Sunday, November 20, 2016

Two Tinted Moisturizers: TheBalm Balm Shelter in Lighter than Light and Maybelline Dream Pure BB in Light

Disclosure: Affiliate links.
Review of TheBalm Balm Shelter in Lighter than Light and Maybelline Dream Pure BB in Light

Base products aren't one of my favorite things to review, because they aren't one of my favorite things to use. In fact, I never used to wear foundation at all, because I found it too much trouble to bother with. I had a bottle of L'Oreal True Match foundation that must have sat in a drawer for at least 5 years before I threw it out in about 2007. I was holding on to it in case I needed it for a special occasion, but even on special occasions I didn't use it.

Once I started to look for a base that I actually liked a few years ago, however, I got hooked on the hunt. But I still tend to put off reviewing them, partly because I am fully aware that my expectations are unreasonable. I want something that looks exactly like my real skin so that it's undetectable, and yet makes my skin look flawless, and also doesn't fade until I take it off. That's not a thing. I will settle for a product that is a good color match, makes my skin look better than it does with nothing on it, isn't too fussy to apply, doesn't wear off or break down immediately, and doesn't create an ugly mess when it does break down. That's still a tall order, apparently.

The other reason that I don't love reviewing foundations and such is that I find them hard to photograph in a helpful way. In a close-up, all base products look either too cakey or too sheer or both. Flakes and pores are visible in a way they aren't in person. In a full shot of my entire face, on the other hand, just about anything looks decent. For instance, in this photo I'm wearing Revlon Colorstay, which on me looked really thick and cakey and unnatural . . . and it looks pretty ok here. So it's hard to illustrate what I actually experience.

Some people can make full coverage foundations look amazing. I am not one of those people. They always end up looking mask-like and heavy on me. I'm just not a fan. So I tend to go for sheer to medium coverage in a base. Among other things, if the oil in my skin breaks down the product, it won't look as patchy and uneven as it would if it were very opaque, and so I don't have to keep checking it to see if it needs touching up. But the downside of sheerer bases is that they rarely wear very well, especially if you have oily-combination skin like mine.

I've had TheBalm's Balm Shelter Tinted Moisturizer for a little over a year. For most of that time I haven't liked it much. I'd try it, get frustrated and put it aside, and then try it again a couple of weeks or months later. When I got it out to test it again a few times before writing this review, I found that I actually liked it a lot more. I think that what happened is that my skin has been much better lately--which I attribute to lowered stress, at least up until the election, and increasing niacinamide in my skincare routine. (I've been using the Paula's Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster, but CeraVe's PM Lotion is another good source at 4% niacinimade, since the PC booster is something you mix/dilute with other products). 

The main problem I'd had with TheBalm's tinted moisturizer was that it sat weirdly on any flaky patches on my face, which in my case were usually chin zits. I actually think that calling this a tinted moisturizer isn't entirely accurate, because in my experience it's not very moisturizing at all. In addition, it has a rather matte finish, not a dewy one like I would expect from most tinted moisturizers. The combination of sheer and matte can be tricky for problem areas on my face. You can see in the photo below that the dry skin near my mouth is highlighted by this stuff, and that it doesn't cover the redness on my nose. Additional concealer is definitely needed. If, however, you're in a good skin place, it does provide light, natural-looking coverage that will even things out without drawing attention to itself. 

TheBalm Balm Shelter in Lighter than Light over bare skin, no other makeup.
Below is my face at the end of the day, about 7 hours later (in artificial lighting), and the tint is pretty much completely gone. But at least this comparison demonstrates that it did tone down redness and unevenness and mattify my skin in the first place.

I don't know where the glitter came from. I suspect Urban Decay Midnight Cowboy.
Conversely, when I started using the Maybelline Dream Pure BB this past spring, I liked it a lot, but lately I've been less impressed by it. The best part about this stuff is how easy it is to apply. You can pretty much just smear it on like you would a regular lotion and it looks absolutely fine. With most base products I prefer to apply them with my fingers using a patting motion, similar to how you're supposed to use a Beauty Blender (but using my fingers means that there's no sponge soaking up product). Then I blend the base some more using the same motion with a dry sponge. There's no need for any special technique with the Dream Pure BB, though. It also has a very natural, skin-like finish.

This stuff seems to skim over the pores a bit, though, as I said, the effect is much less apparent in person.
The Dream Pure BB is a bit sheerer than the Balm Shelter, however, and it really doesn't last. Thirty seconds of sweating and it's gone. I didn't notice that so much in the summer, oddly enough, probably because I was working from home and as a result not paying that much attention to how long my makeup lasted (because I didn't really care). But these days it's more obvious to me, because I'll check out my face in the bathroom mirror before I go into the classroom or a meeting. Even though the "Pure" version of the Maybelline BB is meant for oilier skin (as opposed to the "Fresh" version for drier skin), I think this would work better for someone with dry-to-normal skin. I don't hate it on myself, but it's a bit disappointing. 

