My Top Liquid Face Makeup Products from Sephora

Despite the limitations this year, you can’t deny that the VIB invitation is absolutely stunning!

With the Sephora VIB Sale for 2012 starting today, I thought we’d take a break from skin care and talk about some of my favorite makeup products. I originally intended this post to be about my favorite Sephora skin care value sets. However, after perusing through the entire online store, I couldn’t find a single set worth recommending.

Frequently Asked Questions about the VIB Sale

Q: Is the 20% discount a one-shot deal?

A: As the primary VIB account holder, you can make as many purchases as you’d like (both in-store and online) between Nov. 8-12 and receive the 20% discount.

Q: If I bring a friend to a physical store, can he/she get the 20% discount as well?

A: Yes. However, he/she can only receive the 20% discount if both of you go on the 8th of November.

Q: In the VIB email that I received, it said that I can send a online-only code to a friend. Can that only be used on the 8th as well?

A: No. If you choose to instead email your code to a friend, he/she can use that code for one online purchase between November 8-12 and receive the 20% discount.

Q: Can I bring a friend into a store AND send the online-only code to another person? Will both receive the 20% discount?

A: Yes, you can do both. So for example, you can bring Erin with you on the 8th to a physical store, AND you can also email an online-only code to Rachel; both will get the discount!

I know that Sephora has severely tightened and unnecessarily complicated both their Friends & Family and VIB Sales this year, so I hope that this clears up some of the confusion. If you’re a VIB, make the most out of your exclusive benefits and help out TWO friends in need!

Daytime Foundation

After trying 70+ liquid foundations and tinted moisturizers (from Sephora and other department stores), the following products seem to work best for me. But it’s not enough to simply state that these are the best options at Sephora. I have to explain WHY they are the prime choices in each category.

Qualifications needed to be a successful candidate:

  1. Because I mix (1 part foundation: 3 parts sunscreen), in order to achieve anything more than sheer coverage, I need a foundation that provides medium-full coverage on its own. I don’t have to the time or patience to wait for my sunscreen to set, and then apply foundation. So I mix them.
  2. While my sunscreen is quite matte and transfer-resistant alone, because of my very oily skin type, I need a foundation that gives a matte finish and lasts well throughout the day on its own, in order to boost longevity and reduce the need to touch up.
  3. Because I’m mixing foundation into my (inorganic) sunscreen and therefore reducing the overall level of protection, I need a foundation that provides decent inorganic-based UV protection on its own. To see how to assess a mixed sunscreen, make sure to read this post that deals strictly with the mixing of inorganic-based UV filters.
For my routine, the Smashbox Studio Skin SPF 15 foundation is the best overall choice.

Smashbox Studio Skin SPF 15:

  1. This provides at least medium coverage alone;
  2. Gives a creamy matte finish and lasts fairly well throughout the day;
  3. And contains 4.7% of Titanium Dioxide (TiO2).

This foundation possesses a rare blend of characteristics that gives me a great base during the daytime. Its very thin liquid texture allows for easy mixing and enhances the overall spreadability of the sunscreen. The overall palette of this foundation tends to be quite warm; almost orange. However, that works perfectly to counteract some of the ashiness and white cast that my inorganic sunscreen leaves behind. Finally, the foundation comes with a pump, which allows for more consistent and accurate measurements when mixing.

Some of the other foundations that I’ve tried and considered for the purpose of mixing with my sunscreen include:

Lancôme Teint Idole 24H SPF 15: (Due to the alcohol content, when combined with my already transfer-resistant sunscreen, this is actually a bit too drying. But its longevity is better than the Smashbox. However, it does not provide adequate UV protection with only 3% octinoxate). If you’re worried about the dangers of alcohol in skin care, make sure to read this post.

MAC Studio Sculpt SPF 15: (The texture is quite thick and does not enhance application. Being either NC or NW, the color selections are either too warm or too cool. The 2% TiO2 is also a bit too low for my taste).

MAC Matchmaster SPF 15: (While it has a neutral palette, it unfortunately doesn’t have much longevity. 1% TiO2 is also far too low).

Estee Lauder Double Wear SPF 10: (This was seriously considered as it fulfills all three of the essential characteristics quite well. The biggest problem was that the finish was a powdery matte finish, rather than a creamy matte. This made the foundation look very heavy in direct sunlight and has a tendency to accentuate large pores and flaky skin. Also, the color selections jump around too much. I had to be matched three or four times for an adequate match and even then, I’m still not satisfied with shade: Sand 2W1. Also it doesn’t come with a pump).

