Foundation stick is an oft forgotten option for base makeup that deserves a bit of attention. While in the past stick foundations seemed to suit only stage actors and drag queens due to their high coverage, these days there are so many different options for foundation sticks that they absolutely deserve their own guide.
Foundation stick gives a speedy makeup application, and it can easily double as a concealer or a contour stick. No matter your skin type, tone, or personal preferences, I assure you that there is a foundation stick out there that will make your morning routine and on-the-go touch-ups a breeze.
I’ve listed the 15 very best foundation sticks out there, and I give each one a review so you can see what makes them unique. I explain exactly what foundation sticks are, what makes them so great, and how they differ from liquid and cream foundations.
I’ll help you choose the best foundation stick for you based on skin tone and type, and I’ll also give a step by step guide on how to use foundation sticks. To cap things off I have a few extra tips and tricks to make this incredible multi-use foundation even more useful!
Foundation Stick Makeup Guide: Contents
• 15 Best Foundation Sticks to Get
• What Are Stick Foundations?
• Stick Foundation Benefits
• Liquid vs. Stick Foundation
• How to Choose the Right Stick Foundation for You
• How to Use Stick Foundation
• Other Foundation Stick Tips to Know
First things first, these are the best stick foundation options ideal for every skin type you should consider getting.
1. Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick
You can never go wrong with a complexion product from Hourglass. This stick foundation has a pointed, triangular shape that is easy to apply precisely. It is one of the best foundation sticks for those who prefer full coverage but without an overly matte or dewey finish. It’s a great choice for all kinds of skin types as well as skin tones, since it is available in 32 shades at Sephora.
2. Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Stick Foundation
When we picture dewey skin, it is usually a tinted moisturizer that comes to mind, but some days you want that healthy, glowy look while your skin needs serious coverage. That’s what makes this one of the best foundation sticks, especially for those with dry skin. The stick itself is round and fairly large, so an application can be very quick, and you can find it in 20 shades at Sephora.
3. NARS Velvet Matte Foundation Stick
If you have oily skin and need some mattifying control, then this is the best foundation stick for you. If you have more of a combination skin type, you can skip the powdering with this foundation stick: just apply it and blend with the convenient blending sponge at the top of the stick! The light yet matte finish also makes it phenomenal for contouring. You can order your best match out of 20 shades through Net-a-Porter.
4. Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Foundation
What is most unique about this stick foundation is that it is not full coverage – it gives a light to medium coverage on first application and can be built up. It has a natural, demi-matte finish that can work for most skin types, except for the very dry. It is a unique formula that doesn’t work for everyone as foundation but is perfect for contouring! It is available at Sephora in 30 shade options.
5. Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick
This unique foundation stick is made for all skin types but especially those with combination skin, offering a natural-looking medium coverage. It keeps the skin looking and feeling moisturized all day long and is super easy to apply. This foundation comes in 30 different shades at Sephora.
6. Tarte Clay Stick Foundation
This is another one of the best foundation stick options for those with combination skin who want a balanced finished and natural-looking coverage. This foundation stick doesn’t settle into pores or fine lines, and it keeps the skin nourished with a collection of vitamins. The only drawback is the sparse range of colors, with 12 shades available at Sephora.
7. NYX Mineral Stick Foundation
As usual, NYX proves that excellent makeup products don’t have to be expensive. The medium coverage of this foundation stick can be built up and blended easily, while the shade range makes this one of the best foundation sticks for contouring. It looks like these are being discontinued, so snatch one up from Ulta Beauty before they’re gone!
8. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Longwear Foundation Stick SPF 21
This velvety, high-coverage foundation works for all skin types. It is the best stick foundation for those who want something quick and easy – swipe it on, blend, and you’re good to go. You may choose to forego setting powder if your skin is on the dry side, or if you want a glowy look. It works great as a highlighter or contour stick as well, so choose the best shade for you out of the 30 sold at Sephora.
9. Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick
If you look for luxury in your beauty routine, then this is the best foundation stick for you to try, and the price certainly reflects that. This unique formula is buildable, with a matte finish thanks to a touch of oil-absorbing kaolin clay. If you have problems with product settling into pores or fine lines, then this perfectly blendable foundation should be your go to. You can buy your favorite of 19 shades at Sephora.
10. Makeup Revolution Fast Base Stick Foundation
This is another affordable option you should totally try! Despite the price, this is one of the best foundation sticks, and the rose gold packaging is really gorgeous to boot! It has a medium to full coverage, and a natural finish that might require powdering. It wears well for many hours, and is a perfect choice for anyone on a budget. These are sold at Ulta Beauty, with 18 shades available.
11. Nudestix Nudies Tinted Blur Stick
In a way, this is the brand responsible for the resurgence of stick foundations as multi-tasking products for foundation, concealing, contouring and highlighting, so they certainly deserve a mention. This is the best foundation stick for those who like a very light coverage and easy blendability – this is why the word “tinted” is in the product name.
If you find it hard to blend out cream contour, then this product will make it easy, and if you want just the barest hint of coverage on the go, then this will be perfect for you. Find the Nudestix at Sephora in 10 different shades!
12. Smashbox Studio Skin Face Shaping Foundation Stick
Why buy just one foundation stick when you can have two in one? Smashbox created a stick that has an excellent, buildable coverage with a natural finish on one side, and another shade just a touch darker on the other side for quick contouring. If you’re low on space, then this will be the best foundation stick for you. Ulta Beauty sells these duos in 14 different shade options.
13. By Terry Nude-Expert Foundation & Highlighter Stick
If you like a foundation that gives a strobing effect, then this is the best foundation stick for you. While I do find the half and half design of the stick gimmicky, it is undeniable that the buildable coverage is lovely and that blending it into a lovely, radiant look is easy as pie. This is a great option for anyone with dry, normal, or combination skin who wants to glow. You can order your favorite of the 10 shades available from Nordstrom.
14. Clinique Chubby in the Nude Foundation Stick
These fun stick foundations from Clinique really look like big crayons! These go on easily, giving the skin a medium to full coverage with a velvet finish. They last quite a while with minimal powdering and work well for all skin types. They come in 6 shades at Sephora.
15. YSL All Hours Stick Foundation
This is another stick foundation that’ll make your makeup routine feel more luxurious, with its classy golden packaging. The coverage is matte and a little fuller, so it’s a great choice for those with oily and combination skin. It feels lightweight on the skin and can double as concealer perfectly. You can buy it from Sephora, where it is available in 20 shades.
Imagine an extra large tube of lipstick, but instead of being filled with a reddish cream, foundation stick is filled with a thick cream foundation. That is essentially what foundation sticks are – cream foundations in a tube.
These foundations are quick to apply, since you just have to swipe them on and blend. Their shape makes them super easy to carry in a bag and use throughout the day for touch-ups.
You do not have to worry about any spills or mess! They tend to have a higher coverage than most liquid foundations, and their thicker formula makes them an excellent two-in-one foundation and concealer.
• Foundation sticks are easy to carry in the purse and apply on the go.
• Higher coverage and thick texture means that stick foundation can double as concealer.
• A darker shade of stick foundation makes for excellent and easy cream contour!
• A lighter shade of stick foundation is perfect for highlighting, especially if you prefer a matte or subtle highlight.
• The application process for stick foundations is clean and easy, as you just swipe them on and then blend with your tool of choice.
• A foundation stick cannot spill or make a mess, so it’s perfect for anyone a little clumsy!
Liquid foundation is the most popular kind of foundation. This is not surprising, because liquid foundations can come in a very wide range of finishes and coverages, which means that they can work for anyone. They are also very easy to formulate – all a company has to do is make a colored liquid and put it in a bottle.
