w&h beauty editor, Fiona McKim, has been testing make-up and beauty products for over a decade. She's lost count of how many foundations she's slathered on her cheeks. So when she says that these are the best foundations for dry skin, she means it.
Looking for the best foundation for dehydrated, dry skin? You’re far from alone. Mature complexions tend to experience dryness more than others, with around half of people in their 40s dealing with dry skin, a figure that leaps up to 75% once we reach 65+.
If your skin is naturally dry, it can be difficult to find a foundation formula that ticks all the boxes. It’s important to find something that hydrates as well as the best moisturiser, while also offering lasting, even coverage.
Luckily, brands are wise to these needs and continuously invest in foundation research and development, so the offer is improving. This is true even if you’re on a tight budget – it’s entirely possible to buy one of the best foundations for dry skin for £15 or less, as long as you know where to look.
These days, many foundations for dry skin target other skin concerns too, such as melasma and pigmentation, and tightness. The trick is finding one that does all of the above, covers what needs covering yet also provides a natural-looking finish.
How to choose the best foundation for dry skin for you
Foundations tend to be either oil, water or silicone based, and the best foundation for dry skin is usually oil and water based. This is because hydration is key. Water-based foundations will glide smoothly over dry patches. If long-term dryness is a problem, oils will help give skin a dewy quality. Heavy matte textures can drag over rough patches and sink into lines so it’s best to stick to lighter coverage and then use concealer on areas that need it.
Why are water-based foundations good for dry skin?
Water-based foundations tend to feel loose and buildable, and are a good choice if you’re generally happy with your skin tone and like only light, sheer coverage. They work well on dry-combination skin, as the water base will hydrate the bits that need it without overloading oilier areas.
Why are oil-based foundations good for dry skin?
Oil-based foundations tend to suit very dry skin and those who are happy with medium to full coverage. Oils penetrate the skin far more slowly than water, so will essentially “sit” on the skin, creating a lasting, nourishing layer that stops pigment settling into lines and flakiness appearing throughout the day.
Key ingredients found in the best foundation for dry skin
Examine the skincare ingredients. We recommend looking out for glycerin, hyaluronic acid and other hydrators, such as aloe leaf juice and coconut water.
Glycerin is always good news on a label. It’s a humectant, which means it attracts water to the skin’s surface and bolsters the barrier function (the part of your skin that stops natural hydration escaping).
Hyaluronic acid is pretty much universally loved by beauty editors and brands so look out for that too. Not strictly an acid, this sugar famously draws in and holds onto up to 1,000 times its own weight in water, so smooths and plumps skin from within.
The best foundation for dry skin you can buy right now
Whatever your skin tone or budget, find the best foundation for dry skin now with our edit, helpfully organised by price point.
Best foundation for dry skin under £15
The best budget foundation for dry skin
Number of shades: 19
How long will it last? 9-10 hours
Maybelline makes so many excellent products and this is undoubtedly one of the best. The texture appears a little bit thick when first pumped out, but thanks to a slippy water and silicone-based formula it spreads on easily without dragging or needing too much buffing into dry patches.
The coverage is medium (and could be built to full), but this is all achieved with a lightness of touch and lightly satiny finish that looks natural, glowy and gorgeous. It may not quite last the full promised 12 hours, but you should definitely get a good 9 or 10 out of it.
The best long lasting foundation for dry skin
Number of shades: 23
How long will it last? 16 hours
Coverage: medium to high
Italian behemoth Kiko has an answer for every cosmetic conundrum within its vast array of wares, and although Unlimited Foundation is built for lasting power on any skin type, it will do the trick particularly well for dry, dehydrated complexions.
Why? because it’s packed with nourishing ingredients, like sea lavender extract and a blend of oils, so it feels comfortable, not chalky, from breakfast till bed. Even better, the formula has SPF15 and no fragrance, so sensitive types should love it, too.
3. No7 City Light Tinted Moisturiser, £13
Best foundation for dry skin in an urban or polluted area
Number of shades: 3
How long will it last? 4-5 hours
No7 makes some of the best budget foundations going, and though No7 City Light calls itself a tinted moisturiser, you should find it has enough coverage (unless you have major skin tone bugbears that you’d rather conceal).
This is an absolute bargain that’s perfect for dry skin. The texture is beyond lovely, like a light silky serum that sinks in quickly, leaving skin looking even, plumped and glowing. Your own natural glow will also get a boost from a blend of antioxidants designed to stave off the dulling effects of pollution.
Best foundation for dry skin with a shiny T-Zone
Number of shades: 16
How long will it last? 8-10 hours
Coverage: Medium, buildable
Max Factor is pretty consistent when it comes to “bang for your buck” foundations, and this is no exception. It promises a lot: 24-hour hydration, environmental protection, oil-control powders, plus added radiance for dry skins, and it delivers pretty darn well.
