This New Foundation Promises Perfection—How It Compares to 2 Other Cult Classics
Welcome to Deep Reviews—your one-stop destination to discover the absolute best products and brands the beauty industry has to offer. The Who What Wear staffers you already know and trust will research, test, and review the market's most sought-after and buzzed-about products to see which formulas (of the hundreds up for consideration) are truly worth your hard-earned money and attention. You can expect honest, completely uncensored feedback and no-BS recommendations our hard-to-please testers endorse without reservations.
The majority of our Deep Reviews will feature our editors' honest, ultra-hot takes on entire product categories or multiple products from a particular beauty brand, but every so often, we'll sprinkle in a special single-product format called Honestly, I Love It. As the name suggests, these reviews will hone in on one standout beauty formula our editors quite literally can't shut up about. This time around, I'm highlighting Chanel's Noir ($48).
Fun fact: Laura Mercier's iconic Tinted Moisturizer ($29) was the first base product I ever, ever wore. It's undergone reformulations and new iterations (like this oil-free version) since its original debut back in 1996, but as far as all tinted moisturizers and skin tints go that have come since, Mercier's formula is the true OG. As the brand's Global Beauty Director Tayaba Jafri tells me, it's the product that launched the idea of "no-makeup makeup" into the beauty stratosphere.
My parents were never too strict with me regarding my beauty and fashion choices. Both my mom and dad are incredibly creative people, and, for better or for worse, they didn't intervene or create rules around how much or the type of makeup I wore. (Though, looking back at my bronzer-caked high school era, I kind of wish they had!) I cherished weekend trips to the mall with my mom, and Sephora, or the makeup counters at shiny retailers like Macy's or Nordstrom, were always a nonnegotiable pit stop. I don't remember how or why we landed on Laura Mercier's Tinted Moisturizer, but it became my go-to step each morning in junior high and the first few years of high school. It was that and a little of the brand's *also iconic* Secret Camouflage Concealer, a swipe of Maybelline Great Lash Mascara (IYKYK), and probably some MAC Clear Lipglass, and I was good to go. In later years, I graduated to a fuller-coverage foundation from the brand that was eventually discontinued, and in my time as a beauty editor, staples like the brand's Flawless Fusion Foundation and Concealer have been favorites. The brand holds a special place in my heart, as I feel it was really my first introduction to the world of makeup, so when I had the chance to try the newest foundation formula, I jumped.
As Jafri explained to me, the new foundation feels like the Tinted Moisturizer's "big sister" since it perpetuates the whole idea of "no-makeup makeup" (aka a practically non-detectable finish) but with more coverage. So, essentially, it sounded like my dream product. I am incredibly picky when it comes to foundation and while I crave a formula that has buildable, medium to full coverage, I want it to look and feel practically invisible on my skin. It's no small feat, but it's something the new Real Flawless Weightless Perfecting Foundation achieves spectacularly.
Prior to testing, I was super-satisfied with my go-to foundation and had low expectations that anything else I tried could feel superior. Well, here I am with my tail between my legs because, in complete honesty, the new Real Flawless foundation is one of the best formulas I've ever tried and is now my favorite product within Mercier's wardrobe of cult-classic foundations.
"The Real Flawless Weightless Perfecting Foundation provides the most natural finish with medium buildable coverage," shares Jafri. "It does this with high-resolution pigments that allow you to get a perfect finish without compromising the texture of the skin. Essentially, you'll forget you are wearing any makeup."
Skin prep can make or break the products you apply afterward, so after layering my face with my favorite serum, moisturizer, and hydrating primer, I followed Jafri's advice to give the bottle a few pumps on the back of my hand, and use a makeup brush to start buffing and blending the foundation into my skin.
"Lack of quantity control happens with more relaxed methods like when people put dots of foundation in areas of their face and then start to blend it out from there," warns Jafri. "This doesn't give the dosage control that's needed in order to create a believable finish that will enhance the natural texture of your skin—always use the back of the hand as a product reservoir and use the correct tool."
My first reaction as I began applying? "Oh my god, this feels good." I could immediately tell that the coverage was, indeed, weightless, but also incredibly buildable with a surprisingly satisfying amount of coverage considering how lightweight and serum-like the consistency is. And, just as Jafri had predicted during our interview, a little bit went a long, long way. "A little goes a long way in makeup, she reiterates. "The perfect finish and application involve the product, the tool, and also the technique."
As you can see in the photo, my skin still looks like my skin. For instance, I loved that you could still see a hint of my freckles peeking through around my nose and cheeks while other "problem areas" like dark circles and some light sun-induced pigmentation had been filtered away. My skin felt like it could breathe, and it also bouncy, radiant, and healthy—without appearing overly luminous or shiny. Truly, it's everything I've ever wanted in a foundation, and I was floored.
