Sometimes your skincare routine can only take you so far. For a truly flawless face, it’s all about foundation. Today’s formulas can help you nail that your-skin-but-better look. “Foundation is literally the foundation of your makeup,” says Annie Lawless, Founder of Lawless Beauty. “It evens out your skin tone, softens texture, and provides a beautiful, seamless canvas for the rest of your makeup application. When you apply foundation, you often find you need to wear less makeup overall because your skin looks much more unified in tone and perfected.”
The different types of foundation
There’s truly a foundation for every skin type and budget. The different options are cream, powder, liquid, stick, and mousse. “Both cream and liquid foundations are best for those with dry, combination and normal skin, although this largely depends on formulation,” says Sandra Saenz, KVD Beauty Global Veritas Artistry Ambassador. “Powder foundations are very convenient and are great for the girl on the go. These formulations can be beneficial for oily skin, combination and normal skin types. Mousse formulas generally provide a nice, natural finish and are great for those with normal to combination skin.”
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The best foundations can actually help protect your skin from the elements. “Foundations should act as a barrier between your skin and the environment,” says Rea Ann Silva, Founder, Creator and CEO of Beautyblender. “Whether it’s pollution, antioxidants or the sun, the foundation should act as a protective barrier, as long as it’s removed completely at the end of the day. My company is extremely mindful when formulating foundation to make sure it’s good for your skin by including skincare ingredients that allow the skin to breathe.”
Remember that foundation sits on your skin all day the same way that skincare does, so it’s important to take a look at the ingredients and consider the effect they will have on your complexion. Silva recommends steering clear of foundations that are formulated with parabens, sulfates, SLS and without skin care ingredients, as those can cause breakouts.
To keep your skin healthy, removing foundation at the end of the day is crucial. “I personally love to double cleanse,” Lawless says. “I’ll use some sort of oil cleanser or balm and go in with the normal cleanser to remove the residue. Then, I use a toner followed by an essence.”
The best way to apply foundation to your skin
As for applying your foundation, it’s all about preparing your complexion first. “To prep skin for optimal foundation laydown and long-term wear, I start by cleansing, exfoliating, toning and follow with a moisturizer,” Saenz says. “It’s important to remove any dead skin cells ahead of applying foundation to reduce creasing and flaking. The best way to apply foundation will depend on what type of foundation you’re using. For liquid, cream and mousse formulas, you could use a Beautyblender, brush, or apply directly with fingers. If you do apply using your hands, I recommend pressing foundation in using a sponge as it will mimic the appearance of pores and remove any streaks. Powder formulas are best applied using a brush or a sponge.”
How to find the best foundation shade for your skin type
No matter how well you apply your foundation, it won’t be flawless unless you pick the right shade for your skin tone. Luckily, foundation matching has gotten much easier, thanks to the wider range of options and technology. “Today we are so lucky there are so many ways to color match your skin—anything from AI to computerized skin matching—but the best way to match is by looking at the color inside of your forearm and give yourself a couple choices that match that area,” Silva says. “Then, try the best matching color to your jawline and go out somewhere with natural light (not in-store lighting) and take a selfie. This is the good old fashion way of skin matching.”
Determining your undertones is also key—cool, warm, or neutral. “I have a warm-olive undertone and I like to look tan, so I go for a warm-olive shade that is slightly more intense than my natural skin color,” Lawless says. “I lightly blend the shade down onto my neck and around my ears to ensure a really seamless application. Generally, if you burn before you tan, your undertone is likely more pink and therefore cool. If you tan easily, you likely have a warm undertone. And if you sometimes go a little green when your tan fades, you’re likely warm-olive, like me!”
If you’re shopping for a foundation online, most brands have shade matching tools on their websites to help you find the right hue. Silva advises finding a shade model that has a similar skin tone and undertone to your own. These are the best foundations for every skin type and concern to help you start shopping.
1. Lawless Conseal the Deal Foundation
Best Foundation with Skin Benefits
“One of the reasons I created Lawless was that I switched to clean skincare and noticed such a positive difference in my skin,” Lawless says. “The tone, texture, and clarity all improved, and I knew that I wanted those same benefits from my makeup. I developed Lawless Conseal the Deal Foundation to be completely silicone-free, and include only ingredients I would use in my skincare. It soothes my skin, gives me hydration, environmental and blue light protection, and antioxidant protection, while providing me with lightweight, long-wearing, modern full coverage. It lasts all day and provides enough coverage to even out your skin and conceal imperfections. In addition to the formula, we developed assets that feel reflective of our community, that we hope are helpful in shade selection, which is often a big challenge for many people.”
