Tarte's Empowered Hybrid Gel Foundation is one of a growing number of makeup products claiming to provide skincare-like benefits along with foundation's traditional traits. While this foundation has some good qualities going for it, overall, its performance is lackluster, and the addition of some potentially iffy ingredients cinches its only-average rating.
Empowered Hybrid Gel Foundation's first misstep is its packaging: The thick, gel-cream formula comes in a jar container with a twist-off lid. When you first open the product, there's a plastic cover in between the lid and the jar, and removing it results in creating a suction effect that pulls quite a bit of foundation onto the cover—and all over your bathroom counter if you're not precise enough!
Tarte recommends using its double-ended foundation brush/scoop to get this out of the jar, though there's still the potential for foundation to get all over the lid when you put it back on. That's not to mention that the packaging means some of this formula's beneficial ingredients (antioxidants like magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and barley extract) won't remain stable long because they'll break down in the presence of light and air. See More Info for details.
As for the product itself, Empowered Hybrid Gel Foundation's texture makes it easy to smooth across your face and blend, whether it's with a foundation brush, sponge, or your fingers. A little goes a long way, and you don't need a lot to get medium to full coverage. The finish is decidedly dewy, and looks that way long after the initial application. Even though Tarte recommends this for all skin types, those with oily or combination skin might find this emphasizes shiny spots (this is best for those with normal to dry skin).
Although smooth at the beginning, we found that around the six-hour mark it begins to emphasize the appearance of pores. However, it does not highlight lines, wrinkles, or dry spots, and doesn't fade throughout the day.
There are shade options for light to medium-deep tones, but this is one foundation we recommend trying out in the store first. Many of the shades have obvious yellow or orange undertones, so shade-matching in store is a must.
A couple of notes about the ingredients: Empowered Hybrid Gel Foundation is described as having a "soft, rose scent," but the smell is actually quite strong, and lingers. Fragrance is not listed as an ingredient, so we contacted Tarte via phone, email, and Facebook, and this is what the brand says: "The scent is naturally found in rosa canina fruit extract, more commonly known as the dog rose. It's non-toxic and conforms to all FDA safety requirements." The issue is that rose canina fruit extract (more commonly known as rosehip) is not a fragrant extract, so it is likely not the source of the scent.
Another problem is the inclusion of an iffy amount of alcohol in this formula. It's the fifth ingredient listed, meaning it could potentially irritate skin. It's particularly problematic because this foundation is described as a moisturizing formula that "feels like a drink of water for skin!"
As mentioned above, this foundation has a dewy finish so we suspect the amount of alcohol's potential risk is low—though the inclusion of two menthol derivatives (menthoxypropanediol and menthyl lactate) does present a risk of irritation, especially if you apply this foundation around the eyes.
The other concern is the hypoallergenic claim the brand makes. We explain in the More Info section why this claim isn't supportable or one you can rely on.
Overall, while we loved the ease of application, full coverage, and the fact that it didn't highlight wrinkles or dry spots, Tarte's Empowered Hybrid Gel Foundation's packaging and ingredients mean it's not a foundation we recommend with gusto. For those that do fall into that category, see our list of Best Foundations.
Jar Packaging: The fact that it's packaged in a jar means the beneficial ingredients won't remain stable once it is opened. All plant extracts, almost all vitamins, antioxidants, and other state-of-the-art ingredients break down in the presence of air. Therefore, once a jar is opened and lets the air in, these important ingredients begin to deteriorate. Jars also are unsanitary because you're dipping your fingers into them with each use, adding bacteria that further deteriorate the beneficial ingredients.
The vast majority of ingredients that are most beneficial for your skin are not stable in the presence of light and air, which is exactly what happens when you take the lid off a jar (Pharmacology Review, 2013 & Journal of Biophotonics, 2010).
One of the critical factors in any anti-aging or skin-healing formula is the amount and variety of antioxidants, cell-communicating ingredients, and skin-repairing ingredients, and the more the better. These function in a variety of ways to reduce the effects of the constant environmental stresses your skin experiences (Dermatology Research and Practice, 2012 & The Journal of Pathology, 2007).
Once you open that jar you bought, you immediately compromise the stability of the anti-aging superstars it contains. (You can visualize their benefits disappearing like puffs of air each time you open up that lid!)
Hypoallergenic Claims: The term "hypoallergenic" is meant to imply that a product is unlikely or less likely to cause allergic reactions and, therefore, is better for allergy-prone or sensitive skin types, but it isn't true. There are no accepted testing methods, ingredient restrictions, regulations, guidelines, rules, or procedures of any kind, anywhere in the world, for determining whether or not a product qualifies as being hypoallergenic (Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 2004 & Dermatologic Therapy, 2001).
We have reviewed hundreds of products labeled "hypoallergenic" or "safe for sensitive skin" that contain seriously problematic ingredients that can trigger allergic breakouts or sensitive skin reactions. And many of us have used products labeled hypoallergenic that have caused a reaction of some sort.
If sensitive or allergy-prone skin is one of your concerns, then the #1 thing to look for is products that are free of irritants. The major irritants that show up, and in an astounding number of products, especially in products labeled organic or natural, are fragrance (both synthetic and natural fragrance are equally bad for all skin types), alcohol (isopropyl, SD, or denatured alcohol), and harsh cleansing agents like sodium lauryl sulfate (not sodium laureth sulfate, which is a perfectly mild cleansing agent).
Tarte Cosmetics At-A-Glance
Tarte Cosmetics CEO and founder Maureen Kelly started Tarte in 1999, out of a desire to create a cosmetics line that “would prove that glamour can be good for you.” This comes in the form of products that highlight naturally-derived ingredients in their marketing campaigns, and occasionally taking swipes at the concept of synthetics in makeup.
This is ironic, as Tarte uses more than a few beneficial synthetically derived ingredients in their formulas—silicones, synthetic fragrances, preservatives and on and on. However, we’ll forgive them that as what’s ultimately important is whether their products meet your needs, and to that we can say the brand excels in many areas at what they do.
However, a few products are a bit on the pricey side and there are a few iffy shades and textures to consider among their foundations—noted in their respective reviews. A few caveats aside, most of Tarte's foundations, blush options, eye pencils and an ever-expanding range of innovative products demonstrate that color is what they do best.
For more information about Tarte Cosmetics visit www.tartecosmetics.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.
Beautypedia cuts through the hype to bring you product insights and recommendations you won’t find anywhere else!