For my test, I paired both the Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Foundation Powder and the Foundation Primer - Protect with Broad Spectrum SPF 30/PA+++ together, since both are supposed to work optimally together. And while I know that Laura Mercier's primers tend to be a either love-it-or-hate-it affair because of the diversity of skintypes out there, I thought I'd just put forth my two cent's worth of opinions. And I'm glad to say, I think this worked pretty well for me! And as usual, if you want to start off with an analysis, where better than the ingredients list? In particular, let's look at the sun protection offered by the Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Protect.
The Foundation Primer - Protect has SPF30/PA+++, with a combination of sunscreen filters, namely Avobenzone (3.0%), Octinoxate (7.3%), Octocrylene (3.0%), Oxybenzone (2.0%). While this formulation uses chemical sunscreens (if you don't know the difference between physical and chemical filters, read my sunscreen tips blogpost sometime!), it makes for a very cosmetically elegant formulation that is also stable. As my sunscreen homies will know, while Avobenzone and Octinoxate isn't really a stable combination by itself because the Octinoxate will degrade the Avobenzone, the addition of Octocrylene in this formula helps to stabilize the avobenzone so that it can coexist with octinoxate. So yes, while I can't exactly calculate the degree of degradation/stability because I'm not a cosmetic chemist, in my view, the formula is largely stable.
Also, another thing good about the sun protection offered by the primer is that the SPF and PA values actually check out, unlike other sunscreens I've reviewed. Being a curious blogger, I checked the percentages and types of filters used with the guesstimations provided by the BASF Sunscreen Simulator (another of my favourite beauty-geek sites!), and it turns out that just based on the sunscreen filters alone (not factoring other ingredients that affect SPF measurement levels like anti-oxidants etc), you get an SPF of 22.5, as well as a PPD of 6.0, which translates into a PA++. That's quite close to the advertised sunscreens, and it's not difficult to see how the inclusion of other skin-helping ingredients like antioxidants could add a further boost to the sun protection you get. In this case, the Foundation Primer - Protect has two variants of Vitamin C serving as antioxidants, Ascorbyl Palmitate and Ascorbic Acid. As a consumer who's seen a lot of sunscreens and is a sunscreen nut/crazy-random-knowledge person, this is pretty darn good. I've seen sunscreens that advertised SPFs of 45, but when you check the expected SPF protection using the filters they claim, you get an SPF of only 25 or so, and it's hard to imagine (from a layman's perspective, anyway), what kind of formulation magic would help you nearly double that claim (if anyone knows, please leave a comment because I'd love to hear from you!). So yes, adequate SPF and PA protection as advertised - the Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Protect certainly has it!
Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Protect with Broad Spectrum SPF 30/PA+++
Now if you've been a longtime reader of my blog (if you are, I love you!!!), you'll also know that I've said before in my post on sunscreen tips that unless you apply a heck lot of product to your face, you won't get the full SPF amount (it's a 1/4 teaspoon for your face alone, by the way, or 2mg/cm2 if you want to do the proper calculations). But in the case of makeup products for which the primary purpose isn't to act as a sunscreen, like this primer, my view is that some protection, even a little, is always better than none. So for my test run, I applied the Foundation Primer - Protect like a normal person would - approx the size of 1.5 peas for my entire face. I think most people might use slightly less. I just have a big, fat face that requires more coverage.
Unlike other silicone-y-feeling primers, I found that the Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Protect instead had a more creamy texture. It comes out of its squeeze tube as a white-ish cream, which will be either to your preference or not. I expected it to feel heavy on my skin with the sunscreen filters and creamy texture and all, but thanks to the smart use of chemical filters, the formulation turned out to be pretty cosmetically elegant, blending in well without leaving any trace of white cast and very little of that "greasy" feeling or shine you sometimes get from using SPF products. You can see the results from the photo. No visible tint, shine, or colour.
Swatches of the Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Protect with Broad Spectrum SPF 30/PA+++
The Foundation Primer - Protect also did, in my view, help my makeup to last longer. Perhaps it was because I was using a Powder Foundation that was more liable to being rubbed off or transferred, but I found that with the Foundation Primer on, the rubbing off and transferring was much less. I also feel like it helped the Powder Foundation go on slightly nicer without looking cakey. The Primer doesn't really control oil, so when I used it for an extended period of time, my face did get shiny eventually, but at least it holds on to the powder and the powder didn't just disappear. I know that the effective of primers can vary quite wildly with skin type and even the type of foundation you pair it with, so while I found that this combination worked for me, you may want to get a sample to play around with first.
