Bobbi Brown

Intensive Skin Serum Foundation SPF 40

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 62.00
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Brand Overview

Intensive Skin Serum Foundation SPF 40 is a mixed bag of excellent qualities and unfortunate drawbacks. Housed in a 1-ounce heavy glass bottle with a dropper applicator, this lightweight formula delivers moisture and medium coverage plus a dewy, natural-looking finish best for normal to dry skin. What could've been a more recommended foundation was held back due to its degree of fragrance in the form of lavender oil.

In general, it's best to avoid fragrance in your beauty routine due to its potential to irritate skin. Products that use fragrance in lower amounts—or less problematic varieties of fragrance—are sometimes given a "pass" if they're included in a formula that is otherwise exceptional. Unfortunately, lavender oil has its share of issues beyond the norm (discussed in the More Info section) and Intensive Skin Serum Foundation SPF 40 includes it in an amount that made it a challenging product to award a higher rating. We were so torn on this one!

Bobbi Brown included UVA/UVB sun protection via its blend of titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and the non-mineral active octinoxate. At SPF 40, it's one of the higher levels of broad-spectrum sunscreen foundations available—it's unfortunate that that the type and degree of fragrance makes this one we can't be more enthusiastic about.

The packaging and name is similar to the brands Intensive Skin Supplement, and the "serum" part of this product's name refers to the added antioxidants in this formula. Though the Intensive Skin Serum Foundation SPF 40 doesn't rise to the level of potentially replacing your go-to anti-aging serum, it does feature a variety of beneficial plant-based antioxidants such as watermelon, apple and litchi seed extract. Beyond these, there's algae from Laminaria saccharina extract and Artemia extracts, which have limited-research demonstrating benefit for reducing inflammation in skin (International Journal of Cosmetics Science, 2009 and Glycobiology, 2007).

Bobbi Brown also added the interesting ingredient Cordyceps sinensis extract, which is a fungus that's related to the mushroom family. It has some research showing physiological benefits in mice, but none as of yet (that we could locate) concerning people's skin, topically or otherwise (Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 2009). There's a peptide and sodium hyaluronate as well, but in relatively lower levels.

As is the case with most Bobbi Brown foundations, the shade range is a winning assortment of 16 neutral to warm-toned options that offer choices from the very fair to deep complexions.

There's much to like about this foundation: Its light but moisturizing texture, natural-looking coverage, a dewy finish and beautiful range of shades. Despite these positives, the amount of lavender oil made it difficult to recommend with more enthusiasm. When you're paying this much for a foundation, you should expect that drawbacks (if present at all) are minor, but in this instance the drawbacks are likely to be too risky for your skin. Rather than deal with the cons of this formula, we would recommend checking our top-rated Foundations with Sunscreen section instead.


  • Natural-looking, dewy medium coverage.
  • Superior shade range.
  • Broad-spectrum sun protection (unusually high for a foundation).
  • Added beneficial antioxidant ingredients.


  • Contains the ingredient lavender oil—in an iffy amount—which research has shown poses more of a risk to skin than other forms of fragrance.

More Info:

Lavender Oil: In-vitro research indicates that components of lavender, specifically linalool and linalyl acetate, can be cytotoxic, which means that topical application of as little a concentration as 0.25% causes cell death (Cell Proliferation, June 2004). This study was conducted on endothelial cells, which are cells that line blood pathways in the body and play a critical role in the inflammatory process of skin.

As linalool and linalyl acetate are both rapidly absorbed by skin and can be detected within blood cells in less than 20 minutes, endothelial cells are an ideal choice for such a test (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 1992). The results of this research also demonstrated that lavender has a damaging effect on fibroblasts, which are cells that produce collagen.

The fragrance constituents in lavender oil, linalool and linalyl acetate, oxidize when exposed to air, and in this process their potential for causing an allergic reaction is increased (Contact Dermatitis, 2008).

If you're wondering why lavender oil doesn't appear to be problematic for you, it's because research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it happening for your skin to suffer damage (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: Yes
The super-silky emulsion floats over skins surface for a flawless yet natural look instantly and day after day. Skin becomes smoother, finer and more lifted and ultrafine pigments cover imperfections without settling into fine lines. SPF 40 helps prevent future damage.
Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 3.9%, Titanium Dioxide 6.1%, Zinc Oxide 3.8%. Inactive Ingredients: WaterAquaEau, Dimethicone, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Methyl Trimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Diethylhexyl Succinate, Lauryl PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Laureth-4, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Magnesium Sulfate, Dipentaerythrityl Tri-Polyhydroxystearate, Citrullus Vulgaris (Watermelon) Fruit Extract, Laminaria Saccharina Extract, Litchi Chinensis Seed Extract, Lens Esculenta (Lentil) Fruit Extract, Artemia Extract, Cordyceps Sinensis Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Sasa Veitchii Extract, Thermus Thermophillus Ferment, Dimethicone Silylate, Sodium Lactate, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glycerin, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein/PVP Crosspolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium PCA, Methicone, Dimethicone/Peg-10/15 Crosspolymer, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer-3, Sodium Hyaluronate, Potassium Sorbate, Dipropylene Glycol, Dextrin, Silica, Disodium EDTA, Linalool, Phenoxyethanol, [+/- Mica, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891), Iron Oxides (Ci 77492), Iron Oxides (Ci 77491), Iron Oxides (Ci 77499)]

Bobbi Brown At-A-Glance

Strengths: A good cleanser and eye makeup removers; some impressive foundations, with options for all skin types and preferences; very good blushes and eyeshadows (powder and cream); several top-notch mascaras; mostly excellent brushes.

Weaknesses: Multiple moisturizers in jar packaging, otherwise great products hindered with irritating fragrant oils or fragrance components.

It all began with lipsticks. In 1991, New York based makeup artist Bobbi Brown debuted a collection of ten lipsticks at Bergdorf Goodman, expecting to sell about one hundred units in a month. She sold more than that the first day. From there, it's been mostly success after success, as Brown launched her classic foundation stick, wrote her first book, Bobbi Brown Beauty The Ultimate Beauty Resource, and enjoyed continued attention as an in-demand makeup artist and beauty educator.

Today, Bobbi Brown's makeup that continues to excel with superior foundations, true matte blushes and eyeshadows, and with all of the other basics that are essential to anyone's makeup wardrobe. It isn't the least bit surprising that this makeup collection continues to do so well, because for many it's one-stop shopping that combines classic makeup application techniques with enough fun-yet-functional products to keep customer's interest piqued season to season.

Turning to the skincare collection, there are a few excellent formulas, but unfortunately, many are packaged in a jar, which means their beneficial ingredients are rendered useless due to air exposure (and bacterial contamination from spatulas or fingers). In addition, some suffer from the inclusion of potent fragrant essential oils. Those that should be avoided are noted in their respective reviews. That aside, color is without a doubt Bobbi Brown's strong point, but you will find a few sleeper hits among the selection of skincare products.

For more information about Bobbi Brown, call (877) 310-9222 or visit www.bobbibrowncosmetics.com.

About the Experts

The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.

Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.

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