Merle Norman Powder Base


39 reviews

82% would repurchase

Package Quality: 3.9

Price: $$$

Package Quality: 3.9

Price: $$$


Zinc Oxide (CI 77947), Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Water (Aqua), Paraffin, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Iron Oxides (CI 77489, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Fragrance (Parfum), Lecithin, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Talc, Sodium Borate 120905

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Age: 56 & Over

Skin: Dry, Fair, Cool

Hair: Red, Straight, Coarse

Eyes: Green

This product was very nostalgic to me - this and the Miracol mask. When I was a teenager in the 60's I was fascinated with Merle Norman. At that time I could only afford Woolworth cosmetics and was always on the hunt for acne products or "medicated" makeups. My skin was crazy oily with breakouts in the T zone. I lived in suburban Chicago with high humidity and no A/C in our house. At high school I would sit with a couple of "older" students in the cafeteria before the first bell rang. One of them wore the Powder Base, liquid eyeliner and some cream blush from Merle Norman, which she would apply while we waited for the first bell. She didn't have oily skin like I did and would smooth it on. I had a unique fragrance, but the creamy consistency scared me off. I have always been fascinated with makeup, watching women apply makeup, seeing what products they use, and the transformative power of makeup. When I got older (my 20's), I think I tried the Powder Base again, but I can't remember with what results. I became "obsessed" with it again, now that my skin is no longer oily and I actually prefer creamy foundations. I live in the SF Bay Area now, and Merle Norman is not so easy to find now that I no longer live in the "burbs". I found a store and purchased the Powder Base in Porcelain and the Miracol liquid mask, so have recently started using it. The smell/fragrance is the same and takes me back. The price is very reasonable ($20) for the amount of product. My Powder Base's packaging does not match the photos on the web; it has a plain white base and a plain silver tone labels or letters or insignias or design of any kind. Maybe franchisees have the option of selling cheap containers vs fancy ones??? Oh well. The first time I wore it, I went to an upscale restaurant and sat at the counter. Two attractive, well-dressed women and a man were seated next to me. One of the women complemented my nail polish and asked what color it was; the other woman said "I wanted to complement your skin; you complexion looks beautiful!" Whoa Maybe I need to work this stuff into the "rotation" of Giorgio Armani Maestro, and MAC cream foundation more often. I use my fingers to put it on. A little goes a long way and it smooths on easily. It doesn't look or feel heavy, but somehow does manage to conceal imperfections. I need to figure out how much moisturizer to use with it because I don't want to look shiny. I don't use powder. In some of the reviews I noticed that people didn't understand why it was called "Powder Base"...wondering if it was a creme to powder formulation. It is simply a base for powder, but in my case it is just a canvas for blush and eye makeup. When I apply this, the scent of the product remains on my skin; this might be off-putting for some if they don't like (this) fragrance. I am going to start with 3 lippies, and will update it after I have worn it a few more times and under different conditions: heat, cold, less moisturizer, more moisturizer, during and after exercise class.

20 of 20 people found this helpful.


Age: 25-29

Skin: Acne-prone, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Brunette, Other, Other

Eyes: Green

I have been a Merle Norman client for years, but this is the first time I have written a review about a product and am doing so because people need to understand a little bit about this product before buying it.

I am now closing in on 30 and have been using Merle Norman products for the last 6 years since WORKING FOR THE COMPANY shortly after graduating college.

First, you must know that I have an oily t-zone and moderately dry cheeks...the ultimate "combination skin" and acne.

Powder base is by far my favorite Merle Norma foundation. I am not saying that the others are not wonderful, but this product is vastly different than most foundations you will find currently on the market.

Like other brands, most Merle Norman foundations are now oil free or designed to allow the skin to breath and reduce breakouts. Powder Base was Merle Norman's original foundation and contains mineral oil and zinc oxide.

What you must realize is that "mineral oil" in a product does not ultimately mean "acne" if, like me, you are prone to acne breakouts. However, most foundations containing oil will increase acne breakouts because the oil clogs pores.

