Saturday, February 16, 2013

Review: Kevyn Aucoin Liquid Airbrush foundation

Image shamelessly stolen from

Have you ever lusted for a product so long and so hard that you managed to hype it up in your own mind? Did you mentally hype it so much that it was, in your pre-ownership reckoning, a product of mythical proportions, made from equal parts genius chemical engineering, liquid Photoshop, and unicorn piss? Were you prepared to jump through flaming hoops to get it? Yeeeeah, that was me with the Kevyn Aucoin Liquid Airbrush foundation. I didn't have to jump through any flaming hoops to get my bottle--I had a very pleasant swap on MakeupAlley instead--but I have done some interesting maneuvers to make it work on my skin. The fact that I'm willing to do all of that nonsense just to wear this product on special occasions is a mark of how much I like the final result...but don't rush out and spend your $45 yet. This baby's got some major problems.

Swatches of Vincent Longo Dew Finish in Porcelain, Kevyn Aucoin Liquid Airbrush in 02, Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx02, and MAC Face & Body in N1 and White (50/50 mix)

First off, let's talk about how well Liquid Airbrush matches me. I swapped for the lightest available shade, 02. Immediately after I finalized the swap, a couple of skin twins on informed me that KA Liquid Airbrush would be too dark for my N10 skin. And, as the swatches above seem to prove, the straight-from-the-bottle foundation is about a half shade darker and a good deal more peachy than the Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx02 (my favorite concealer). I am happy to report, however, that the foundation applies much lighter than you'd think; I'd guesstimate that Liquid Airbrush 02 is somewhere between MAC N10 and N15. It's still a hair too dark for me, but only the most discerning eye could pick that out.

The formulation is actually quite pleasant to the touch: it's smooth, light, and creamy, and it feels very similar to the modern "mousse" foundations that come in aerosol cans. You can actually see some of the little air bubbles in the photo above. Some reviews have mentioned that this product was very streaky or dry and hard to blend out, but I didn't find that to be the case at all; I applied it with fingers, my Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, and a stippling brush, and as long as my skin was in moderately good condition before application, I had no problems. (More on that later.) I will note that it seems to dry quite quickly in to a sort of soft, powdery finish, so you'll probably want to apply and blend in sections.

There is a very strong perfumey scent that I dislike. I'm sorry to say that I can still detect it for a while after I've applied the product to my face, though it's much fainter then and is undetectable after 10-15 minutes. Still, if you're incredibly sensitive to fragrances, you'll probably want to pass. If you're like me and you just hate the stench, you'll have to decide if the final result is worth the moments of olfactory ickiness.

For the most part, my skin is very clear, but quite dry, with some redness/discoloration in my nose, cheeks, and chin. My nose and eyelids are incredibly oily, and my undereye area is the only part of my face that could be classified as "normal." However, I've been dealing with some breakouts this month (notice the zit still lingering on my chin), so I've had to temporarily alter my skincare routine by applying 10% benzoyl peroxide (very drying) and cleansing and moisturizing twice a day. Hence, when I tested this foundation and photographed it for this review, my forehead and undereyes were normal, my nose and eyelids were oily, and my cheeks and chin were flake city.

As previously mentioned, I find that it's best to apply this foundation to your face in sections. Dot-and-blend, dot-and-blend, and you'll end up with a finish that is..well, really kind of like liquid airbrush. A half pump of this foundation, blended out with the Real Techniques expert face brush, provides a very flawless (but not cakey) medium-full coverage that completely evens out my skintone and almost completely covers my blemishes. I wouldn't call this product "natural" by any means, and that doesn't bother me; it's advertised as liquid airbrush, after all. The finish is most decidedly matte. I think the best way to describe the look of this product is to describe Michelle Visage, who loves this foundation: it definitely looks like you're wearing makeup, but that doesn't mean it looks bad.

A little bit of this product also goes a very long way. The product close-up picture I took shows a full pump of the product. After applying this foundation three different ways on three separate occasions, I can confidently state that a half pump of Liquid Airbrush is more than sufficient for most people's needs. After applying the foundation to my entire face and the top half of my neck, that full pump of foundation had barely dwindled:

And that's even after I'd gone back and used a smidge more of the product as a concealer! (The peachy tones in this particular shade are actually fantastic for counteracting the blueness of my undereye circles.) This stuff ain't cheap, so if you're gonna use it, stick with a half pump at a time, or depot some in to a sample container and go from there.

