Best foundation: our favorite formulas for all skin types

Learn the best foundation coverage and products you need to perfect, hydrate, and glow—all for your most flawless complexion yet

best foundation: Featuring It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare, Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Makeup SPF 45, and more
(Image credit: Future)

Searching for the best foundation around? You’ve come to the right place.  Foundation is arguably the most important product in your makeup bag, for obvious reasons: It's front and center, it's responsible for the flawless finish (and conversely, the imperfections) that people see, and it pretty much acts as the base for the rest of your makeup to adhere to.

The best foundation serves as one of the fundamentals in a solid routine—there's a reason it's called "foundation," after all—and it provides the finish upon which other cosmetics are layered, which makes finding the correct formula all the more crucial.

That said, beauty brands are well aware that the best foundation breeds loyalty like no other makeup; once you've locked in a formula that works for your skin type and signature beauty look, a lot of us are pretty much set. However, new and improved versions of trusty classics are developed each year, and given that our skin might change as time goes on, it behooves us to see which new contenders can earn pride of place in our vanities every so often. 

Just like we're constantly looking to see what the best eye cream or moisturizer is out there, our base makeup also deserves a seasonal refresh and a chance to evolve with our skin needs. Thanks to continuous investment and R&D, the latest technologies are likely to be more comfortable, invisible, and, best-yet, skin-improving than anything you’ve tried before. 

How to choose the best foundation for you

The smart approach to finding the best foundation is to treat it like skincare, and then tailor by skin type: 

  • Normal: If you’re lucky enough to have skin that’s neither especially dry or oily and fairly even, go for a sheer, water-based formula with a low level of pigment. This ensures your skin looks natural and not caked in makeup that you don’t really need. You can always use a higher-coverage concealer on smaller areas that do need disguising. 
  • Oily: Look for silicone-based formulas with mattifying elements like micro-powders.
  • Dry: Pick products with a high water content, oils, and other hydrating ingredients such as glycerin or hyaluronic acid.
  • Combination: A light-reflecting finish gives normal to dry skin areas, like cheeks, a flattering glow but can look a bit slick if shine is already an issue. Tinted moisturizers and BB or CC creams can offer the sweet spot between coverage and a natural sheen for finicky complexions.
  • Sensitive or hyperpigmented: If, like many of us, you have sun spots, redness, or thread veins, consider fuller coverage via a proper long-stay liquid foundation. This doesn’t mean total camouflage—just enough pigment to hide what you don’t like while letting skin still show through.

How to shade-match foundation

Shade-matching and how you apply the best foundation itself are keys to success. Beauty brands have stepped up their shade selection lately, and about time too: Everyone, without exception, should be offered what they need to find their perfect foundation match. But with 40-strong ranges now the norm, how does one get it right, particularly if you're not in-store to see how they look in real life?

“The main mistake I see with shade matching is trying to use foundation to add color and in turn making skin look drier, textured, and orange,” says Bobbi Brown Senior Pro Artist Amy Conway. “Always match foundation exactly to your skin, then use products like bronzer to add color.”

If you’re buying the best foundation online, work out your skin’s undertone, as large shade ranges tend to include cool (blue or pink-undertoned), neutral (peachy-undertoned), or warm (yellow-undertoned) variants. Many brands also offer clever shade-matching tools on their websites, where you can virtually try on the best foundation or have a digital consultation with makeup artists. If that’s not available, a helpful last resort is to run a Google image search of the product name and shade. Very often, someone will have swatched it on, so you can see how the best foundation looks on real skin.

The best foundations, as reviewed by our experts

IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare: doubles as an exceptional makeup and skincare product in one that delivers long-lasting coverage and benefits, best foundation

(Image credit: IT Cosmetics)

1. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare

Best foundation for most skin types

RRP: $39.50/£29
Shades: 40
Coverage: Medium
Finish: Semi-radiant
Skin type: All
Base: Water
Reasons to buy
+Versatile coverage+Skin-improving ingredients+Excellent shade range
Reasons to avoid
-No SPF-Not for very oily skin

Calling It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare a great all-rounder sounds like it might be too much, but actually, that versatility is what makes this our top pick as the best foundation across the board. The coverage is medium but buildable, meaning one pump will lightly wash over minor tone anomalies, while two gives more robust coverage for days when that’s required. Either way, you can expect a healthy amount of skin translucence and no cakey results. Despite looking and feeling just like—you guessed it—better skin, you’ll get a decent day’s wear from this best foundation, with the occasional powder touch-up for that rogue shine slick if needed. This means almost anyone should find their happy place coverage-wise, except those looking for a studio-level matte finish or next-to-nothing sheer pigment. 

