Makeup for Pale Skin | NARS Sheer Matte Foundation in ‘Siberia’ Review

makeup for pale skin: NARS sheer matte foundation in siberia

makeup for pale skin : NARS sheer matte foundation in 'Siberia;

NARS Sheer Matte Foundation in Siberia

Makeup for Pale Skin: NARS Sheer Matte Foundation in ‘Siberia’

Whenever I write about makeup for pale skin, NARS ‘Siberia’ always comes up in the comments. This is the palest shade of foundation NARS do, and it’s available in both their NARS Sheer Matte Foundation and the Sheer Glow version. My oil slick of a t-zone provides enough of a “glow” for me most of the time, so the matte foundation was the obvious choice for me, here. (For those of you who’ve never been exposed to my ramblings on the subject of makeup for pale skin, I have combination skin, with the aforementioned super-shiny t-zone, and generally favour full-coverage foundations: think Revlon Colorstay, for instance. Or the kind of paint you put on your walls…)

Here’s what it says on the box:

NARS Sheer Matte Foundation: An oil-free, soft-matte-finish foundation with sheer, buildable coverage that controls shine throughout the day while evening the skin tone. Replete with skincare benefits and the NARS Complexion Brightening Formula, it leaves skin more luminous, softer and smoother. Used daily, NARS Sheer Matte Foundation improves the skin’s brightness and texture.NATS

Now, the use of the word “sheer” in the product name was, admittedly, a bit of a concern for me, because “sheer” and me, we don’t get on. I DID, however, like the “complexion brightening” bit, and I’m a sucker for anything that promises to make me “more luminous”, so I decided to take the plunge. I’m a big NARS fan, anyway: I’ve been using their blush (in ‘Orgasm’) and highlighter (in ‘Copacabana’) for years now, so I figured I was in safe hands here. Also: “more luminous”! Bring it!

Well, the product duly arrived (I ordered mine from ASOS, mostly because that allowed me to add a cheeky little pair of capri pants to my order, too. It doesn’t count if you order it with something you HAD to buy anyway, does it?), and the first thing I did was to get out all of my other foundations so I could compare the colour, because when you’re on a constant, never-ending search for makeup for pale skin, sometimes ‘how pale is it?’ feels like the only question that matters, doesn’t it?

And the answer?

swatch of NARS sheer matte foundation in Siberia

Swatched! NARS Sheer Matte Foundation in Siberia

It’s pale. It actually doesn’t LOOK particularly pale right out of the bottle, but it sets to a shade that’s a pretty good match for my face (bear in mind that the swatch above is on the underside of my arm), if yellower than I’d like. Overall, though, I’d say it’s definitely one of the paler shades of foundation I’ve come across, so definitely a good makeup for pale skin – colour wise, at least. [FORESHADOWING!]

The next thing I did was to line up all of the foundation bottles and take photos of them, because doesn’t everyone do that? And also because it’ll hopefully be more useful for you than seeing the colour swatch in isolation:

makeup for pale skin: Illamasqua, NARS and MAC

makeup for pale skin
pale foundation swatches: Illamasqua, NARS and MAC

Makeup for pale skin: L-R Illamasqua Skin Base, NARS Sheer Matte Foundation, MAC Studio  Fix

So, from left to right we have our old friends (and, in Illamasqua’s case, old foes…) Illamasqua Skin Base Foundation in 02, NARS Sheer Matte Foundation in ‘Siberia’ and MAC Studio Fix Foundation in NW10. Ol’ MAC here is looking a bit the worse for wear, as you can see. Rough night for him.

I’m not the best at taking photos of my own arms, unfortunately, but as you can (hopefully) see, this is a little darker than the Illamasqua foundation, and yellower than the MAC. Of the three, MAC NW10 comes the closest to matching my pinkish undertones, but is a little darker than I’d like: the search for makeup for pale skin, it never ends.*

Finally, after all of that comparing-of-colours and photographing-of-arms, it was time to actually TRY the stuff. On my face. And guys?

I HATED it.

Like, absolutely HATED it.

My initial experience with this was actually pretty similar to the one I had with Illamasqua Skin Base, and I almost didn’t write this review because of it. This foundation, you see, gets GLOWING reviews from almost everyone: I seem to be the only person who doesn’t get on with it, and to be honest, I was starting to think the problem was ME rather than the foundation. The first few times I used it, it just looked horrible: I found it cakey, flakey, and very visible on the skin. Far from the “luminous” complexion I was expecting, this actually made my skin look worse than it did before I’d applied it. My first application was with a foundation brush, and I was left with very visible brush strokes, plus creasing under the eyes and flaking around the nose. Coverage was medium, but made my skin look dull and tired. I actually hated it so much, I ended up running out and buying an emergency drugstore foundation (which I’ll also be reviewing soon), because my MAC Studio Fix is almost done, and I hated the thought of being left with just this and the Illamasqua, which I find even worse.