2. BeautyBlender Bounce Always on Radiant Skin Tint
Best Dewy Foundation
“Our new Bounce Always on Radiant Skin Tint can be worn by anyone, no matter the skin type,” Silva says. “Over the past year with COVID, women are looking for something lighter, buildable, and long-lasting. It hydrates and plumps with hyaluronic acid and offers a naturally radiant finish with light-medium coverage. Flooding skin with all-day nourishment via smoothing niacinamide and soothing beta glucan, it looks good, feels good and is good for your skin. It comes in 20 flexible tone-adapting shades, created to stretch across different skin tones. Designed for application with a damp Beautyblender, this dream team creates a gorgeous skin-like finish. This is for the no makeup makeup look.”
Courtesy of Sephora
3. KVD Beauty Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Hydrating Foundation Balm
Best Foundation for Dry Skin
“KVD Beauty’s Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Foundation Balm is great for all skin types, including those with dry skin,” Saenz says. “I love this formula because it leaves skin appearing nice and dewy, and offers a buildable, blendable coverage that can seamlessly convert from light to full coverage with a few more swipes.” Though it’s light, it provides full coverage with a long wear and a matte finish. The cream formula is spiked with apple extract to nourish skin and sodium hyaluronate to moisturize. Bonus: The packaging is fully recyclable.
Courtesy of Sephora
4. MAC Pro Longwear Nourishing Waterproof Foundation
“I grew up using MAC Pro Longwear Foundation,” Lawless says. “That was my favorite as a very oily-skinned teenager because the performance was so great, and the brand really inspired me in the beginning of my makeup journey.” Famous for its staying power, this foundation lasts for up to 36 hours and won’t cake, settle, crease or streak. It’s sweat-, transfer- and humidity-resistant and waterproof. For comfortable wear, it hydrates skin and has a satin finish.
5. Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation Hydration and Longwear
Best Hydrating Foundation
Thirsty skin will drink this Chanel moisturizing foundation right up. Made with over 40% water, the weightless formula is infused with hydrating ingredients that instantly moisturize. The light-to-medium buildable coverage stays put for up to 12 hours. To get you glowing, the radiant finish features light-reflecting pigments. It’ll also safeguard skin from pollution, free-radicals and blue light thanks to antioxidants.
6. Yves Saint Laurent Nu Bare Look Tint Skin Tint Foundation
Best Skin Tint
When you want just a kiss of color, this is the best foundation for you. The new launch from YSL has a water-cream texture that sinks right into skin for that no makeup-makeup look. A makeup-moisturizer hybrid, it has hyaluronic acid and glycerin for 24-hour hydration. The formula is also infused with mallow to brighten. The flexible foundation is buildable from light to medium coverage with a glowy finish. In addition to being good for your skin, it’s also good for the planet: The tube is made from 30 percent post-consumer recycled material and the outer packaging is made out of FSC-certified cardboard.
Courtesy of Sephora
7. Clover by Clove + Hallow Skin Is In Serum Foundation
Best Serum Foundation
If a serum and a foundation had a baby, it would be this winner from Clover by Clove + Hallow. It has all the perks of a serum — we’re talking squalane for moisture and sunflower seed wax to strengthen the skin barrier — but the buildable coverage of a foundation. In fact, you can load on enough to camouflage acne or redness, but it’ll never looked caked on. The radiant finish looks as natural as it gets. Even better, the sugarcane bioplastic tube reduces gas emissions.
8. Clé de Peau Beauté Radiant Fluid Foundation Natural SPF 25
Sure, this foundation isn’t cheap, but think of it this way — thanks to all of this luxe foundation’s skincare perks, it’s like getting two products in one. Boasting light to medium buildable coverage, this silky foundation looks and feels like your skin. Packed with skin-boosting ingredients, it contains hyaluronic acid for 12-hour hydration. That explains the healthy glow and natural radiance it gives your skin, which improves over time with continued use. It’s also infused with SPF 25 to safeguard skin from harmful UV rays.
9. Joah Primedation All-In-One Foundation
Save yourself a few steps — and some space in your makeup bag — with this 3-in-1 foundation. The triple threat works as a blurring primer, skincare and foundation. To get you glowing, it has a luminizing peptide, plus hyaluronic acid plumps and hydrates skin. Additionally, it’s infused with collagen to keep fine lines at bay. To save your skin from all that screen time, it has a built-in blue light defense. Its medium coverage is just enough to airbrush imperfections and leave skin luminous.
10. Maybelline Super Stay Powder Foundation
Best Budget Powder Foundation
Oily skin types will fall in love with Maybelline’s Super Stay Powder Foundation from the first time they dust their makeup brush in it. Ideal for normal to oily skin, the longwear formula won’t budge for up to 16 hours. Packed with pigment, it provides full coverage with a matte finish. Truly foolproof to apply, simply sweep it onto skin until you have just the right amount. Super lightweight, it’ll still zap shine, plus it’s fade- and transfer-resistant.
