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Anyone who knows me knows that I love foundation. Correction – I love certain foundations. When I find ones that I like, I hoard them like a some kind of giant Italian river rat gathering bread rolls. My foundation ideal is simple: something that produces perfect, glowing, even skin that’s visually undetectable, even up-close and in daylight. Oh, and it should double as a skin treatment. Too much to ask for? I think not.
When I arrived at the Chateau Marmont last month for ILIA’s new product unveiling, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Before that lunch, for me, ILIA was synonymous with “clean beauty” and coconut oil. I have super sensitive skin that can break out at a moment’s notice, so coconut oil is like garlic to my inner vampire. When I met Sasha Plavsic, ILIA’s founder, I liked her right away. I took a seat in front of a lovely nude rubbery pouch filled with new products, “We’ve taken out all the silicones and made them into a bag for you,” Plavsic joked when I commented on how much I liked the take-away gift.
The table was lined with the kind of white, matte makeup bottles that I love to take pictures of and keep on my vanity. The product, Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40, comes in 18 shades, and features a fancy form of non-nano micronized zinc oxide. The repackaging of the products immediately struck me as a major upgrade. And then Sasha started talking about transitioning her products from natural to “clean” by scientific standards, and my ears perked up with genuine enthusiasm that I don’t feel very often around at product launches.
There are a lot of conversations and questions around “clean beauty” designations and how they differ from “all-natural”, “organic”, etc. The EU and Britain have now banned over 1,400 chemicals and ingredients from their cosmetics and skincare products. The U.S. still only outlaws 11. That’s why the U.S. needs green stickers and certain labels at makeup stores, but even then, there's no FDA-approved definition of "clean" when it comes to beauty (Byrdie has its own Clean Beauty Pledge for that reason alone). Personally, I know that any product made in Europe is not going to contain potentially-harmful chemicals like toulene, parabens, and phthalates.
That being said, many all-natural and organic products break me out, like the aforementioned coconut oil, and other potent or pore-clogging essential oils. Sasha Plavsic from ILIA also had acne issues, she tells me. “Will this make me break out?” is a question she and I both ask ourselves, and often. That’s one of the reasons she wanted to make Skin Tint a treatment as well as a makeup product. In addition to plant-based squalane, one of the most hydrating and non-comedogenic oils available on the market, Skin Tint also has niacinamide, which is a form of vitamin B3 known to treat breakouts and congestion.
What was the hardest part about making this product, I ask Plavsic on an exclusive phone call. Without hesitating, “Most definitely the zinc,” she says. “Getting it to perform in a different way. Most non-nano zinc (when zinc has been reduced to a smaller sized particle) have a coating from a silicone that coats the pigment”. Plavsic calls this effect “ghosting”. I’m very familiar with the kind of ghosting that involves me, a DJ, and a deluge of unanswered texts, but as someone who neglects sunscreen, I’d never heard it used in this context. To offset the ghosting effect of sunscreen in makeup, Plavsic and her R&D team created this patent-pending formula. One of the other things Plavsic feels quite proud of is achieving a deep color with zinc oxide, but her new product’s inclusivity reaches beyond that. With varying undertones and light coverage, I’m confident that most people will be able to find their matching shade. After swatching the fairest shade, it was obvious to me that it would be perfect for someone like my sister that never sees the light of day, and whose pale skintone resembles a Christmas sugar cookie. She’s always had a hard time finding an ultra-fair foundation.
My favorite way to assess foundation is by doing a 12-hour wear test. I work from home, so I rarely wear foundation for longer than 3-4 hours. Most of my friends, however, work in-office jobs and leave home in the morning to return after dinner. Making sure a foundation can wear throughout the day is important, so a 12-hour test seems like the best metric for me. Read below to see exactly how ILIA’s brand new Skin Tint stacked up.
My Honest Review of ILIA's New Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
8 a.m.: Plavsic told me to shake the product really well before applying it. I use my fingers to smear the Skin Tint on dry, freshly-exfoliated skin. The product has a brief white cast when its first applied. Plavsic explains that this initial whiteness is ILIA’s proprietary micronized zinc activating and going to work. It takes about 30 to 60 seconds for the color to oxidize. I usually prime my skin with either squalane oil, or Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Face Cream Rich, but since the Skin Tint has squalane oil already, I skipped any prep. There’s absolutely no fragrance, and the texture is amazing. It feels like one of my favorite hyaluronic acid serums. The finish is super dewy and the coverage is light-to-medium, but very easily buildable. The consistency is liquid-y and reminds me of my beloved Kosas Tinted Face Oil. My skin is pretty good today; I have a couple of breakouts healing on my cheek and chin, and my eyes have the same usual veiny discoloration that borders on Frankenstein depending on my sleep quality.
I use my favorite under-eye product for my dark circles: Corrector from Clé de Peau. Seriously – I would die without this. I dab some onto my blemishes for extra coverage.
9 a.m.: The product is fully soaked into my skin like a ladyfinger in tiramisu. I dermaplane regularly once a week, so I think that products generally absorb better on my face since it lacks peach fuzz and dead skin.
10 a.m.: I powder my nose a bit because I’m going to an art fair with a guy I’m obsessed with, and I’ll probably be sweating from nerves. To my surprise, my pores look pretty good and unnoticeable. That’s rare for me with a product without silicones. For reference, my gay best friend, Zach, once asked me if I had had a nose piercing that I had taken out. He was referring to an enlarged pore on my nose. Thanks, rhinoplasties.
1p.m.: I go to the bathroom during my day-date to check my face. It looks really even and dewy, despite two glasses of champagne, direct sun, and running into several people that make my skin crawl. I reapply my Clé de Peau Corrector to a couple of spots of discoloration. It’s a sunny, 70 degree day in L.A., yet my oil levels are not crazy by any means.
3 p.m.: It’s time for sushi after the art fair, and the Japanese maître d’ compliments my skin. I’m over-the-moon. I could use a little bit more powder around my T-zone. Luckily, Laura Mercier makes a translucent powder small enough to fit into my tiny purses (it even comes with a teeny puff!). I re-powder before the green tea mochi comes out.
5:30 p.m.: My skin feels really good, and not cakey or claustrophobic like I would expect after wearing foundation all morning/day. I’m checking for my biggest pet-peeves: creasing and dry patches. I see a little dryness around my mouth, but a dry chin is normal for me, thanks to perioral dermatitis. I head out for an early dinner.
8 p.m.: My day of testing ILIA’s brand new Skin Tint is complete, and the results are clear: this product is that Bengal cat’s pajamas. February in L.A. already feels like summer, so I’m jumping on the fresh, dewy skin look early – not that I ever stray away from it.