Including the word "skincare" in the name of your best foundation is a bold move, but sure enough, the ingredients list is a veritable MVP list of skin-improvers. What we lose in its non-inclusion of SPF, we gain in a best-of roster: Aloe leaf juice and hyaluronic acid hydrate, glycerin softens, and vitamin E does its antioxidant thing and protects against pollution. Texture-wise, this best foundation is thick enough to pump out cleanly but spreads on and blends with impressive ease. The finish is lightly radiant but not sparkly: This means pores and shallow lines are blurred over, and skin looks hydrated, but you won’t be ultra-dewy or slick. 

As the first proper best foundation in a grown-up glass bottle from the cult problem-solving brand, it more than delivers. The texture, finish, and coverage is as accessible as they come and will appeal to a similarly broad demographic. Bonus points for the exceptional 40-strong shade range, up from 12 in the brand’s well-regarded CC cream franchise.

See our full It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare review 

Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Makeup SPF 45: leverages nourishing ingredients that quench dry complexions, all while offering long-lasting coverage, best foundation

(Image credit: Estée Lauder)

2. Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Makeup SPF 45

Best foundation for dry skin

RRP: $45/£33
SPF: 45
Shades : 20
Coverage: Medium-full
Finish: Dewy
Skin type: Dry
Base: Water, silicone
Reasons to buy
+Buildable pigment+Skincare ingredients+Blurring finish 
Reasons to avoid
-High coverage -Runny texture 

Another best foundation that promises superlative hydration, don't be fooled: Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Makeup SPF 45 sits very much apart from water tints and tinted moisturizers et al., as beneath the veneer of juicy plumped skin lies a sophisticated full-coverage base. This combination is unusual in a market that generally swings from high-coverage mattes to light and silky sheers, but Futurist Hydra Rescue pulls it off. This should please those looking for one of the best foundations for dry skin who need a solid pigment to cover rosacea, pigmentation, or hormonal breakouts. Similarly, oily-combination types who like the idea of a sheer base, but hate how it dissolves into oblivion, will also appreciate the light feel yet substantial coverage offered by this best foundation tube.

Starting with the hydrating part, this best foundation touts an impressive cocktail of the usual suspects: glycerin, hyaluronic acid, nourishing seed oils, and emollients like coconut-derived coco-glyceride. What is more unusual is that the carrier liquid of the foundation—a.k.a. water—is ion-charged. Why exactly is that relevant? According to experts at Estée Lauder, “Water is electrically charged via a process that physically changes it, creating two types of water that have different levels of pH and ion contents. The different pH levels and ion contents help improve the compatibility of the water to the skin.”  

One surprise with Futurist is the texture, which was far looser than expected. (It’s worth saying we tested this on a scorching hot week in August, which probably played a part.). This runniness made blending a piece of cake, although we realize could also contribute to its fair share of spills, so cautious application is advised. Once spread, buffed, and blended, however, the finished effect really is an ideal grown-up base: Glowing but not shiny, evened-out but not unnaturally so, and best yet, pretty much invisible.

See our full Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue review 

Bobbi Brown skin long wear fluid powder foundation: a loose water- and silicone-based fluid that sets down into a soft powder finish designed to last, best foundation

(Image credit: Bobbi Brown)

3. Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Fluid Powder Foundation SPF20

Best foundation for oily skin

RRP: $40/£29
SPF: 20
Shades : 28
Coverage: Medium
Finish : Soft matte
Skin type: Oily
Base: Water, silicone
Reasons to buy
+Lasts extremely well+Soft matte finish 
Reasons to avoid
-Not for dry skin-Messy dispenser

A radiant formula considered to be one of the best foundations for oily skin, this best foundation keeps shine at bay and can withstand the dreaded midday melt while remaining resolutely natural-looking. You can’t have everything, but Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Fluid Powder Foundation ticks enough of the boxes to make it a winner for oily skin. This formula is designed to be the antidote to all those heavy, flat, matte foundations often peddled at those with oily or hot flush-prone skin.  As the name suggests, it’s a loose water- and silicone-based fluid that sets down into a soft powder finish designed to last. On top of the pigment and mattifying ingredients, this packs in sun protection and a “protein complex” that on inspection is comprised of whey/lactis protein, an excellent skin-softening, and collagen-stimulating ingredient. 