Over the next couple of weeks, I continued to experiment with this, though. I tried it with various different primers, and without ANY primer. I tried applying it with a foundation brush, a stippling brush, my fingers… Eventually I seemed to reach a point where it became wearable: I wouldn’t say I LIKE it, particularly (I still feel it makes my skin look dull and highlights the drier skin around my eyes and nose horribly), but I can actually wear it, as long as I always use primer, and apply it very sparingly, with a stippling brush. By doing that, I’ll be able to use this up on the days I don’t have anything special planned, but I wouldn’t buy it again, because it’s much too expensive to just use as a backup.

As I said above, I almost didn’t write this review because I don’t want to put people off: this gets SO many great reviews that I’m convinced I must be one of the few people who DOESN’T love it. I do think it’s a great shade for pale skin, however, so if you’re in that category, I guess my best advice would be to visit a NARS counter and try to pick up a sample first: just because it didn’t work out for me, it doesn’t mean it won’t be great for you!

(P.S. I did actually take “before and after” photos for this post, but photographing my own arms isn’t the only skill I lack: my skin looks much better than it does in ‘real life’ in the before photos, and the foundation looks much better than it does in ‘real life’ in the after ones, so you really can’t see much of a difference. I’ll try to do better next time…)

Anyone else tried Sheer Matte Foundation? What did you think of it?

Click here for my complete roundup of makeup for pale skin

*The search actually DOES end: right after I bought this, I happened to be looking at the Bobbi Brown website, and realised they’ve started selling their ‘Alabaster’ shade in the UK again. I know! This is my absolute favourite makeup for pale skin, and I was gutted when it was discontinued, so I’ll be stocking up soon. I just wish I’d realised it was available in the UK again before I’d bought this one!

20 Comments

  • I loved NARS sheer matte in Siberia when I first bought it but recently it has really highlighted the dry skin on my nose. I tried the Illamasqua and it sank into every pore on my face leaving me looking like a golf ball so I sold it on. Shame as the colour match was good.

    I’ve recently invested in the Bobbi Brown shade you mention and I love it – I thought at first it would be too yellow for me but it blends really well. I would also recommend Lola (available in M&S) in their lightest shade which only sas B030 on the bottom. It is almost identical to the Bobbi Brown alabaster but unfortunately doesn’t have any SPF so I only wear it on a night out.

    Being pale is such a stress sometimes but I don’t think I’d have it any other way!

  • LydiaGrace says:

    Things I have learned:
    1. Wow, there are people who I can compare arms with and say ‘I look so dark!’!
    2. Siberia? Really? All of the darker shades are named after far-flung, exotic places that people dream of visiting. Siberia just screams frostbite. It’s a petty thing, but it’s annoying.

  • Roseanne says:

    Having pale skin is such a hardship isn’t it? Foundations are always too pink, to yellow or too dark! At the moment I’m using Mac’s Studio Fix in NW10, it’s the best I’ve used so far but it still doesn’t perfectly match my skin :(

  • Holly says:

    I also thought it was a big pile of shite. It emphasises my dry skin and goes extremely patchy. I like the sound of the Bobbi brown, though!

    • Amber says:

      THANK YOU! I was really starting to think there must be something wrong with me! Bobbi Brown is fantastic: I also use their concealer, which is super-pale – its one of the few brands that caters to pale skin!

      • I’ve got Bobbi Brown corrector and concealer but it just goes cakey when I use it. Any tips?

        • Amber says:

          Ooh, I haven’t actually had that issue, so I’m not really sure what to suggest, to be honest… I only use the concealer, though, not the corrector (I don’t think it makes much difference on me): maybe if you just tried one of them it would help, as you’d be layering less product on it?

