Friday, July 22, 2011

Meow Cosmetics Foundation Review and Swatches

I'm sorry this review has taken me such an inordinately long time to post!  It's really, really exhaustively long, but I've tried to bold the important parts if you just want to skim.  On the upside, I've had the chance to review another shipment I got from them, so this includes more foundations than it would have originally.  It's quite pic heavy, and I am very verbose, but I hope you find it informative!

Meow Cosmetics is one of the better-known mineral makeup companies online, particularly for their foundations, which I'll be reviewing in this post.  Before I do that, though, I'd like to discuss the Meow shopping experience, because there are some MAJOR flaws.
Their website is very bright and flashy, quite the opposite of Alima's sleek design and layout.  I'm not crazy about it, but it's not really too annoying, either.  What is annoying is the navigation.  Serious, serious problems there.  For one thing, as far as I can tell, there is no search box, so if you want to, say, see a blush swatch, you have to click the right sequence of links to get yourself there.  Incredibly time inefficient and frustrating, especially if you don't remember which (of the many!) blush collections that particular blush belonged in.  Another thing is that they have special collections with eyeshadows and/or blush, which are not grouped with the other eyeshadows and/or blushes.  I was looking to order some blush samples from them, and navigated to the blush main page, which gives several categories of blush collections (normal Blush, VIP, Taboo, Lush Flush, etc.) which you can click on and see--there's no way to see all of the blush options at once, though.  However, if you want to see the blushes from the Caribbean collection or Pink Inc, you have to go to the "What's New at Meow" link on the left nav bar, scroll down to the collection, and click on the relevant link there.  I love how many options they have, but I loathe how it's impossible to easily compare them.  Another frustrating thing is that they don't show the swatches of products in the cart; this may not seem like that big a deal, but it's immensely helpful to have pictures of everything in your cart so that you can see if there are things that are too similar to warrant buying both, or if there's a color you're lacking.  Lastly, while the cat nomenclature is cute and all, it's not particularly helpful in remembering what's what.  You have to just memorize that Purrrfect is the light-medium coverage foundation, that Pampered is medium-heavy, and the Flawless is heavy, and that Siamese is the neutral group, Chausie is cool pink, Abyssinian is beige/yellow, and on and on.  Not to mention the color depth terms!  Inquisitive is the lightest option (0), then Sleek, then Frisky, down to Independent (6).  You seriously need to have a separate document open just to keep track of what it is you're trying to order.  So overall, in terms of how pleasant the shopping experience was and how intuitive the website is, Meow gets a C-.  Maybe even a D.

Having gotten that rant out of the way, though, let's turn to the actual foundation product!  I'll be referring to the foundations both by their Meow-given name and their actual meaning (meaning in parentheses), so I apologize if the names are really long.  I figure it's better to give you too much info than have you scratching your head wondering what, exactly, I'm trying to say.

There are 13 different color groups, which is really, really overwhelming.  I'm glad I started with Alima, because I had a better idea of what color family I should be looking to in Meow.  There is a really helpful guide on Essential Day Spa (about 2/3 down the page) for how to start figuring out your undertone, so that's a good place to check out if you're not sure what you are.

I thought that Siamese (the neutral group) would probably be the likeliest to work for me, but figured I should get a couple of options in either direction as well.  Thanks to Alima, I knew not to get the lightest (0, Inquisitive) shade, and figured since I'm between a 1 and 2 in their formulation (on a scale of 0 to 9), a 1 in Meow should be just right (on a scale of 0 to 6).  So in each hue group I chose, I ordered the 1 (Sleek) level.

There's also 3 different formulations for the foundation, as described above.  I thought that Pampered (the medium-heavy coverage foundation) would be the best bet overall, since it would hopefully cover everything that needed covering, while still being buildable, but I also wanted to try the other formulations as well, so I ordered the Siamese (neutral) in all 3 formulas.

