yellow. My NW20 skin is almost a perfect fit for Light Pink.

So right now, after about 2 weeks of use, I’m tentatively giving this a thumbs-up. If it turns out that this product is That Guy — if it breaks me out, irritates my skin, clogs my pores, or makes me greasy — I’ll update and let you know.

Swatch!

The link below contains info on the ingredients and suggested application techniques as well, so be sure to scroll down if you want to read that info. I’ve linked to the Light Pink shade, which LUSH describes as their “most versatile,” but you can get to any of the other shades as well.

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LUSH Colour Supplement: $13.95

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (mid-range: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent.

Purchase again? Ask me again after the honeymoon phase is over.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Hard Candy Sheer Envy Tinted Moisturizer

Part of the ongoing Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

I don’t understand why the people who make $40 tinted moisturizers can’t do as well as this one, which costs $8 at Wal-Mart. (And if you are anti-Wally, you are out of luck, because they have the exclusive in-store distribution rights to Hard Candy products, at least for now. You can get some things via Amazon or eBay, though.)

It’s too early to say whether this is my Holy Grail of tinted moisturizers (I suspect not, because the choir of angels singing its praises is just slightly off-key), but it is better than all the other ones I’ve tried. The only contender is my Sue Devitt TM, which outshines this in terms of both coverage and finish but which isn’t moisturizing enough. I’m still saving that one for the hot swampy days of July. Still, let us not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Of all of this year’s tested products to date, this is the best tinted moisturizer overall.

Hard Candy is an uneven line, with some really excellent products (especially for a drugstore line) and then some odd misses. You will have to get over the fact that some of the products look like they are designed for eleven-year-old girls who are just moving out of the “Hello Kitty” phase. However, the Sheer Envy tinted moisturizer is generally a hit for grownups as well as eleven-year-olds (and if you are wearing foundation at age eleven, STOP IT NOW). It has good coverage, a reasonably nice finish, and SPF 15 that doesn’t break me out (hence the choir of angels). It only comes in six shades, though, and I’m not sure how forgiving they are. This one, which is “light” (#2 of the six), was the only one that was pink enough for me to wear, so if you have more yellow tones in your skin than I do, you will probably do well. If you are pinker than I am, it might be difficult; this turns pretty neutral on me but might look sallow on anyone pinker than me.

I’ve tried this both alone and over primer, and I do find that its finish is better over primer. I also set it with HD silica powder; without setting powder it dries to a finish that is a little too shiny for me. The final finish is smooth but not as velvety or dewy as my cream foundation. It lasts all day without peeling or flaking, which sets it ahead of some of the other products I’ve tried, and it’s easy to remove. Here’s an odd thing: it does tend to cling more to my eyebrows than other foundations — that is, when I’m applying it to the forehead, if I get it on my brows I really notice it (particularly on the colorless hairs around the dark brow hairs), whereas if the same thing has been happening with other products, I haven’t picked up on it. That was a little weird, because it was hard to get the product *off* of my brow hairs without also removing it from the neighboring skin.

Right now this is definitely the leader in the tinted-moisturizer-for-summer category. I still wouldn’t wear it as foundation for a chi-chi-frou-frou event, but for most casual summer living it will do just fine.

Swatch!

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Hard Candy Sheer Envy Tinted Moisturizer: $8 at Wal-Mart

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (drugstore: poor/fair/good/excellent): Excellent! How often do I get to say that?! Not very.

Purchase again? Hello Kitty says Yes.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Let us know in the comments!)

Review: Urban Decay Urban Defense Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20

Part of the Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

Rejected product names for the Urban Decay Urban Defense Tinted Moisturizer:

Urban Derision: The foundation that mocks you

Urban Detritus: The foundation made from cigarette butts, ticker tape, and gum picked up off the street on New Year’s Day in Times Square

Urban Decomposition: The foundation that makes you Urban Decay just a little more quickly than you otherwise might have

Fortunately for the folks over at UD, they are not likely to run out of cutesy names anytime soon; MoreWords.com lists 3772 words that start with the letters “de.” Urban Detumescence, Deworming, and Dentures are just a few keyboard strokes away!

