The 17 Best Foundations for Dry Skin for a Cake-Free Look

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From full-coverage to sheer, and matte to radiant finishes, we tested all the best foundations out there.

<p>InStyle / Reese Herrington</p>

InStyle / Reese Herrington

If you have dry, tight, flaky skin, finding a moisturizing foundation is imperative. The wrong foundation can highlight dry patches, rough texture, and dark spots, and probably has a pesky, uncomfortable skin-feel. So, what's the solve?

"Cream and liquid foundations are great for dry skin types because they bind to the skin's texture more easily and more smoothly," says celebrity makeup artist Neil Scibelli. "Powders can settle into dry skin and flaky patches and accentuate fine lines, too." And if you're unsure if you should look for a matte, dewy or serum-like formula, makeup artist Grace Lee recommends "medium coverage foundations with a natural or dewy finish, because they usually have more moisturizing and nourishing ingredients in them." Ahead, our editors recommend their favorite picks for moisturizing formulas that can hydrate even the driest of complexions and help you create a smooth canvas.

Best Overall: Glossier Stretch Fluid Foundation

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What We Love: This formula feels as comfortable as a moisturizer on your skin.

What We Don’t Love: We love that there are 32 shades to choose from, but this extensive range means it could take longer to find your perfect shade.

"I tested this formula out on my annoyingly dry skin for weeks, and I was amazed that it didn't budge or crease, even at the end of the day after wearing it for 10 hours," says InStyle producer, Madison Barber. "It had the same flawless, natural finish and subtle glow as it did when I first applied it in the morning."

If you're a makeup minimalist, you'll likely love how the Stretch Fluid Foundation formula offers the coverage of a true foundation, but with the comfortable feel of a skin tint, thanks to hydrating ingredients like squalane, glycerin, and plankton extract. Plus, it has a gel/liquid-like texture that makes applying with your go-to dense brush or beauty sponge (you can use your fingers, too!) an easy process. We also love how extensive the shade range is, and there’s even a shade finder quiz available on Glossier’s website if you’re struggling to find the right one for your shade/undertone.

Key Ingredients: Squalane, glycerin, plankton extract | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Light/medium | Number of Shades: 32 | SPF: No | Size: 1 oz

Best Drugstore: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup SPF 20

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What We Love: The natural finish and feel, plus the inclusion of SPF, makes this product a great daytime foundation option.

What We Don’t Love: The shade range is lacking for darker skin tones.

If you’re a proud member of the dry and sensitive skin club (like our writer is), you’ve likely picked up a Neutrogena product from the drugstore at least once during your adolescent years, and maybe even well into adulthood. Recommended by many dermatologists (Barber's included), this foundation feels lightweight and gives skin a natural-looking, even finish. With glycerin, vitamin E, and feverfew extracts, the formula is packed with moisturizing bonafides. Even better? You'll get a bit of protection with SPF 20, making it a great choice for everyday wear.

One thing we should note is that although this product feels more accessible to those close to a drugstore or with a more limited makeup budget, the shade range skews towards light to medium skin tones, so we cannot justify its accessibility in that regard.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, feverfew extract, vitamin E | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium | Number of Shades: 14 | SPF: 20 | Size: 1 fl oz

Best for Dry, Mature Skin: Jones Road Beauty What the Foundation

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What We Love: This foundation acts more as a tinted, moisturizing balm, giving it the perfect, your-skin-but-better finish and feel.

What We Don’t Love: The formula can have a strange consistency when you first open the product, so you’ll have to mix it prior to applying it to your skin.

We understand that at first glance, this foundation from Jones Road doesn’t look like your traditional foundation formula, and that can be a little off-putting. We’re here to tell you that this unconventional appearance is the secret ingredient to the perfect foundation for not only dry skin but dry, mature skin. Jojoba oil is the star ingredient in this "tinted moisture balm," alongside hyaluronic acid to help glide over dry patches and blend with ease.

Although a balm texture may sound strange, it looks and feels like you're not wearing a thing, and you'll never have to worry about whether you look cakey. Plus, the light to medium coverage level (it’s buildable) provides a natural finish, rather than one that looks too heavy on aging skin.

