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In a world where the younger generations can increasingly afford less, drugstore foundations have become items of utmost importance. We might be poor, but we sure as heck don’t want to look like it. Thankfully, drugstore brands have stepped up their game since the 2008 financial crisis, and their complexion products rival the ones of expensive brands.
We’ve selected the best drugstore
foundations you can find online right now, and we’ve made it easier for you to
choose the best one for you by thoroughly explaining how they work and what
they’re best at doing. We then meditate a bit on the difference between
high-end and drugstore foundations and also give a quick guide to help you
determine your needs and select the best drugstore foundation for you.
I’m happy to start with a drugstore foundation that was my holy grail for years. It’s a buildable, medium- to full-coverage foundation that can work for literally anyone. L’Oreal has made it available in an incredible inclusive shade range that even offers three undertone options.
The finish is natural and satiny, so it can be easily mattified with powder or made dewy with some strobe cream. It blends like a dream, doesn’t oxidize, and is as close to “one-size-fits-all” as a foundation can get. The only drawback is the bottle, which is not travel-friendly and would be improved by a pump. Buy it on Amazon!
This is the best drugstore foundation that changed the game when it first came out. It totally mattifies the skin and even self-sets, making powder optional, and gives the skin buildable medium coverage that feels weightless. The shade range is very wide and inclusive, which is another element we always appreciate, especially in an affordable product. It plays well with other products and has a silicone-based formula that acts like a primer to blur the pores. You can get it from Amazon.
Best Matte High-Coverage
Revlon ColorStay Makeup for Combination/Oily Skin Longwear Liquid Foundation
This used to be one of the Internet’s favorite foundations, but it’s lost some of its popularity over the years. It’s still one of the best drugstore foundations, in our opinion, especially when it comes to coverage. It can save you the need for concealer, with a buildable formula that can hide all kinds of discolorations. That said, it is really easy to overdo things and look cakey, so be ready to blend. This formula is quite mattifying, so if you get dry patches, definitely stay away. It is available online on Amazon.
Best for Dry Skin
Bourjois Healthy Mix Anti-Fatigue Medium Coverage Liquid Foundation
Bourjois is slightly on the pricier end of drugstore foundations, but their products rival high-end ones, so they absolutely merit a mention. This stunning foundation glides perfectly over dry skin, boosting the skin with a blend of vitamins, giving medium coverage, and allowing dry skin to shine. As a bonus, we love that it comes with a pump, which makes it so much cleaner and easier to use. Pick it up from Amazon!
Best Satin High-Coverage
Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation + Concealer
Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation + ConcealerAmazon.com
This full-coverage drugstore foundation also doubles as a concealer to camouflage all manner of blemishes and discolorations. We love it for all skin types thanks to its natural finish, which can be made more matte or dewier with a primer or powder. It has a creamy texture that doesn’t settle into pores or dry patches and makes it easier to avoid cakiness. We love that it’s cruelty-free since, unfortunately, many drugstore foundations aren’t, and we also appreciate the large selection of shades. Order it from Amazon!
We didn’t expect it, but somehow Drew Barrymore knocked it out of the park with her makeup line, and this drugstore foundation is a shining example of that. It gives buildable medium coverage and the most gorgeous luminous finish imaginable, making it a great choice for those with dry, normal, or combination-dry skin. It protects the skin with SPF 15 and is light on the silicones. The only drawback is the shade range, which is not large enough for everyone to find a match. Grab it from Ulta or Amazon!
L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Liquid Longwear Foundation Makeup
This is another medium-coverage drugstore foundation for those with oily skin. It glides over the skin smoothly and has a creamy texture that offers a lot of playtime for blending and building it up, which also means it is less likely to get cakey. Once it self-sets, it has a smooth, oil-controlling matte finish that looks fantastic all throughout the day. We also appreciate the tube packaging, which makes it a very convenient product on the go. Purchase it on Amazon!
CoverGirl & Olay Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Liquid Foundation
Covergirl and Olay released their iconic drugstore foundation in a liquid formula that we absolutely love. It still has that same swirl of foundation and moisturizer, making for a very hydrating formula that still offers a decent amount of coverage. It’s easy to sheer out for lighter coverage or to build it up to full, and it doesn’t sink into fine lines at all. It includes a few anti-aging ingredients and leaves the skin looking glowy. We do wish it came in a larger shade range. Find it on Amazon!
Maybelline Super Stay Full Coverage Liquid Foundation
This is the best drugstore foundation if your main concern is longevity. It looks incredible for hours on end, so if you wake up early, go to bed very late, and always need to look on point, give it a try. It has a natural, semi-matte finish that works for most skin types, though if you’re extra oily, you can set it to guarantee it’ll stay in place. The color range isn’t bad, either. Shop for it on Amazon!
We love stick foundations for doing makeup in a rush or on the go, and this is definitely the best drugstore foundation in stick format. The packaging is gorgeous, the coverage is totally buildable, and the finish is surprisingly satiny and smooth. You can buy it in a few shades if you also want a stick highlight and contour cream. We think this option is best for those with normal or dry skin. It is sold via Ulta and Amazon.
