I’ve long drooled over YouTube makeup tutorials. Contouring, brows, crazy eye shadow tutorials, you name it. I’ve even become a sort of casual hobbyist myself, experimenting with different brands, and getting into mail order make up boxes and that sort of thing. But the one thing that’s always most intrigued me was airbrush foundation. And I always felt like it was just too professional, and beyond my reach.
And at first, that was sort of true. After all, airbrush machines were not particularly affordable for the non-professional makeup artist, and it seemed like a huge investment for something I wasn’t sure I’d be able to learn how to do properly.
But more suitable systems for the casual user have come around since then, and I finally decided to go for it. (After watching a few more YouTube tutorials, of course). There are a number of affordable airbrushing kits available online and in makeup specialty stores.
I decided, after comparing features, reviews, and videos, on the Luminess Air Basic Airbrush System with 7 Piece Airbrush Foundation & Cosmetic Starter Kit. It seemed to have the ideal combination of features for someone who wanted to get great results, but needed to ease into the whole airbrushing thing.
What I Got in the Box
I don’t know if there are other bundles out there, but I can tell you what I got with my order
When you order the kit, you choose a color scheme (fair, medium, warm, tan, and deep). If you’re worried that five color schemes couldn’t possibly represent all women out there, you’d be right—and wrong.
See, each color family comes with four different foundations, with the intention being that you can mix your own perfect blend. You get four 0.55 oz bottles of the Ultra foundation in different shades appropriate to the color family you chose.
You also get Luminess Air brand moisturizer/primer, in a single 0.25 oz size. This is a hydrating liquid that uses extracts of olive and vitamin E infusion to create a good canvas for the foundation and other makeup you’re about to apply.
Luminess advertises their blush as being highly pigmented, with the implication that it takes very little to get a natural, healthy glow. I received a 0.25 oz bottle of this with my kit.
Luminess “Glow” is a highlighter meant for contouring. This comes in a 0.25 oz bottle. It’s used to highlight features like your cheeks, jaws, and brow to create the illusion of a more defined facial structure.
The Luminess Air Basic Airbrush
If you’re not familiar with exactly what an airbrush is, let me explain before we move forward. Have you ever seen an air compressor fill a tire, or done it yourself? The machine that powers an airbrush is basically a teeny, much quieter version of that machine.
(And much gentler, too, of course!)
So, you have a very small air compressor. Which, by the way, is super cute. Luminess’s little air compressor is in a chic black case, with a butterfly embossed on it. You can leave it out without someone confusing your bathroom for a mechanic’s garage.
Connected to compressor, via a flexible tube, is what’s called the stylus. This resembles something shaped (basically) like a large pen or marker, and you hold it in a similar fashion.
At the top of the stylus is a small bowl, and a button/lever.
How You Use the Luminess Air Basic Airbrush
To use the system, you pour foundation (or the airbrush-friendly makeup of your choice) into the bowl on top of the stylus.
Next, turn the compressor on.
Then point the open (front) end of the stylus at the part of your face where you want to apply the makeup, and depress the button/lever.
When you do this, the liquid makeup you put in the bowl sprays from the front of the stylus in a very light, cool mist. The button/lever works a bit like a throttle—you can push forward for a stronger spray, or ease up for lighter application.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of what you receive, and how you’re supposed to use it, let’s move on to the actual review portion!
Ease of Use/Learning Curve
I’m going to start with what everyone who hasn’t already used an airbrush system is probably learning about. If you already use an airbrush of some type for your makeup and you know what you’re doing, you can skip this section, since it’s probably not very relevant to your interests.
How much technical know-how do you need?
None. Nada. Zilch. No, seriously. If you can flick on a light switch, you can operate this Luminess system as far as tech knowledge goes. You just turn on the system and dump makeup in the bowl, then push a button. Voila, you have foundation (or primer, or blush, etc.) mist.
How much practice does it take to look like a magazine cover girl?
I mean, I’m probably never going to look like that, regardless, but if you mean “when will I achieve that flawless airbrushed look”… I’m not sure.
What I can say is that it took me about three serious attempts to duplicate a look just as good as applying liquid or powder foundation any other way. And after using it almost daily for a couple of weeks, I look remarkably better than I did before with makeup. Enough so that I’m getting compliments from friends and family, who are wondering what sort of magical skin care routine I’ve switched to.
(No, I haven’t told them.)
But your results are going to vary depending, of course, on your own skin, your expectations, and your skill with makeup in general.
If you haven’t learned contouring, etc. with other tools, it’s going to take you a little longer than it might otherwise. If you’re already a pro at those things, you’ll probably master it faster than me (and end up better in the long run).