  • Mana says:

    I’m one of those people that’s always shouting Nars Sheer Glow foundation at you. However I think I should have shared more. I have oily acne prone skin and I HATE the sheer matte foundation. The sheer glow is amazing because it seems to work with the oils on your face, but the matte just goes patchy and awful. I don’t know why but it does. You can see however that I’ve worn the sheer glow on multiple occasions in my blog and have had no problems with this. And even more so I love the pure radiant tinted moisturizer. But it does give you some serious glow so I tend to use a light mattifyin powder over it. And Chanel vita lumiere aqua in b10 or br10 should match you as well since those match me quite well.
    Mana
    Fashion and Happy Things

  • Lucie says:

    Hi Amber,

    I completely agree with the “impossible” feat of finding a foundation for pale skin. Most companies don’t even make a pale enough shade for me (and by far).
    After severak years of research, my personal favourites are
    – Burberry Sheer Foundation Trench No 1 (I tried their Velvet Foundation in Trench No 201 but I hated it, it made my skin look “blah”) and if I can’t get this one (they don’t sell it in France), I go for
    – Le Teint Touche Eclat by Yves Saint Laurent Beige Rose 10 (this really has an illuminating effect if you put enough of it).
    I might try the Bobbi Brown as well, it has many great reviews, including your own.

  • Flagless says:

    I used to use Max Factor Xperience in Light Ivory 40 until they discontinued it. Now I’ve got Lancome Teint Idole Silky Mat in Beige Porcelaine 010, but I’m not particularly happy with it. I like the texture and the smell, but it’s a bit too dark, even though it actually dries lighter than it looks in the tube. Most of the time, however, my skin looks good enough that I can get away with applying only BB cream – I use Deborah Milano in Fair Rose 00 – that one is pretty much perfect.

  • Carys says:

    Urgh, I tried this stuff on my arm when we were in California – got excited as it didn’t look like I was swatching terracotta paint on my arm like most foundations – so tried a bit on my face. No, no, no. Absolutely not. Promptly patted myself on the back for dodging that bullet.

    Have you tried Make Up For Ever Mat Velvet? Easy to get at Sephora (sob!) in the States, but you can get it from Guru Makeup Emporium over here. It’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s by far and away the best consistency, coverage and colour match I have ever found. And boy, have I looked. I also have the dreaded oily T zone, and it’s the only foundation that seems to help it.

    God, how I long to be one of those people that can nip into Boots and just grab a foundation! I wonder what that be like….*stares wistfully into the middle distance*

    • Amber says:

      Ah, no, I didn’t think it was available here – I’ll have to have a look at that site!

    • Lauren says:

      Sephora have started international shipping if that helps at all…

      • Amber says:

        I know, but it’s really expensive, and there are so many restrictions on brands (all the brands I like, typically!) I’d end up buying stuff I didn’t actually need in order to make the order minimum (which I think is something like £75, then £10 shipping… UK residents have actually always been able to order from Sephora France, but I prefer to buy from the UK if I possibly can, and avoid the hassle/expense of international shipping. I just wish Sephora would open in the UK already – they used to have a couple of stores here, and I’m sure they’d be really popular, so God knows why they don’t!

  • Rebecca says:

    A few years ago in Hong Kong I found a foundation by Dior called DiorSnow white reveal fresh transparency liquid foundation with SPF 30. The colours are fantastic as the regular Dior line always leans both too dark and too yellow on me, I had shade 012 which was very porcelain but slightly pinky as opposed to the more yellow based shades. So, I had found my foundation holy grail, but discovered that this had been developed for the Asian market only and was not available in the UK! However, I have just found out that Selfridges now stock this, it is really worth trying to get hold of a sample if you can.

  • Anne says:

    Hi, I have a similar problem – most makeup artists see my freckles and reach for the darker colours or tell me I have yellow undertones (sorry, that’s the yellow lights reflecting off my skin :)).
    Have you tried Mont Blanc in Nars foundations? They call it light with pink undertone. I use the powder foundation and it’s not bad.

  • Paige Chapman-layland says:

    I adore Kat Von D’s foundation. Full coverage, very pale (not a perfect match, but workable) although perhaps a little too oily for your t zone. At Sephora, but maybe in the UK too?

  • Jen says:

    I’m probably about as pale as you and I find that L’Oreal Infallible in Porcelain is a pretty good go-to. Definitely the palest foundation I’ve found on the high street. It can be a teensy bit orange, but in winter, I’ll mix it with a tiny drop of pure white foundation (usually Stargazer or something). It’s quite slick and runny so if you have oily skin then it might not be the best (my skin is the extreme opposite – I’m disgustingly dry and flaky and have to avoid anything too matte) but having said that, it’s cheap enough that it’s worth a try.

    Ps. Love love love your blog – your Superdrug Colour Effects recommendation literally changed my life!

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