The reason Powder Base can improve redness, and in some cases, like mine, help to reduce and heal acne (even hormonal acne ladies) is because of the high concentration of the Zinc Oxide.

Regardless of the mineral oil, the Zinc Oxide level in this foundation fights skin irritation and is a natural acne medication as well as sunblock. Zinc is a critical mineral needed by the body that we rarely get enough of through diet. Though professional dermatologists and skin researchers debate over the effectiveness of Zinc to treat acne or heal the skin, I can only speak for myself that it worked for me.

After trying prescription treatments, over the counter treatments and expensive acne skincare products, for the first time since puberty I have my acne under control.

Do not take my word on this alone. No foundation is for everyone. A drugstore brand or alternate Merle Norman foundation may still be your best option. Still, ask for a few "bubble samples" of this foundation from Merle Norman and try it before buying it or dismissing it.

Also, do not apply with a brush. Yes, the consultants at Merle Norman are taught frequently to use brushes because fingers and sponges soak up product and are less sanitary if not washed or discarded respectively. This product is thick but can be applied very lightly with buildable coverage that is difficult to achieve using a brush. Blotting lightly with a tissue will remove any excessive amount of foundation if applied to heavily.

During the summer, the humidity can cause this foundation to feel even heavier. Do not rely on this product to cover blemishes in humid weather. It will feel slightly cake-y. Still, with a light hand, even in the summer, this product will feel similar to any other sunblock and will offer a "natural" finish rather than full coverage.

I hope this information has helped those of you who are still debating purchasing this product or those who have already purchased it and are disappointed. I apologize to those of you who had negative experiences with your consultants. If used correctly, many of you may find that you like this product more than you expect.


20 of 21 people found this helpful.


Age: 56 & Over

Skin: Other, Olive, Not Sure

Hair: Brown, Other, Other

Eyes: Green

I am a third generation MN wearer. My Grandmother now deceased (when it became available to her), my other who is 83 and I who just turned 61 have used this our entire lives. I will never change as long as its made. I did summer work for my local MN Studio for years. All three of us look 15 to 20 years younger than we are. It's like a balm to our skins. I know all skin is different and ours are too but it is wonderful for us. We live in the deep south and this stuff stays PUT no sweating it off it looks just as good when we take it off as when we put it on. They are working hard to overcome the "old lady" image but I'm telling you they have the best foundations and powders in the world. If you don't want to "look" like an "old lady" use this stuff. They have samples for you to use at home to find out what your best shade is and once you find it it's great! I know Sephora and Ulta and all those stores offer thousands of great products but don't PASS up the MN Studio without giving it a shot!

17 of 18 people found this helpful.

Age: 44-55

Skin: Very Oily, Fair, Warm

Hair: Red, Other, Other

Eyes: Green

I found this review completely by accident. I don't remember how I stumbled upon it, but I was very intrigued.

I have very oily and acne prone skin, but now, in my forties, I am also dealing with the issues that come with aging skin; dryness, loss of luminosity, uneven tone and texture, fine lines...and unfortunately, foundations formulated for oily skin exacerbate all those issues. It's been a challenge finding something that meets the needs of both oily and aging skin.

So as I said, I stumbled upon this review and my interest was piqued. As it happens, there is a Merle Norman boutique very close to my workplace, so I stopped in to give it a looksee. The SA was helpful but not overbearing. She made several suggestions, but ultimately I did decide to try the powder base. I was a little skeptical as it seemed very emollient...verging on greasy. But because of the healing properties it purportedly has and the non chemical sun protection (I HATE foundations with chemical sunscreens) as well as the fact that they have a very liberal return policy, I decided to risk it.

As I was applying, my skepticism was unabated. It seemed very, very dewy and didn't seem to set. It looked shiny, even greasy. I was pretty sure that I had made a grave mistake. But as it sat on my skin, it just kind of...disappeared. It like...melted and became one with my skin. It was SO amazingly natural. Even the color, which I initally thought was too dark, was absolutely perfect. I did set with powder, which minimized the shininess, but still left a nice, natural luminosity.