Now that we're done with the Foundation Primer - Protect, let's move on to the Smooth Finish Foundation Powder. Now I'm a big powder user (just more convenient for me on a daily basis), and I found this to also work well for me. Although there is a sponge included, I found that it worked just as well with my flat-topped natural hair brush (to be more precise it is a Stila #21 brush - for a photo of it you can look at my post on face brushes from 2009 - now that's ancient!). Using a brush like I did gives you a lighter coverage, so if you want heavier coverage, do go ahead and try it out with the sponge. And if you really need some heavy cover, you can even use the product wet (I didn't try it wet because I'm kinda picky about not mucking up my powder products).
Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Powder Foundation: Nice-sized mirror with an included sponge.
There are plenty of colours, 10 shades in all, with both cool and warm undertones. The really friendly and kind Laura Mercier people guesstimated my shade (unfortunately I couldn't remember what that awesome shade of Silk Creme Foundation they used on me sometime back was; darnit, horrible brain memory!), so I was matched to shade #4 (light beige with yellow undertones). It actually looked like a "bingo!" match in the pan, but it turned out that the foundation when swatched heavily, it was actually a tad too dark for my skin. However, with some blending, it doesn't seem too bad, as you can see in the photo below. (The wrong matching was probably my fault. I had told them that I was around a NC20 in MAC, but on hindsight maybe I'm actually gotten slightly lighter over time...I guess that's the result of having been hiding indoors at my sedentary job for nearly 3 years, combined with wearing sunscreen. I need to get re-matched again one day soon.)
Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Powder Foundation Swatch: Great blending ability!
Anyway, although the swatch looks hideously dark and yellow on my skin, I thought, "What the heck, let's do a FOTD (Face of the Day) with this shade anyway." And I'm glad I did - it actually turned out better than I expected. Below, you can see that once applied and blended (as mentioned, I used a flat-top brush), the colour actually matched quite well. If you scrutinize the photo, my neck looks ever so slightly paler than my face, but I bet that if I didn't tell you, you wouldn't be able to notice the difference. For what it's worth, the time I walked around with this shade on, noone seemed to notice the colour differential. So I guess unless you're a picky beauty blogger (like me!), your average Joe on the street isn't going to notice any difference.
Simple look with Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Powder Foundation and Foundation Primer - Protect.
For the look above, I decided to keep it simple so the focus is on the skin (after all, this is a foundation review, right?). I used:
Face: Laura Mercier Foundation Primer - Protect, Secret Camouflage (selectively only on pimples and undereyes), Smooth Finish Powder Foundation.
Eyes: Ulta Naked Eyeshadow (all over as wash), Bobbi Brown No Smudge Mascara, GOSH Velvet Touch Eyeliner in Golden Moss
Blush: Bobbi Brown Apricot
Lips: NYC Lipstick in Berry Rich 416B
Application-wise, the Smooth Finish Foundation Powder was nice and smooth, and I didn't have any issues with chalkiness or gritty texture. I was expecting the finish to be perfectly matte, because after all the Smooth Finish Foundation is a powder. But as you can see, there's actually some sort of sheen or glow to the finish that I surprisingly liked. You can see this glowy effect most on my forehead and the tip of my nose. I don't know whether it's because I used a lighter touch for application with a brush instead of a sponge, but I do like this - it looks natural, and not cakey or "made-up". When combined with the Foundation Primer - Protect, I found lasting power to be pretty good - it did get a tad oily towards the end of the day, but I didn't actually touch-up at all. So yes, I'd say this combination did work for me. And I'd recommend it, if you do want a creamy-textured primer with some SPF, as well as a powder that feels smooth on the skin and has a slight glowy finish.
So what would my final tips and tricks be? Well, my first tip would be to actually pick the right shade. Because the product is quite pigmented, don't just guess from the colour in the pan - do try it out and see if it matches your skin. Secondly, do experiment with various application types - sponge, brushes, and so on, to find your preferred method that works for you. Lastly, if you're thinking of getting the Primer alone, do test it out with the foundation you plan to use it with - my experience is that the Foundation Primer - Protect and the Smooth Finish Foundation worked really well together, and from what I can tell they appear to be formulated to work quite compatibly (similar sunscreen filters and all that), but I haven't actually tested each product with other primers/foundations yet. So if you're planning to use only one of the duo, do a trial run before getting the full-sized product. And with that, I come to the end of my very long post. I hope this has helped you choose a good foundation and primer!
(Product was sent for review. Review is my complete and honest opinion. I am not affiliated with/compensated by the company.)