Since Laura Mercier is known for its "Flawless Face" technique (a pivotal and signature concept since the brand's inception) and cult-loved base products, I thought I'd take my testing process to the next level by trying the new Real Flawless Weightless Perfecting Foundation in tandem with other brand faves like the Tinted Moisturizer (as an oily person I went with the oil-free option) and the Flawless Lumière Radiance-Perfecting Foundation ($49), a luminous liquid foundation that promises hydration, weightless, medium-to-full coverage, and 15 hours of wear.
To compare, you can see each of the products above, and to keep things fair, I prepped my skin the same way for each. Out of the three, the new Real Flawless Foundation was hands down my favorite. The texture and finish are just so dreamy, and I truly felt it "perfected" my skin, just as the name suggests. Next would be the Lumière. I've used this foundation in the past, and I like it, but it definitely feels a little bit heavier on the skin and didn't blend quite as seamlessly as the Real Flawless. I would still highly recommend it and use it, but pressed, I would reach for the Real Flawless first. I'd rank the Tinted Moisturizer third. I had some issues with pilling (something I've heard other people mention with the oil-free formula, in particular), and as someone who just wants a bit more coverage, it left me wanting more. That said, I love that it has the addition of SPF, and it's a great apply-and-go formula for days when you just want a little somethin'-somethin' on your face for added camouflage and environmental protection. It won't be something I reach for regularly, but I'm not writing it off!
So, what is it about the Real Flawless formula that just makes it so dang exceptional? Well, it's a few things actually. The brand has injected the foundation with a host of amazing ingredients that work together to deliver a filtered, airbrush-like finish that actually lasts; think 3D Smooth Priming Powders, a special color-perfecting technology, blurring bamboo silk powders, antioxidants like camelia seed, vitamin E, and cacao extract, and last but not least, a Hydro-Lipid Matrix. Not to mention that it has the added benefits of being waterproof and remaining fade- and cake-free for an impressive 12 hours of wear.
"This foundation has our Perfecting Color Technology, which is high-resolution pigments that enliven the complexion and lift sallowness and dullness," Jafri explains. "This provides a highly perfecting, cake-free finish with less product. We also infuse skin-loving ingredients with our Auto-Balancing Technology which helps balance moisture and shine control throughout the day."
Photo:Courtesy of Laura Mercier
In addition to sharing the nuts and bolts of the new foundation with me, I also asked Jafri for some words of wisdom on color-matching and other dos and don'ts when it comes to all things foundation.
To find your perfect shade, Jafri says to look at your face, neck, shoulders, and decolletage. Plus, it's important to take into account whether or not you enjoy being out in the sun. "As you swatch three shades along the jawline, look at all these areas to ensure you have a shade that is harmonious with all of them," she notes. "We call this the 360-degree shade match."
To apply your foundation like a pro, pump foundation on the back of your hand, dip the brush into the foundation, and then tap a couple of times to desaturate and get the product even within the bristles. Then, swipe and blend it onto the face. "Taking the extra moment to load your brush well saves a lot of time and gives you the most natural application," says Jafri.
To prep the skin and cocktail your makeup products for the most natural finish, prioritize primer and strategic products that encourage longevity. "The first step of the Flawless Face technique is primer," explains Jafri. "Laura Mercier was the first to introduce primer to the beauty industry and make it available to everyone. Previously, it was a pro-product for photoshoots. After primer, apply your foundation. Concealers for under the eye or the face should be applied next and only where needed, and then set with our Translucent Loose Setting Powder to get 16 hours of wear."
To keep your makeup looking fresh all day and night, choosing the right setting products for your skin is key. "If you are prone to shine breaking up your makeup during the day, using a loose setting powder is a must," reiterates Jafri. "If you are more dry and like to maintain a glow, then choosing a setting spray is a better choice."
Shop Laura Mercier's Iconic Products
Both Jafri and I are pro-primer people. For a smooth, well-watered canvas, this beloved water-based primer will come in clutch. It helps your skin hold on to essential moisture while also extending the look and wear of the makeup you apply afterward.
If you're like me and like a little extra help in the glow department, I recommend this Illuminating version which features light-reflecting pearls and porcelain flower extract to support immediate and long-term skin luminosity.
Does any other loose setting powder even exist? Kidding, but this is such a cult favorite for a good reason! It's boosted with vitamins C and E plus Botanical Blurring and Skin Conditioning powders that tag-team to effortlessly set your makeup for up to 16 hours whilst also keeping you shine-free for 24 hours.
Laura Mercier is also famous for its concealers, most notably, this OG Secret Camouflage palette. Thanks to its signature two-shade system, you can handily tackle dark circles, breakouts, scars, minor imperfections, and discoloration in one fell swoop.
We love a multitasking product that helps us work smarter, not harder. This dual-ended, full-coverage concealer applies weightlessly to the skin, deletes imperfections, and brightens up the under-eye area right before your eyes. (You can blame the strategic additions like Spherical Blurring Powders, pearls and plant extracts, and plant-derived squalane for the night-and-day difference.)