UD Urban Defense Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 is a new product that’s just been released. I thought I’d review it now so that if you find it tempting (“Desirable”) you can order it during the UD F&F Sale (“Deal”).

As so often happens, I’m going to pick on (“Derogate”) the packaging first. I don’t know why so many of the people who make tinted moisturizers have made the choice (“Decision”) to use opaque packaging that neither clues you in to the color of the product nor lets you know how much is left. I assume it has something to do with keeping the sun-protective ingredients away from light, but there are SPF foundations that get around this and use the same ingredients, so I’m at a loss. The UD product comes in an opaque purple pump container that is just not particularly haute-looking (“Deluxe”). In fact, I think it looks a little cheap (“Declassé”). But anyway.

The product comes in only 4 shades, which are (from light to dark) Halo, Bodyguard, Bulletproof, and Forcefield. I ordered Halo, and was concerned it might be too light, but it blends in well enough. It’s not as perfect a match for me as the Sue Devitt TM, but it’s close enough to blend. Again, I would regard it more as a light foundation than an actual moisturizing product; I used it in place of a moisturizer one day and found it insufficiently moisturizing, but over my regular moisturizer and primer it performed much better. The primer was particularly valuable in keeping it from drying to a blotchy finish — once it’s dry, it’s really difficult to try to buff, remove, or otherwise redistribute the pigment, so use a primer and be sure you’ve blended well, especially around the hairline. The color looks quite different wet vs. dry, so don’t be surprised. In the swatch below, the wet product looks too yellow for me, but as I sheered it out and it started to dry and be absorbed, the yellow tone became much less detectable. If you’re less pink than I am, you’ll probably have no trouble at all.

It did last reasonably well all day without looking overly dry, but there’s no question that the finish is less dewy than either of my regular liquid/cream foundations. I’m still looking for a TM that is truly grab-and-go for summer wear — I’d wear this as a tinted sunscreen for a beach trip, a bike ride, or running errands in the sun, but it won’t substitute for a foundation for me for any work-related or formal activity where I need to look put-together. But if your skin is less dry than mine, or you don’t need or use a primer in your regular makeup routine, this will probably work much better for you than it did for me.

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Urban Decay Urban Defense Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20: $32

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair.

Purchase again? No. (“Denied.”)

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Tarte ReCreate Natural Anti-Aging Foundation SPF 15 (liquid)

Part of the Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

I’m still a big fan of my MAC Mineralize SPF 15 cream foundation, but if I wear it for more than a few days in a row (or if I accidentally sleep in it, ahem) it does clog my pores, just enough to be annoying and for me to want to have something else on hand to use while my skin is getting back to normal. I also worry that it will be too heavy in the summer. And as you know from last week’s episode, the Sue Devitt tinted moisturizer is not moisturizing enough for me right now, although in summer that will probably be an excellent choice. So during this betwixt-and-between time, I started flirting with some other foundations and have invited Tarte ReCreate Natural Anti-Aging Foundation to move in with me for awhile. (MAC and I were on a break! I swear, we were on a break!)

You know I have a fondness for lots of Tarte products, but I could do with a little less of the cutesy ingredient descriptions. Tarte (which now carries the tagline of “Health Couture”) has trademarked the ReCreate name, and says the product has Wrinkle Rewind (also trademarked) technology and “skinvigorating” (also trademarked) ingredients. It is paraben-free, petro-chemical-free, phthalate-free, sulfate-free, oil-free, fragrance-free, dye-free, talc-free, and cruelty-free, but it certainly is not free of marketing baggage. It’s dermatologist-tested (which means pretty much nothing) and clinically tested (results to follow). It also has gold in it! And, uh, “peat extract.” That bit is not trademarked for some reason. And while I’m picking on their language, let me say that given Tarte’s self-marketing as a “natural” brand, this product sure has a lot of ingredients that end in “-cone,” “-ide,” “-ate,” “-ane,” and “-nol.” Of course, we all know that “natural” basically means squat in the cosmetics industry, since it’s an unregulated term, but still — this foundation has 42 ingredients, which seems like a lot for a “natural” product, especially when some of them are things like dimethylacrylamide/acrylic acid/polystyrene ethyl methacrylate copolymer. (That’s one ingredient, by the way.)

