The w&h beauty editors select the best foundations for dry skin, starting from less than £10
Looking for the best foundation for dry skin? You’re far from alone. Mature complexions tend to suffer with dryness more than others, with 50% of people in their 40s experiencing dry skin, and 75% of people aged 65+ suffering with dryness.
If your skin is naturally dry, it can be difficult to find a foundation formula that hydrates, lasts all day without flaking and also gives good even coverage. Luckily, brands are continuously investing in research and development in this area so the offer is improving, even if you’re on a tight budget.
Happily, many of these foundations now target other skin concerns too, such as sun damage, wrinkles and tightness, while also concealing and providing a flawless, natural-looking finish.
What type of foundation is best for dry skin?
The key to finding the best foundation for dry skin, is to look for skincare ingredients. 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 park 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 1000 times it’s own weight in water, so smooths and plumps skin from within. Foundations tend to be either oil, water or silicone based, and for dry skin I tend to recommend the first two varieties. A water based foundation feels loose and buildable, and is a good choice if you are generally happy with your skintone and like only light, sheer coverage. They work very well on combination skin as the water base will hydrate the bits that need it without overloading oilier areas. 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.
Whatever your skin tone or budget, find the best foundation for dry skin now with our edit, helpfully organised by price point.
Best foundations for dry skin
TOP INVESTMENT PICK: Guerlain L’Essentiel Natural Glow Foundation, 16hr wear, £44
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 foundation. This is for obvious reasons – it goes all over your face – and less obvious, like liquid foundation sales rose 7% last year so brands are developing sophisticated formulas like this bright spark 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 next concealer spend. High five to that.
TOP BUDGET PICK: Bourjois Healthy Mix Radiance Reveal, £9.99
The original Healthy Mix foundation is much loved by editors and beauty fans alike for bucking the ‘you get what you pay for’ foundation trend. Unusually for a sub £10 base it is creamy and spreadable, melts into skin and quenches dryness, but also sticks around. So, why mess with a good thing?
Because there’s always room for improvement, it would seem. This newly launched update won’t disappoint fans of the original (the lovely texture and lasting power remain), but, now we get added skincare benefits from vitamins C, E and B5, plus a slightly glowier finish from coated pigments, perfect to disguise dull and dry skin. There are three new shades to better serve darker skin tones, although there’s still room for improvement in this area, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Best foundations for dry skin under £15
Kiko Unlimited Foundation, £10.90
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 normal skin, it will do the trick for dry skin very nicely too.
Why? because it’s packed with nourishing ingredients, like sea lavender extract and a blend of oils, so feels comfortable, not chalky, from breakfast till bed. Even better, the formula has SPF15 and no fragrance or parabens, so sensitive complexions should love it too.
No7 City Light, £13.00
No7 make some of the best budget foundations going, and though No7 City Light calls itself a tinted moisturiser, you should find it has just enough coverage (unless you have major skin issues you’d rather cover.) That aside, 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.
Max Factor Healthy Skin Harmony Miracle Foundation, £14.99
Max Factor are 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, but the feel is not at all paste-like, more of a cream, which spreads silkily out and sets in place with minimal blending required. It feels nice – as in you can hardly feel it – and has an almost reflectively radiant finish that would be perfect at juicing up the look of dry skin. We’re not entirely convinced very oily skin types will approve as it is a real glow-giver, but that won’t be an issue for readers of this article, who are looking for the best foundation for dry skin. The SPF20 gets a big thumbs up, as does the decent shade range for light and dark skin.
Best foundations for dry skin under £30
Mii Flawless Face Base SPF10, £19.95
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, feels comfortable on skin and doesn’t dry up or burrow into fine lines as the day goes on. There are only six shades, but the sheer coverage means you can get away without an entirely precise match (in fact I went one shade darker than normal and it added a nice sunny warmth to my Scottish pallor)
Kat Von D Lock It Liquid Foundation, £28
Make no mistake this is a full coverage foundation, and a tiny amount of the the creamy, highly pigmented formula goes a ridiculously long way. But for a bit of care and extra blending, you’ll be rewarded with genuine all day flawlessness that doesn’t settle in lines or cling to flaky bits. The colour range is good for all skin tones, and the clever pump bottle means it’ll never spill or oxidise.
Estee Lauder Doublewear Nude Cushion, £30
If you’re already a fan of Estee Lauder Doublewear you’ll know why it’s stood the test of time – it’s seriously hard wearing stuff, covering unevenness, pigmentation and more, for the whole day without melting on oily skin, caking or clogging pores. But we’re looking for the best foundation for dry skin, not oily…
Which brings us to this formula, Doublewear Nude Foundation. It goes one better, offering the same lasting cover, but in a looser, less matte formula that would suit dry skin as much as oily. The bingo dabber-like cushion is rather useful too, bouncing the formula onto skin for a smooth sheeny finish and doing away with the need for brushes. Another bonus is it’s practically unspillable so perfect for your handbag and comes in 22 shades including plenty for darker skin. One caveat; the sponge is a little finicky to clean, but it’s a small price to pay for what is undoubtedly an improvement on a classic.
Best foundations for dry skin under £40
Laura Mercier Flawless Lumiere Radience-Perfecting Foundation, £36
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.
Givenchy Teint Couture Cushion Foundation SPF10, £39
Cushion foundations are popular now, but that ubiquity doesn’t take anything away from their superior usefulness. The formulas tend to be water-based, which suit 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 even 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.
About our best foundation for dry skin edit:
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. We update this article regularly with new foundation launches that we think are truly worthy of the title: best foundation for dry skin. So check back often! Prices are correct at the time of the last update but they are subject to change by the retailer.