11. Tom Ford Traceless Soft Matte Foundation
Tom Ford’s brand new launch has everything needed for a flawless looking complexion, making it one of the best foundations out there. The full-coverage formula is long wearing and humidity-resistant, so it won’t budge on even the steamiest summer days. Delivering medium coverage, it looks and feels just like real skin with a matte finish in 40 shades. Its light-diffusing microspheres blur out imperfections. It improves the appearance of skin instantly and over time, thanks to the perks of ingredients such as hyaluronic acid to boost the natural moisture barrier, antioxidants, vitamins C and E, and caffeine.
12. Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Foundation
Best Full-Coverage Foundation
Heavy coverage doesn’t have to mean a heavy face of makeup, as this Charlotte Tilbury foundation proves. It covers everything you want it to, delivering full coverage with a matte finish, without ever looking cakey or mask-like since it’s super hydrating. The foundation has staying power to last all day and it’s transfer-resistant as well as sweat-, humidity- and waterproof. Infused with skin-loving ingredients, it’ll improve your complexion over time.
13. Exa High Fidelity Semi-Satin Foundation
Best Clean Foundation
Brand new line Exa saw a gap in the market for a foundation that was completely clean but still delivered the performance of traditional formula, so the brand spent nearly two years creating one. This cruelty-free foundation is made with gluten-free ingredients and has a buildable semi-satin finish in 43 shades. Founded on the principle of inclusivity, it works for all skin types, including dry, mature, sensitive, blemish-prone, combination and normal. Packed with anti-pollution actives, it’ll keep the skin barrier safe from environmental stressors. It merges skin care with makeup with ingredients like aloe vera juice, plumping peach fruit extract, hyaluronic acid and maqui berry to soothe.
14. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare
Best Skin-Care Hybrid
The makeup wish list has always included a foundation that’s your skin but better in a bottle, and IT Cosmetics, founded by Jamie Kern Lima, just delivered that with their new launch. The buildable coverage is like a filter for your face, blurring imperfections and minimizing pores without sinking into fine lines. Forty shades are on offer and the formula’s clever pigment technology allows it to blend right in for a natural finish. On the skin-care end, it’s clinically tested to improve tone and texture in just two weeks. There’s hyaluronic acid and aloe vera to hydrate and smooth, vitamins E and B5 to fight free radicals and boost the skin barrier, and hepes acid to delicately exfoliate for brighter, smoother skin.
15. Armani Beauty Neo Nude Foundation
Best Lightweight Coverage
Armani Beauty is no stranger to incredible foundations, and its Luminous Silk Foundation is one of the best foundations of all time, a consistent presence in makeup artists’ kits. When the brand announced a new foundation was on the way, the excitement was palpable—and Armani didn’t disappoint. Neo Nude Foundation is incredibly lightweight, ideal for those seeking minimal, natural coverage. The perfect no-makeup makeup foundation, it has hyaluronic acid and glycerin to keep skin comfortable all day and glowing.
16. Shiseido Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Foundation SPF 30
Best Foundation with SPF
Shiseido’s game-changing foundation features its ActiveForce Technology that keeps it intact through sweat, oil and facial movement, staying fresh for a whopping 24 hours. The self-refreshing formula also has Responsive Sensory Technology to adapt to each person’s individual skin condition, tone and texture. The weightless, breathable formula has medium buildable coverage with a natural finish. There’s SPF 30 to protect skin from harmful rays, plus antioxidant rich wild thyme extract.
17. L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Liquid Longwear Foundation
Best Drugstore Foundation
For such a low price, this foundation delivers lots of benefits, making it the best budget foundation. The drugstore staple comes in 28 shades and is super hydrating for all-day wear, despite the matte finish. Though it works for all skin types, oily ones will love that it keeps excess oil under control for 24 hours. Depending on how much you apply, it ranges from natural to full coverage, delivering a smooth, even complexion.
18. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
Best Matte Foundation
When Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty, Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation was the foundation heard around the world. The shade range, now up to 50, changed the beauty game forever. And that’s not the only impressive thing about it. The formula is oil-free and long-wearing, with a flawless matte finish that stays pristine no matter the weather, thanks to its climate-adaptive technology that defies sweat and humidity.
19. Bare Minerals Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation
Best Powder Foundation
Hands down the best powder foundation out there, this OG never gets cakey or chalky, won’t settle into fine lines or pores, and leaves a luminous finish, unlike many of its peers. It’s formulated with just five clean mineral ingredients, making it ideal for sensitive skin and natural beauty lovers, as it’s free of binders, fillers, talc and other additives. Available in 30 shades, the buildable formula can be customized from sheer to full coverage. The mineral based SPF15 broad spectrum protection guards from UV rays courtesy of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
20. Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick
Best Foundation Stick
For on-the-go, a stick is hands down the best foundation formula. Hourglass takes the prize for this long-wearing option that boasts the coverage of a concealer but the feel of a powder and is a cinch to apply. No tools are needed for a seamless application — its triangular tip gets into those tough to reach spots. The foundation adjusts to your body temperature so it blends like a dream. Packed with pigment, it delivers 12 hours of full coverage, erasing redness and blurring pores, dark spots and blemishes.