The skinvigorating ™ ingredients it lists are the aforementioned peat extract, goji berry extract, mineral pigments (unspecified), wheat protein extract, and “Wrinkle Rewind ™ technology.” Can technology be an ingredient? And what is this Wrinkle Rewind ™ technology anyway? I don’t know, but it sounds impressive!!!!!

This is one of those foundations that claims to do good things for your skin even after you’ve taken it off. The back of the box contains the following statistics: “increases skin elasticity, firmness and resiliency 43% after 4 weeks,” “reduces fine lines and wrinkles 67% after 6 weeks,” and a “52.8% increase in moisture of skin 15 minutes post application.” I haven’t used it that long, and I’m not using it every day, so I can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of these findings. However, I would like to know what a 52.8% increase in moisture of skin means, and how Tarte’s performance would compare to, say, slathering your face with aloe vera, putting on a moisturizer, or laying a wet towel on your face.

OK, I’ve been pretty harsh on lots of aspects of this product so far, but you will notice that it’s only the marketing and promotional language I’ve been after. The product itself is pretty fabulous. I use the lightest of the 12 shades, Porcelain 00, and it’s a good match for my NW20 skin. I use it over primer — Too Faced Primed and Poreless or Tarte’s own Clean Slate t5 (tm!) Infused Natural Face Primer — and it works best when I load up my brush with moisturizer before applying. First of all, less product is lost from seeping into the brush, which is good, and also it helps to ensure that there’s as much moisture as possible underneath the product. I do get dry by the end of the day if I don’t do this. The product has sheer-to-medium coverage that can be built up fairly easily; I smooth out any brush marks with my fingers before setting with HD powder. I’ve been using it on and off for a handful of weeks and haven’t had any problems with pore clogging so far; it works well in rotation with my MAC Mineralize cream foundation. And to Tarte’s credit, they actually stamp an expiration date for the sunscreen on the bottom of the box.

I picked this up at my local Sephora, where they had the full range of shades. For some reason, there are only a few shades currently available on the Tarte website, with more promised soon, and the product is not even listed on sephora.com right now. This I find unusual, since the product has been out for a bit over a year, but they recently reformulated the packaging to use a “new flo-thru pump,” so maybe they let the old stock run out online while the new products were being manufactured. Or something. (Oh, whoops! I forgot. I should have said “new flo-thru ™ pump.” Just want to be sure I have observed the proprieties.)

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Tarte ReCreate ™ Natural Anti-Aging Foundation with Wrinkle Rewind ™ technology: $37

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair to good. Foundations are expensive.

Purchase again? Yes ™.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Beauty on the Cheap: The $50 Drugstore Start-Up Makeup Challenge

Gauntlet for the Left Hand by unforth.So, a few weeks ago, Froggy challenged me to put together a start-up kit of makeup, using drugstore products, for $50. (Well, using the word “challenged” makes it sound like she came to my house, called me out, threw a gauntlet on my front steps, and told me to pick my second as we would be dueling at dawn the next morning. It wasn’t like that. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if Froggy owned a gauntlet. ;) )

I am pleased to report that I did it! and came in $1.50 under to boot. OK, so I didn’t count sales tax. And I did the majority of the shopping at Target and (hides face) Wal-Mart. I know! I know! But getting a whole face full of stuff for under $50 is hard! If you don’t want to shop at Wal-Mart, you can call it an under-$60 challenge and do it wherever you like. I live quite near a Wal-Mart but I didn’t realize how small the beauty department at this particular store was; only two aisles, and short ones at that. So you may have even more options than this!