The coverage is medium to high, and the feel is like a light cream. It spreads silkily out and sets in place with minimal blending required. It also has an almost reflectively radiant finish that would be perfect at juicing up the look of dry skin. It’s a bit of a myth that dry skin types don’t also get oily sometimes, particularly around the T-Zone, so the addition of oil-control powders mkaes this a great all-rounder. SPF20 gets a big thumbs up, as does a decent shade range for light and dark skin.
Best foundation for dry skin under £20
Best lightweight foundation for dry skin
Number of shades: 6
How long will it last? 4-8 hours
Vegan friendly? yes
This light fluid lives somewhere between foundation and tinted moisturiser territory and would be spot-on for holidays, lazy weekends or anyone who needs only to enhance what nature gave them.
The formula is so light you can easily apply with your fingers, it feels comfortable on the skin and doesn’t dry up or burrow into fine lines as the day goes on. There are only six shades, and a few more at the deeper end of the spectrum would be welcome, but the sheer coverage does mean you can get away without an entirely precise match.
Best foundations for dry skin under £40
Best foundation for dry skin that lasts all day without caking
Number of shades: 20
SPF: SPF 45
How long will it last? 12 hours
This combination of hydrating radiance and full coverage is unusual, but Futurist Hydra Rescue pulls it off.
That soft and hydrating formualtion includes glycerin, hyaluronic acid and nourishing seed oils, which gives this its loose, easily blended texture. Once set, the coverage is anywhere between medium and full depending on how much you want to build it up, always with a juicy, radiant finish. High factor SPF45 is a great addition, and thanks to that full-cover pigment it doesn’t alter the coverage or finished look in any way.
Best foundation for dry skin that won’t settle in lines
Number of shades: 30
How long will it last? 15 hours
Coverage: medium to full
Lovely Laura Mercier is the queen of skin-loving cosmetics, and this foundation is no exception.
As well as the beautifully natural, healthy coverage you would expect, this formulation is light and silky enough not to settle into wrinkles and works with the natural moisture layer in your skin’s epidermis to prevent water loss. It moisturises for up to 15 hours and the vitamin C in the formula boosts your skin’s luminosity gradually over time.
Best cushion foundation for dry skin
Number of shades: 4
How long will it last? 6-8 hours
Coverage: light to medium
Cushion foundations are popular now, but that ubiquity doesn’t take anything away from their usefulness. The formulas tend to be water based, which suits dry skin perfectly and if you need little top-ups throughout the day, they’re a great self-contained solution.
This one from Givenchy is particularly gorgeous, the formula has a high water content, myrrh essential oil and blurring particles, all ideal if you have tight, dry cheeks or flaking skin. The coverage is light, giving just a wash of pigment, but you can build it up where you need it – usually the chin, nose and forehead.
Best foundation for dry skin under £50
Best brightening foundation for dry skin
Number of shades: 30
How long will it last? 16 hours
Coverage: light – medium
When you think about it, there’s a perfect high-low combination in every area of life: Spendy handbag, high street dress; organic steak, cheap chocolate. In beauty, budget mascara is pretty unbeatable, but it pays to spend on a sophisticated foundation like this sophisticated number here.
Not just a looker, L’Essentiel succeeds where so many bases fail in being both sheer and skin-like yet seriously hard wearing. It comes in 30 glowing shades, includes SPF20 and has been shown to deeply hydrate skin and brighten pigmentation over time, meaning you can lowball your concealer spend. High five to that.
The best foundation for dry skin according to other experts
Every product in this article has been rigorously tested. Our beauty editors only recommend foundations that they’ve personally tried and that they personally rate for dry skin. If they wouldn’t buy it, then we don’t list it.
Having said that, we appreciate that foundation reacts differently on different skin. Finding the right formula for you isn’t always straightforward. With that in mind we’ve included below the best foundations for dry skin according to some of the most respected beauty experts in the industry.
The best foundation for dry skin according to Sali Hughes
Number of shades: 27
How long will it last? 24 hours
Clinique Even Better Refresh gets Sali’s vote. She says, “I’m obsessed with a Clinique foundation for the first time since I was 14 and wore base the colour of a bandage… It stays uniform and moist all day, shifts not a smidge and covers redness a treat.”
The best foundation for dry skin according to Gucci Westman
Number of shades: 8
How long will it last? 24 hours
Gucci is Global Artistic Director of Revlon, so it makes sense that she’d recommend a Revlon product. But she’s also a make-up legend with clients including Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz, so we’ll listen to what she has to day.
Gucci recommends Revlon ColourStay Foundation, saying “the modern woman wants to know that her foundation will stay fresh all day long, quite rightly they don’t expect it to go flakey or cakey. Long-wearing make-up has typically been a tricky formula to get right, but Revlon ColorStay Foundation is such a brilliant product. It gives great coverage without sacrificing on luminosity and is great at balancing out any uneven patches.”
The best way to apply foundation to dry skin
About our best foundation for dry skin edit
We update this best foundation for dry skin edit regularly with new foundation launches that we think are truly worthy of the accolade: best foundation for dry skin. Check back often, we aim to update this every couple of months, and more frequently if an exciting new product launches! Prices are correct at the time of the last article update but they are subject to change by the retailer.