The only way to explain the gloriousness of this extremely affordable foundation is dark magic. How else can a drugstore foundation look so beautiful while costing less than $5? This liquid formula gives a demi-matte finish, which works well for normal, oily, and combination skin, but can even suit dry skin types in a pinch.
It looks amazing on camera, with buildable full coverage that still looks natural over the skin. There are a couple of drawbacks, though: the color-range only consists of 20 shades, which is just a few options short of being inclusive enough, and the formula has a strong raw ingredient smell. You can buy it from Amazon.
If you’re avoiding silicones in your makeup, this is the best drugstore foundation to try. It has an oil- and silicone-free formula made with squalane and caprylic/capric triglycerides giving it glide. It gives buildable medium coverage, so you might still need concealer for those persistent spots, with a luminous finish that is most suitable for normal and dry skin types. It’s not the most long-lasting formula, so make sure to set it with powder or setting spray. It’s available at Ulta and Amazon.
If you’re avoiding synthetics in your beauty routine, we can’t think of a better drugstore foundation to try. You don’t need to compromise on anything with this formula, which offers medium-to-full coverage and comes in a very convenient compact packaging. It has a waterless formula made with natural pigments and emollients, with a demi-matte finish that works for most skin types. Because it’s a little thick, we recommend applying it with fingers to get it to warm up and glide better. Buy it from Amazon!
This is another great budget foundation that gives a lot of coverage. Usually, the dewier and more luminous foundations offer light or medium coverage, but sometimes you want a full-coverage look that’s still glowy and ethereal, especially if you have dry skin or if you have acne-prone skin that can get a little flaky.
The formula even includes vitamins C and A for a bit of antioxidant protection. The only thing we don’t love is the 20-shade color range, which is too small for such a high-coverage product. Pick it up at Ulta or Amazon!
CoverGirl Outlast All-Day Stay Fabulous 3-in-1 Foundation
High-coverage and very mattifying, this is the best drugstore foundation to choose if you have oily skin and a hard time keeping foundation on. This is one of the best drugstore foundations when it comes to longevity since it self-sets and stays on the skin even after a long day of action. It won’t even rub off on your phone! Since it is very mattifying, if you have any dry patches, this will emphasize them. Find it through Amazon!
Best Tinted Moisturizer
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint with Hyaluronic Acid
The Neutrogena Hydro Boost line made quite a splash on the beauty scene, with exceptionally hydrating but non-greasy products. This drugstore tinted moisturizer fits in with the trend, offering just a hint of coverage with a ton of moisture thanks to super-humectant hyaluronic acid, and giving the skin a natural finish that will work for all skin types.
While the shade range is on the small side, the light coverage means that one shade will work across a few different skin tones. The only thing to note is that the formula does turn darker on some people, so if you’re oxidation-prone, go one shade lighter. Grab it from Amazon!
Best for Acne-Prone Skin
Neutrogena SkinClearing Oil-Free Blemish Fighting Liquid Foundation with Salicylic Acid
If you have acne-prone skin, this is the best drugstore foundation worth trying. This formula is quite special thanks to 0.5% salicylic acid, a gentle chemical exfoliant known for its ability to unclog pores and fade breakouts.
As a makeup product, it gives the skin medium coverage, so you may still want a drugstore concealer on hand, and it offers a demi-matte finish that will work for normal, combination, and oily skin without emphasizing dry patches or flakiness. It’s a great formula – we just wish it came in a pump bottle. Order it from Amazon!
We don’t care what anyone says, technically BB cream is a type of foundation, and at the drugstore, this NYX one is the best one. It gives light coverage like most Western BBs, with a hydrating formula that’s perfect for those with normal or dry skin. The finish is somewhere between dewy and satin, and it works really well alone or under other foundations. Shop for it at Ulta or Amazon!
As much as we love a good liquid, drugstore powder foundations also deserve some love. This is our favorite powder foundation formula in the light coverage category, which is important because it means it can also double as a setting powder. It evens out the skin tone and controls oils, but it doesn’t cake up or hide too much of the skin. If you want quick, easy, natural-looking makeup, it’s a perfect choice. It comes with a mirror compact and sponge, so it’s also convenient for touch-ups. It is available at Ulta and Amazon.
Drugstore foundation powders can also offer full-coverage, contrary to popular belief. This is our favorite on that front, helping to camouflage the skin as well as a high-coverage liquid. It works for all skin types, with a natural satin finish, and you can even spray it with a dewy setting spray to make it a touch more luminous. Sadly, it only comes in 8 shades, which is not quite enough for us. You can purchase it from Amazon.
Revlon PhotoReady Candid Natural Finish Anti-Pollution Foundation
This creamy, skincare-inspired drugstore foundation gives buildable medium coverage with a very natural look. It both feels super light on the skin and looks very natural, with a satin finish, which we like for all skin types. The formula includes some hydrating and antioxidant ingredients (hence the anti-pollution claim), although we think that’s more of a marketing gimmick, so don’t give up on your sunscreen and anti-aging serum. You can get it at Amazon.