Below I’m going to give you the basics and what they cost. Tomorrow, there will be suggestions for adding on to or changing products out of this collection.

For $48.50, according to prices in-store and online, you can get a foundation, a concealer, an eyeshadow quad, an eye/brow liner, mascara, a blush, a lipgloss, and brushes. That’s pretty darned good, I think.

Foundation

It will be no surprise to regular readers that I’m going to go for the Almay SmartShade Anti-Aging Foundation (SPF 20) for $10.97. I use this myself and like it very much; the sunscreen does not break me out, the product does not clog my pores, and the shade matching works very well. (I reviewed an earlier version of this product here.) It comes in only a few shades, but the color-matching technology is good enough that it should suit most people. If you prefer a mineral powder foundation, I’m opting for L’Oreal Bare Naturale, which I’ve also reviewed previously; this was available at my Wal-Mart for $10.50.

Other popular drugstore foundations at the moment include Revlon ColorStay ($12.99 at drugstore.com) and Cover Girl Advanced Radiance ($10.99 at drugstore.com).

Concealer

Again, sticking with a on old standby that has worked well for me for both undereye circles and for blemishes: Cover Girl CG Smoothers concealer stick, $5.99 at Target.

Eyeliner

There are a few products on the market that do double duty as eyeliners and brow liners. (Obviously, they are brown.) Brown eyeliner looks good on anyone, and if you get something that also matches your brow color (or, preferably, is a tiny bit lighter), then you’ll in effect be getting two products for the price of one. Can you use a regular brown eyeliner, one that’s not specifically made for brows, as a brow pencil? Sure — but because those formulas are usually a little creamier, it might smear.

Because cost was a primary concern, I went with Cover Girl Brow and Eye Makers 2-pack for $2.86. The package even comes with a sharpener, which is handy. Maybelline makes a comparable product which does not require sharpening and costs $4.48. Getting this one instead will put you 12 cents over the $50, but I have to say I think it’s worth it. For the sake of the challenge, my official pick is the CG for $2.68, but I strongly suspect the Maybelline product is superior. I have to admit that if I weren’t aiming for a $50 target, I’d probably have recommended separate eyeliner and brow powder/pencil, just because it’s hard to get something that’s the right texture for both different uses. Prestige Cosmetics makes excellent inexpensive eyeliners in a variety of colors (if you go to their website, don’t be distracted by the fact that they are picturing lipliners instead of eyeliners; they look just the same and the color selection tab at the bottom works properly to show eyeliner colors); they are $5.39 at ULTA but can usually be got cheaper elsewhere.

Eyeshadow

In terms of mileage for the buck, you can’t do much better than a nude trio or quad. Most lines make some version of these, so you’ll have options. In general I think neutral shades are safe to buy in the drugstore; I tend to go high-end if I want something that’s bright, bold, or highly pigmented. (And, I admit, it is luxurious to have some high-end neutrals too.) Here I’m going with Rimmel’s Color Rush eye shadow in Smoky Brown (or Smoky Brun, depending on whether you’re looking at the product or the display!). You get two lid colors, a highlighter color, and a crease color, all for $4.28. You don’t have to use all four; you can just use one lid color and call it a day. But at least you get options.

I chose the nude quad because everyone looks good with a natural eye. But if you’ve got some brown shadows at home already and are looking for something different, you can get similar sets of mauve- or blue- or grey-tinted neutrals. And take your skin tone into consideration — some lines’ nudes lean a little warm, and some a little cool. Again, I’d stay away from the ultra-brights if you’re just starting out.

Mascara

This is a category I thought a lot about, and I have to confess that my eventual recommendation is not actually a mascara I’ve tried, but it’s one that’s gotten very, very good reviews, and quite a lot of them. For several years I used Maybelline Lash Stylist, until it was discontinued, and around that time I switched to Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes!, which I love and so I don’t see myself going back to drugstore mascaras anytime soon. Because I stuck with Lash Stylist for a few years, I missed a lot of the other mascara releases that happened during those years. So, take it with a grain of salt, but know that I read a lot of reviews.