Shiseido Sun Protection Liquid Foundation SPF 42: (This was another serious contender. With its excellent TiO2 content (13.9%) and thin texture, it was born to be mixed with sunscreens. However, it does not come with a pump and is almost too fluid; it’s difficult to get consistent results. Also, after switching out my Shiseido SPF 55 sunscreen, I noticed how intense the fragrance this product has; it’s the same scent as the Shiseido sunscreen. Finally, my shade SP40 was a bit too orange).

Shiseido Dual Balancing SPF 17: (To make a long story short, this just does not provide adequate longevity or oil control).

Hourglass Veil Fluid Makeup SPF 15: (Like the Shiseido Dual Balancing, this did not provide adequate longevity).

Chanel Mat Lumiere SPF 15: (The texture was a bit heavy for my taste and provided only fleeting oil-control. Also, the color selection for warm skin tones tends to be more yellow rather than orange or golden. Therefore, it didn’t counteract the white cast of the sunscreen very well).

Chanel Perfection Lumiere SPF 10: (This did not provide adequate longevity, and like the Mat Lumiere, had a more yellow-based palette).

Dior Forever Flawless Makeup SPF 25: (This was another serious contender. However, like the Lancôme Teint Idole 24H, the alcohol content was a bit too drying when combined with my sunscreen. Furthermore, the TiO2 content (2.37%) is too low).

Clarins Ever Matte SPF 15: (2.3% TiO2 is a bit low, and the grapefruit-like fragrance was too overpowering. The powdery-matte finish was also not suitable. Ironically, it did not have much longevity despite this finish).

Clinique Even Better SPF 15: (It has a slightly powdery finish, but unfortunately does not provide adequate longevity).

Guerlain Lingerie de Peau SPF 20: (The biggest problem with this foundation was the color selection. Shade 02 was too gray, while 03 was too dark. I hear there’s a new shade 031 that’s like 02 in lightness, but is more warm-toned. However, I didn’t check it out because this formula doesn’t last very long on my skin anyways).

So considering coverage, finish, UV protection, texture, longevity, color, packaging, and smell, the Smashbox Studio Skin SPF 15 is the best overall choice for me.

Tinted Moisturizers

I don’t really use pre-made tinted moisturizers since I essentially make my own. However, for those days when I have to be out the door in 5 minutes and don’t have the time to mix two products, I need something that provides decent UV protection, longevity, and coverage, while matching my skin and being easy to apply.

The Tarte Smooth Operator SPF 20 Tinted Moisturizer is probably the most appropriate TM for oily skin types like mine.

Tarte Smooth Operator SPF 20: This provides decent UV protection with 5% TiO2 and 5% zinc oxide (ZnO); it also contains a smattering of photoprotective antioxidants such as green tea and vitamins C and E. The color 06 matches my skin tone quite well. Note that the palette does jump around a lot. For example, shade 02 is lighter than 00, while shade 04 is darker than both 06 and 10. This lasts surprisingly long for a tinted moisturizer; I don’t get too greasy throughout the day.

Some of the other tinted moisturizers that I’ve tried and considered include:

Stila Sheer Color SPF 20: This is very similar to the Tarte, except that it doesn’t last as long on the skin for me. Furthermore, no shade in its palette matches me better than shade 06 in the Smooth Operator. And while this contains higher concentrations of the antioxidant vitamins C and E, the inclusion of fine shimmer particles makes this an inappropriate choice for my very oily skin type.

Too Faced Beauty Balm SPF 20: This is another similar product to the two mentioned above, more so to the Tarte than the Stila. However, my biggest problem was that the lightest shade Vanilla Glow was too dark for my skin.

Evening Foundation:

When it comes to evening foundation, most of the same qualifications for the daytime foundation are required. The exception is that something without any reflective UV particles like TiO2 or ZnO is preferred, in case there’s flash photography.

When mixed with the Smashbox foundation and a moisturizer, this gives the most flattering, long-wearing, skin-like finish I’ve ever seen!