Key Ingredients: Jojoba oil, sodium hyaluronate | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Light/medium | Number of Shades: 12 | SPF: No | Size: 1.14 oz

Best Full-Coverage: Smashbox Always On Skin Balancing Foundation

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What We Love: This foundation offers full-coverage without looking (or feeling) cakey on the skin.

What We Don’t Love: The price point is a little high, but we think you get your money’s worth, thanks to the full-coverage and flawless finish.

“Every year without fail, my skin dries out like a desert cactus in the summer heat and despite this fact, I’m still supremely lazy when it comes to applying moisturizer, which is why I’m obsessed with this hyaluronic-acid-infused foundation from Smashbox,” says InStyle Commerce Writer Irene Richardson. “The ultra hydrating ingredient helps me skip a few steps in my skincare routine and keeps my makeup from clinging to flaky dry patches." Due to the liquid formulation, you also have a ton of freedom when it comes to the application method, but Richardson prefers to use a firm complexion brush to buff it out, specifically Danessa Myricks Yummy Face 1.0 All Over Complexion Brush.

While the Always On Skin-Balancing Foundation feels like nothing more than your favorite hydrating moisturizer, it actually offers more coverage than the other options on this list. So, if you prefer a full beat (but still like your coverage to look natural) for your everyday makeup routine, this is definitely a product to consider. Alongside its hydrating benefits, this formula also includes adaptogens, specifically licorice root and sea asparagus, which help to keep your skin barrier in check.

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, licorice root, sea asparagus | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Full | Number of Shades: 30 | SPF: No | Size: 1 oz

Best Powder: BareMinerals Original Loose Powder Foundation SPF 15

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What We Love: Although dry skin types are typically recommended to steer clear of powder formulas, this option works just as well as other liquid or cream options.

What We Don’t Love: We wish the SPF level in this formula was at least SPF 30.

“I’ve had problematic skin my whole life, from acne to dryness to rosacea, and I’ve tried nearly every foundation under the sun over the years, but I keep coming back to this BareMinerals foundation," says InStyle senior beauty commerce editor, Kaitlin Clark. "I’ve been using it since high school and I honestly haven’t found a better foundation that works with my sensitive skin and still gives me the full-coverage I want. And even though it’s a powder foundation, it’s not at all drying (I have no idea how — magic, I assume) but it still mattifies the areas of my face that need it, like my T-zone.”

With this formula, you'll also get UV protection from the mineral-based SPF 30, and a clean formula that was developed by dermatologists to be fragrance-free, paraben-free, and hypoallergenic.

Key Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | Finish: Matte | Coverage: Full | Number of Shades: 30 | SPF: 15 | Size: 0.28 oz

Best For Dry, Sensitive Skin: Tower 28 SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen

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What We Love: This formula is approved by the National Eczema Association, so the ingredients won’t further irritate sensitive skin.

What We Don’t Love: May work better during the day due to the SPF in the formula, as not everyone feels the need to wear a sunscreen product at night.

Not only does Barber have dry skin, but she also has sensitive, eczema-prone skin as well, but she's found the secret to covering flare-ups: Tower 28 SunnyDays foundation. Approved by the National Eczema Association (and the only foundation product to have that Seal of Acceptance!), this foundation keeps skin free of common irritants, while piling on the nourishing ingredients, like hydrating glycerin, antioxidant-rich prickly pear extract, and non-nano zinc oxide for UV protection, which is the better sunscreen ingredient if you have sensitive skin.

This foundation offers light coverage (but is buildable if you’re seeking more), and has the perfect natural, slightly dewy finish that conceals any pesky imperfections on the skin, which, for Barber, includes her dry eczema patches and subtle dark spots from ghosts of pimples past.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, prickly pear extract, non-nano zinc oxide | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Light | Number of Shades: 17 | SPF: 30 | Size: 1 oz

Best Dermatologist-Recommended: Alastin Skincare HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36

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What We Love: We love how this tint works for both dry and sensitive skin types.