The product I’ve picked for this challenge is Cover Girl Professional All-in-One Curved Brush Mascara, which retails for $3.99 at Target. It also comes in a waterproof version for the same price, if you prefer that, but I don’t tend to recommend waterproof mascaras as a first option as I find they are more likely to irritate my eyes and are harder to remove. (And at Target, if you want to get the straight brush instead the curved one, you’ll save another 10 cents! Srsly — it’s $3.89 while the curved brush is $3.99.)

Right now there’s a lot of buzz about Cover Girl Lash Blast mascara, which is a little pricier, but one of the things that people commonly complain about in regards to Lash Blast is that the enormousness of the brush makes it difficult to control application of the product. If you’re looking for a starter set, it’s probably better not to get something that hands you a steep learning curve straight out of the package.

Blush

Here I went with Maybelline Expert Wear Blush ($4.48), because they offer a wide range of colors: 13 blush colors and 3 bronzer colors if you prefer a bronzer instead of a blush (same price). Revlon also offered some nice-looking blushes, but the color range wasn’t as wide and prices were in the neighborhood of $8-8.50 instead of $4.50. They do look like interesting products, though, and they offer cream, powder, and mineral formulas, so if you don’t find anything in the Maybelline aisle that suits you, I wouldn’t hesitate to hop over to Revlon.

Lips

For someone who’s new to makeup, a gloss is IMHO a much better bet than a lipstick or lipstain — easier to apply, less worry about smearing or smudging, less worry about the color being too strong, etc. Glosses do come in a wide range of pigmentation (more is better) and stickiness (less is better), and after carefully perusing the options, I went with Revlon Super Lustrous Lipgloss, which Wal-Mart had for $5.94. I actually purchased the Cherries in the Glow shade I’d mentioned the other week in the Drugstore Red Lippies and Glosses post, and like it very much. It’s very sheer and I can’t think of anyone who couldn’t wear it. It definitely does not scream “HELLO MY LIPS ARE VERY RED!” like some lip products can. They also have a variety of other tones: pinks, corals, and nudes. P.S. — Dear Revlon, I still hate your website. Plz fix it. OKthxloveyoubye! — Voxy.

Brushes

So, since you’re going to throw out all the applicators that come with those packages (right? you are, aren’t you?), you are going to need some brushes — at least for the blush and eyeshadow, and possibly to smooth out the foundation or apply concealer in hard-to-reach spots as well. Fortunately, there is a perfectly priced set of Essence of Beauty brushes available at CVS (their exclusive retailer, so you won’t find them elsewhere): a six-brush travel pack of face brushes for $9.99. This package contains the following: powder brush, blush brush (either of these can really be used for blush), eyeshadow brush, shadow eyeliner brush (in case you want to use the dark shade out of your quad as an eyeliner), smudger brush (so you can blend the colors in the quad together), and concealer brush. Voilà! Everything you need. Like Ecotools, Essence of Beauty brushes are far better than their price point might lead you to believe. I just bought two sets of EoB brushes for myself — not the travel set I’m mentioning here, but a two-pack eye brush set and some dual-ended face brushes.

So, where do we stand with the math?

Almay SmartShade foundation: $10.97

CG Smoothers concealer: $5.99

CG Brow and Eye: $2.86 (but really, think seriously about the Maybelline; I’ll send you the twelve cents. If you get the straight brush mascara instead of the curved brush at Target, there’s a dime right there, so you’d only be TWO cents over!)

Rimmel eyeshadow quad: $4.28

CG Professional mascara: $3.99

Maybelline ExpertWear blush: $4.48

Revlon Super Lustrous lipgloss: $5.94

Essence of Beauty brush pack: $9.99

TOTAL: $48.50

Note: In addition to tomorrow’s post on possible additions to or substitutions for items in this list, I’m planning to do another one of these kind of posts for higher-end products, probably a $100 Sephora challenge. (I can’t do it on $50.)

