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Even if you’re not a makeup aficionado, you’re vaguely aware of foundation, what it is, and why it matters. But what you might not realize is that this product category is incredibly diverse. And while brands like Fenty Beauty brought the concept of diversity and inclusion to life with their jaw-dropping 50-color shade range, there’s more to picking the right foundation than finding your color match.
We’ve rounded up some of the best foundations available that tackle everything from color-shifting coverage to skin-loving ingredients that improve the look and feel of your skin over time.
We get it, makeup is personal. What works for one makeup maven might not appeal to another. But we spent some time sleuthing to find the best foundation for a wide variety of beauty concerns so that you can put your focus on your makeup routine rather than dealing with trial and error, foundation edition.
Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Perfect Glow Flawless Oil-Free Foundation
Luminosity, a wide shade range, and a silky-smooth fluid foundation combine to create the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk. You’ll appreciate this buildable medium-coverage foundation that’s designed to give you a “your skin but better” effect. This foundation is ideal for all skin types and relies on an exclusive Micro-fil technology to blur imperfections and improve the look of your skin’s texture. And makeup lovers will love that it can be applied with both brushes and damp sponges. Buy it at Nordstrom!
Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation
A flawless finish doesn’t require that you break the bank. The Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation is perfect for people who demand quality makeup at a reasonable price point. This pick comes in 40 colors, which is an excellent shade range for a drugstore brand to offer. This Maybelline pick is another lightweight option that’s designed to give you an “I woke up like this” effect. The liquid foundation can be applied with a brush or sponge and is designed to refine pores and give you a soft matte finish. However, it’s best for normal to oily skin. Buy it on Amazon!
It’s no secret that Fenty Beauty’s Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation is a fan favorite, and for good reason. Along with initially launching with one of the largest shade ranges in the beauty world, this foundation is perfect for creating a soft matte finish with just a pump or two of product. With 50 colors, there’s a shade designed to match your skin tone and undertone.
This liquid foundation is lightweight with a medium-to-full coverage that’s buildable for people who prefer more coverage. It is designed without parabens or phthalates, is cruelty-free, and is ideal for normal, combination, and oily skin. Buy it at Sephora!
Best Shade Range
Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Liquid Makeup Foundation
While Fenty Beauty gets all the attention for a diverse shade range, Estee Lauder’s Double Wear offers 56 shades, giving it one of the best shade ranges in the foundation segment. But beyond the wide range of colors, you’ll love that this is designed to go the distance. This foundation promises to last 24 hours with a medium-to-full coverage that’s buildable with a natural matte finish. This foundation also gets high marks for being transfer-resistant, waterproof, and further categorized by undertones so you can achieve the perfect match. Buy it at Sephora!
People concerned about the ingredients in their go-to makeup products will appreciate the Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint. Along with being a lightweight and gentle intro into the foundation world, we love that this choice has reef-safe SPF infused into it to protect your skin from the sun. Plus, the addition of hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and squalane all help to keep your skin hydrated.
With 30 unique shades, this pick has a commendable shade range and is also oil-free. Because it’s a skin tint, think of it more like a liquid tinted moisturizer. However, keep in mind that it initially applies lighter to help ensure you’ve fully covered your face with the SPF, but after a minute, it dries down to the true tone. Shop for it at Sephora!
Who wouldn’t love a compact liquid foundation that provides just a hint of color to help even out your skin tone without feeling heavy or cakey? The Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint is a compact breathable formula that’s designed as ideal for someone who needs a minor bit of perfecting but doesn’t want to deal with a traditional foundation formula.
It also contains glycerin to help moisturize the skin, while diamond powder creates a soft-focus effect that helps to reduce the look of pores. You’ll like that this is a vegan-friendly and cruelty-free formula that’s approved for all skin types. But with just 12 shades, coverage may be a little limiting for some. Buy it on Glossier!
Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation
Make Up For Ever is another paragon in the beauty world, and their Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation is a fan favorite as well. You’ll choose from 50 shades that all offer medium coverage in a natural finish. This liquid formula is designed to be long-wearing and is designed for dry, combination, and normal skin types.
The Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation is popular because it’s weightless yet is infused with hyaluronic acid to moisturize the skin. It can last for up to 24 hours and gives you a second-skin look with smart adaptive pigments that automatically adjust to your complexion so that only you’ll know you’re wearing foundation. Shop for it at Sephora!
bareMinerals Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation SPF 15
BareMinerals is probably one of the most popular mineral makeup brands that are instantly recognizable, which is why we’re including their Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation SPF 15. This is a great alternative for people who dislike liquid or cream foundations, and it comes in 30 shades.
Along with being vegan-friendly, this pick offers a natural finish with medium coverage that’s ideal for dry, combination, and normal skin types. More importantly, you’ll like that it has mineral-based SPF infused to help protect your skin from the sun while providing long-wear functionality. The lightweight formula is designed so that it won’t clog pores but will help your skin look healthier and clearer over time. Buy it on Sephora!
IT Cosmetics CC+ Color Correcting Full Coverage Cream SPF 50+
An ultra-powerful SPF level and a color-correcting creamy foundation are all you need to know about the IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream. This is one of the strongest SPF levels you’ll find in a foundation. But more importantly, people with darker skin tones won’t experience the telltale ashen cast that often accompanies SPF-infused foundations. The rich formula is scent-free and promises to provide hydration and full-coverage while also minimizing the look of acne scarring, wrinkles, redness, dark circles, and larger pores. Best of all, it won’t crease or crack. However, there are only 12 shades. Buy it at Nordstrom!
One of the best ways to ensure a flawless finish is to invest in a good airbrush foundation. The Diorskin Airflash Spray Foundation is a popular choice since it offers a radiant finish that combines with water-resistance while promising 12 hours of wear. While the learning curve might be a bit steep for makeup newbies, this is a great pick for anyone that’s looking to step up their makeup application game. You’ll get a lightweight, silky formula that dries quickly and gives you a velvety smooth finish. Choose from 24 colors and buy it at Nordstrom!
Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation
No one wants to feel like they’re wearing a mask when they have foundation on their face. We like the Rare Beauty Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation because it offers a wide shade range and is designed to feel undetectable. You’ll get a medium-coverage foundation in a liquid formula that’s vegan-friendly and paraben-free. This natural-finish makeup is ideal for dry, combination, and normal skin types. The buildable foundation is available in 48 shades and is designed for long wear. Shop for it at Sephora!
Pat McGrath is an icon in the beauty industry because she’s a makeup-artist-turned-business-maven that makes effective and eye-catching products. Her Sublime Perfection Foundation is a hydrating liquid formula, making it ideal for people with drier skin. The medium coverage is buildable and available in 36 shades and is designed to give you a natural finish. The foundation is infused with diamond core powder to give you a radiant, luminous finish and to blur any skin imperfections. Shop for it at Sephora! 68
Best Pressed Powder
Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Powder Foundation
If you like the idea of Fenty Beauty’s Pro Filt’r foundation but dislike liquid formulas, then today’s your lucky day because that formula is now available as a matte pressed powder. Available in the same versatile 50-shade range as the liquid version, this pick is also guaranteed to give you a matte finish that blurs imperfections yet gives you flawless medium to full coverage. Along with being long-wearing, this pick is also vegan-friendly and cruelty-free. Buy it at Sephora! 36
If you have dry skin, you know that sometimes foundation can encourage the look of flaky, dry patches on your face. The Kosas Tinted Face Oil Foundation is designed to combat that by providing critical hydration to parched skin. You’ll like that this liquid formula offers buildable medium coverage that applies to give you a satin finish. It’s infused with avocado, meadowfoam, red raspberry, jojoba, rosehip seed, and camellia seed oil, which all help to moisturize, plump, balance, and brighten your complexion. Shop for it at Sephora!
Best for Fine Lines
Make Up For Ever Reboot Active Care Revitalizing Foundation
There’s nothing worse than foundation that settles into fine lines. As a result, those minor imperfections get magnified. Make Up For Ever’s Reboot Active Care Revitalizing Foundation is designed to help improve your skin’s texture and appearance while also providing you with flawless coverage. This liquid formula offers light, buildable coverage while also hydrating, firming, and smoothing your skin. And it’s guaranteed to last for up to 24 hours. It’s ideal for normal and dry skin types and is available at Sephora.
Everyone should wear SPF. But sometimes adding an extra step to your skincare routine can feel like a chore. Thankfully, MAC Cosmetics’ Studio Fix is the perfect way to shorten your morning routine while still practicing good sun health. While it’s designed for all skin types, it is ideal for people with oily skin since it helps to control oil and shine for up to six hours. You’ll also like that it works to minimize pores and other skin imperfections and offers medium-to-full buildable coverage. Buy it at Nordstrom!
