I remember the first time I saw Bare Minerals makeup. My sister and I were in Chicago for Lollapalooza a few summers back, and it was so bloody hot. When we were getting ready one morning she pulled out a jar of Bare Minerals and proceeded to swirl, tap and buff. I had never seen anything like this method (up to this point I was a tinted-moisturizer-only girl), so I was very curious. I promptly drug her to the nearest Sephora bought a kit of my own. I remember being so excited because it seemed so complex…I mean there were actual steps you had to follow! My kit came with two yellow-based ivory shades, warmth, mineral veil, and a skin treatment and brushes.
I wore it the rest of the time we were in Chicago, and now that I think about it, I must have looked awful! First, that kind of powder just can’t stand up to extreme heat and humidity. Second, the kit I bought was the lightest one they offered at the time, but it still wasn’t light enough. I have fair pink skin – no yellow undertones here. I must have looked like a cakey, yellow, hot mess! After I went through the shades I got in my kit, I went with the “fair” shade. This was a much better match, but still went on pretty chalky.
I’ve tried to think back to what appealed to me about the kit at the time. The main selling point, I believe, is that it’s supposed to look natural – like your own skin. I also think the fact that there are specific “steps” makes it feel like a special regimen – something special that you have to do “just right” to be beautiful. God forbid you do something out of order!
As you can tell by now, I’m not a huge fan. I’ll say up front that I greatly admire the brand’s success and the CEO, Leslie Blodgett, because she is one smart lady. There are also some BM products I DO love, like their eyeshadows (messy, but gorgeous!), lipglosses (so moisturizing and pretty!), the Skin Rev-er Upper (it has glycolic and salicylic acids, so it’s really good for your complexion) and…well, that’s about it. I love Buxom lipsticks, but that’s their “sister-brand,” so it doesn’t really count.
So, the question is, why is Bare Minerals so damn popular?!? I’ve got one word for you.
Marketing (and The Power of the Infomercial)
You see, BM has really cornered the market on ladies who are obsessive about “looking natural,” and who “never used to wear makeup.” Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look natural – I like my foundation to look like a better version of my skin. But what I’ve noticed from working at Sephora (and trying to help *several* BM fans) is that BM attracts a certain type of customer. She says she never used to wear makeup like it’s something she deserves an award for. She asks you to match her shade and promptly corrects you (“Wrong! I’m Medium Beige”). Or better yet, she drags in a friend or sister, asks you to match them, and then corrects you (“Wrong! She’s Medium Beige”). And she is probably wearing her hair in a ponytail, and is wearing a sweatshirt.
(BTW, there’s nothing wrong with wearing a ponytail and a sweatshirt…in fact, I’m wearing BOTH right now. It’s just an observation…after a while BM customers tend to look the same.)
The kind of women that Bare Minerals appeals to are the kind of women who might not normally wear makeup…and that’s what’s so genius about their marketing strategy. They’ve actually managed to convince strict non-makeup-wearers that they need this foundation. They say it’s so good for your skin you can sleep in it (I wouldn’t recommend it, although it may not hurt). They say it will actually make your skin better (they’re not bad for your skin, but only the Matte version has the proven “Active Soil” complex to promote skin cell turnover). They say it will cover EVERYTHING, and that it won’t make you look older (wrong! Coverage is patchy and not ideal for scars, spots, freckles, etc. And it settles into fine lines like nobody’s business). They even say that you can use their concealer powders instead of regular concealer (for blemishes and under-eye), and that you need another powder to set your foundation powder and your concealer powders! That’s 3-4 powders!
Isn’t this starting to sound ridiculous?
So, the women who normally would NEVER set a foot into a Sephora are willing to hand over money for Bare Minerals. These are the women that act personally offended when you tell them that, “yes, the price of that lipstick is $14” (and that’s on the cheap side!). Bare Minerals has managed to tap into a market that cosmetics companies didn’t even care about – women who don’t wear makeup.
Honestly, my take on Bare Minerals is that it only looks good on one type of woman, or, uh, girl: a preteen with perfect genes, no pores, no oil, and no blemishes. There are probably some exceptions to that, but not many.
I think the foundations are too chalky and go on too thick, but then flake off or get slick or patchy during the day. I think Warmth can look like you crushed up a terracotta pot and smudged it on your face (unless you’re an expert at VERY light brush application). I think the BM brush bristles are too harsh and can be very irritating to sensitive, acne-prone, or fair skin. I think they aren’t as great a value as everyone thinks because women are encouraged to keep buffing in more and more to get the look. And, I think the idea of setting a powder with another powder is ridiculous.
There are a number of things I recommend to a client who just won’t budge on Bare Minerals. (This is after I’ve tried to gently steer them away from it, and failed). I’ll recommend using a softer brush to soften the look of the foundation and avoid irritation (like Sephora brand Professionnel Mineral Brush #45). I’ll tell them that BM is not a replacement for their blemish or under-eye concealer, especially if they have dark circles. And, I’ll recommend using a setting gel or setting spray instead of BM Mineral Veil (like Laura Mercier’s Secret Finish or Secret Finish Mattifying, or Urban Decay’s De-Slick in a Tube or All-Nighter Makeup Setting Spray).
If I succeed in steering a client away from BM, I’ll go straight to Laura Mercier. Her mineral foundation is beautiful on skin. It’s more finely-milled than BM, so it goes on much softer, not chalky and thick. I also think her shade range is more versatile. Even though BM has a ton of shades now, Laura Mercier’s more limited shade range seems to also be more flexible. Multiple variations of a skin tone can all wear one shade and somehow look different. I wear Tender Rose, and it’s one of my go-to foundations (I like the look and application of powder, and it’s actually my shade! Also, BM isn’t the only brand that makes chalky/cakey-looking powders, especially in the light-fair range.) I’m so glad I have Laura! But I’ll gush about her later…
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. Phew…