Studio Gear At-A-Glance
Strengths: Excellent foundations and foundation primers; wonderful Lip Lacquer; beautiful blush options; lots of practical, wearable colors; the Invisible Loose Powder; myriad lipstick finishes; exceptional brush collection.
Weaknesses: Several leave-on skin-care products contain a sensitizing preservative system; formaldehyde-releasing preservatives in products meant for the eye area; average to poor toners; irritating lip-care duo; no products for those struggling with acne or skin discolorations; lack of foundation shades for fair and dark skin tones; many makeup items with sunscreen have SPF ratings that are too low or provide inadequate UVA protection; red-toned bronzer; lackluster mascara; dry brow pencil; poorly tinted Eyeshadow Primer.
In 1992, two former distributors of M.A.C. makeup, John Avolio and Steve Rohr, joined forces to create SG Cosmetics, the parent company of what has become Studio Gear Cosmetics. Like M.A.C., their brand has professional makeup artists in mind, but unlike M.A.C., it doesn't present such an imposing array of products to impress or overwhelm their customers. Instead, Studio Gear focuses on getting the basics right and, for the most part, they succeed with the makeup, almost giving M.A.C. some competition. When it comes to skin care, however, Studio Gear loses the race with some really badly formulated products, in some cases shockingly bad. They can't really compete with almost anyone and mostly fall apart at the seams when it comes to their skin-care selection.
Using minimalist black packaging for their makeup that emphasizes the product (most of the boxes have windows that show off the enclosed product's shade), Studio Gear appears to be a mainstay anchor brand at Ulta stores nationwide. It's hard not to be impressed by the expanse of the Studio Gear installations, at least at the Ulta stores we visited, because they are much larger than those of many other mainstream brands. All products, including the full line of gorgeous professional-quality brushes, have testers for experimenting, and given the scope of the available shades (particularly the lipstick), there's plenty to play with and plenty of room to enjoy the experience.
One of the things Studio Gear does best is foundations. Both the Flawless Foundation and the Matte Foundation are worth testing, despite the one downside: The shades are largely neutral, but there are too few to meet the needs of a wide range of skin tones, especially at the lightest and darkest ends of the spectrum. Studio Gear also has plentiful blush options, offering everything from natural-looking cream-to-powder versions to vibrant powders with shine to a versatile gel cheek stain.
Unfortunately, their lipsticks are disappointing. While the colors are truly beautiful, many have an overpowering castor oil odor that we could detect just standing over them, never mind slicking them onto my lips just under my nose. This will not bother everyone, but it is certainly worth paying attention to before you buy.
Turning to skin care, the majority of products are overpriced considering their mundane to problematic formulas. Several leave-on products are flawed by a sensitizing preservative system and many contain irritants with no established benefit for skin. There are no options to manage acne or skin discolorations and, sadly, there are limited options for sun protection.
Despite the overall skin-care shortcomings, there are a handful of skin-care products worth checking out. We were particularly impressed by the company's primers (with and without sunscreen) and there's a great hand cream with sunscreen that's especially helpful for those whose hands are constantly dry. Just don't try to put together a full-fledged state-of-the-art skin-care routine using Studio Gear because doing so will present problems and leave your skin wanting, and, in fact, needing, far more.
Though we don't typically comment on a company's customer service, we were surprised at the glaring lack of any helpful information. Over the course of a few weeks as we did our research, they didn't answer even one of our e-mail questions, not even the simple ones we sent as customers trying to buy products. Even more shocking, there isn't a Studio Gear customer service number listed on their web site!
For more information on Studio Gear, visit www.ulta.com.