Here are my thoughts on each of the colors I tried, with swatches (the swatches where my arm is red were when I was bending down, which hopefully serves to emphasize the color of the foundation?; also, note that these are very heavy swatches, and that the foundation blends beautifully when worn):

Purrrfect Sleek Siamese (Light [level 1] neutral light-medium)
   This seems to have about the same level of coverage as the Alima; I would say light-medium coverage is a pretty accurate description.  It doesn't do as good a job of controlling my oilies as the other formulations, and it doesn't last as long, but if all you're needing is a lightweight way to even out skintone, the Purrrfect would probably be a good choice.  (I gave away the sample of this, so I sadly don't have a swatch of it.)

Sleek Siamese (light neutral), Pampered (medium-heavy coverage) on the left, Flawless (heavy coverage) on the right
Pampered Sleek Siamese (Light neutral medium-heavy)
   This offers more coverage and oil control than the light-medium formulation (Purrrrfect), but the color is a little darker--not really sure why that is.  I imagine this would be the best formulation for most people, since it's buildable (and therefore more flexible) but still offers decent coverage.  It lasted a big chunk of the day (~5 hours) on me without needing to be redone, and with minimal fading and oily breakthrough.

Flawless Sleek Siamese (Light neutral heavy)
   I tried combining the medium-heavy coverage (Pampered) and the heavy coverage foundations (Flawless), which offered a very nice level of coverage for me--it was medium verging on full coverage, and it lasted upwards of an hour longer than the Pampered alone without looking like it needed to be reapplied.
  The Flawless formulation is definitely full-coverage, and works really well for me.  I didn't even need concealer!  It also lasted really well through some sweating and general oiliness, and didn't feel heavy while doing so.  You do only need a small amount of it to get good coverage (with sufficient blending, of course), and using too much will make you look powdery and fake, which, on the upside, means you can stretch the amount they give you for a long time!  However, if you only have minor skin discolorations or blemishes (or just want some evening out), you would probably find the Flawless too heavy.  As it's the most pigmented, it is also likelier to give the dreaded mask-face if the color isn't just right, so even if you are looking for a lot of coverage and oil control, be sure to try out a range of shades in both Pampered and Flawless so you can find the one that works best for you.

Descriptions of the level of coverage will apply to all the following swatches/breeds, so I will just note how the color worked for me.

Sleek Korat (light golden-yellow), Pampered (medium-heavy) on the left, Flawless (heavy) on the right
Pampered Sleek Korat (light golden yellow medium-heavy):
This blends in very well with my arm skin (top photo, at least), but is a little too light for my face and doesn't offer quite enough coverage.

Flawless Sleek Korat (light golden yellow heavy):
This looks a little pale on my arm, but it actually works quite well to disguise redness in my face.  I do feel like I need more of it than the Siamese, though, because the difference between foundationed skin and non-foundationed skin is more evident (since it's so yellow).

Sleek Mau (light warm), Pampered (medium-heavy) on the left, Flawless (heavy) on the right
Pampered Sleek Mau (light warm medium-heavy):
This looks very similar to Pampered Siamese on my arm, though a bit pinker.

Flawless Sleek Mau (light warm heavy):
The pinkness really shows up in the flawless formulation, which makes it a little too pink for my face; however, when I combine it with Korat (golden yellow), I get a color similar to Siamese (neutral) which is great!

Pampered Sleek Sphynx (light beige/pink/peach medium-heavy) on the left, Pampered Sleek Persian (light peach medium-heavy) on the right
Pampered Sleek Sphynx (light beige/pink/peach medium-heavy):
This was too orangey on me, resulting in a flushed look.  I should really learn to stay away from anything with "pink" or "peach" in the descriptor, since that pretty much guarantees it's going to make me look flushed.

Pampered Sleek Persian (Light peach medium-heavy)
   This was even more "too pink" on me (though I realize really, it was too peach, but whatevs).  Lesson learned...

