First Impressions: Bobbi Brown Illuminating Finish Powder Compact Foundation SPF 12

So I went to the Bobbi Brown counter at the department store today. In Asia, for some reason, the highly-anticipated new powder foundation from Bobbi Brown is already out on the shelves. A lot of people have been dying to know more about it so I went in to give it a little test drive. This isn’t a review as I have not bought the foundation, these are just my thoughts after having it applied and testing it for the evening.

If you’d like to find out more about Bobbi Brown Illuminating Finish Powder Compact then click here.

Now there seems to be some conflicting information with this powder: in the post I linked to the powder is recommended for oily skin and not dry. However as I was having it applied earlier today the sales assistant really emphasised its great benefits for dry skin.

Since I’ve been in Japan my skin has been in a funk and has been super dry, so these impressions are for the Illuminating finish powder with regards to dry skin.

As another disclaimer, I don’t usually have much interest in powder foundations. As a result, I’m not completely sure what I should be looking for in a powder foundation so if you do have any questions, comment or email, or ask me on twitter.


The coverage is nothing special for a normal foundation but I think for a powder foundation it’s quite good (correct me if I’m wrong – I assumed powder foundations rarely give full coverage). It completely evens out redness, covers my freckles mostly (though I actually like my freckles), and does slightly well on blemishes but they are still very much ‘there’ after application.

Difficult Patches

Okay so my skin is seriously dedicated to this blog – right now I have both dry patches and huge pores which means products really get put through their paces when I use them. On dry patches this foundation is surprisingly forgiving; in my experience powder foundations are totally unflattering on any bits of dry skin but this one actually doesn’t emphasise them at all. In most cases it actually does a good job of hiding them. When I look closely in the mirror I can see one stubborn area around my nose that has a few flaky bits. But when I say close, I mean about an inch away.

Again, with powder foundations I’m used to having my pores emphasised pretty drastically. Usually because the powder settles into them. However this actually had a smoothing effect on them which was a huge plus, and totally unexpected.

Click on the pic for a huge version. This photo was taken in a harsh light so any foundation flaws would be highlighted. In the large picture you’ll see the area around my nose which usually houses those evil massive pores I always go on about. They’re still visible (this product isn’t a miracle worker) but they look much smoother than usual. You’ll also see around my cheek that, like most powder foundations it seems, this one also highlights those annoying tiny hairs on your face. Oh also around my eyes is something different – there is none of the foundation there. In fact during the makeover a lot of different products were piled on there and actually made that area look pretty bad. But that’s not what this review is about. Oh and the redness on the cheeks is from blusher, not lame coverage.


The finish is matte but at the same time very natural. I dislike that term because it’s so overused, but I’d say it’s pretty apt for this foundation. Even though my skin was matte it didn’t look unnaturally so, there was a glow (I guess that’s the ‘illuminating’ part) that meant my skin didn’ t look aged – many powders have that effect on it – and it had a velvety finish.

You can feel this on your skin when you touch your face (I tried Armani Luminous Silk powder once and it seriously just felt like skin) but it is very soft, again it feels more velvety than powdery.

I can’t comment on lasting power as it’s only been a few hours and I’m going to bed soon but so far so good, though there’s a tiny bit of settling around the corners of my nose.


I am Alabaster in Bobbi Brown – in Asia it’s called something different but the colours are the same. Today I had this powder in alabaster applied but it’s actually a little dark. There’s no obvious tide mark but around my jaw you can see that there’s a difference between my actually skin colour and where the foundation has been put. Looking at the photo the match looks quite good, but in the mirror in real life there is a definite difference between my skin and the foundation shade.

Right I think that’s about everything, I would definitely recommend taking a look at this foundation. I was convinced it wouldn’t live up to the hype surrounding it but once I tried it on I can see how this powder is actually very impressive. When I’m in the market for a powder foundation, this one will be at the top of my list to check out.



Foundation Swatches for Pale people (Paler than MAC NW15)

So I’ve been meaning to do this ever since I started this blog. People are constantly asking for recommendations for pale foundations, so I thought I’d take some swatches of the ones I use.

My skin is pale – I say I’m NW10 but I could be NW5, I’m not really sure. All these foundations work on my skin. Some are a little darker, but not dark enough for me to worry about tidemarks around my jaw – they still all look natural on me.

Click for bigger

So from right to left:

Shade 15 in Makeup Forever Mat Velvet +

Buff in Graftobian HD Glamour Creme

584 in Shu Uemura Face Architect Smoothing Liquid

Alabaster (00) in Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick

584 in Shu Uemura Nobara Cover Stick

So Mat Velvet doesn’t look so pink when put next to Graftobian (which  is VERY cool-toned) but it is. Many warm-toned people complain about the coolness of this foundation so if you have yellow undertones you may want to give it a miss. This foundation is my 2nd palest and it suits my skin well.

Graftobian HD Creme is very cool-toned but Graftobian also caters to warm and neutral-toned people as well. This by far my palest foundation, it is a really good match for my skin and I wish more foundations came in this shade.