Lancôme Teint Idole 24H SPF 15: By itself, this provides an incredibly long-wearing, creamy matte finish that looks very natural. However, I could not get a perfect color match. Like the Double Wear, I had to be matched multiple times. The foundation was also a bit drying. To remedy both of these shortcomings, I actually mix one part of this (in 250 Bisque) with one part of the Smashbox Studio Skin SPF 15 (1.2) AND one part of a moisturizer. The result is the most natural, long-wearing foundation that matches my skin perfectly; 250 Bisque is slightly too olive and dark, while 1.2 is (like I said above) slightly too light and orange. So combining the two makes for a pretty exact match to my neck. The best part is that I can just smooth this concoction on with my fingers. It doesn’t look too made up and is just perfect. I’m so thrilled to have stumbled upon this combination. I actually went to Knott’s Scary Farm this year with this combination. Through all the screaming, laughing, and running, this just did not budge. I did have to blot, but there was virtually no transfer of color. I’m really tempted to just throw out all my other foundation samples, and I have a ton, just because these two products are THAT good.

Now, if I’m going to take photographs, I just use the Teint Idole 24H by itself mixed with equal parts of the moisturizer. In my experience, the 3% oxtinoxate does not flash back.

Some of the other “evening” foundations that I’ve tried and considered include:

***Because this post is really getting quite long, I’ll just give very short summaries of each foundation and why there were inappropriate for me. If you have additional questions or require clarifications on any of the foundations, please let me know in the comments section.

Laura Mercier Silk Crème: Used to be my favorite. But it took too much work to apply. It also doesn’t last very long. The color selection tends to be quite beige or gray.

Make Up Forever HD: Does not have any longevity.

Make Up Forever Mat Velvet+: Has a very powdery matte finish.

Make Up Forever Face and Body: Took too long to set due to its petrolatum content; had no longevity.

NARS Sheer Glow: Despite having a beautiful satin-matte finish, it also had no longevity.

NARS Sheer Matte: Odd color selections and a powdery matte finish.

Hourglass Immaculate Liquid Powder: Has a SUPER powdery matte finish that just looks very heavy and made up.

Clinique Perfectly Real: Quite a beautiful foundation, but provides only sheer-light coverage.

Clinique Acne Solutions Makeup: Again, only sheer-medium coverage.

Burberry Sheer Fluid Foundation: The fragrance was very strong, and the foundation did not last very long.

Illamasqua Skin Base: Again, no longevity despite the creamy matte finish.

Foundation Conclusion

I hope that was helpful and again, don’t hesitate to ask questions about any of the foundations. Also, feel free to share your Sephora (VIB) foundation purchases or shopping lists with us! Happy Shopping! And may the odds be ever…

Check our bestsellers!

  • @Maggie

    Thanks! I use the EltaMD SPF 47 sunscreen and the Paula’s Choice RESIST Clear Skin Hydrator as a mixing medium for nighttime applications of foundation. The latter is a lightweight moisturizer with good ingredients. However, I only use it for mixing with foundation and as an occasional eye cream. It’s not part of my regular set of moisturizers.

    Let me know how your mixing goes.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Maggie

    Wow–what a detailed post! Would you mind telling me what sunscreen(s) and moisturizer(s) you use to mix these foundations with? Or even how to choose one to mix foundations with? I’ve tried mixing before myself and I’ve never liked the end results.

  • @nelson

    Welcome! And you can still use a sponge if that’s what works best for you. Fingers just work best for me. 🙂

  • nelson

    (saw this a bit late) ah i see. i normally wet the triangle sponge, tear it up, and stipple the foundation all over. sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. oh well. will try your technique. HUGE THANKS ^_^ =D

  • @nelson

    Haha yeah, give the Shiseido a try. The Acne Solutions really is great too though.

    Yes, I always (and have to) powder in my routine. I’m not sure the ones I available in your area though. 🙁

    As for reducing the appearance of ice pick scars, you can:

    1. Use a spackle-textured primer to fill in those ice pick scars, and then go over them with sunscreen and/or foundation. My face is covered with scars, but I personally don’t take the time to fill in these scars. The most important thing is to not accentuate them. Plus, my sunscreen/moisturizer usually fills them in pretty well.

    2. When you apply powder, use a pat and roll motion, rather than big sweeping movements.

    3. Finally, after your whole face is done, take a tissue paper and lightly press over your entire face.

    I’m no makeup artist, but these are the things that I’ve found work for me.

    Oh and make sure to exfoliate regularly with hydroxy acids to create a smoother surface for cosmetic applications.

  • nelson

    ah i see. i’ll see if i can get my hands on shiseido’s dual balancing foundation. you already have another new post before i can finish! XD anyway, two more things. 1. do you use any powder in your foundation routine? if so, any recommendations? 2. any tips to prevent/reduce foundation from accentuating ‘ice pick’ acne scars?