While pricier makeup brands do tend to get most of the attention, newbies and long-time makeup fans know that Wet ‘n Wild is a trusted brand that manages to create quality products at affordable prices. Their Photo Focus Foundation is a great solution for people who prefer a “your skin but better” effect. While the formula is hydrating, it offers a matte finish and incorporates a light-diffusing complex that helps to prevent ghosting or that white cast in flash photos. And more importantly, this pick is cruelty-free and available on Amazon.
Best Tinted Moisturizer
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector SPF 30
Tinted moisturizers are perfect for those days when you don’t want to wear a full-coverage foundation but you want a little something to even out your skin tone and create a great natural beauty look. Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer is infused with SPF 30, making it a perfect choice for people who want to prioritize SPF and a hint of color all in one step. This pick is perfect for all skin tones and is designed to hydrate for 24 hours while also incorporating a vitamin C and E complex to help protect your skin from harsh environmental stressors. You’ll like that it’s paraben-free and available at Nordstrom.
L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Liquid Longwear Foundation
For some people, matte foundations can be a turnoff because they can look too dry. And for others, dewy formulas can leave them too shiny. The L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Liquid Longwear Foundation is ideal since it’s a demi-matte. This is a hybrid of dewy and matte textures so that you have a vibrant, radiant complexion that gives you a luminous finish. You’ll love that it’s a long-wearing formula designed to last for up to 24 hours and that it helps to hide and smooth imperfections for a flawless effect. Buy it on Amazon!
NYX Professional Makeup Born To Glow Naturally Radiant Foundation
NYX Cosmetics is another fan-favorite brand, especially among beauty junkies that are always looking for the hot new trend in makeup. But more than being cutting edge, the brand is known for creating quality products that are good enough for the pros but affordable enough for budget-savvy makeup lovers.
Their Born To Glow Naturally Radiant Foundation is a wallet-friendly buildable liquid foundation with the widest coverage possible. While it initially goes on sheer, you can build it into full coverage by applying additional layers. And considering that it’s available in 45 shades, there’s something for everyone here. It’s available on Amazon.
Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Longwear Foundation
While buildable foundations are popular when you want to switch it up from day to day, some people prefer a true full-coverage foundation. Charlotte Tilbury’s Airbrush Flawless Longwear Foundation is a full-coverage pick that comes in a wide shade range with 44 colors. Along with giving you seamless coverage, it offers a matte finish in a liquid formula. More importantly, it’s designed to hydrate and reduce the appearance of wrinkles while also giving a fresh feeling to your face. Shop for it at Sephora!
Best for Oily Skin
tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation SPF 15
People with oily skin tend to avoid foundations that promote radiant or dewy complexions since they don’t need help in that arena. The Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation is infused with SPF 15 and offers a matte finish to help banish shine. You’ll like the wide shade range with an impressive 40 options. This is another great full-coverage option that’s vegan-friendly and promises to give you oil-free coverage that can last up to 12 hours. Buy it at Sephora!
Stick foundations are ideal for people who prefer a more targeted application approach and who want to control exactly how much product they’re using. The Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick is a great option that’s designed to be long-wearing and give you a natural finish. This full-coverage foundation is available in 32 shades and is also waterproof. You’ll like that it’s designed in a triangular shape to make application even easier. And you can enjoy this beauty pick guilt-free since it’s vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free. Shop for it at Sephora!
Best for Mature Skin
CoverGirl & Olay Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Liquid Foundation
You shouldn’t have to give up foundation just because you’re older. But you sometimes will need to change the type of foundation you buy. Most importantly, you don’t want a foundation that settles into fine lines and amplifies wrinkles or crow’s feet. The Covergirl Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Liquid Foundation prioritizes hydration, protecting delicate skin by infusing their formula with hyaluronic complex, vitamin C, and niacinamide. This foundation is designed to reduce the look of wrinkles with a formula that promises not to float over fine lines and wrinkles. Buy it on Amazon!
Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation + Concealer
When you’re short on time, a foundation that can pull double duty is a lifesaver so you can get out the door and on with your day. Milani’s Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation + Concealer is designed to shorten your makeup application time with a liquid foundation that corrects while also evening out skin tone. Hide under-eye circles, redness, and other imperfections in one product. This cruelty-free pick is available in 45 shades. You’ll get oil-free buildable medium-to-full coverage that’s water-resistant yet lightweight with a silky finish. Buy it on Amazon!