Review: Sue Devitt SpaComplexion Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15

Part of the Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

So let’s say you want to even out your skin tone and get a little bit of coverage but don’t want to go the full foundation route. Tinted moisturizers are definitely something to consider. Much (though not all) of the time, they are more forgiving in terms of color match than a regular foundation, because they are usually more sheer.

Please to meet the exception to the rule: Sue Devitt Spa Complexion Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15.

Sue Devitt is a line with which I don’t have a lot of experience (which is to say that I haven’t flung very much money in its direction). I can’t quite figure out why this is, since I seem to fling money at lots of other lines kind of indiscriminately. Plus, Sue Devitt offers loose eyeshadows in rollerball containers. Rollerballs! You know what I think about rollerballs. But I’ve tested them often in stores and never managed to bring one home. It probably also doesn’t help that Sue Devitt is not sold at Sephora and the area devoted to the line at my local ULTA is tiny and overwhelmed by the big hulking Urban Decay and Smashbox displays that are right next to it. Whether this is fair or not, it implies that the brand is unpopular. (The amount of dust on the box tops didn’t help either.) After using this product, I think this is definitely a quality line, but I still don’t find myself sleeping out in front of ULTA before it opens in the morning so I can be first to pick up the rest of her products. Which is probably a good thing, overall.

I tested this tinted moisturizer in-store just on a whim, and because I was thinking about how I’d never tried any of her products. And I bought it because to my very great surprise, it was exactly my skin color, and when I applied it on the back of my hand it blended beautifully and was smooth as silk with excellent coverage. (And I had a 20% off coupon.)

The full coverage of this product is not a problem for me, but if you want a really sheer look, you will probably want to look elsewhere. The SPF ingredients in this product are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, both of which are pretty opaque — so there’s just no way this product could be as sheer as some of the other tinted moisturizers on the market that use chemical sunscreens instead of physical ones. This gives more coverage than some regular foundations I’ve tried. And because it’s so much less sheer, it’s that much more surprising that Sue Devitt produces it in only three shades. Three?! Really? This is why I was amazed that it matched me. In the swatch at right there’s a little squiggle of product and then I’ve shown it blended out; I had to deliberately create a ragged edge on the left of the blended section so you would be able to see where it began because it blends in so well. I wear the lightest shade, which is called Tupalu; the others are Moorea and Manihiki (all the names of islands in various chains, although Tupalu is apparently more commonly called Tuvalu).

Paradoxically, my problem with the product is this: it isn’t moisturizing enough! And I apply my regular moisturizers before using it, too, so it’s not like I’m relying on this product to carry the load. It looks fabulous for a few hours, but then it starts to dry me out, and by the end of the day I’ve got more flakes than a box of Raisin Bran. So I’ve put it in my “summer” pile, and will hope that in warmer and more humid weather, when I don’t need as heavy a moisturizer, this will be a great substitute for liquid or cream foundation. In other words, I really, really, really want to love this product. So, in about 3 months, we’ll see where we are.

(Side note: The other problematic thing is that nowhere on the tube [nor, as far as I can recall, on the box] does it tell you the expiration date for the sunscreen. This is a common omission among cosmetics with sunscreens, and although sunscreens are designed to remain stable for up to 3 years, not having an expiration date on the package bothers me. This is especially important if you’re using this as your primary means of sun protection. It would probably be a good idea to supplement this with some other sunscreen, just in case.)

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Sue Devitt SpaComplexion Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15: $40

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. $40 seems kind of a lot. Had I not had the coupon, I probably wouldn’t have purchased.