What We Don’t Love: Although the singular shade of this product functions as a universal tint, it may not work as well for dark skin tones.

"The HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen with SPF 36 from Alastin Skincare is my go-to foundation recommendation for my patients with dry skin," says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marc Beuttler. “This tinted, zinc-based sunscreen instantly brightens the skin and looks universally good. It's also loaded with skin-friendly antioxidants that protect against environmental toxins, free radical damage, and IR/Blue Light. While deeply hydrating, it is also non-comedogenic — all while providing SPF 36 protection."

However, one thing we should mention is that this foundation functions more as a tinted sunscreen than a true, medium to full-coverage product (which is why there’s only one shade), so if you’re seeking a foundation to help you complete a full beat, consider other options like the aforementioned Smashbox Always On Skin-Balancing Foundation instead.

Key Ingredients: Zinc oxide, ecotin, squalane, glycerin | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Light | Number of Shades: 1 | SPF: 36 | Size: 1 oz

Best Hydrating: Dior Forever Skin Glow Foundation

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What We Love: This formula is packed with unique ingredients that keep your skin feeling hydrated.

What We Don’t Love: We like how this foundation has SPF, but the level of coverage is only at 15 and the protective ingredient is octisalate.

It’s true that all of the picks on this list are hydrating options (what else works for dry skin-havers?), we love the specific ingredients included in this luxe foundation from Dior. Dior Forever Skin Glow Foundation is a liquid foundation with medium to full-coverage and a glowy finish, and comes in 42 different shades across light, medium, and dark skin tones.

Boasting an ingredients list composed mostly of floral- and plant-based actives, including iris, hibiscus, and wild pansy extracts, that act as hydration soldiers, keeping moisture locked within the skin barrier to prevent future dehydration, while also providing antioxidants with anti-aging properties.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, iris extract, hibiscus extract, wild pansy extract | Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Medium/full | Number of Shades: 42 | SPF: 15 | Size: 1 oz

Best Dewy Finish: Maybelline New York Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation

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What We Love: This formula offers the coverage and gorgeous finish of a high-end product but at a more affordable price.

What We Don’t Love: The UV protection in this foundation is pretty low, and the chemical ingredient octinoxate can be potentially harmful.

With the term “dewy” in the name, you can rest assured that your skin will be glowing to the gods after applying this foundation. Maybelline’s Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation is perfect for anyone seeking a drugstore option that provides the same radiant finish as higher-end options on the market. Plus, it offers medium coverage, so it’s better for those desiring a full-fledged makeup look rather than something more natural and sheer.

Of course, this foundation wouldn’t be on this list if it didn’t boast a hydrating feel—vitamin E is the main ingredient in this formula, which, as we’ve mentioned can be a source of nourishment for the skin, and also acts as a protector against the effects of photoaging (damage to the skin from UV rays). So, not only will this formula not further dry out your already-dry skin, but it even possesses antioxidant properties as a bonus—these ingredients combined with the SPF 18 protection from octinoxate makes it a powerhouse foundation (and it’s only ten bucks!).

Key Ingredients: Vitamin E | Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Medium | Number of Shades: 24 | SPF: 18 | Size: 1 oz

Best Lightweight: MAC Studio Radiance Face and Body Radiant Sheer Foundation

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What We Love: With 30 shades to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find the perfect sheer tint for your skin tone.

What We Don’t Love: It’s pricey for such a barely-there complexion product.

There’s something to be said about a foundation that doesn't feel like a foundation — the Studio Radiance Face And Body Radiant Sheer Foundation from MAC has that effect. This beloved foundation has a barely-there feel on your skin, thanks to the totally sheer, liquid formula that you can keep sheer or use to build coverage as you please. Plus, the finish is natural with a slight sheen, so not only will it feel ultra-lightweight on your skin, but it will also appear like you have nothing on (rather it’ll look like that glow is au naturel).

Another fabulous feature of the Studio Radiance Face And Body Foundation? It’s waterproof, thanks to the inclusion of ingredients like ​​dimethicone, making it the ultimate everyday foundation — it feels like nothing, looks like skin, and won’t budge (even if you get caught out in the rain or in some other unfortunate water-related mishap).

