Stila's Aqua Glow Serum Foundation takes its name seriously, but in this case, that's a negative. That's because the glow-y result tends to look artificial (re: visibly shimmery) in daylight, making this liquid foundation one to consider carefully, and only if you have normal to dry or combination skin that's just slightly oily.
The foundation is housed in a hard plastic bottle affixed with dropper applicator. You dispense the foundation by pressing a button on the cap—a nice touch that reinforces the serum angle. However, it's far too easy to dispense more foundation than you want. With practice, this issue can be overcome, but we suspect most will find dispensing this to be consistently tricky.
On the plus side, the fluid formula is easy to blend and feels more serum-like than a standard liquid makeup. It also contains a good mix of hydrating ingredients, some of which are reparative in nature. Those ingredients are joined by plant-based antioxidants that positively reinforce the serum foundation name—you will get anti-aging benefits from this makeup. Stila refers to these ingredients as part of its Electrolyte Balance System, a somewhat hokey name that's not really needed to sell the benefits of this foundation's skincare-like ingredients.
Also of note is the mostly neutral to slightly warm range of shades. Stila created options for fair to dark (but not very dark) skin tones, with only a couple of colors (Medium Tan and Tan) to consider very carefully due to overtones of peach to orange. The Fair shade is ideal for very light skin tones; it's really light without being overtly white—but the intensity of its shimmery, "glow" finish might give you pause.
The artificial-looking finish is this foundation's weak spot. Given the number of natural-looking foundations on the market, most of which match or improve on this one's medium coverage, Stila's Aqua Glow Serum Foundation becomes a tough sell. This foundation's shimmer definitely calls attention to itself, and not in what most people would consider a good way—along with the shine, you'll also see pores and wrinkles magnified, an effect that runs counter to this foundation's anti-aging pedigree.
We end up with a silky liquid foundation that's easy to apply, feels serum-like, and contains some anti-aging ingredients to support its serum name. Along with an impressive shade range, this is good news! But for any foundation, how it looks once it sets is critical, and it's where Aqua Glow Serum Foundation falls short. It's simply too glow-y, looking artificial and enhancing the appearance of pores and wrinkles.
One final comment: Despite the fragrance free claim, the formula contains sodium anisate, a fragrance ingredient.
Makeup artist Jeanine Lobell has been at the helm of Stila since its inception in 1994, and her creations have an impressive history of blending innovation with eye-catching, fun packaging. Of course, this innovation is not without its price, and you will find some rather ordinary products where the packaging or dispensing method is the only thing that's exciting. Where Lobell struck gold is with her superlative collection of foundations. We’ve examined hundreds of makeup lines for this and previous editions of this book, and Stila has had and continues to maintain one of the best collections of truly neutral foundation colors. For anyone confused about what we mean by "neutral tones," you need look no further, though we are pleased that more mainstream lines (including L'Oreal, Revlon, Clinique, and even Cover Girl) are now creating wonderfully neutral foundation colors. Stila's foundations aren't inexpensive, but it's critical to get a foundation that's right for you, and that may mean splurging. Other stellar categories include concealers, blush, eyeshadows, brushes, and much better mascaras than in years past.
Once an independent brand with a first-to-market approach to clever cardboard packaging that was sleek, urban, and utilitarian at the same time, Stila's presence and product lineup and distribution expanded (with mostly favorable results) when it was acquired by Estee Lauder in 1999. It was a bit perplexing when Lauder announced in late 2005 that it would sell Stila to "optimize our portfolio of brands" and put more attention (read: financial resources) into their M.A.C. and Bobbi Brown brands (Source: The Rose Sheet, April 17, 2006, page 4). Ironically, of those three brands, Stila has the most compelling collection of products. M.A.C. and Bobbi Brown are no slouches, but Stila always had a slight edge, at least in the complexion-enhancing categories.
An affiliate of Sun Capital Partners (naming itself Stila Corporation) bought the brand from Lauder in spring 2006 and has been at the helm since. Lauder's no longer owning Stila led to the brand's hasty exit from department stores, a move that left many shoppers wondering what the heck happened (and, at least in the stores we visited, the sales associates were vague about the line's future). Luckily, Stila still has a home in Sephora stores worldwide, and is randomly distributed in select department stores. That's great news, because there is much to love about this line, and the most recent crop of products proves that Stila has every intention of remaining a competitive player in the compelling game that is the cosmetics industry.
For more information about Stila, visit www.stilacosmetics.com.
The Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice Research teams have one mission: To help you find the best products for your skin, whether they’re from Paula’s Choice or another brand. By combining efforts, we’re able to share scientific research and remain committed to the highest standards based on our decades of experience objectively reviewing thousands upon thousands of skincare and makeup formularies in all price ranges.
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