Shu Uemura Face Architect looks quite dark here and I’m not sure why. It is darker than the Mat Velvet and Graftobian and it is not a perfect match for my skin. However like I said, I don’t get marks around my jaw line as Face Architect blends quite well. It is also only in some lighting that I notice this is a little dark for my face – but it still looks very natural and not like I’m wearing the wrong foundation. This is the coolest tone (that comes this pale) produced by Shu Uemura, but I would say it is neutral at best. There are some slight pinkish (I’d say salmon pink) tones to this foundation as you can see in the swatch but it is  still not cool enough for my skin.

Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick is more neutral than my other foundations. While Bobbi’s foundations usually run warm, Alabaster is the most neutral of all the shades.

Shu Uemura Nobara Cover Stick looks quite similar to its Face Architect brother in this swatch, but when I put them on my skin the Cover stick looks a little darker. Perhaps I’m imagining things. They do have the same salmon undertones, but again, I would still say they come up more neutral than cool-toned.

All of these are paler than NW15, Graftobian I would say is NW5 and the rest NW10/N10. As I don’t own this foundation I didn’t swatch it but I’ve tested Illamasqua foundations and their palest shade is about N5 – it’s almost white but as I remember it had neutral undertones.

Review: Shu Uemura Face Architect Smoothing Fluid Foundation

I say review, but really this is more of a tribute to one of the most beautiful products in the world. I LOVE this foundation. I don’t often truly love a product but this one is just so perfect and it also has this… elegance that makes it a joy to apply. I know how silly this sounds, it is just foundation after all – but it doesn’t change the fact that it is such a lovely foundation. So excuse me if I gush a little in this review, I’ll try my best not to get overwhelmed.

I apply this with a stippling brush or, if I’m feeling lazy, I just use my fingers. I have recently discovered that using this foundation with a damp sponge gives the most natural finish ever – it makes the foundation more like a tinted moisturiser that evens out the skintone but also just melts into it completely. I have, however, tried it with a plain old paddle foundation brush and in my opinion this just doesn’t make the foundation look good. Perhaps my foundation brush skills are sub par — and considering my all-consuming love for the stippling brush this could be the case — but this method really didn’t do the foundation justice. Using my fingers gives light coverage and great skin-like finish. The stippling brush provides medium coverage yet retains the skin-like finish of finger application.

This is one of the things I love most about this foundation: it is so very natural-looking. It has a satin finish on my skin (bear in mind my sunscreen is really shiny so on normal people the finish could lean more matte) and it really doesn’t look like foundation at all.

While the coverage is buildable (and I actually mean that, not like when the ladies at make-up counters say it), I don’t think you could ever get full coverage from this foundation. I’d say it’s medium at most, though I often skip concealer when using it as it can cover the redness of blemishes quite well.

Click for a bigger photo!

In this picture I have really dehydrated skin around the bottom of my nose – but I thought I’d put it up anyway to show Face Architect under…adverse conditions. My blemishes are still visible but aren’t as angry looking as they were before foundation!

Usually I set this foundation with a powder to counteract the aforementioned sunscreen shine. However today I skipped the powder for the sake of science – I wanted to see how Face Architect stood on its own. I was pleasantly surprised. (Well, not really surprised because did I mention that I’m in love with this foundation?) Not only does it stay on (even around my oily areas), it doesn’t go…weird. You know what I mean – when you have to keep an eye on your foundation because you know after a few hours it’s going to settle into your pores/ start arbitrarily caking in areas/ go blotchy etc. Nope, Face Architect looks as beautiful as it did when I first applied it.

Nice job, Face Architect!

Yet another link to KarlaSugar and her beautiful swatches so you can see the colour range. A few shades are missing – the shade I wear (584) isn’t there – but you can get the picture of the large range of shades available from that link.  Here is a swatch photo I took of all my foundations for this post.

584 is about NW10, it is a tiny tiny bit dark for my skin but it is hardly ever noticeable. Like I said in my Foundation Stick Comparison the shades seem to differ between foundations so I’d recommend getting matched again even if you think you know which shade you are.

So did I mention I love this foundation? I did? Dammit. Right but why do I love this foundation?

It is good to my skin: if I’m paying a lot for something, I want it to be something that isn’t going to wreck my skin. Ideally I’d like it to be something that’s good for it and I honestly think this foundation does help my skin a little bit.

I can rely on it all day: even if I haven’t looked in a mirror all morning I know that my foundation will be looking good no matter what. I don’t have to worry about it slipping off my face, or pooling into my uber huge pores.

It’s easy: I can spend 30 minutes applying this to get a great finish, or I could spend 30 seconds and get an almost great finish. This foundation is so easy to use, especially in a rush – just pat it on my face and go.

It looks good: it looks good.

It feels luxurious: I saved this reason for last because it’s a bit silly. I most definitely wouldn’t buy a foundation because it ‘feels luxurious’ but it’s definitely a bonus that this one does. While I usually hate fragrance in foundation, this one is truly divine – it’s very subtle, fresh and feminine. The fact that it helps my skin also adds to the luxury feel: I feel like I’m pampering myself when I put it on.

So basically, try this out. Obviously this foundation won’t work for everyone because if it did everyone would use it, so perhaps it won’t work for you. But on the other hand, you may just become one of its many admirers (though maybe not quite the overzealous admirer I have become).

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.