I mention contouring because I’ve had the best results with mixing my foundation hues slightly differently for different parts of my face. What works on one section of my face isn’t necessarily perfect otherwise, and the one downside of this smooth, flawless coverage is that… well, it’s smooth, uniform, and flawless.
If you just plaster your face with the same shade heavily enough to cover any blemishes or discoloration, it can come across as a bit of a doll-ish, plastic look. Unless perhaps your skin is much more uniform than mine… in which case I’m not sure why you want to use an airbrush system without contouring, but you do you, girl!
Overall, I would say that the Luminess Air is relatively easy to use. The only difficulty that really comes in is due to needing skill with makeup and learning how to manipulate an airbrush, period. Both of those are really up to the user.
I do think just about anyone can learn to do a better job with this airbrush than they do with their regular liquid/powder foundation. It might just take a little more practice. Especially if you take the time to actually watch the tutorial that they send you, and read the instructions.
The Luminess Air stylus is so easy to clean, I almost forgot to include this section. You simply run water through the bowl and out the spray-end of the stylus. Since Luminess makeup is water-based, so long as you don’t let anything dry up in it, it’s basically insta-clean. Even if you do let a little foundation dry, it doesn’t take more than a second with a q-tip to fix the issue.
I wouldn’t let layers of makeup build up in it, but since you’re probably already right by the sink, there’s no circumstance where I could see that happening unless you did it deliberately.
First, let me say off the bat that the Luminess Air Basic Airbrush is compatible with any type of air brush compatible makeup. So you don’t need to write it off if you’re not a fan of Luminess brand makeup.
Similarly, Luminess makeup can be used with other airbrushes. I’m just reviewing them together in this review because this is the kit I ordered.
Luminess brand makeup features:
- Is never tested on animals
- Great for sensitive skin (Dermatologist tested)
- All day/18-hour wear
- Water/sweat resistant
- Doesn’t clog pores
- Fragrance free
Foundation: Coverage, Texture, Etc.
It’s also advertised as being great for hiding acne, discoloration, bruising, wrinkles, fine lines, rosacea, tattoos, etc. etc. But what makeup isn’t?
So, let me speak to that. I don’t have major acne anymore, just an occasional breakout. I do, however, have some old acne scarring.
I also have a pretty uneven complexion in general, with a lot of redness around my forehead and chin (this might technically be rosacea, I’m not sure. It’s red, and it doesn’t go away). On the other hand, where I don’t look flushed, I’m super pasty. Needless to say, it’s taken a lot of makeup experimentation to even this out, even with regular makeup.
Luminess did a really great job, once I figured out how to use it properly. I got full coverage, I didn’t look like I was caked in makeup, and it even hid some fine lines I hadn’t even really noticed I had until they were gone.
The one issue is that it does go on very lightly. I’ve seen some reviews claim this is because the makeup is so watery, but I think they’re wrong. It’s just underestimating how fine the mist from the airbrush is.
So, if you’re having trouble getting coverage, try to avoid the mistakes I made:
- Moving too quickly. This is a gently mist, not a power washer! Take your time.
- Realize that by design it will probably take more than one coat, and you need to let it dry between coats. This sounds annoying, but now that it’s part of my morning routine, it doesn’t take any longer than putting on any other foundation. I just do other things.
- Being too close or too far from your face. The distance of the stylus from your face is going to determine how large an area the mist covers, and how densely it covers it. Work with whatever’s comfortable for you, and adjust accordingly.
Foundation: Color Matching, Mixing
I didn’t have any real difficulty getting the shades I wanted, although I was lucky in that one of the four foundations I received was fairly close to my “base” skin tone. Over time, I have gotten more confident with mixing to even out my complexion in a more natural looking manner, and to do a bit more contouring.
My advice when it comes to mixing: Start with the color closest to your base color, add a drop or two (seriously, just a drop or two) of the color you want to use to adjust it, and then test that in the area you want.
I also strongly suggest you practice this on different areas of your face before you try to do a full face of makeup at all. It’s annoying to have to start from scratch because you got a little too enthusiastic with your lowlights.
The more specific I got with my mixing-and-matching, however, the better the final result. So take an afternoon to just play around in front of a mirror!
For whatever reason, I figured that an air brush specific primer formulation would be something really exceptional, a miracle serum that would even out my skin and…
Well, it’s fine. I’m not complaining, it does help the foundation go on more smoothly, but after testing it after applying my own favorite skincare serum, I can’t say I saw a huge difference between the two.
I might try out a few different primer brands to see if anything strikes me in particular, but basically, this seems like a nice little extra from Luminess. It’s certainly not a must-have.
