Sunday, June 5, 2011

Alima Pure Foundation

I research obsessively.  If there were a 12-step program for it, I would be a prime candidate.  I tend to feel that if I'm going to be spending my money on something, I want it to be the very best it can be.  I do the same for restaurants, as my friends can attest, and hotels, and beer, and I would do it for wine as well, except that all the wine rating sites cost money, which I am of course morally opposed to.  Therefore, when I started looking into mineral makeup, I went a leetle overboard with my investigatory efforts.  I read that Bare Escentuals irritated a lot of people's skin, because of the bismuth oxychloride in it, and that plus the fact that it's $25 for a jar of foundation with no sample options decided my mind against them.  Everyday Minerals was another popular choice, but many people said the variety in foundation formulas was confusing, and that their revamped formulas didn't work as well.  I eventually decided to try Alima Pure because of the generally positive reviews, the extremely wide color selection, and the fact that it's from my home state.
Samples are $1.50, and you can buy 6 and have 2-day shipping (across the country) for $2, bringing the total to $11.  Since I hate paying for shipping, I was attracted by the low cost for Alima and speedy service.

Their website is attractive and easily navigated; there's no annoying flash animations or confusing organizational schemes.  The search box is conveniently located, and the products are grouped according to type and finish.  You can also create an account and save your cart contents.  They have foundation, various powders (base and setting), concealer, blush, eyeshadow, and a balm-like lipstick which I haven't yet tried, as well as brushes.

The reviews I read said that their lightest foundations are extremely light, but I didn't realize how true that was.  As someone who burns after 10 minutes in the sun, and for whom "tan" is "less translucent", I figured I should be the second-lightest shade, if not the lightest (the shades range from 0 to 9).  Alima comes in 6 color families: Cool, Neutral, Beige, Warm, Golden, and Olive.  I tend to think of myself as cool-toned, but decided to order some neutral shades as well.  It took me several more orders before I found a mixture that worked for me, but here is what I learned along the way:
1) Unless you are actually albino, or extremely redheaded, the 0 level colors in Cool and Neutral are going to be entirely too light on you.  They certainly were on me.
2) Unless you are really pink all over, the Cool shades will be too pink.  They are extremely cool.  So cool that I ultimately decided there was no way to get them to work on me (it's amazing the things you learn about your skintone when trying to find the right MMU!)
3) In spite of there being 60 shades in Alima's range, be open to the possibility of blends.  You can only order 2 samples of one color at once, but if you can combine 2+ colors together to get a match, you don't have to buy a full-size foundation and can instead just mix your own ($11 versus $22, though it does require a separate sifter jar; I got one at Sephora for $4, which is reusable).
4) Try shades from a wide range of color families and depths.  Even though I started my Alima quest in the winter, when I'm at my palest and coolest, the pale cool tones just didn't work on me.  You have to be open to playing around with the possibilities--which also means having to accept that you'll probably have to order more than once.  As a bonus, though, you get 3 free samples with every order, picked by the Alima people to go with the shades you ordered, which can be a fun way to experiment with their other products.
5) The Neutral shades are actually neutral-cool; for a true neutral, I find mixing Neutral with Beige works best.  I would actually recommend starting with Neutrals and Beiges just to get a feel for whether you need to go warmer or cooler, though that should depend somewhat on your ethnicity--Asians won't need Cool, and Swedes won't need Olive.  I don't know how the deeper/darker colors work, so I sadly can't give any tips on what range you should start in, though I recommend Temptalia's foundation matrix for a handy start; it should be able to give you a general sense for what number you should get.
6) You can also email the people at Alima for suggestions of what foundation they think would work well on you; if you have a foundation that you already wear that is good color-wise, tell them, and in theory they can give you a sense for what would work in Alima (I say "in theory" because they never got back to me with answers, so I had to figure it out on my own--however, I would think that the info I gave them might have led them to similar conclusions as I drew myself, which wouldn't have helped speed the process any.  Still, not an ideal experience).

So, I've found that a blend of
Neutral 1 1 x Neutral 1
Neutral 2 1 x Neutral 2
Beige 1 2 x Beige 1
Beige 2 2 x Beige 2
works for my current skin, though I may have to add a little more Beige 2 if I get any tanner (seriously, the irony of me talking about tanning cannot be overemphasized).  That amount should last me at least 2 months, not bad considering I apply it 1-2 times a day.

Now that the shade discussions are out of the way, let me talk a little about performance.  Alima foundation is pretty sheer; I'd put it at light-to-medium buildable coverage.  If you have any major blemishes, I suggest either putting concealer on before any powder (I'm currently using Mark's concealer stick, review coming soon), or adding more foundation or concealer powder on top after with a smaller brush.  I find that tapping a little powder out into the lid of my jar, tapping my flat-headed E.L.F. brush in it several times before tapping (lots of tapping involved, yes) the edge of the brush against the rim of the lid to get rid of excess, then applying in a circular motion from my forehead around my face to my chin and back up, then blending, works to give a very light layer that I can then blend in further (no need to buff, though, which is great) and add to if I feel I need to.  The foundation doesn't last all day--more like 6 hours, but my current lifestyle is such that I can reapply after that time if I need to.  I always top with my Mattify! powder for extra oil-control and staying power, but I'll definitely be test-driving other brands of MMU for coverage and longevity in the future!  In fact, I have a handy Google Doc with my wishlist all set I just need to find that money tree.

$22 for 0.24 oz, available from Alima Pure

Pros: Wide color-range, cheap big samples (in jars instead of the more usual baggies), supporting a small company, no harmful additives (at most 4 ingredients!), non-irritating, non-shiny
Cons: Can be overwhelming, color-matching requests may go unanswered, doesn't last all day, sheer coverage has to be supplemented by other products

Price: 8 (the full-size containers are expensive, but the generous sample sizes and speedy delivery make up for that; the biggest drawback is that $11/order adds up fast if you have to order several times to find your color)
Value: 9 (the samples last a very long time, particularly the blush samples, and if you combine foundation samples, it's an excellent deal!)
Quality: 15 (smooth, silky, and non-irritating)
Pigmentation: 4 (a bit sheer, though definitely buildable)
Duration: 4
Consistency: 5
Grade: A-

Alima offers some other products as well; I'll be reviewing their blushes in a separate post (get psyched!), but a brief summary of some of the other products I've tried and my thoughts on them:
Finishing powder: Yuki is extremely pale.  Unless you are one of the afore-mentioned albinos, stick with Keiko.  They both work fine as a finishing powder, though they don't have enough oil control for me, so I use my Mattify! instead.
Primer: I found I had to use too much to get the effect I wanted, but it may work well for those who aren't as oily.
Eyeshadow: Mineral eyeshadow and me do not get along well.  Like, at all.  I think they're just too high-maintenance for me.  Since I have to do my eye makeup without my glasses on, I am effectively blind, and anything more complicated than simple pressed powder eyeshadow tends to end up all over my face.  Not ideal.  If you can do loose eyeshadow, I would say give Alima a try--it's just not something I'm really suited for.

What about you?  Have you tried Alima, or other MMU brands?  What's your take on them?  Do you like the variety or find it overwhelming?
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