The best foundation

Foundation in the right color and formula can help make your skin look like you slept 18 hours and drank 10 gallons of water. But the paradox is finding that perfect foundation.

No one needs foundation, but anyone who’s ever even thought about it knows there’s a bewildering array of formulas, shades, claims, prices, and more.

That’s why we researched a ton of highly rated foundations, tested them ourselves, and confirmed with shopper reviews to help you narrow down the endless options.

Here are the best foundations you can buy:

Updated on 03/12/2020 by Sally Kaplan: Replaced pick for “best luxury foundation” with Wander Nude Illusion, our pick for “best foundation for dry skin.” Added Hourglass’ Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick, our pick for “best stick foundation.”


The best foundation overall

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Nordstrom

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation is more like a fluid texture that goes on like, well, silk. It dries to a natural, almost satin-y finish, and looks incredibly realistic.

Unlike other foundation formulas that are creamy like moisturizers, Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation is thin and fluid, almost like a serum. It feels weightless, goes on incredibly smooth, and dries down to a satin-y finish that looks and feels like your skin.

That doesn’t mean you’re not getting coverage though – it’s actually really buildable from sheer to medium, and you can easily mix it with moisturizer, sunscreen, or even a facial oil to customize your base.

Because the texture spreads so easily, I only need half a pump for full-face coverage – which is great for my wallet because at $64 for a 1-ounce bottle, Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation is definitely a splurge. Considering you’ll only need a little for coverage, it’ll last a seriously long time.

The formula includes what Armani calls “Micro-fil Technology” which helps blur the appearance of pores and lines for an airbrushed look. It sounds a little high-tech for a foundation, but I think it does help make my face look smoother.

Ever since the foundation launched in 2001, it’s topped all the best-of lists. It was an Allure Best of Beauty winner back in 2008, Meghan Markle is a fan, and thousands of shoppers have written love letters. In fact, it holds a 4.5-star rating with more than 1,600 shopper reviews on Nordstrom, a 4.6-star rating with more than 2,500 reviews on Influenster, and a 4.3-star rating with nearly 3,000 Sephora reviews. All this is to say that it’s an overwhelming crowd favorite.

There are 30 shades, which isn’t an overwhelming amount compared to some of our other top picks which have 40, but it’s not too limited either. The range was extended to 31 in 2018, but it looks like it’s back to 30 as of publication time.

Pros: Thin fluid texture, buildable coverage, oil-free formula, 30 shades

Cons: Expensive, might not be moisturizing for those with dry skin, shade range isn’t as extensive, doesn’t have SPF


The best drugstore foundation

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Target

For less than $12, Maybelline Urban Cover Foundation offers a full-coverage base with SPF 50 and protective antioxidants.

In my quest to debunk all the myths you’ve heard about drugstore makeup, one of my recent go-to foundations is Maybelline Urban Cover Foundation. In fact, it’s sitting right on my desk as I write this review.

The squeeze tube is easier to use (and far safer to commute with) than a glass pump bottle, and the formula features SPF 50, antioxidants to protect against environmental stressors like pollution (hence the name “Urban Cover”), and niacinamide to strengthen your skin. Texture-wise, it feels like a traditional foundation so it’s slightly creamy, and dries down to a natural finish. Even though it offers full coverage, it doesn’t look cakey or make me look like a mannequin.

One of the biggest problems with shopping for a drugstore foundation (or foundation, for that matter) is trying to find the right shade for your skin. Maybelline has a helpful foundation finder tool on its site where you’d answer a few questions about coverage and formula, upload a selfie, and get a match. There’s still a bit of trial and error this way, but at least you’ll have a more narrow focus when you’re shopping for your shade.

It holds a 4.3-star rating on Target with more than 300 reviews, and a 4.2 with more than 370 reviews on Influenster. Shoppers are generally impressed with the quality, coverage, and protection that the drugstore find offers.

Pros: Affordable, lightweight, antioxidants help prevent free radical damage, SPF 50, 16 shades

Cons: Limited shade range, hard to find ideal shade in drugstores


The best foundation for dry skin

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Sephora

Wander Beauty’s moisturizing liquid foundation includes skin-nourishing ingredients that keep your face looking and feeling hydrated throughout the day.

Wander Beauty’s Nude Illusion Liquid Foundation fares well on dry skin because it incorporates nourishing ingredients like sodium hyaluronate, which is a humectant that attracts and retains moisture, and black currant fruit extract, which is packed with antioxidants like vitamin c. No caked on, flaky base layers here – just a long-lasting, dewy finish.

The buildable foundation swipes on much like a moisturizer, offering medium coverage with the first layer of application and fuller coverage with the second. Beauty writer Catherine Santino wrote in her review of the foundation (which you can ready in full here) that she loves how “glowy” the formula makes her look, despite her “very dry skin.”

The downside is that it doesn’t include SPF, so we recommend wearing it over sunscreen. The more potentially dealbreaking con is that it only comes in 12 shades, so it may not work for everyone. -Sally Kaplan

Pros: Hydrating formula, stays on all day, gives a dewy effect

Cons: Doesn’t work as well for oily skin, no SPF, only 12 shades


The best foundation for oily skin

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Sephora

For a matte, but not stone-like complexion, try Fenty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation.

Anyone who’s ever tried a matte foundation knows the struggle of finding a formula that looks natural and not one-dimensional. Somehow Fenty has gotten it right with its Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation.