Stick foundations, however, are a more specific product. A stick foundation has a thicker, more waxier texture, and it requires a bit more work to prepare, since it has to be poured into a mold and then placed in a tube where it rolls up.
Because of this stick foundations hold less potential to make a mess and they are much quicker and easier to apply than liquid foundations. For the most part, stick foundations tend to have a higher coverage although some sheer and medium-coverage ones also exist, and they tend to leave the skin with a velvet or demi-matte finish.
Cream foundations are very similar to stick foundations when it comes to feel and coverage, but the big difference is the container they come in. Normally cream foundations come in a jar or a compact, which is also more portable than a bottle of liquid foundation. However, a stick foundation is applied straight from the tube to the skin, while cream foundations require some sort of sponge or brush to go on.
If you prefer something quick and easy with good coverage, definitely consider switching over from your liquid foundation to a foundation stick!
When choosing your perfect stick foundation, you should be guided by both your skin type and tone. Here is how you should pick the best match for you!
By Skin Type
In my reviews of the best stick foundations I made sure to let you know which skin type each foundation stick suits better, but I also want to give some basic principles for choosing the best foundation stick for each skin type.
• If you have dry skin, with smaller pores and very little oil production, then you want to opt for a foundation stick that will not catch or emphasize dry areas and will keep your skin feeling smooth and hydrated. Creamier foundation stick formulas with dewy and velvety finishes are the way to go. You can also search for foundation sticks that have nourishing vitamins and oils, to hydrate your skin.
• If you have oily skin with larger pores and a lot of sebum production throughout the day, then you want the exact opposite. You want a matte or demi-matte foundation stick that will keep your skin looking matte and your oils in check throughout the day. Silicone ingredients can help mattify the skin and blur the pores, while kaolin clay is a great ingredient for oil absorption.
• Those who have normal or combination skin, with average-sized pores and moderate or localized oil production, want to find a foundation stick that will sit somewhere in the middle. Look for either velvety or demi-matte finishes that will keep the skin looking hydrated but not shiny or greasy.
By Skin Tone
The trick to finding your perfect foundation match is to first identify your skin’s undertones. These days most companies split their foundations into cool, warm, and occasionally also neutral.
• Those with cool undertones have a skin tone that leans a little bit towards more pinky or orangey, and their veins will appear slightly purple.
• Those with warm undertones will have more yellow or golden tones in their skin, and their veins will appear to be a blueish-green.
• Those with neutral skin will be somewhere in the middle, with an even blend of pink and yellow tones and with veins that seem simply blue.
• Olive undertones refer to skin that has a little bit of greenness to it, which might be considered more warm or more cool depending on the brand, so you will have to be a little more careful. Those with olive undertones will have veins that appear very green.
Color matching a stick foundation is easy as pie, but when it comes to testers in the store you do need to remember basic hygiene principles. Once you own your very own foundation stick you can simply swipe it on your skin. However, when you’re testing a color at the store, you don’t want to just apply it straight on.
These days companies release very large foundation ranges, so just by looking you might find a few colors that could possibly be a good match to your skin tone. Choose three foundation sticks that seem to match your undertone and that seem to be the same darkness level as your skin.
To test the color of a foundation stick in the store hygienically, you will want to find a cotton bud. Roll up the foundation stick tester and swipe the cotton bud along an untouched side of it. Draw a stripe of foundation with the cotton bud vertically along your jawline.
Repeat this process with the other potential foundation stick matches. Examine your jaw in the mirror, and try to identify which foundation blends most seamlessly into your jaw and neck – you might want to blend the three shades out a bit with your finger in order to tell more easily. The foundation stick shade that seems to disappear is your color!
You can use your foundation stick multiple ways – either as a foundation or for highlighing and contouring. These are the steps to stick to when using a foundation stick for both purposes:
Stick Foundation as Foundation
• Applying a primer is a great optional step for cushioning your skin from foundation, increasing its longevity, and blurring imperfections below it.
