Product Review: Urban Decay Naked Skin Foundation

My grandmother has sold Mary Kay for as long as I can remember, which means that makeup has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was two I pioneered a high-fashion look that involved blue eyeshadow dragged entirely across my face from one eye to the other, sort of like a big blue unibrow (pictures from this event have mysteriously vanished). Still, it was all lipsticks, nail polishes, and eyeshadows; I didn’t discover foundation until I was all of ten years old.

Love at first sight

I was in my first big play. It was dress rehearsal, and someone brought out a big, crusty tacklebox full of stage makeup. I have no idea who gave it to me, or what brand it was, but my first thought remains a crystal clear memory: “This stuff is AMAZING.” It was if I was smearing on new skin on top of my perpetually flushed, much-bemoaned freckles (now, in my incredible maturity, mostly embraced). I had in my hand the secret to Barbie skin. It was a feeling of enormous power, and I instinctively knew that this goop was gonna be a big part of my life someday.

And it has been. Like any makeup junkie (and many casual users, too), I’m always on the lookout for the perfect foundation. It’s had its ups and downs (cream foundation as a preteen was probably one of those downs). Lately I’ve been on a tinted moisturizer kick —  summer just seems to call for tinted moisturizer. My last big foundation love affair, though, was with Smashbox Studio Skin ($42) for its staying power and solid coverage. Before that it was Smashbox High Definition ($39), which I liked for its invisibility and good-for-you skincare ingredients (like cell-energizing Ribose and vitamin C).

But you guys, YOU GUYS. I was shopping in Sephora (like I do) all “la la la, shopping in Sephora la la la” and I came across a gorgeous Urban Decay display.

Sometimes things just need to be documented.

Instant pleasure

It was the new Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup ($38). I looked at it. It looked back. I pulled out my phone and took a picture of it (the fact that my face happened to be in the frame is purely coincidental, I assure you). I asked the salesperson nearest me (who was politely pretending not to notice my camera-whoring) if I could have a sample, and she made me one (bless you, Sephora).

When I got it home and put it on my face, I noticed immediately that I’d asked for the wrong color (.5. I usually just get the lightest color available since my skin color is, as my dad would say, “clear”, but that didn’t work this time). Still, the texture was gorgeous. Lightweight, blendable, buildable coverage, natural demi-matte finish. This is everything you want in a foundation. I took a deep breath and went to examine myself in our frightening bathroom magnifying mirror: smooth, even skin tone, nary a tell-tale clogged pore buckling under the weight of heavy formula in sight. Invisible.

“This is the thing about foundations: It’s kind of like shapewear. At its worst, it’s uncomfortable, it makes you sweat, and people can tell you’re wearing it. But at its best, you look flawless, all the right places are expertly concealed — and no one knows why.”

—Allure, September 2012.

Like my beloved Smashbox HD, Naked also has skincare ingredients. Says the product description: “This makeup loads skin with a list of nourishing ingredients including: Matrixyl 3000 (a powerful anti-wrinkle peptide), protective and brightening Litchiderm, antioxidant Green Tea and Sodium Hyaluronate for optimal skin hydration and nutrient absorption.” I mean, I’m always a sucker for a made-up ingredient name that promises to rescue my skin as it makes it look better.

I decided to order it online after Sephora lured me with the siren song of some juicy extras with my next order.

And here’s where stuff got tricky

As you can see, the shades are “explained” on Sephora’s site. The idea behind the numbers (.5 – 12) is that anything ending in .5 is cool-toned, while .0 shades are warmer. Since I’m pale with slight yellow undertones, of course I ordered 3.5, a “beige with pink undertones”. Seriously, I don’t know what my deal was that morning. Caffeine-deprived or something. But I digress.

When it arrived on my doorstep, it says something about the superiority of the formula that despite my idiocy in ordering what was clearly the wrong color, I was able to wear it anyway with some improvisation (mostly involving blending down to my neck, which is not necessary with the right shade; you should only need to blend into your jawline). I looked a bit pinker and tanner than normal, but not like I was wearing a bunch of foundation. Workable, but not ideal.

My happy ending

I exchanged it for my perfect shade today (2.0 if you care. You care? That’s weird). Even the Sephora cashier raved about this foundation as she helped me with the exchange (she also happened to be wearing it at the time). It’s absolutely worth grabbing a couple of samples and/or being matched.

And there’s absolutely no reason your matching should be as needlessly difficult as mine was (and in case you were wondering, I documented that saga to spare you the burden of going through the same rigamarole). The display includes those nifty little clear shade guides (top left photo), but if you’re at a counter or if they’re fresh out, start with the shade you think will be your match and swipe it on your jawline. Keep swiping until you find a good match, then swipe on the next lighter and next darker shades next to it. Your shade will be the one that disappears on your skin with the least blending.

See? Clear. But look how well that shit blends.