I admit to being hard to please when it comes to foundation. For starters, my skin is a patchwork of colors: my face is N15, but my neck and chest are a cool-toned NC5, and the back of my neck and shoulders are at least 3 shades darker than the rest of me. I've also got a difficult skin type: mostly dry, but with some normal patches and a nose so oily, it puts grease pits to shame. To top it all off, I'm spoiled by products like MAC Face & Body.
"Renee," you're all asking me, frustrated by the onslaught of reviews, "why don't you just freaking repurchase Face & Body if you know it works for you?!"
Because, friends, I'm tired of having to mix my foundation. I'm tired of settling for bases with strong pink undertones. I'm tired of having to buy two bottles, and at least one of them is going to be so huge that I'll waste half of what I buy before I can finish it. (The White shade of F&B only comes in huge "pro" bottles.) I want something that'll match me right out of the bottle. And I want it to give me my light to medium coverage, last for at least 5 hours, and look decent the way F&B does. Basically, I'm looking for a unicorn.
Natural light on top, flash on bottom. From left to right: Bobbi Brown Skin liquid foundation in 00 Alabaster, NARS Sheer Glow liquid foundation in Light 1 Siberia, Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx02, It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream in Fair.
I thought I would find that unicorn amongst Bobbi Brown's offerings, seeing as they provide a wide range of foundation formulas and have some of the palest shades out there. The particular foundation I went for, Bobbi Brown Skin liquid* foundation, has a reputation for being "your skin but better," very light-weight, and well-suited to dry to normal skin. The lightest shade, Alabaster 00, is particularly famous because it's so pale and it's relatively neutral.
As this swatch photo shows, Alabaster is slightly pink, but only slightly. Compared to the very yellow NARS Siberia and the more pink Kevyn Aucoin Sx02, it looks quite beige. It will probably suit most pale undertones. It is, in fact, a decent match for me. Here's a photo demonstrating how well my face blends with my neck when I wear this foundation:
Yes, I'd like something a bit more yellow to match my neck, but really, it's seamless to the naked eye. I was ecstatic when I applied the stuff and realized how pale it is.
Enough about the shade, let's back up and talk about the actual product. Bobbi Brown Skin is $48 for 1oz and comes in a simple glass bottle with a pump top. This product contains SPF15: not enough for my daily protection, but fine for incidental sun exposure. I haven't noticed any flashback in photos.
Skin's texture is incredibly thin and runny. However, I don't think it feels the same as MAC Face & Body. Face & Body feels incredibly wet and slick under my fingertips, whereas Bobbi Brown Skin starts to take on a powdery, slightly tacky feel when I rub it in. I understand that no product feels quite like MAC F&B, but the two products get compared a lot, so I just wanted to point out the differences.
The first time I wore this product, I blended it over my face using the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush. It's a sign of just how much I trusted this product that I decided to wear it to work without testing it beforehand. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed; this application method gave me very little coverage and looked a bit dry.
The next time I tested this product--and photographed it for this review--I used my fingers. As you can see above, I've been dealing with a cystic chin breakout. Using my fingers gave me more coverage, but I also had to take more time to pat the product in to my skin because it quickly became streaky. I got medium coverage with my fingers: my redness and freckles were covered up, and my cystic zits were softened, but not completely covered. (I went back in with concealer after taking these photos.)
Immediately, I noticed that this product looked terrible on my oily nose. This doesn't bother me. BB Skin is recommended for dry to normal skin, not oily skin, so I expected that reaction. What I didn't expect was how dry the rest of my face would look, especially my chin and the center of my forehead. BB Skin created texture I never knew I had on my face. Yet oddly enough, it didn't look like makeup. It just looked like...dry skin. It softened up a tad over the course of 30 minutes, but still looked dry on most of my face.
Now, I know what's going to happen: people are going to see the pictures above, taken in macro mode, and tell me I'm too picky. My skin looks decent in those pictures, after all. But let me say that one of the things Bobbi Brown Skin has going for it is it's ability to look great in a photograph. This is especially true in standard definition:
Yes, it looks gorgeous in photos. It's no wonder it's a popular choice for weddings! But it looked much worse in real life, and because I live in the real world--not the world of carefully posed photographs you see on this blog--I need something that's going to look decent when people look at me.
I'm serious, guys. I know I sound like a crazy person complaining about this foundation, given how decent it looks in these photos, but it's horrible on me in real life. I have no reason to lie.
Here are the time lapse photos. Bobbi Brown doesn't claim this foundation is long-wearing, so I tested it under a very average time span: 5 hours. After 2 hours, I noticed a lot of shin coming through on my face, even on sections that aren't oily. At the 4 hour mark, my nose was a complete mess; the foundation had completely sunk in to my pores and fine lines. Again, that's to be expected, because this product isn't marketed to oily-skinned people. But look at my chin! It still has that dry, flakey appearance, but now it's shiny as well! What's going on there?!
You might also notice that my blush is looking patchy and has darkened to a more red shade. This blush is Cargo Catalina, which normally has great staying powder and stays a light to medium pink on my skin. I can only guess that the foundation caused some oxidization, and it's faded enough on my cheeks to take some of the blush with it.
I might've given up there, except my mom saw my face and said, "Wow, that matches your neck!" My mom, Queen of the Naked face, noticed that something matched me? It deserves another try.
I whipped out every trick in the book here, using every product I normally use with MAC F&B to ensure a beautiful finish. I primed with my sunscreens--Biore UV Perfect Milk on my oily areas, Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Lotion on my dry and normal areas--and mixed a little bit of MAC Strobe Cream in to the foundation. Then I brushed a tiny bit of my D&G powder foundation on my forehead and nose, just to soften everything up and matte down the oily spots, and used as little makeup as possible on the rest of my face.
The end result is slightly better, but only slightly. My nose is less greasy, but still, BB Skin immediately sinks in to my pores and settings in to my fine lines. My chin still looks like sandpaper. And when I patted the Josie Maran Cheek Gelee in Pink Escape on to my cheeks, I noticed that a bit of the foundation came off on my fingers. Unless you powder this product down, it won't be the least bit transfer-resistant.
Here's a macro shot of my face. Again, this product looks like skin, not like makeup, and it deserves props for that. And it photographs beautifully, looking better in macro shots than it does in real life. But can you see how weird my nose looks, and the dry specks all over my chin? Take that and multiple it by ten, and that's how gross it looks in real life.
In the end, Bobbi Brown Skin liquid foundation just didn't work for most of my face. The shade range is great, as is the light-weight feel and the SPF sans flashback. But it only looks good on me in pictures. In real life, it's an utter monstrosity, exacerbating dryness and melting off of my skin after less than 2 hours. It's a shame, really, because it could've been a unicorn.
Rating: 2 out of 5.
* "Bobbi Brown Skin" is also the name of the stick foundation. I'm not sure why they'd do such a thing, but to be extra clear, this is a review for the liquid, not the stick! They're two different products.