I've reviewed a lot of Paula's Choice products here. I recently ordered samples of all of the Paula's Choice base makeup products. I've been looking for a good, light tinted moisturizer or foundation for a while now, and I figured I'd give the PC options a shot. So here is my favorite thing about them: you can spend a couple of bucks and get sample packets of all of the shades of all of their products. I wish other brands would do that. Sure, you might chance into a sample in a gift-with-purchase or a subscription service, but even those tend to only be the "medium" shade or shades. I once got a card sample of Laura Mercier's famous tinted moisturizer from Birchbox, and the amount included was so small it didn't even cover a quarter of my hand, plus all three shades were way too dark. So I could test neither the shade nor the formula. I know that I could go to Sephora and asks the sales associates to make me samples of various products, but getting to the nearest Sephora is a pain in the ass for me. I would gladly spend a few dollars to have decent samples of the most likely shades sent to me at home instead.
So I ordered packets of the four bases Paula's Choice sells: Best Face Forward Foundation (SPF 25, for oily/combination skin); Resist Instant Smoothing Anti-Aging Foundation (for oily/combination skin); All Bases Covered Foundation (SPF 25, for dry/very dry skin); and Barely There Sheer Matte Tint (SPF 30, for all skin types). Each sample pack costs $2.50 and contains four generously sized samples - at least enough for two full-face applications each. You can choose a darker or lighter range for most of the foundations, and you get four different shades.
Here are swatches of the two lightest shades of each of the products, on either side of Revlon ColorStay Foundation for oily/combination skin as a point of reference, since that is a fairly popular and accessible foundation. (If you want to compare the Revlon foundation to other pale foundations, see this post.) They are swatched heavily to show the color differences, rather than the textures. I used the lightest shades in the middle next to the Revlon swatch.
Here are my reviews of each product, based on at least one full day's wear (though I didn't use both shades of each). I ended up buying the Barely There Tint, so there is more information about that one at the end.
Best Face Forward Foundation: Meant for oily/combination skin. It had a very thin, runny consistency and medium coverage that was buildable. It was indeed a good color match for me. The application was easy: it didn't set too quickly or too slowly, so it was no problem to blend. Coverage was even with no makeup settling into pores or lines. It had a very matte finish that I didn't think made my skin look great. I prefer something more natural, and it did nothing to improve the appearance of my skin's texture. Ultimately the wear was the dealbreaker for me. It wore off unevenly, and after just a couple of hours it would disappear from my nose and other oilier areas completely, even if I used primer and powder.
Resist Instant Smoothing Anti-Aging Foundation: I have no idea why this is marketed for oily/combination skin. Even though my skin wasn't particularly oily when I used it, it never really set properly, even with powder. It remained in a layer on my skin that immediately gathered in pores and lines, and only got worse as the day went on, getting goopy in certain areas, like between my eyebrows. It looked and felt like wearing a greasy mask. That seems very bad both for oily skin and also for mature skin, which this is directed at, when lines and pores are going to be a particular concern. The lightest shade was way too fucking light for me, even in late winter/early spring when I was at my palest. That is very rare, but if you have an extremely hard time finding light enough foundations, that might make this worth a shot. I'm not vouching for the formula, though.
All Bases Covered Foundation: This stuff is meant for dry skin. It had a very odd texture: sort of grainy with white chunks of pigment in it that needed to be mixed in with the base. It was easy to apply otherwise and provided light to medium coverage. The finish was fairly matte, but it settled into lines immediately and seemed to discover new lines that I didn't even know were there to highlight. This happened even over primer. It set fairly quickly, but it was still possible to blend it. When it dried, however, it made my skin feel a bit tight and dry, which seems strange for a product meant for dry skin. This one wore better than the other two with no oil coming through. It didn't come off in patches or gather in certain areas over time. It just kind of disappeared from my entire face evenly after 6-8 hours, which I prefer. The lightest shade was way, way too dark for me, and it oxidized or evaporated into a darker orange shade within minutes.
I wasn't especially impressed by any of these, and none of them seems very appropriate for the skin types it's marketed toward.
As for the Barely There Tint, I ended up buying it after trying it out. Here are the notes I wrote after the first time I tested it: "light to medium coverage, good shade match, good texture, satiny-matte finish, wore very well, not patchy, easy to apply."
Sounds good, right? After trying it a second time, I wasn't as impressed. It seemed too dark, for one thing, and it didn't make the texture of my skin look very nice. I ended up going with my first impression and assumed that the change was the result of the packet being open for over a week and exposed to more air than it would be in a tube. So I ordered a full size tube.
It comes in a plastic tube with a small opening. At least mine did. Why is my tube black, when the tubes on their website are beige? They were beige when I ordered it. Did I get an old one?
I should have trusted the second test, because I haven't been very happy with this stuff since I bought it. It's too dark, yes, but the main problem is that it really does nothing to make my skin texture looks better - if anything, it looks worse. Allow me to demonstrate.
Before (no makeup at all):
I've complained recently that my skin has been kind of shit lately. So here you see some of the issues I'm dealing with. Lots of zits and rough pores and lines. I'm breaking out more than usual.
After (just Barely There Tint in Level 1):
This one was taken later the same day, so there's a bit of a raking light thing happening, which admittedly shows texture more. But in reality my pores and lines did indeed look slightly more obvious after applying the tint than before, regardless of the lighting. You can see that its yellowness has toned down some of the redness in my skin, particularly around my nose, which is nice. It limits the amount of concealer I need to apply. In fact, I would consider the coverage of this stuff light-medium, rather than "barely there." It's definitely more opaque than other tinted moisturizers I've tried and has about the same coverage as the All Bases Covered Foundation.
It leaves a semi-matte finish that looks pretty natural. It's definitely not completely matte. I like that. But it doesn't make me skin look very pretty.
I decided to try mixing it with some white foundation I have to create a closer shade match, and to use primer underneath. Here are the results:
Not very good! It seems to have become slightly sheerer, but the coverage was one of the things I actually liked about it.
Also, it kind of smells. It's not strong; it's just a slight plasticky smell, but if you are sensitive to things like that on your face the way I am, it might annoy you. It lingers for a couple of hours.
I might try it again later in the summer when my skin has, against my wishes, become slightly darker. Or maybe I will figure out some other way to make it work. I wish I had listened to my doubts the second time I tested it and wasn't impressed!
I have never been overly impressed by Paula's Choice's makeup offerings. Great skincare; unimpressive makeup. Their matte eyeshadow is decent, and as good as TheBalm's (comparison here), but otherwise, meh. I would highly recommend getting samples of these before buying the full size if any of them interests you. I suggest either ordering the samples during one of their frequent free shipping promotions, or using my referral link to get $10 off a $15 order. If you have extremely pale, smooth, dry skin, you might be able to get the Resist foundation to work. If you're not too oily, the Best Face Forward might be okay. I'm happy that they offer samples - I just wish the actual products worked better! They are also rather expensive at $19-25 for 1 oz.
If you have any suggestions for what I might do with this tint, I'd love to hear them. I get pissed when a product requires a handful of other products just to make it work! And in this case, I don't even know what those other products might be.
Anyone else tried any of these foundations? Have you had better luck? If you're looking for pale foundation, here are some other comparisons.