Purchase again? Well, now, that depends, doesn’t it? Ask me in July.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: Make Up For Ever HD Invisible Cover Foundation (liquid)

Part of the ongoing Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

This foundation gets a lot of buzz on the interwebz. Like MAC, Make Up For Ever (MUFE) has a cult following for certain things: foundations, eyeshadows, and primers, to name a few. They also have a wide variety of false lashes, both “natural”-looking and not, and are just coming out with a line of HD cream/liquid blushes based on the same kind of technology in the HD Foundation. In addition to the HD line, other popular MUFE foundations include Mat Velvet, for oily skin, and Face & Body, which is overall a more sheer product and probably not for those of us over the legal drinking age.

This is one of those foundations that promises to do everything from make your skin look radiant and flawless to washing the dishes and driving your kids to soccer practice. (I’m hoping that if I put the bottle near my tax forms, it will decide to do those as well. So far, no luck.) And gosh darn it, the product is pretty near perfect, but there is one problem with it that makes it a dealbreaker for me unless I can figure out how to “make it work.”

First, the good news: MUFE HD Invisible Cover Foundation comes in 25 shades, both pink- and yellow-toned, so if you can’t find a match for your skin tone, I’ll eat my hat. I use Shade 115, which is shade Ivory, for light skin with pink undertones (for reference, I am NW20 in MAC). This is a beautiful, beautiful foundation going on. It applies smoothly with a brush (I smudge out any brush marks with my fingers) and does last for the whole day. Both powder and cream blushes go over it well, as do cheek stains. My skin tends towards the dry, but with appropriate moisturization underneath, I don’t see any flaking or peeling. I purchased this in the winter, so I don’t know whether its performance in summer will be equally good or whether the weather will prevent it from weathering as well, if you know what I mean. It removes cleanly with Clarisonic, cleanser, and toner.

The dealbreaker for me is that no matter what I try (and I have tried many things), I cannot seem to prevent it from sinking into my pores, which makes me look a little bit like I have applied a Swiss dot appliqué to my skin. This is cute if you are a set of bedroom curtains, but otherwise, not so much. I have tried it with MUFE’s own HD primer, Smashbox Photo Finish, Dior Airflash, Dr. Brandt Pores No More, and my current favorite, Too Faced’s Primed and Poreless. No matter what, I get the little white dots of doom after about an hour — which is really a shame because otherwise this foundation is gorgeous. Coverage is medium to full, but the product does not feel heavy or taut on skin. If you have any ideas on how to prevent this, please share them in the comments because I really want this product to be an all-around win.

Now, just because I have a problem with it falling into pores doesn’t mean you will, of course, but I would definitely recommend getting a sample from Sephora first before plopping down your hard-earned cash (because this foundation is not cheap) for a whole bottle.

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Make Up For Ever HD Invisible Cover Foundation: $40

Provenance: Purchased

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair. I don’t know how long this would last with daily use.

Purchase again? Yeah, if I can fix the pore problem.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)

Review: MAC Mineralize SPF 15 Foundation (Cream)

Part of the ongoing Foxalicious Fundamentals: Foundation series!

It’s kind of unfair, I suppose, to lead off with the foundation I’m liking the most at the moment, but there it is. I have been on a little bit of a MAC kick lately, I admit; I never used to buy MAC products (I’m not a big fan of ultra-hype and teenage fangirls), but since I started picking them up at my local-ish CCO, where you can play with the products in a quiet environment without being surrounded by rock music, black-clad hipsters, and a sales-pressure atmosphere, I’ve come to like them enough to actually deal with the in-store annoyances, so now I’m trying out a bunch of their products. Don’t worry, this is not going to become a MAC-fangirl blog; there are plenty of things I still don’t like about them, such as the fact that they seem to be putting out a new “collection” about every two weeks, many of which are merely repackaging of existing permanent items, and … well, no need to go on a tirade.

