Comparison: Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick vs. Shu Uemura Nobara Cream Cover Stick

A thread on the MUA (Make-Up Alley) forums the other day prompted this comparison of the two foundation sticks I own: Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick and Shu Uemura Nobara Cream Cover Stick. Foundation sticks are marketed for their ease of use (a concealer and foundation in one), adjustable coverage and portability. But which one’s the best one?

This comparison won’t help you find out because there are more than 2 foundation sticks in the world but it’ll start you on your search (and then tell me the answer when you get to the end, mmkay?).

It’s hard to tell which foundation is better in terms of shade range. Shu Uemura seems to have fewer shades for darker skin, but the line does have many options for different undertones (but it still leans a bit yellow).  Bobbi Brown, on the other hand, must only hang out with people with warm undertones and believes ergo that every woman must have a yellow undertone. (Can you tell I’m bitter?) However her range spans a vast spectrum of shades: from very pale to very dark. Even though I’m cool-toned I can use Bobbi’s palest shade (Alabaster) because it seems to be more neutral than the rest of her range.

I’m comparing the Bobbi Brown stick in Alabaster to the Shu stick in 584.  Here is a swatch of the two foundations along with my other foundations (from this post).

In my opinion 584 in the Nobara cover stick is different from 584 in Face Architect Fluid foundation so even if you think you know your shade, test it first just in case. Bobbi Brown in Alabaster is a little paler than Shu 584 but I can wear both and not look weird (foundation-wise at least) as the difference is slight. As I said before, Alabaster is a lot more neutral than Bobbi’s other shades. 584 is slightly pinker than Alabaster but it’s still not far into the ‘cool’ range.

Warm undertones won’t have problems finding a shade in these foundation sticks: Shu Uemura has a plethora of yellow tones (the ‘5’ range is the coolest tone as far as I know) as does Bobbi Brown. Those with neutral undertones could have trouble with Bobbi Brown if their skin isn’t very pale as it seems only Alabaster can classed as neutral. Very cool girls could have a lot of trouble with these – I can just about get away with these shades but they do warm my skin up a bit.
KarlaSugar has swatches of the Shu Uemura cover stick and she also explains the numbering of the shades.

The Bobbi Brown Stick costs £26.00 for 9 grams and the Shu costs £30.00 (from SpaceNK) for 11 grammes. This works out to £2.89 per gram for Bobbi Brown and £2.73 for Shu.

For this comparison I tried to get coverage as full as possible. I put the sticks directly on my face (I know I know: germs, bugs and smallpox etc.) and then used a sponge to pat it in. I also used a concealer brush to spot conceal and conceal under-eye bags. I wouldn’t wear this much coverage from day to day.

Both were relatively easy to blend out with a sponge. I found the Shu more pleasant to apply as it just glides over skin because it has more slip than the Bobbi Brown. Nothing was wrong with the Bobbi Brown per se, but it was much tackier on skin than the Shu.

Here’s an uncomfortably close-up picture of the moon’s surface the foundations a few minutes after application. Neither look so hot on my mighty pores, and I can’t really tell which foundation has done a better job here. On my actual nose, however, the Shu cover stick has managed to cover my sebaceous filaments while they are still somewhat visible on the Bobbi Brown side. Bear in mind that I tried to take this picture in the harshest light possible – I’d rather show these foundations looking their worst so I can scrutinise every detail. (I’m not that repellent! Honest!)

The Shu Uemura foundation is advertised as a foundation/concealer duo:

‘the innovative formula … gives the instant high coverage of a concealer with the smooth glide of a foundation’

While the Bobbi Brown just promises ‘adjustable coverage’. However after some research (see the end of this post) I’ve discovered that the Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick is exactly the same formula as the Touch up Stick that’s advertised as a blemish concealer.

So I tried to test the two as blemish concealers as well. Neither a sponge nor fingers provided any noticeable coverage of blemishes, but after switching to a concealer brush I could see results. I think because of the Shu’s aforementioned ‘slip’ it did a better job of covering blemishes. I really had to cake on the Bobbi Brown to cover the blemish and it also wasn’t so easy to blend out.
Here are examples of the blemish coverage (I know, TMI right? But I’m willing to scar my one reader for the sake of science! Sorry reader.)

It’s annoying that the light is so dark on the Bobbi Brown example but you can see that the blemish is still slightly visible, especially when compared to the Shu example.

There’s not much difference between lasting power on these two. I assumed that Shu’s slip, which had been so helpful for application, might have been a disadvantage when it came to lasting power, but both have lasted until the end of the day. Sadly, both have pooled ever so slightly in my problem areas: around my nostrils and in the dip on my chin. This pooling isn’t terrible – you would have to look hard to notice it, but I’m still a non-plussed. As concealers, both look as they did when they were freshly applied. I would say it was a draw in terms of lasting power: both had the same longevity but also the same pitfalls. I asked my hermit brother to scrutinise my face and he said that my right side (Shu) looked a little bit better but he didn’t know why. Concise isn’t he?

Bobbi fought a good battle, but Shu comes out victorious as the new king of relativley reasonably priced foundation sticks (ain’t that a mouthful). To be honest though, I’m left feeling a little deflated about the whole foundation stick shebang. They’re easy to travel with because you can apply with your hands (but add a concealer brush if you have a blemish or two) and they look like the kind of foundation James Bond would use: the kind disguised as a chunky felt-tip pen. But that’s where their perks end – at least for me. I’d rather take my normal foundation (Shu Face architect fluid or the Graftobian HD) and Bobbi Brown creamy concealer and be done with it. I can apply those with my fingers too and they won’t take up much more space than these cool spy foundations.

Update 2011: I am in love with the Shu Nobara Stick, poor Bobbi has fallen by the wayside, see my updated review here.

Oh yes, the Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick and Touch Up Stick thing: I emailed Bobbi Brown customer service a few weeks ago asking for the ingredients of both these products. Here they are:

Touch Up Stick


Foundation Stick


Interesting…’but’ I hear you say, ‘maybe they have different amounts of each ingredient’ (yeah you were thinking it). That would be reasonable – perhaps the touch up stick is more pigmented and therefore a better concealer. But no, I went to the counter and compared on my arm for a good 10 minutes and I couldn’t see the difference. Still not quite convinced, I ask the Sales Assistant and she told me they are indeed the same product, but the Touch Up Stick is in a more convenient package for blemish concealing.

Anyway so if you’re looking at the Touch Up Stick to conceal blemishes you might want to consider the Foundation Stick + concealer brush combo as you get a lot more product for your money that way.

12 comments on “Comparison: Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick vs. Shu Uemura Nobara Cream Cover Stick

    • Nope, nothing to add to your great review =)
      I am still in the testing process..
      I rotate my foundation almost everyday accordingly to the condition of my skin so it will take some time before I can really comment on a certain foundation!!

  1. Pingback: Review: Shu Uemura Face Architect Smoothing Fluid Foundation « Glossed in Translation

  2. Pingback: Foundation Swatches for Pale people (Paler than MAC NW15) « Glossed in Translation

  3. Fantastic review! ^^ Very informative & makes my next purchase a lot more easier. I am not sure if you mentioned your skin type?

  4. This is a new found secret – coz I’ve been a fan of the BB touch up stick for years and knowing the formula is actually the same as its foundation stick. It’s so much better value to get the big one for sure. Thanks for sharing! :)

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