  • @nelson

    Well, I wouldn’t say that the Stay Matte is THAT heavy. In terms of coverage, it’s about medium, and in terms of finish, it’s a natural matte. It’s just that the texture is more creamy rather than fluid. But it’s all a matter of personal perception. However, I do believe that compared to the Perfectly Real, the Stay Matte is significantly thicker in texture, so you may not like it as much. But mixing helps (depending on the moisturizer), so give it a try because you’ll never know.

    As for the other foundations and bb creams that you’ve linked, I can’t tell you how much you’ll like them. I can only tell you (and I’m sure you know this) that I’m not a fan of Asian-based cosmetics because of the lack of many shades; everything is always in a light pinky shade! I really wonder why people want to look like that… it looks terrible. But anyways, considering you’re around NC30-35, those definitely wouldn’t work out for you.

    I actually think that you’ll really like the Clinique Acne Solutions foundation! It’s very similar in texture and finish to the Perfectly Real, though it provides a tad bit more coverage. It does contain a bit of alcohol, but I don’t think it’s high enough to cause noticeable drying. I’d definitely recommend giving this a spin.

    Also, speaking of Shiseido, if you want a heavier coverage foundation, while still retaining the texture and finish of the Perfectly Real, the Dual Balancing foundation is an excellent choice.

    Both the Shiseido Perfectly Real and the Clinique Acne Solutions have better longevity (in my experience) than the Perfectly Real. So that’s a plus. But they’re not overly long-wearing unfortunately, but that’s okay, since it appears that’s not a characteristic you’re looking for.

    Let me know what you think!

  • nelson

    WOW stay matte sounds heavy based on your description. i’m assuming the texture will cause it to pool in ‘ice-pick’ acne scars? did the “1 part moisturiser/1 part stay matte” combo soften the heaviness of this foundation?

    i’ve gone through two tubes of perfectly real until they decide to phase it out. T.T i’m about nc30-35, and im 65 neutral (g) in perfectly real and 64 cream beige (m-g) in even better (i didn’t know clinique has a different shade palette in SEA until like yesterday? XD), so i think finding a shade in both perfectly real and stay matte should not be a problem.

    nope, i’ve not tried any laura mercier foundations. there are only like 3 laura mercier counters in malaysia if i’m not wrong, one in the mall near where i’m studying, and i’ll try it out once i’m back in uni(hopefully the salesperson are generous enough to provide samples XD). i’ve not tried a lot of high-end foundations to begin with. apart from clinique, ive tried a few shiseido and kanebo’s foundations, and i used to be around nc20-25, but now, i don’t know if they’ll have any shade that would match me anymore. not to mention they probably have reformulated/discontinued/changed whatever i was using back in the day.

    but for daytime use, i’ve been using liquid foundations and bb creams by kate (kanebo’s drugstore line), love the fact that they are alcohol-free (unlike most japanese brands), consist of at least THREE shades (most japanese and korean brands only have ONE miserable ashy-pinky shade), works well with my neutrogena ultra sheer dry touch, and they dry down to a creamy matte finish.

    KATE Mineral Liquid Foundation:

    KATE Mineral Cover BB Gel Cream:

    etude house (korean brand) recently also reformulated their bb creams to use consist of several neutral and warm shades. i’ve received a few sachets of their new bb creams and they’re lovely.

    ETUDE HOUSE AC Clinic Daily Sun BB:

    ETUDE HOUSE Precious Mineral BB Bright Fit:

    so i’m now just looking for a good (if not, better) dupe for perfectly real for evening wear


  • @nelson

    Hi! I’m glad to see you comment on here, and flattered that you chose this post on which to make your first comment! 🙂

    Now, I have tried the Clinique Stay Matte, and my conclusion is that it’s a medium-coverage, matte-finish foundation that tends to be overly peach or pink, though the shades are workable. However, it doesn’t work with my routine. Here’s why:

    1. As a daytime foundation, it has no UV filters… so that aspect automatically disqualifies it.

    2. As a nighttime foundation, because the texture is quite creamy rather than fluid, it’s more difficult to spread, blend, and mix with my moisturizer. Furthermore, because the finish is quite matte, though not too creamy or powdery (somewhere in the middle), it just doesn’t look as pleasant as my Teint Idole 24H/Smashbox Studio Skin combination; it tends to accentuate any imperfections like large pores, dry skin, etc… It takes a lot of work for this foundation to look good on my skin. Therefore, while the price is undeniably attractive (not to mention that it has quite good longevity), I have to pass.