The formula is slightly finer than Alima; it tends to kick up more dust, rather than dropping larger pieces, which would happen with Alima if I had too much on my brush.  The Meow also blends better than Alima, and has practically none of the powderiness that plagues most mineral foundations.  Whereas I often feel the need to spritz water on my face after applying Alima, the Meow immediately looks like I've been wearing it for an hour (after which point MMU has melded with your face).

Besides the range of shades and coverage, blendability, and texture, the thing I love most about Meow is how well it controls my oilies.  Part of this is thanks to the Top Cat Finishing Powder (review to come!), but after much experimentation, I can safely say the foundation also helps a lot.  With Mattify! as a primer, Meow foundation, and Top Cat finishing powder, I am shine-free for 8+ hours.  This is freaking unbelievable, let me tell you!  My sea salt toner definitely helps cut down on my oil production, but it doesn't get rid of it entirely, so Meow is great at picking up the slack.

Lastly, I want to talk about the price/value.  Meow comes in three sizes: samples, Munchkins, and full size.  The Munchkins are 6-8 g of product in a 25 g sifter jar for $11-15 (depending on the formulation chosen; Purrrfect < Pampered < Flawless).  Assuming 7 g of product and Pampered formulation, Meow Munchkins cost $1.86/g.  The full sizes are 22-30 g of product in a 85 g (3 oz) sifter jar (which is HUGE) for $22-27.  Assuming 26 g of product and Pampered formulation ($24), the full size Meows cost $0.93/g.  Here are some comparisons to other niche and high-end MMU prices:
Alima: 7.5 g for $22, or $2.93/g
Bare Escentuals' regular foundation: 8 g for $25, or $3.13/g
Bare Escentuals' matte foundation: 5.7 g for $28, or $4.90/g
Laura Mercier: 9.3 g for $35, or $3.76/g
Urban Decay: 8.5 g for $30, or $3.53/g
Everyday Minerals: 5.5 g for $12, or $2.18/g

Compared to other brands of its ilk, Meow is by far the cheapest, even when you get the smaller size.  Compared to drugstore brands, Meow is more expensive (Maybelline is $1/g, L'Oreal is $1.25) but also higher performing, with a much larger range of colors and finishes.  Bottom line?  If you're wanting a high-quality, natural MMU, Meow would be hard to beat for value.

If you have oily skin, give Meow a try.  If you've never been able to make MMU work for you, give Meow a try.  If you ever think you may want to wear foundation, give Meow a try.  Their samples are a great way to play with the colors and formulas, and if you follow them on Twitter (or on Google Reader, as I do) you can hear about sales and free shipping promotions, which come up very frequently.

One last swatch of them all lined up:
Left to right, all Sleek: Pampered Korat (off to the very far left, you can't really see it), Flawless Korat, Pampered Siamese, Flawless Siamese, Pampered Mau, Flawless Mau, Pampered Sphynx, Pampered Persian 

Quality: 10
Effectiveness: 5
Ease of Use: 4 (as far as MMU goes, it's great, but MMU is always a bit more effort than pressed powder or liquid)
Senses: 4.75 (powder up the nose is not pleasant, but it hasn't broken me out)

Pigmentation: 5
Duration: 5
Consistency: 5

Price: 4 (samples are great [who can argue with $1?], Munchkins are a little spendy for me, full sizes are downright expensive, but their sales make all of the prices much more bearable!)
Value: 4.75
Grade: A

ETA: I realized I never included shipping times and stuff, which may be useful for you!  Meow is stationed in Pennsylvania, and cross-country shipping is rarely fast.  The first time I ordered from them on a Monday night, and received my package the following Monday; the second time was during their big 4th of July sale, and I ordered on the Sunday before the 4th and got it the Monday 2 weeks later.  Compared to Alima, it's much slower shipping (samples from Alima came cross-country 2 days after ordering), but as long as you're okay with a bit of a wait, it's not that big a problem.  Plus, every order comes with a handwritten thank you with my name, and free samples (as do the orders for Alima), which is always a bonus!

Have you used Meow foundation?  Would you be interested in trying it?  
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