Key Ingredients: ​​Dimethicone | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Light | Number of Shades: 30 | SPF: No | Size: 1.7 oz

Best Serum: LYS Beauty Triple Fix Serum Foundation

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What We Love: Despite its serum-like consistency, this foundation offers great coverage.

What We Don’t Love: As with most serum foundations, you may need to apply a few layers to get solid coverage.

Do you ever wish sometimes that you could apply complexion products to your dry skin with the same ease that you apply your favorite serums? With the Triple Fix Serum Foundation from LYS Beauty, you can! This foundation is not just any liquid foundation, rather it functions more like a true serum, so you can easily (and evenly) blend and build it on your skin post-application, whether you prefer to use your fingers (like you would with a real serum), a brush, or a sponge. Plus, this consistency ensures that the formula feels ultra-lightweight and like a second skin, despite the product boasting a medium-level layer of coverage.

Like your-go serums in your skincare routine, the Triple Fix Serum Foundation is packed with hero ingredients, like hyaluronic acid for that much-need hydration, ashwagandha, a known anti-inflammatory powerhouse, and antioxidant-rich turmeric to help prevent skin damage and wrinkling from UV rays. We also need to highlight the inclusive shade range with 35 hues, making it a particularly great option for those with dark skin tones.

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, ashwagandha, turmeric | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium | Number of Shades: 35 | SPF: No | Size: 1 oz

Best Stick: Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick

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What We Love: The cream formula combined with the stick packaging makes this foundation easy to place and blend onto your skin, allowing for the most natural, even finish.

What We Don’t Love: This foundation is on the pricier side, but it doubles as a concealer which makes it worth the higher price point. 

What’s even easier than a serum foundation? A cream foundation in stick form, giving you complete control over where you place your foundation without needing to get your hands dirty. Westman Atelier’s Vital Skin Foundation Skin provides you not only with that unique type of control, but also with a beautiful dewy finish and ample coverage for uneven texture, hyperpigmentation, and blemishes.

Cream products like this one are wonderful for dry skin types, as this consistency makes it easier for the formula to blend right into your skin — the inclusion of nourishing ingredients, like squalane and berryflux vita ensure that said creamy formula doesn’t dry out your skin or create uncomfortable dry patches while you wear it. Not to mention the stick packaging itself makes this product easy to travel with and looks just as luxe as your typical luxury compact or glass bottle.

Key Ingredients: Squalane, berryflux vita | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium | Number of Shades: 21 | SPF: No | Size: 0.31 oz

Best Buildable : Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin Liquid Foundation

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What We Love: This buildable formula gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to your makeup routine: a more natural look on your less glam days, and a more full-coverage, airbrushed look on the days you want something more.

What We Don’t Love: There aren't many shade options for very fair skin tones.

Charlotte Tilbury is no stranger to amazing complexion products (the brand’s Flawless Filter tint has a cult following at this point), and we especially love the brand’s recently released Beautiful Skin Foundation for its supreme buildability. As a medium-coverage foundation, it's not completely coating skin in an intense wash — just use a dot or two around your face and you'll have a nice, even base with a natural-looking finish. Thanks to hyaluronic acid in this formula, you can rest assured that despite how much you build up your coverage, there’s no risk of drying out your skin or clinging to dry spots as you dab your makeup sponge. Plus, Charlotte Tilbury’s trademarked Bix-Activ ingredient works to limit unwanted sheen and the appearance of pores on the face.

Hayley Prokos, fashion commerce editor at InStyle, favors this foundation for her combination skin. "To keep breakouts under control, I use a lot of prescription-strength topicals, which results in a lot of dry patches," she says. "Despite my acne, I don't like to wear a lot of makeup; I want to feel like my skin can breathe, so I love that this formula is really lightweight and has a natural finish. and yet it's buildable so you can tailor your coverage.”

Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, Bix-Activ | Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Medium | Number of Shades: 30 | SPF: No | Size: 1 oz

<p>InStyle/Joy Kim</p>

InStyle/Joy Kim

Best Matte Finish : Rose Inc. Soft Light Skin-Smoothing Non-Comedogenic Foundation

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What We Love: We love how this formula includes a slew of hydrating ingredients like squalane and ectoin.

What We Don’t Love: This foundation is on the pricier side.

Barber is not typically one to gravitate towards matte finishes, but this recent release from Rose Inc (if you’re not familiar, this is model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s brand) may have converted her. The Softlight Skin-Smoothing Liquid Foundation truly feels like a second skin, and it’s all thanks to its soft matte finish which prevents it from looking too cakey or flat on the skin. After applying it in the morning before a long WFH day, Barber forgot she was even wearing a complexion product by lunchtime — that’s how comfortable it feels, even when she needs to add more layers than usual to cover a patchy eczema flare-up.

As for the formula’s hydrating properties, this does not disappoint. The first ingredient that catches our attention is ectoin, which prevents transepidermal water loss in the skin, leaving it plump and hydrated, and also squalane, which is one of the best moisturizing ingredients in the game. Our trusty glycerin is on the list, too, so you can trust that this is a suitable choice for anyone with dry skin seeking out a matte complexion product.

Key Ingredients: Ecotin, squalane, glycerin | Finish: Matte | Coverage: Medium | Number of Shades: 31 | SPF: No | Size: 1 oz

Best Natural Finish: Giorgio Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation

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What We Love: This natural-looking formula is perfect for everyday, but can be built up for more coverage in the PM.

What We Don’t Love: We wish this formula didn’t have parabens and fragrance in it.

One of my longstanding foundations in my kit for dry skin is Armani's Luminous Silk Foundation,” says Scibelli. “The formula has sheer, light-reflecting pigments in it, so it creates a multi-dimensional glow on the skin which is great for dry skin." And we can’t help but agree. Those “sheer, light-reflecting pigments” in this Armani Beauty foundation that Scibelli mentions create the perfect natural finish for anyone seeking a more subtle formula for their everyday makeup looks.

The liquid formulation also allows for buildable coverage, so you can have a more sheer finish during the day and build it up to its maximum medium coverage look for a night out. Plus, this formula has hydrating glycerin in it, so you can trust Scibelli’s choice to use it for his celebrity clients with dry skin. Also on its ingredient list is Armani Beauty’s trademarked Micro-Fil Technology, which gives this formula its smoothing, pore-minimizing appearance and gives you that your-skin-but-better complexion.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, Micro-Fil Technology | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium | Number of Shades: 40 | SPF: No | Size: 1 oz

Best With SPF: Saie Slip Tint Dewy Tinted Moisturizer SPF 35

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What We Love: This formula not only has SPF 35 from non-nano zinc oxide, but also includes hydrating, soothing, and antioxidant ingredients.

What We Don’t Love: May not work for someone seeking more coverage. 

Similar to the SunnyDays tinted SPF from Tower 28, the Slip Tint from buzzy brand, Saie, taps a non-nano zinc oxide-based formula for its hydrating and defensive properties. Barber's been wearing this foundation for two years and she raves about the "perfect dewy finish" it gives her dry skin. Its light coverage still feels hearty, making it ideal for everyday wear, whether you’re headed to the office or to happy hour — there’s no event that this tint isn’t suitable for. Plus, it couldn’t be easier to apply. Barber prefers to use the brand’s The Big Brush because it’s super dense and prevents streaks, but she also admits to using her hands and applying it like you would a moisturizer from time to time (do this for an even more natural finish).

Key Ingredients: Non-nano zinc oxide, hyaluronic acid, licorice root extract | Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Light | Number of Shades: 14 | SPF: 35 | Size: 1.35 oz

Best Long-Wear: NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation

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What We Love: It’s easy to find a shade that perfectly matches your skin tone and undertones.

What We Don’t Love: Some reviewers note it may take a few tries with the right primer to get this formula to look flawless.