Best for Sensitive Skin
Bite Beauty Changemaker Supercharged Micellar Foundation
Bite Beauty may be best known for their enviable lip products, but the brand is also ideal for people focused on revamping their makeup collection with clean beauty products. Sensitive skin makeup fans will appreciate that their Changemaker Supercharged Micellar Foundation is made from natural ingredients designed to not only make you look beautiful but also give your skin the healthy boost it needs.
Their foundation is infused with the antioxidant-rich maqui berry and micellar technology to ensure you get a “your skin but better” finish. This liquid formula is vegan-friendly and offers medium long-wear coverage that’s lightweight and buildable. Buy it at Sephora!
If you want your foundation to do more than just look pretty, you’ll like the Vital Skin Foundation Stick. While this clean beauty pick does have a somewhat limited shade range with just 18 colors, you’ll like that it pulls double duty as a foundation and concealer in a stick formula that makes application a breeze. It’s especially ideal for people who struggle with redness or dull and uneven texture. The formula is infused with squalane to prevent moisture loss and phytosphingosine to help soothe and calm the skin. You’ll get medium coverage with a natural finish. Shop for it at Sephora!
NARS is another fan-favorite brand that’s known for creating effective beauty products that stand the test of time. While they’re best known for their universal shade Orgasm blush, beauties with dry skin will rave for their Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation. This liquid foundation is available in 34 shades and offers full coverage that’s guaranteed to last for up to 16 hours. More importantly, it’s lightweight and won’t leave your skin cakey. Buy it at Sephora!
Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Liquid 24H Longwear SPF 15 Foundation
There’s nothing worse than makeup that ends up on your clothes. If transfer is an issue you struggle with, upgrade your foundation to Lancôme’s Teint Idole. This oil-free liquid foundation is designed to stay where it belongs – on your face. You’ll get up to 24 hours of velvety-smooth finish wear. This buildable foundation can give you medium-to-full coverage and is formulated with color-true NAI pigments to maintain the skin’s pH. This aids in the long-wear function while also ensuring that your foundation won’t look cakey as the day progresses. Buy it at Nordstrom!
It’s not unusual to have combination skin that’s dry in some places and/ or oily in others. For those beauty lovers, Too Faced’s Born This Way Foundation is a great option that offers medium-to-full coverage and comes in 35 shades. You’ll like that this is a hydrating oil-free foundation that gives you buildable coverage with a natural finish. But you’ll love that it’s designed to give you flawless coverage that will have everyone wondering if it’s your skin or makeup. We like that the formula is infused with coconut water, hyaluronic acid, and alpine rose to hydrate your skin and infuse it for more resilience. Get it at Sephora!
Shiseido Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Foundation SPF 30
Makeup that fades as the day progresses shouldn’t be something you have to endure. Shiseido’s Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Foundation is infused with SPF 30 and is designed to adapt to your skin as you wear it so that it always looks like it was just freshly applied. This feature is designed so that you’ll get 24 hours of wear. Along with the SPF, this medium-coverage liquid foundation is hydrating, ideal for all skin types, and comes in 30 shades. Buy it at Sephora!
Laura Mercier Flawless Lumière Radiance-Perfecting Foundation
A great foundation can give you a “lit from within” complexion that will have everyone saying that your skin is glowing. The Laura Mercier Flawless Lumiere Radiance-Perfecting Foundation is designed to do exactly that in 30 shades. You’ll get a fragrance-free liquid formula that offers buildable medium-to-full coverage with a natural finish that looks great in any light.
We like that this is a hydrating long-wear formula that gives you 15 hours of flawless coverage. You’ll love that this hydrating pick is packed with vitamin C to give you brighter, more even-toned skin, and silver ear mushroom extract to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Pick it up at Sephora!
Every once in a while, it feels good to just treat ‘yo self. And the Tom Ford Traceless Soft Matte Foundation is a splurge-worthy find that’s available in 40 shades. This matte-finish liquid formula is designed to create a buildable medium-to-full coverage and is great for dry, combination, and normal skin types. Hydrating hyaluronic acid replenishes essential moisture, while soft-focus microsphere powders help to blur and diffuse light. And you’ll like that this pick has a color-true formula that’s designed to last for up to 10 hours without fading. Buy it at Sephora!