    Oh, and if you’ve ever tried the Laura Mercier Silk Creme Foundation, the Clinique Stay Matte is its more matte, less-coverage, and less expensive cousin. Or sister… haha! And like the SIlk Creme, if you have fair skin, you may not be able to find a good matching shade. I’m about NC20 in MAC foundations and in both of these foundations, I was matched with the 2nd lightest shade.

    Also, I would do a drugstore foundation post… however, I’ve never tried a single drugstore foundation nor do I plan to. Obviously, I’ve tried so many foundations, but I don’t actually own the full sizes of most of them. I can only sample high-end foundations, and really, I’m paying for this sampling service when I eventually buy the $40ish foundations. But hey, I just like finding the perfect one(s), and I can’t do that at a drugstore.

    Does that make sense?

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • nelson

    hello! (my first time commenting here XD) what about clinique’s stay matte? have you tried that one? i personally really like perfectly real, but there’s no longevity due to the humidity over here. the finish and feel is exceptionally beautiful, nothing ive seen before in many foundations but sadly, over here in south east asia, perfectly real makeup is phased out for perfectly real powder compact. would you do a post on drugstore foundations?

  • @AwwRITE!

    You’re welcome!

  • AwwRITE!


  • @Sarah

    I do not wear primer underneath my sunscreen because my morning routine is already so long-wearing. To a lesser extent, the same applies for my evening routine. Also, I just don’t have any time to wait even more time on top of the time I already wait between application. However, if I do choose to use a primer in the evening, I’d use one of the mattifying ones that I recommended in this post:

    The Hourglass one is probably my favorite. But since it contains inorganic UV filters, if I were to take photos, I’d probably use the Paula’s Choice one since I have an almost full tube. I don’t have the other two in my collection at the moment. If I did, I’d choose the Smashbox one.

    And no, you don’t need a primer. The purpose of a primer is either to increase longevity and/or to create a smoother surface for the foundation to be applied upon. However, you don’t need protection from foundation… there’s nothing wrong with it. But a primer can create a temporary barrier so to speak. But so can a moisturizer. Again, make sure to read my definition of a moisturizer in this post:

    Thanks for commenting and reading!

  • @Pedro

    The Teint Idole holds up in any weather for me, but I’m glad to see that you’ve found a foundation that you really like too. Unfortunately, I cannot easily get access to non-USA foundations, but that’s perfectly fine. As you can tell, there are PLENTY to keep me busy and satisfied!

    Thanks for commenting.

  • @AwwRITE

    Thanks! I have tried the Armani Lasting Silk. I didn’t include it in the daytime sunscreen part because of the high amount of alcohol. Like my Teint Idole 24H, when combined with my already resistant sunscreen, it can dry my skin out. And it wasn’t included in the evening foundations section because it contains a lot of reflective TiO2, and it isn’t as long-wearing as the Teint Idole. So why would I consider it? Not to mention that it’s $20+ more expensive than the Lancome foundation. I also couldn’t get as close of a color match in the Armani. Oh and also, the Lasting Silk gives me more of a sheer-medium coverage, which isn’t something I’m really looking for. 🙁

    But yes, it’s a good foundation for oily skin types, though not as good as the Teint Idole in my opinion.

  • Sarah

    Thanks for another great post. I appreciate the detailed review. I love Nars Sheer Glow and the Laura Mercier Silk Creme foundation. For an Asian brand, I love Ipsa and RMK, too bad they don’t have counters here. Do you typically wear a primer underneath your sunscreen/foundation combo? I don’t, but in the Asian market, they are marketed as a skincare product that provides “protection” against the foundation, because it essentially creates a “barrier” between your skin and the foundation. Is that true?

  • Great post! In the Western market my favorite foundation is Lancôme Teint Idole, but in my opinion this foundation isn’t suitable for hot and humid days.

    But my really favorite foundation is that:

    I don’t know how to explain, but my skin looks clear with this super fluid foundation. And it lasts all day intact on my skin.

  • AwwRITE!

    This is an amazing post! I’m so happy to see so many foundations reviewed on one page. Have you tried Giorgio Armani Lasting Silk UV foundation? That’s what I use now and I’d be curious how it matches up against the others you’ve tried. It’s supposed to be good for people with oily skin types.

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