As for how it stood up to my oily skin, amazingly, I did not have to powder for about 4 hours. And then, it really didn't get greasy and gross, just a little dewy. I blotted and was just fine. The product did not break own or become streaky or patchy. After 8 hours, I still looked fresh and natural. I was suitably impressed. I would have expected such an emollient product to leave me dripping with oil in an hour or two, but it didn't. That is HUGE.

Coverage is what I would consider medium, but it can easily be built up without cakiness. I have a few dark spots that it covered easily with just a few extra dabs with my sponge. The best part is that you can achieve wonderful results and good coverage with very little product.

The fragrance is a little strong, yes. But it's not altogether unpleasant. I've used foundations that had a very heavy chemical/paint smell, but that is not the case with this. If I had to describe it I would say it's more of a heavy floral smell. For the first hour it seemed very pronounced and then I didn't notice it any more. It's not a deal breaker for me.

I've only worn this for two days, so I can't comment on the healing properties but I am really, really impressed with the finish, the coverage, the natural appearance, and the lasting power. I think I'm sold.

16 of 16 people found this helpful.


Age: 44-55

Skin: Normal, Other, Not Sure

Hair: Brown, Other, Other

Eyes: Other

I am 55 years old and been wearing powder base since I was 15 years old. Only thing available in my small rural town. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. My Mother who is 76 has used it all her adult life and her skin is like a babies. It's because of this simple formula with zinc oxide, no other explanation for it. Oh yes I strayed over the years and tried different "new" products but not for long I always come back to this. I use a sponge wedge (MN brand) and blend a thin layer then finish off with the sheer face powder (big pearl container gold lid) and it lasts until I take it off. Summer months I finish it off with Luxiva Powder Foundation. It's ironclad! Morbid I know but I have told the local undertaker it better be on my face when I am laid to rest!

16 of 17 people found this helpful.


Age: 44-55

Skin: Normal, Fair-Medium, Not Sure

Hair: Brown, Other, Other

Eyes: Blue

I am 50 years old and have been using select Merle Norman products, since I was 12 years old. (I have used Merle Norman "cold cream" every night for 38 years and it shows.) I have rosacea and Merle Norman Powder Base is the ONLY thing that I can put on my skin, when it flairs. I do use Chanels' Lingerie de Peau when all is well but I always have powder base on hand. Great Product!!! Very healing and great coverage...

15 of 17 people found this helpful.


Age: 56 & Over

Skin: Combination, Medium, Neutral

Hair: Other, Other, Other

Eyes: Hazel

This stuff is just amazing! I've tried to make friends with it a few times over the years with varying results, but now I'm hooked. It may not keep me from checking out a new foundation every once in a while, but the hunts and any serious straying should be over!

Once upon a time, I tried a foundation from Gerda Spillmann. It was gorgeous, but did a number on my eyes. That was many years ago, but it's still my standard of comparison. And Powder Base comes pretty close, especially now that I've discovered a few tricks.

I apply it with a barely damp Beauty Blender, though if you don't mind cleaning brushes, it also looks lovely using the Urban Decay Optical Blurring Brush. It has enough coverage to work as a concealer, too. It can be used with or without powder. On my VERY combination skin I prefer it without. The biggest trick is to blot it after a few minutes. I just use folded toilet paper. What comes off on the paper is a little horrifying--oily tinted residue. But this blotting makes it look natural even in daylight (and the rear view mirror), and makes it last, with or without powder. My makeup goes on by 7:30am, and doesn't get taken off until sometime between 11 and midnight. And it' still there, even without powder, and the only touch up may be another tissue blot. Not only does it come off easily with the Clarisonic, it also rinses clean from the bristles.

Do not panic when you see the color in the pan. Mine looks so wrong--and nothing like the colors of others that work. But when I'm rested (I.e., when my skin is fairly smooth) I can actually have difficulty seeing where I've already applied it! When I'm finished, it may look a little bit greasy, but the blot takes care of that and makes it just about invisible. Somehow it still provides good coverage. Magic, I tell you. In a zillion shades and less than 20 bucks.