Like its name suggests, the formula dries down to a soft matte finish, so it looks natural and not mask-like. Its mattifying effect is especially great for skin that needs oil control throughout the day. The formula is made with adaptive technology that is resistant to heat and humidity so it won’t fade or slide off the minute you go outside.

The coverage is medium to full so you can build it up, or sheer it out with a moisturizer if you want. The pump dispenser makes it easy to get just the right amount of product needed. With an impressive range of 50 shades across warm, cool, and neutral undertones, you’d be hard-pressed to not find a match.

But even more impressive are the ratings – it has a 4.1-star rating with nearly 15,000 Sephora reviews, and a 4.4-star rating with nearly 17,000 Influenster reviews. Many of the reviews suggest moisturizing, or at least priming, before using the foundation to further prevent a mask-like finish.

Pros: Matte finish, 50 shades, formulated without oil, parabens, phthalates, adaptive technology is resistant to heat and humidity

Cons: Might be too matte for some, skin needs to be prepped beforehand


The best mineral foundation

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Amazon

If you’re avoiding silicones, Mineral Fusion Pressed Powder Foundation offers sheer coverage in the form of pressed powder.

Filled with aloe vera, cucumber, licorice root, white tea, pomegranate, and vitamins E and C, Mineral Fusion Pressed Powder Foundation is 100% vegan, hypoallergenic, and suitable for many skin types. It’s also made without any potential skin irritants or silicone.

I first turned to mineral foundation years ago, as it became increasingly difficult to find any without silicone – a common ingredient in foundation and moisturizers. Silicone is fine for most skin but causes mine to break out like I’m back in my teen years.

The Mineral Fusion Pressed Powder Foundation goes on quite sheer, so my skin doesn’t look chalky, cake-y, or clown-like. And while the coverage is buildable, it still looks very natural, which can be hard to find in pressed powder foundations. I’ve had no problems with oxidation or creased foundation, both of which were daily annoyances with the bareMinerals powders I used to use.

Best of all, my maturing-and-yet-still-very-oily complexion has settled down since making the switch. I’ve had far fewer breakouts, my skin looks super-healthy, and though I do still have to blot a few times per day, the Mineral Fusion foundation sticks around until I wash it off at night.

You’ll find Mineral Fusion Pressed Powder Foundation at Whole Foods, but it costs a lot less on Amazon, where it has more than 500 reviews and an average of 4.5 stars. Shoppers love the sheer-yet-buildable finish and the natural ingredients.

There are only 15 shades to choose from, which is a lot less than others on this list, but because it’s sheer, one shade might work for several skin tones. The powder is good for many skin types, but it’s especially great for combination, oily, or sensitive skin. The finish is natural and just slightly matte, but never mask-like. – Michelle Ullman

Pros: Formulated with fruit and botanical ingredients, suitable for sensitive skin, buildable coverage

Cons: Coverage might be too sheer, only 15 shades


The best stick foundation

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Sephora

A good stick foundation provides full coverage without drying your skin or looking overdone. Hourglass’ Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick does just that, and it lasts for far longer than you’d expect.

Hourglass’ stick foundation is a full-coverage dream. It does its job so well that I can even use it as a spot concealer when I need a little extra coverage on tinted moisturizer days.

The solid foundation’s texture is just creamy enough that it swipes on silky smooth but not so much that it ends up settling into every little line and wrinkle in your face or sliding off the second you step outside (a common problem with stick foundations and concealers whose formula is just too buttery). It’s buildable in theory, but you probably won’t want or need to add more than one layer of the foundation to get full coverage.

The downside of this foundation is that anyone with dry skin will need to spend time prepping with an extra layer of moisturizer and/or primer before using it. Honestly, I have to do that even with hydrating foundations because my skin is just that dry, but it’s worth keeping in mind. I’d definitely recommend this if you love going all out with a full face, but if you just want something hydrating that you can throw on, I’d say you’re probably in the market for a BB or CC cream instead. – Sally Kaplan

Pros: Large range of colors (32 total), no spillage, a little goes a long way

Cons: Requires extra prepping for dry skin


What else we considered

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Getty Images/Mireya Acierto
  • NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation ($49): This foundation truly lives up to its name, covering all types of skin imperfections to make it look like you’re not even wearing makeup. The finish is natural – not matte, not glowing, but just the way healthy skin should look. But there are only 20 shades to choose from, so the range is really limited compared to our other picks here.
  • Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint ($14.99): This oil-free, non-comedogenic makeup contains hyaluronic acid, which boosts skin hydration without feeling even the slightest bit greasy. As a sheer foundation, this isn’t going to entirely cover blemishes, dark spots, or red blotches, but it smooths over all types of imperfections, gently improving the look of your complexion without a heavy or mask-like appearance. There are also only 10 shades, and they’re sometimes hard to find online.
  • L’Oréal Infallible Pro-Matte 24HR Foundation ($10.99): Although the foundation’s finish is matte, it isn’t dull, heavy, or fake looking. In fact, this makeup base glides on with a rather light feel and then dries to a just-matte-enough texture to keep oily shine at bay for hours. There are only 12 shades to choose from, the finish is demi-matte, and most suitable for oily or combination skin.
  • Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup ($39): Urban Decay’s foundation is loaded with skin-boosting ingredients, including peptides to smooth away fine lines, antioxidant green tea, hyaluronic acid to replenish skin moisture, and gentle brighteners to bring back a healthy glow. The oil-free makeup goes on with a very light, natural feel, and then dries to a demi-matte finish that never looks too heavy or fake. It comes in 26 shades, is suitable for many skin types, and has a lightweight, slightly matte finish.