Makeup for Pale Skin: NARS Sheer Matte Foundation in ‘Siberia’
Whenever I write about makeup for pale skin, NARS ‘Siberia’ always comes up in the comments. This is the palest shade of foundation NARS do, and it’s available in both their NARS Sheer Matte Foundation and the Sheer Glow version. My oil slick of a t-zone provides enough of a “glow” for me most of the time, so the matte foundation was the obvious choice for me, here. (For those of you who’ve never been exposed to my ramblings on the subject of makeup for pale skin, I have combination skin, with the aforementioned super-shiny t-zone, and generally favour full-coverage foundations: think Revlon Colorstay, for instance. Or the kind of paint you put on your walls…)
Here’s what it says on the box:
NARS Sheer Matte Foundation: An oil-free, soft-matte-finish foundation with sheer, buildable coverage that controls shine throughout the day while evening the skin tone. Replete with skincare benefits and the NARS Complexion Brightening Formula, it leaves skin more luminous, softer and smoother. Used daily, NARS Sheer Matte Foundation improves the skin’s brightness and texture.NATS
Now, the use of the word “sheer” in the product name was, admittedly, a bit of a concern for me, because “sheer” and me, we don’t get on. I DID, however, like the “complexion brightening” bit, and I’m a sucker for anything that promises to make me “more luminous”, so I decided to take the plunge. I’m a big NARS fan, anyway: I’ve been using their blush (in ‘Orgasm’) and highlighter (in ‘Copacabana’) for years now, so I figured I was in safe hands here. Also: “more luminous”! Bring it!
Well, the product duly arrived (I ordered mine from ASOS, mostly because that allowed me to add a cheeky little pair of capri pants to my order, too. It doesn’t count if you order it with something you HAD to buy anyway, does it?), and the first thing I did was to get out all of my other foundations so I could compare the colour, because when you’re on a constant, never-ending search for makeup for pale skin, sometimes ‘how pale is it?’ feels like the only question that matters, doesn’t it?
And the answer?
Swatched! NARS Sheer Matte Foundation in Siberia
It’s pale. It actually doesn’t LOOK particularly pale right out of the bottle, but it sets to a shade that’s a pretty good match for my face (bear in mind that the swatch above is on the underside of my arm), if yellower than I’d like. Overall, though, I’d say it’s definitely one of the paler shades of foundation I’ve come across, so definitely a good makeup for pale skin – colour wise, at least. [FORESHADOWING!]
The next thing I did was to line up all of the foundation bottles and take photos of them, because doesn’t everyone do that? And also because it’ll hopefully be more useful for you than seeing the colour swatch in isolation:
Makeup for pale skin: L-R Illamasqua Skin Base, NARS Sheer Matte Foundation, MAC Studio Fix
So, from left to right we have our old friends (and, in Illamasqua’s case, old foes…) Illamasqua Skin Base Foundation in 02, NARS Sheer Matte Foundation in ‘Siberia’ and MAC Studio Fix Foundation in NW10. Ol’ MAC here is looking a bit the worse for wear, as you can see. Rough night for him.
I’m not the best at taking photos of my own arms, unfortunately, but as you can (hopefully) see, this is a little darker than the Illamasqua foundation, and yellower than the MAC. Of the three, MAC NW10 comes the closest to matching my pinkish undertones, but is a little darker than I’d like: the search for makeup for pale skin, it never ends.*
Finally, after all of that comparing-of-colours and photographing-of-arms, it was time to actually TRY the stuff. On my face. And guys?
I HATED it.
Like, absolutely HATED it.
My initial experience with this was actually pretty similar to the one I had with Illamasqua Skin Base, and I almost didn’t write this review because of it. This foundation, you see, gets GLOWING reviews from almost everyone: I seem to be the only person who doesn’t get on with it, and to be honest, I was starting to think the problem was ME rather than the foundation. The first few times I used it, it just looked horrible: I found it cakey, flakey, and very visible on the skin. Far from the “luminous” complexion I was expecting, this actually made my skin look worse than it did before I’d applied it. My first application was with a foundation brush, and I was left with very visible brush strokes, plus creasing under the eyes and flaking around the nose. Coverage was medium, but made my skin look dull and tired. I actually hated it so much, I ended up running out and buying an emergency drugstore foundation (which I’ll also be reviewing soon), because my MAC Studio Fix is almost done, and I hated the thought of being left with just this and the Illamasqua, which I find even worse.
Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to experiment with this, though. I tried it with various different primers, and without ANY primer. I tried applying it with a foundation brush, a stippling brush, my fingers… Eventually I seemed to reach a point where it became wearable: I wouldn’t say I LIKE it, particularly (I still feel it makes my skin look dull and highlights the drier skin around my eyes and nose horribly), but I can actually wear it, as long as I always use primer, and apply it very sparingly, with a stippling brush. By doing that, I’ll be able to use this up on the days I don’t have anything special planned, but I wouldn’t buy it again, because it’s much too expensive to just use as a backup.
As I said above, I almost didn’t write this review because I don’t want to put people off: this gets SO many great reviews that I’m convinced I must be one of the few people who DOESN’T love it. I do think it’s a great shade for pale skin, however, so if you’re in that category, I guess my best advice would be to visit a NARS counter and try to pick up a sample first: just because it didn’t work out for me, it doesn’t mean it won’t be great for you!
(P.S. I did actually take “before and after” photos for this post, but photographing my own arms isn’t the only skill I lack: my skin looks much better than it does in ‘real life’ in the before photos, and the foundation looks much better than it does in ‘real life’ in the after ones, so you really can’t see much of a difference. I’ll try to do better next time…)
Anyone else tried Sheer Matte Foundation? What did you think of it?
*The search actually DOES end: right after I bought this, I happened to be looking at the Bobbi Brown website, and realised they’ve started selling their ‘Alabaster’ shade in the UK again. I know! This is my absolute favourite makeup for pale skin, and I was gutted when it was discontinued, so I’ll be stocking up soon. I just wish I’d realised it was available in the UK again before I’d bought this one!