Tested on animals:Yes
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.
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).