Regardless of your opinions on their music, hipsters, and sales atmosphere, MAC has established a major footprint in an incredibly important but previously underappreciated corner of the market: skin tone typing for the purpose of buying foundation. They have a system of identifying both the lightness/darkness and pink/yellow tendencies of your skin that has become a universal language in discussing foundations (both their own and those of other companies) and other products. Example: “If I’m an NC35 in MAC, what shade would I be in Revlon PhotoReady?” or “I’m an NW15; should I be wearing warm or cool brown eyeshadows?”

So if nothing else, it’s definitely worth it to stop by your local MAC store or counter (in many department stores) and get color-matched, so that you know your MAC number. There are two parts to the system: letters and numbers. The numbers are fairly intuitive, with the lower ones for paler skin and the higher ones for darker skin, and they range from 15 to 55. The letters indicate whether you are warmer- or cooler-toned, and this is a little more confusing for many people. In the rest of the world, if you have yellow undertones to your skin, you are considered to be “warm.” If you have pink undertones, you are considered to be “cool.” The MAC system is the reverse; it’s based on an artist’s color wheel, in which red-pink is a warmer color than yellow-olive. So, skin with pink undertones is “warm” and skin with yellow/olive undertones is “cool.” Skin tones are indicated by letters thusly:

NW: pinker skin

NC: yellower skin

There are also just plain N’s and C’s, but most people will end up being an NW or an NC. As all skin tones have some yellow in them, there is no plain “W” foundation shade, since no one is all pink and no yellow. If it helps, you can think of an NW as Not Warm, and an NC as Not Cool, if you want to keep your definitions of “warm” and “cool” consistent.

I am light-skinned with a complexion that tilts just slightly towards pink. I am an NW20.

Once you know your shade, you can also match it to MAC concealers and powders, since they follow the same typing system, and you can use it to figure out a comparable shade in other foundation lines. (I guarantee you that if you go to Sephora and say, “I’m an NW20 in MAC; can you recommend an appropriate shade in NARS?” they will be able to tell you, even though Sephora does not sell MAC products.)

So. On to the actual product! The Mineralize SPF 15 Foundation is a cream foundation that is one of MAC’s newer products. It comes with a little applicator pad, but like most applicators that come packaged with cosmetics products, this can be deposited directly into the trash. I apply with a foundation brush, over primer (I’m still using Too Faced’s Primed and Poreless facial primer), and blend the areas around my nose, inner eye, etc., with my fingers. It provides a medium to medium-full level of coverage, which is great for me. I can add extra coverage of blemishes or random skin flaws with concealer, and it’s significantly reduced the amount of undereye concealer I need to use. To set the foundation, I use a light buffing of MUFE HD powder.

This foundation does last all day on me, although by the end of the evening I can see some dry patches. This is the most moisturizing of the MAC foundations I tried, and I do moisturize well before application, so I’m not sure what could be done to lessen the effect. But because I only become dry at the very end of the evening, I’m not disappointed with the results. Some people do report that MAC foundations break them out, but I haven’t had any trouble with this. It removes cleanly with my Clarisonic, cleanser, and toner. There is usually a tiny bit of color on the cotton ball when I’m done with the toner, so it doesn’t quite all come off with the Clarisonic, but the toner does take off the remainder. I have also slept in it (do not tell the makeup police) and I haven’t had any trouble. I don’t recommend sleeping in makeup, but everyone falls off the wagon now and then.

Swatch, showing color at its most concentrated at left, then blending out to meet skin tone. (Remember that your/my arm is not the same skin tone as your/my face, too, so colors may appear a bit different.)

Links:

Foxalicious Fundamentals — Foundation 101

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MAC Mineralize SPF 15 Foundation (cream): $32.00 (By the way, MAC foundation swatches on the website are not very reliable color-wise. If you know your number, just go with that and don’t worry about what the swatch looks like. They’re pretty bad.)

Provenance: Purchased.

Price/Value Ratio (high-end: poor/fair/good/excellent): Fair, but we’ll see how long it lasts. I may have to come back and revise that.

Purchase again? Surely.

(Have you used this product? Love it? Hate it? Want it? Give a holler in the comments!)