On the other hand…
I don’t know whether it’s because Luminess has the best blush on the planet, or whether airbrushing is just the best way to put it on, but WOW. I’ve never been a blush person. Sometimes on a full-face makeup day, I’d experiment with a little light blusher, but being super fair skinned, it was just too easy to go overboard and look way overdone.
This stuff is incredible.
So, if you haven’t experimented with airbrushing before, and you think you don’t like blush—I definitely suggest you give this one a try.
This is Luminess’s highlighter. There are two basic ways that it’s recommended to try it. First, you can put it on first and then apply foundation over it. This is a more understated, less dramatic look. Or, you can use it as a finishing sculpting highlighter, and use it after to bring out cheekbones, brow, etc.
The first way gives your skin a more youthful look, a sort of fresh, well… glow. The second method is more like what I would consider true contouring. I tend to use a combination of both. For my brow and chin area, the Glow undercoat is enough. I do an undercoat on my cheekbones too, but then add just a smidge of contouring after applying my foundation.
Overall, it’s a solid highlighter.
However… if you like to use makeup creatively, it’s so much more!
I blend a couple of drops with my powder eyeshadows to get a brilliant, long-wearing cream shadow. If I’m traveling and the airbrush is inconvenient, or I just want to touch up without it, I blend a couple of drops of inexpensive drug-store foundation with Glow, to make a great foundation/concealer on the spot.
I haven’t experimented as much with the other liquid cosmetics from Luminess, but I plan to. Just because it’s “airbrush” compatible doesn’t mean that it can only be used in the airbrush. So keep that in mind!
What else does Luminess claim?
Does Luminess Air coverage really last 18 hours?
This is one of the claims I was most skeptical about. It’s believable that a brand might have 18 hour makeup, but it seemed unlikely that something that provided natural looking coverage could manage it.
I was wrong, more or less. Luminess isn’t going to last 18 hours through playing beach volleyball and swimming.
But it lasts even longer than that when you’re in a typical office work/night in routine, like I usually am. I actually barely have to touch my face up the second morning after a full application. I won’t say it’s a full-on 24 hour makeup, but if you can go without washing your face you’ll notice that your makeup is still 90% good to go.
You’ll look younger
I’ll be honest. This is the majority of the reason I wanted to try an airbrush system over traditional makeup. So far I’ve talked about coverage, and contouring, and covering fine lines, and a lot of other things, but I haven’t directly addressed this.
If you’re 20, no, you’re not going to look younger. If you’re over thirty, like me? Unless your face has somehow dramatically resisted aging for the past decade, proper application will absolutely take a few years off. It’s not just the ability to cover up blemishes, etc. It’s the overall fresh appearance of the foundation, especially when you get your mixing and matching right.
In fact, it’s made such a drastic difference in this regard that I have had a renewed interest in makeup altogether. I’m more motivated to try new things, because against the backdrop of a younger, fresher looking face, it’s just more fun to try out a new eyeshadow trend, new, bolder lip colors, and so forth.
I’d like to point out that if I’ve had at least this much success, it must be possible to get even better results. After all, not only am I pretty new at this, but I haven’t indulged (yet) in buying any of the plethora of other specialized Luminess cosmetics. I’ve yet to touch a real concealer, any of their more dramatic highlighting and contouring products, or their “Eraser” which claims to neutralize redness.
But given what I’ve experienced so far, I certainly plan to.
Compatibility with other makeup
I haven’t actually tried this yet. However, before I bought a system (or even chose one) I read up on this a good bit, and I see very few complaints about any system not being compatible with any airbrush makeup. It seems like any incompatibility is a rare occurrence and happens only with a specific product (not a whole brand).
That said, do not try and put other types of makeup (not specifically designed for airbrush systems) through your Luminess stylus. I did give an oil based foundation a shot, for science… Not only did it not come out, but it wasn’t nearly as easily to rinse out of the stylus as the Luminess foundations. I don’t know that another type of makeup could actually damage the stylus, but it won’t give you any positive results, that much I know.
Should You Buy the Luminess Air Basic Airbrush System?
You’ve heard all about my experience with the Luminess Air, and you probably read lots of Luminess Air reviews. That said, let me break this down.
- If you were hesitating because you thought it would be too technical, gadget-wise, don’t worry about it.
- If you want to experiment with, and learn to mix and match foundations, yes, it’s a good fit.
- If you’re really motivated to overcome uneven skin, or to make yourself look more youthful, yes, it’s a good fit.
- If you find fooling around with makeup for more than ten minutes at a time to learn a new technique, no, it’s probably not for you. (I can now do my foundation in about five minutes, but it took a lot of practice to get here.)
I personally have zero regrets, and in fact, I’m heading down the airbrush makeup rabbit hole. I can’t wait until my next order arrives.