Saturday, August 23, 2014

REVIEW: MAC Studio Fix Fluid foundation

I recently swapped for a few generous foundation samples. At the top of my to-try list: MAC Studio Fix Fluid in the shade NW13. Now, NW13 is a bit darker than I would normally go for, seeing as my neck is N5 with cool yellow undertones. It's also touted as a matte foundation with decent wear time--not exactly at the top of the list for dry-skinned people. Regardless, I'm one of those people who is going to try just about every pale-ish foundation she can get her hands on.

MAC Studio Fix Fluid is advertised as a "modern foundation that combines a natural matte finish and medium, buildable coverage with broad spectrum UVA/UVB SPF15 protection." It comes in a whopping 35 shades, ranging from relatively pale to quite dark (NW58!), and costs $27 for 1oz. Essentially, this is supposed to be a gentler, liquid version of the infamous Studio Fix powder foundation, which is full-coverage and uber-matte.

From left to right: MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NW13, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly, Paula's Choice Sheer Matte Tint in Level 1, Makeup Forever Matte Velvet + in #15.

Straight off the bat, I dislike the undertones in this product. Yes, there are some people who are super-pink or super-yellow, but new shades with more neutral, less extreme undertones would really improve this line. Also, let me repeat that I knew NW13 was going to match my face and not my neck; I still wanted to test out the formula and compare it to some similar shades. For the record, NARS Chantilly is the same shade as my neck.

Here's my face before and after a layer of MAC SFF, applied with a Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. (Don't be fooled by how pale it appears in the after picture: like many foundations, SFF applies very light, then oxidizes to its "real shade" in about 15-20 minutes.) It certainly does provide medium coverage with a satin-matte finish. So just like what it says on the can!

...kind of. MAC claims that this foundation is easy to apply and blend, but I found it to be quite streaky. I really had to buff the product in to get an even finish. I also found it difficult to build up the coverage, since a second layer made the product look very dry and cakey, even when I tested it out with a damp Beauty Blender. To be fair, one layer managed to look matte without looking fake or powdery, and that's pretty impressive on my dry skin.

My approval faded as the day went on. First of all, the foundation started to feel kind of itchy and heavy on my face, particularly around my temples and chin. That rarely happens, but it always turns me off.

What really killed it for me, though, was how the foundation wore on my combination-dry skin. Compare the picture on the left (freshly applied) to the picture in the middle (after 2 hours) and on the right (after 4 hours). I stayed in the air conditioning all day, and I only get super-oily on my nose--the rest of my face is normal or dry in the summer time. So how the Hell am I so shiny?! I thought this was supposed to be a "long-wearing," "natural matte" product--where the Hell is the grease coming from?!

Hence, Studio Fix Fluid isn't striking me as the best option for oily skin or summer outings. Oh, but it gets better... broke me out.

Let's be clear: I am not one of those people who derisively refers to the brand as "MACne." I do not believe that all MAC foundations are the devil for acne-prone people, and I strongly dislike the internet rumors that every MAC foundation is going to eat your face alive. My personal opinion is that MAC is a "gateway" brand for many people, including people who are sensitive to a large number of ingredients and/or do not yet know how to properly remove their makeup at the end of the day. If more people are trying your stuff, you're bound to run in to more people with bad experiences. I've tried a number of MAC foundations over the past decade without a hitch, including Face & Body, which has been my Holy Grail for going on 3 years now.

That's why Studio Fix Fluid's negative impact on my skin is so weird. My breakouts usually consist of a few very deep, painful cysts, and they're primarily caused by internal factors (stress, diet, hormones, etc). This is one of the only external factors that has ever prompted a breakout, and the pimples are tiny pustules and white heads. They're also in weird places, like my nose (pictured above) and my temples. I was so surprised by the breakout that I actually tried to figure out what, besides SFF, could've caused it...but SFF was the only thing I changed in my regular routine.

In the end, my breakout has nothing to do with my overall rating of MAC Studio Fix Fluid. We all break out from different things, and there's just something in the formula that doesn't agree with me, simple as that. Rather, I have a hard time recommending a product that's supposed to be demi-matte and long-wearing, then doesn't last for even 2 hours on dry skin. It's also a bit uncomfortable to apply and wear. I'll give them some props, though, for having some darker shades, even if the undertones are extreme.

RATING: 2 out of 5.

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