• Roll up your stick foundation. Apply it to your skin, starting with the areas where you need the most coverage. For a simple, all-over base, apply it in stripes or dots to your cheeks, jawline, chin, nose, and forehead.
• With your fingers, a stiff foundation brush, or a damp beauty blender, blend the foundation out into your skin. Use downward, circular motions for that perfect, seamless blend.
• If necessary, build up extra coverage with foundation by dotting it over pimples or areas with redness.
• To add a bit of coverage under the eyes, swipe a bit of foundation over your ring finger or a concealer brush, and apply to the under-eye area with a gentle stippling motion.
• If you need even more coverage anywhere, apply a dedicated concealer as you normally would.
• If you use any other cream makeup products like blush, contour, or highlighter, apply them next.
• Set your foundation into place with a translucent powder. To avoid disrupting the makeup, use a large kabuki brush, and apply the powder in a stippling motion.
• Finish off with additional powder products like blush or bronzer, as well as eye and lip makeup, and you’re good to go!
Stick Foundations for Contour and Highlight
• Once you’ve applied your foundation, either as outlined above or in whichever way you normally would apply a liquid or cream foundation, you can use stick foundations to achieve quick and easy cream highlight and contour.
• Choose one stick foundation that is 3-4 shades darker than your skin tone for contouring, and another stick foundation that is 2-3 shades lighter than your skin tone for highlighting.
• For contouring, swipe a thin line of the darker foundation stick just below your cheekbone. Start the line right next to the center of the ear, and pull it down about an inch below where the apple of your cheek starts.
• You can also contour with a couple of lines or dots at your temples, one line along the perimeter of the forehead, a line along your jawline, small lines or dots at the sides of your nose, and a couple swipes right below the chin.
• To blend out the contour, use the pointy end of a beauty blender or a small stiff foundation brush. Use small, circular motions to blend larger areas like below the cheek, the temples, jawline, and forehead. For the nose, use a more careful stippling/ blending motion that pulls the contour down and away from the bridge of the nose.
• For highlighting you can use either lines of the brighter shades of stick foundation or you can dot it – it is totally up to you!
• Apply the lighter foundation stick to the high point of your cheek bones, down the bridge of your nose, above your cupid’s bow, to the center of the forehead, and right below where you applied your cheek contour.
• With a clean brush or beauty blender, use a gentle tapping motion to blend out your highlight while still maintaining its intensity.
• Once you’re finished, touch up your foundation and concealer, and then use a translucent powder to set everything into place.
• If you would like to increase the intensity of your contour and highlight, you can double it up with a powder contour and shimmery highlight.
• Foundation sticks do a great job doubling as concealers, but they are a little too big to apply straight to those pesky blemishes or below the eyes. Rub the tip of a concealer brush over your foundation stick to collect product, and then use the concealer brush to apply that bit of foundation wherever it may need to go.
• When applying stick foundation, be careful not to overdo it. By apply it in a few dots or stripes over the face and then blending you are guaranteed a flawless application that will not be cakey.
• When it comes to using stick foundations for highlight and contour, remember that a little goes a long way, so use a smaller amount of product and thinner lines than you would if you were using a powder contour or highlight.
• Do not neglect your skin or skip the moisturizer! Stick foundation, like other high-coverage foundations, is likelier to catch on dry patches if the skin is dehydrated.
• Not all stick foundations need to be set with a translucent powder, so pay attention to your skin and decide for yourself if you think powdering is necessary.
• In a pinch, stick foundation can act as a decent base for eyeshadows. Swipe it over your eye, blend it, and place the eyeshadow on top and you will enjoy an eye makeup look that will not crease or budge for quite a while.
• Use your foundation stick to sharpen the outer line of your eyeshadow – simply swipe it up from eye to temple, below where the wing of your eyeliner should go.
Photos via @negin_mirsalehi, @janicejoostemaa, @marianna_hewitt, @beautybykanika