Drugstore Foundation vs. High-End One
expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better, as our selection of drugstore
foundations proves. In reality, drugstore formulas can be extremely similar to
high-end formulas, so the foundations perform just as well.
the past, high-end options usually surpassed drugstore foundations when it came
to color selection, with very few inclusive drugstore options. Additionally,
high-end foundations often offered better coverage and were less likely to
oxidize. However, things have changed drastically in the last decade or so!
most drugstore foundations from major brands come in large shade ranges, so
people with all skin tones can find a color to match them. The formulas
themselves are great, offering just the right amount of coverage without
oxidizing or getting cakey (although high-end foundations are not immune from
getting cakey and heavy-looking, for the record).
The two areas where high-end foundations are undeniably better than drugstore ones are packaging and in-store experience. High-end foundations usually come in luxurious bottles with pump dispensers, while drugstore foundations are more likely to come in a bottle without a pump or in a plastic tube. If you’re on a budget, compromising on the packaging is really not a big deal, since when the product is on your face, no one will be able to tell.
it comes to in-store experience, sometimes shopping high-end can be easier than
in a drugstore. High-end stores almost always carry testers for all of their
foundations, and they might even offer samples that you can take home. This
makes finding a color and formula-match a lot easier and potentially cheaper if
you have a hard-to-match skin tone or very specific formula needs. Depending on
where you live, you might be able to find testers at your local drugstore, but
unfortunately, that isn’t the case universally.
So, to summarize, drugstore foundations can look just as good as high-end ones, but selecting them can be harder, and their packaging rarely feels as luxurious.
How to Shop for the Best Drugstore
Foundation for You?
not always lucky enough to have testers available at the drugstore, and even if
we are – they’re often in such terrible shape that the last thing anyone would
want to do is smear them on their face. Here are our tips for researching and
testing drugstore foundations based on coverage, finish, and color.
can come in a variety of coverage levels, from very light and soft to full-coverage
and heavy-duty. It’s totally a matter of preference whether you want a drugstore
foundation that can hide a wide range of discoloration or whether you want a
foundation that will just slightly help to even out your skin tone.
foundations are buildable, which means that they might start out light, but can
be built up to medium, or might start out medium but can be built up to having
full-coverage. I always prefer a buildable foundation, since it gives more
versatility and usually also means that it’ll blend more nicely with other
brands will disclose the coverage level of their foundation, but if they don’t,
or you’re not sure, you can test coverage level by swatching the foundation
over your veins to see how well it hides them or by looking up detailed
A foundation’s “finish” is its level of reflectiveness. A very moist foundation that reflects a lot of light is considered “dewy,” and it’s usually best for those with dry, combination-dry, or normal skin. Recently, dewy foundations have become especially popular thanks to East Asian beauty trends.
foundation that absorbs oils and doesn’t reflect any light is called “matte,”
and it’s usually best for those with oily or combination-oily skin. Matte
foundations often last the longest on the skin, but they can highlight dry
patches or look too cakey if not properly applied.
Finally, the middle-of-the-road foundation that reflects just a bit of light is considered “natural” or “satin-finish,” and it can work for all skin types. Those with oily skin might want to powder their skin or apply a mattifying primer first, while those with dry skin may want to apply a healthy layer of moisturizer first.
can check a drugstore foundation’s finish by swatching it and seeing how much
light it reflects after it’s had a chance to dry down, or by looking up
detailed online reviews.
will make the process easier is having a good understanding of your own skin
tone. The typical categories are warm, which leans a little towards yellow,
cool, which leans a little towards pink or red, neutral, which is balanced and
beige, and olive, which has a slight green tinge.
face is usually a little more pink or red than the rest of our body, so it’s
best to examine the neck and check to actually figure out which undertone is
most dominant. Once you learn to recognize your undertone, you can start
looking for foundations described as having the same one.
To actually test a foundation, I usually recommend swatching it along your jawline to see which color fades into your skin, but that’s not always advisable with drugstore testers. What you can do instead is swatch the drugstore foundation on your arm, and then hold it up against your chest and face to see how it compares. Don’t look for the foundation to actually blend into your arm, since our skin is slightly different throughout our body.
there are no testers available in your area, then the Internet will be your
best friend. In addition to getting our recommendations, it’s also good to look
up a wide variety of swatches in order to get a good idea of the tone and
undertone of the drugstore foundation.
you can manage, find your “skin twin” – a beauty blogger or Youtuber whose skin
tone and skin type match yours. You can see their reviews to find drugstore
foundations that will suit your skin, as well.
If you’ve already found your foundation match from a high-end brand, use a matching program like Temptalia’s Foundation Matrix or Findation to help you discover shade matches from other brands.
Photos via Instagram
Zooming in on the Topic
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