What to Look for in the Perfect Foundation for You?
Buying the best foundation is about more than making sure you pick the right shade – although that’s a critical factor to consider. You need to think about several issues such as formulation, finish, and coverage. The next time you’re in the foundation aisle at your favorite beauty store, make sure you consider the following tips.
Hands down, picking the right shade is one of the first things you need to prioritize. Pick the wrong shade that’s too light or dark, and your face won’t match the rest of your body.
But picking foundations can be tricky, as many people assume they should match their shade to their face when in reality, it should be matched to their body. Try testing on your chest if you can. But also keep in mind that people tend to get a little more color in the warmer months. So, it’s not a bad idea to have a winter and summer shade so that you don’t look ghostly in the summer or unnaturally tan in the winter.
In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have any skin issues, and you could essentially grab any foundation off the shelf (in the right color), and it would work for you. But in real life, you might have a few minor imperfections that can dictate the type of foundation you pick.
While some foundations are designed to simply cover, others are intended to help hide blemishes or even improve the condition of your skin. For example, people with dry skin should opt for foundations with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which can improve the look and feel of your skin over time. Or vitamin C-infused foundations are great for people who want to brighten to achieve a natural glow.
Foundations come in a variety of formulas, but the most popular and widely available tend to be liquid, cream (usually in a stick form), and powder. Of course, there are hybrids like cushions and mousse.
The type that’s right for you is going to come down to personal preference and, in some cases, skin type. While people with normal skin types have the luxury of using any formula, people with dry skin may find that powders can exacerbate and highlight dry patches or texture. In contrast, someone with oily skin might want to avoid a cream formula that might amplify or encourage shine.
Liquid, stick, and hydrating powder formulas are great for those with dry skin.
Powder, and oil-free, oil-absorbing liquid formulas are good for oily skin types.
Those with combination skin are advised to use oil-absorbing formulas on the oily parts of the face and more hydrating formulas on the drier parts.
How do you want your foundation to make you look? Do you like the idea of a dewy finish, or do you prefer a matte effect? Again, this is a factor that is equal parts preference and skin type.
Dewy and glowy finishes, while pretty, may be difficult for someone with oily skin who doesn’t need help looking shiny. Meanwhile, matte formulas – unless infused with moisture-rich ingredients – might be on the no-no list for someone with dry skin.
There are a wide range of finishes and some that are combinations, but the most common ones you’ll find include:
Matte: no shine, and ideal for people with oily skin
Semi-matte: also usually listed as natural
Radiant: offers a dewy finish and is ideal for people with dry skin
The term coverage is exactly like it sounds and refers to how well a foundation covers your skin. There are three main categories – sheer, medium, or full. But you’ll also find that buildable coverage is a popular option. This simply means that depending on how much foundation you apply, you can shift the coverage from one level to another. The most common option is medium-to-full coverage.
Sheer-coverage foundation is ideal for people who need a minor amount of coverage, such as to simply even out skin tones or people desiring a “your skin but better” effect. Tinted moisturizers are perfect examples of sheer coverage. You can also use a medium-coverage foundation but apply it sparingly with a damp beauty sponge or brush to sheer it out for a lighter effect.
Medium-coverage foundation tends to be the most versatile since you can easily adjust the coverage from sheer to full, depending on how it’s applied. This type of foundation can easily adapt from day to night, depending on how much you apply, and is also ideal for daily wear.
Full-coverage foundation is ideal when you need to cover blemishes such as acne or pronounced hyperpigmentation. It’s often used in photoshoots because it creates a flawless effect under bright lights and HD cameras. It’s also ideal for special occasions where you need a foundation with long-wear properties that can withstand a full day of activities.
Foundation Shopping Tips
There are so many diverse options in the foundation category, it’s important to keep a few other considerations in mind.
Many experts recommend applying SPF as a separate step versus an SPF-infused foundation to prevent the makeup from breaking down.
Finding your right shade can be hard. When in doubt, ask a pro at your favorite beauty store to help you find the perfect shade.
Less is more. Except for special events, photoshoots, or those with serious skin blemishes, most people don’t need full-coverage foundation regularly, as it can appear cakey or like you’re wearing a mask in natural light.
Photos via Instagram, Sephora
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