If you’re someone who regularly does a full beat and needs it to actually last all day or all night, the Nars Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation will become your new go-to. This formula provides both full-coverage and a natural finish, and you don’t have to use too much to get the full effect. Due to the fact that a little goes a long way with this foundation, there’s less of a chance of any unsightly creasing on your skin from too much product as the day goes on post-application, and the brand claims that it lasts up to 16 hours on your skin.

Not only does this formula have our go-to glycerin on its ingredients list, making it wonderful for dry skin types, but it also includes a variety of fruit extracts, specifically raspberry, apple, and watermelon; raspberry and watermelon extracts act as fabulous moisturizing ingredients, while apple extract has antioxidant properties that help reduce skin damage from UV rays.

Key Ingredients: Glycerin, raspberry, apple, and watermelon extracts | Finish: Natural | Coverage: Full | Number of Shades: 34 | SPF: No | Size: 1 oz

What to Keep in Mind

  • Skin Prep: When it comes to ensuring your dry skin can handle wearing foundation throughout the day, the first step is always ample skin preparation. Take it from makeup artist Ian Russell: “Makeup is only ever as good as your skin prep.”
    A good moisturizer is always a necessity when it comes to your pre-makeup skin prep, and it’s key to apply said moisturizer both the night before and in the AM right before application. Scibelli notes that "locking in a great nighttime moisturizer allows you to wake up with supple skin,” resulting in a far easier application process in the morning.

  • Formula: "As a general rule, liquid foundations tend to be the better choice for a dry skin, especially as skincare components are now available in so many products," says Russell. Scibelli agrees, saying that he usually goes for cream or liquid foundation formulas for dry skin because "they bind to the skin easier and more smoothly, whereas powders can settle into dry skin and accentuate fine lines.”

  • Finish: "A matte foundation typically contains a lot of silicones which seal the pores and decrease oil production," says Scibelli. "A dewy finish will give you that three dimensional glow, often with light reflective properties, and a natural finish is neither too dewy nor too matte — it should just look like your skin — and finally, a satin finish is a combo of both a matte and a natural finish, giving the skin a slight velvety, airbrushed effect.”

  • Coverage: “Coverage refers to the opacity of makeup,” explains Russell. “Full-coverage is designed to completely cover the skin, appears opaque when applied and contains the most pigment. Sheer coverage is lightweight and the most transparent, and medium/buildable formulas are somewhere in between.” 

  • Hydrating Ingredients: “Hyaluronic acid is always a great one to look for because it draws moisture from the air and locks it into the skin for instant hydration," says Scibelli. Russell adds that he loves formulas with supporting ingredients, like squalane and nourishing plant-based oils. His favorite foundations tend to be formulated with shea butter, alongisde coconut, buriti and jojoba oils.

  • Application Method: Lee suggests using a damp sponge or even just your hands for most liquid and cream formulas. "Applying foundation with your hands allows you to warm up the foundation with your hands so it goes on seamlessly," she says. "Start with thin layers and build up coverage slowly and only where needed; it's far easier to add more than to blend on dry skin."

Your Questions, Answered

Are serum foundations good for dry skin?

"Serum foundation products are some of the most beneficial on the market when dealing with dry skin types," says Russell. “They feel lightweight, are packed with hydration and also include heavy-duty ingredients that target specific concerns such as aging, pigmentation and skin dullness."

How do you make your foundation look flawless with dry skin?

“Skin prep is key. I can’t stress enough that moisturizing before is important," says Lee. "Picking the right formulation and making sure that you don't overdo it with foundation. Less is more and don't pack on coverage where it's not needed, as that dries out the skin as well.”

Why Shop With Us

Madison Barber is a passionate beauty product-researcher and a victim to dry, sensitive skin. For this article, she spent hours researching foundations with suitable ingredients, finishes, and formulas for dry skin, and tried many herself. She also included favorites from other dry skin types on the InStyle team and consulted consulted three makeup artists and a dermatologist to hear some of their expert picks and advice, including: Dr. Marc Beuttler, MD, FAAD, Neil Scibelli, Grace Lee, and Ian Russell.

Related: The 15 Best Foundations for Oily Skin That Won’t Get Greasy, Per Makeup Artists

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