Update April2018: Not currently using, but only because I needed a different shade and I just don't like the MN studio where we live now. I'd happily order from the previous place if I were getting the same color, but not being able to try it on is a problem.

15 of 15 people found this helpful.


Age: 36-43

Skin: Combination, Fair-Medium, Not Sure

Hair: Brown, Other, Other

Eyes: Brown

I can't believe that I'm about to review this. I used to cuss this foundation. For reasons that won't be detailed here. However, I have been on the hunt for an HG foundation. Who would have thunk it!? As a previous reviewer mentioned, I tried Gerda Spillman before. It was an excellent foundation. However, it never seemed to provide the exact, adjustable coverage I need. I decided to give this a try because it is inexpensive and because no one has ever had more perfect skin than the stars in old movies, despite all the cigarettes they smoked. Their skin was perfect because of foundations like this one. It has literally been on the market that long. It was $16 at my local studio. I applied it over Tarte primer (the one that minimizes pores) using a foundation brush. I then used silica powder over it. My skin looks fabulous. I may try a Beauty Blender at some point as well. Didn't even bother with a concealer.

The colors are scary in the container. I'm an 01 in Guerlain Lingerie de Peau and I wear Porcelain in Merle Norman Powder Base. My skin is combo/dry lately. Oilier skin folks likely will not love it, but anyone can try a sample of any shade first. Glad I gave it a try. I look refreshed.

13 of 14 people found this helpful.


Age: 56 & Over

Skin: Combination, Fair, Not Sure

Hair: Blond, Other, Fine

Eyes: Blue

Update (12/27/2013): I've been using this all week now, and I love it!!! After a short time, it melds into my skin, and it doesn't get greasy or oily. My usually oily nose stays shine-free. No skin irritation or issues. At the end of the day, most of the makeup is still there to remove. So happy I found this again!

I am one of those that used Powder Base in my early 20's. That was over 40 years ago.

I've been through every kind of foundation over the years. Liquid, cream, powder, stick, spray-on, you name it. I've tried long-wearing, and haven't found one yet that lives up to it's reputation. I always wind up with a grease-slick of a nose, no matter what. I've yet to find a foundation that I couldn't give up.

I came here to read some reviews after realizing Powder Base is still in existence, and became curious about trying it again.

I swear, as emollient as this foundation is in the pot, it amazes me!!! It blends in easily, and there's loads of color shades. It does not get over oily/greasy, it has a lasting finish, and it doesn't seem to settle into lines. I have to say I'm fascinated with this foundation, and think it's a find beyond belief! I'm sold on Powder Base, and plan on sticking with it. What's old is new, as they say, and I can see why this has stood the test of time.

12 of 12 people found this helpful.


Age: 19-24

Skin: Sensitive, Fair-Medium, Neutral

Hair: Blond, Straight, Fine

Eyes: Grey

Finding this product was a huge score for me.

My good friend from college always had that beautiful, I-wish-I-looked-like-you skin. I used to eye her makeup bag when she would be getting ready with me to go out so I could see how she achieved the Dewey-but-not-greasy look. One day I finally just asked her and found out what it was. "Powder base?" I said. "You mean.. Old lady makeup?!" Apparently her mother and grandmother habe always used it and had beautiful skin. I had to have it. You can imagine my excitement when I picked up some powder base (ivory) and realized it was only $16.99. That is cheaper than any of their other foundations! i began to worry that it wouldnt work as well. My friend applies hers with a wet foundation brush, so I did the same. Sure enough, I was able to get that gorgeous Dewey skin.

The real plus with this stuff is that, even though it is a very moisturizing foundation, it does NOT break me out. And believe me, my sensitive skin will find any and every reason to break out. This stuff has actually helped my acne due to the zinc oxide in it!!! Total score. I will repurchase again and again. :)

12 of 13 people found this helpful.

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