The Pure BB has exchanged the SPF from the Fresh BB for salicylic acid. I could do without that, personally. I already have skincare products with BHA in them, and I don't like having to think about whether or not the ingredients in my makeup will interact in a bad way with my skincare. Plus, I really doubt that it has much effect in this format, though who knows. 
I could do without sunscreen in my base products too, actually. TheBalm's tinted moisturizer is SPF 18, but probably lower in practice due to the small amount of product you're likely to apply. And layering a lower SPF over a higher SPF can supposedly lower the SPF of the stronger product, which is annoying. I guess for people who aren't going to wear sunscreen, some is better than nothing, but for me, it's unnecessary.

Here's a comparison of the two products next to Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly, because I figured that might be a recognizable point of reference for some of you.

Swatches of TheBalm Balm Shelter in Lighter than Light, Maybelline Dream Pure BB in Light, and Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly.
Swatches of TheBalm Balm Shelter in Lighter than Light, Maybelline Dream Pure BB in Light, and Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly.
They both look a little too peachy in the heavy swatches, but when they're sheered out, they're a good match for me. The Maybelline BB is a closer match, though, being more neutral, which counteracts redness better as well. I was a bit surprised to find a good match in a product with only five shades. Both of these products cover a relatively decent shade range (i.e. not just light-medium to medium), even though they don't provide a huge number of options.

I'm happy with the Balm Shelter for now, while my skin is cooperating. It's actually a decent value, too, if you think you can finish the whole tube. It's regularly $25 for 2.15 oz., making it about $12 per ounce. You can get it a bit cheaper on Amazon, which is where I got mine, and Overstock has a few tubes for about $12 each right now. The Maybelline BB is normally about $7-9 for 1 ounce, but also a little cheaper on Amazon

I'm trying not to get obsessive about finding something magically perfect that doesn't exist in real life, buuuuuuut if you have any suggestions for low maintenance base products on the sheerer side, I would love to hear them. Also, how many other people are like me and prefer to not wear foundation or another base all over their faces? I definitely don't use these things on a daily basis.


  1. I've never used foundation or tinted moisturizer and don't see myself starting in the near future (though the Glossier skin tint is tempting). I always feel like I'm bragging when I say this, but I'm really not: I don't have perfect skin, I just don't like the thought of smearing makeup all over my face. Plus, I'm very pale with weird gray undertones and I have a feeling that finding a decent shade would be a massive pain in the ass.

    1. Yes, that's part of my problem with a lot of these products. I don't like to feel them all over my skin, and I don't want to have to worry about touching my face and messing them up. If they have fragrance, even worse, because I can smell them too. These two at least don't really feel (or smell) like anything.

      I think if you are happy without it, don't bother! And your skin always looks nice in your photos. Trying to find a match is a huge trial and potentially leads to buying a bunch of shit you don't really, really like. Definitely not worth it if you're not really into it.

  2. i wear foundation almost daily but in a veeeeery thin layer. like half a pump for my whole face. 1oz of foundation regularly lasts me multiple years. I use Lasting Silk, which makes my face look amazingly smooth and poreless but still lets slight imperfections through so it looks like (to me) that I just have skin like a baby's bottom naturally. of course it doesnt really work on zits or flaky bits. i usually focus more on my nose, nasolabial and chin area, so most of my cheeks and forehead are left quite free. i think it feels much nicer to wear foundations when you find a great, unfussy one for everyday.

    1. I should try to get my hands on a sample of that one. I remember you recommending it before!

  3. From your photos, I think we have similar skin types and tones. I've been using this Dr. Jart BB cream for several months now and really like it. When I was pregnant I felt like death and had zero patience or fortitude for actual foundation. I smear it on like a moisturizer and set it with NYX Matte But Not Flat and it holds up like a dream.

    1. Thanks! I think I tried something by Dr. Jart years ago, and they had such a small shade range that everything was too dark and greyish for me. But I should take another look now, since I've heard a few recommendations for it.

      How do you like that powder? Reviews seem mixed. I'm going to need a new setting powder soon.

    2. It definitely has a small shade range but the light shade works for me. I have neutral undertones (or lack of undertones?) and the powder helps it not look weird too.

      I like the powder a lot. I'm on my 3rd one and that's damn near unheard of for me. I'm always buying new stuff and rarely repurchase something unless it's magic.

  4. Yes yes yes to all of this. I use retin-a so I always have flaky bits and I've never found a liquid foundation that didn't highlight them. Lately I've been liking powder foundations though. You would think they would look even drier and highlight flakiness even more, but somehow they don't, I think because they sit more on top of the skin rather than sinking into everything. The one by It Cosmetics is decent, right now I'm using the one by Pur, which is a slightly better color match. You might give it a whirl. Oh, also throughout the day it lasts pretty well, and just sort of gets...lesser as it fades, no weird patchiness or breakdown which I like.

    1. I actually have a mini of the Pur powder foundation that I've been using. I really like how easy and quick it is to apply and it looks really natural. I have found that it breaks down pretty quickly, though, and it's not too patchy, but sometimes. I wish it held up better! Honestly I would much prefer a powder foundation, but it has to be pressed, because I can't stand the mess of loose powders.


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