It all sounds great so far, barring the smell: a small amount goes a long way and provides plenty of coverage, and it feels lovely on the skin. Unfortunately, it doesn't always look lovely.

As the before-and-after picture might show, and as this picture definitely shows, Kevyn Aucoin Liquid Airbrush is sheer horror on dry skin. Without the help of a primer, moisturizer, or setting spray, it clings to every little flake and dry patch on my face. Granted, the lower half of my face is extra extra extra dry right now, and I skipped the primer/powder/spray trifecta I use with many of my foundations to photograph this foundation in its natural state...but lord, the way it highlights flakes and dry spots!

It's also not the best for oily skin. My nose began to get shiny about 2 hours after application, and it was slick to the touch after 4. The foundation didn't break down or get blotchy, per se, but it was definitely a bit faded on my nose.

That's not necessarily a write off. Plenty of foundations are only at their best with mixed with a primer, powder, setting spray, or moisturizer; it's the nature of the beast. But even with that extra work, this foundation will only look its absolute best on normal, slightly dry, or slightly oily skin.

The packaging is also an absolute piece of shit. Yeah, it looks kinda pretty, but my admiration stops there. Because the bottle is opaque, you can't tell how much product you have left in the bottle. It's also made from thick, weighty plastic, and while I'm glad that I don't have to worry about it shattering everywhere if my clumsy self drops it, it makes it impossible to use the weight of the bottle for guesstimation purposes.

Also, the pump does not screw off, but rather is directly connected to the bottle, which in my experience is always a recipe for disaster, Sure enough, something put a little bit of pressure on this bottle when it was shipped to me, meaning that the seal between the bottle and the pump was somehow damaged, and now it leaks. It leaks when it's just sitting on my desk, straight up and down, chillin' out, untouched for several days. When I pluck the cap off, it gets all over my hands. In essence, it's completely impractical and not at all travel friendly. Nobody wants to fuss with a foundation that'll spill all over their suitcase if a wayward pair of jeans so much as leans against it.

Kevyn Aucoin Liquid Airbrush will have average wear time on most skintypes. After several hours, I normally would've blotted my nose. After 6 hours, without the help of the aforementioned primers, powders, etc., the foundation had faded slightly from my face, including the zit on my chin and my undereyes. I will note, however, that I normally don't notice it fading from my dryer areas; I think the zit began to pop back up because my skin is so dry it keeps flaking off, and it took some of the foundation with it.

I also want to add that I've tried sheering out this foundation with very little success. Unless I use a lot of moisturizer on my face and apply Liquid Airbrush immediately afterwards, when my skin is still slick, or cut it with another product, it always provides medium-full coverage. That's probably not a big deal to some of you, but I'm a master at getting different levels of coverage out of my base products through my application methods, and it's incredibly irksome to me that Kevyn Aucoin Liquid Airbrush isn't more flexible.

That being said...I still like this foundation. I don't love it, and I don't know if I would repurchase it, but I'll certainly use the bottle I have. It matches me decently (no small feat), it doesn't dry my skin out or make it itch, and it provides a ton of coverage without looking cakey. When my skin is in its usual combination dry-state, I can either prime with the Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin primer before I apply the foundation or powder my nose and use some Skindinavia setting spray after I apply the foundation, and it looks beautiful and flawless and porcelain perfect for a good 8 hours. It's great for those once-in-a-while days when I want a very full-on, made-up look.

But the fact remains that if you do not have normal, barely-oily, and barely-dry skin, you will have to do a good bit of finangling to make this product work. The packaging is crap for numerous reasons and the smell is far too potent. It's not that I would discourage people from buying this foundation. It's just that the market for this foundation is severely limited. After all, how many people have perfectly balanced skin, and how many of those people want to spend $45 on something that's difficult to travel with, reeks of bad rose perfume, and is high-coverage and uber-matte without having the super-long-wearing feature of most high-coverage, uber-matte foundations?

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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  1. My gosh I was just about to buy this but with dry skin myself I'll def pass!

    1. It's not the worst, but I definitely can't wear it when my skin is at its driest.