We found the texture surprisingly pleasant for the first few seconds; it slipped around with zero drag when buffed in with a firm brush but then did start setting quickly—not a lot of playtime here, so quick blending is advised. The coverage is medium, although you could get a lighter finish by applying it sparingly where needed—around the nose, for example, and blending outwards. 

It’s the finish that really impresses: The slickest bits of shine on our noses and chins were dulled down but not completely mattified. Think more of a soft-focus blurring effect rather than totally sheen-free, which is far more flattering for most skins. Halfway through the (very warm) day, this soft matte look was still very much ongoing. Only after six hours did we notice the oil on our chins finally making a break for the surface. This would be impressive under the circumstances for your average, chalky, oil-control base, but particularly so for one that looks so natural and feels so comfortable. 

As a minor aside, the fluid comes in a nice lightweight tube but, with repeated use, does tend to dribble at the end of the nozzle. It’s nothing major, but clean freaks will need to give it a wipe every now and then. It also goes without saying that this base isn’t for everyone: Dryer skin types should avoid, as should those who just don’t need the steadfast coverage that a powdery finish will provide. 

Chanel les beiges water fresh tint: imparts a thin veil of pigment, moist finish, and plumping effects, best foundation

(Image credit: Chanel)

4. Chanel Les Beiges Water-Fresh Tint

Best premium foundation

RRP: $65/£44
Shades : 8
Coverage: Sheer
Finish: Dewy
Skin type: Dry to normal
Base: Water
Reasons to buy
+Ultra hydrating+Dewy finish +Adaptable pigment
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-Limited shade range 

Technically, this isn’t a foundation at all, says Chanel—it’s a "water tint," and it is every bit as juicy as it sounds. Semantics aside, Chanel Les Beiges Water-Fresh Tint would be ideal if you have dry skin, but it isn’t oily or sparkly, so combination types can get on board too. Essentially anyone looking for a thin veil of pigment, moist finish, and plumping effects will find much to love. 

Said plumping happens as a result of an ultra-watery formula—it’s 75% H2O in fact —plus hydrating tamarind seed extract. The bubbly effect visible through the transparent packaging is the pigment, encapsulated in tiny micro-droplets that burst onto the skin as you apply. This makes the texture feel fairly loose and easy to spread on, as well as enhances the dewy effect (not to mention make it quite a delight to pat onto skin). Offering only eight shades does feel minimal, although these are sheer enough to be highly forgiving. I’d expect most skin tones will find something that suits well enough, but given how appealing the product is as a whole, it would be great to see an enhanced shade selection at some point. 

Let’s address the diamond-encrusted elephant in the room: This base costs $60, so either you have that much to spend on one makeup item, or you don't. If you do, then it’s worth mentioning that the cost includes a very sweet little brush that, unlike nearly every gift-with-purchase, is actually a quality, useful tool. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s Chanel. So as well as a very well-formulated base packed with skincare goodies,  you get a slickly designed pump bottle that ensures you squeeze every last drop out and an envy-inducing object that definitely earns some boudoir real estate.

See our full Chanel Les Beiges Water-Fresh Tint review

L'Oréal Paris Skin Paradise Water-Infused Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 19: features a lightweight and silky formula that delivers long-lasting coverage, best foundation

(Image credit: L'Oreal)

5. L'Oréal Paris Skin Paradise Water-Infused Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 19

Best budget foundation

RRP: $16.99/£12
SPF: 19
Shades: 12
Coverage: Light-medium
Finish: Radiant
Skin type: Any
Base: Water, silicone
Reasons to buy
+Excellent value+Hydrating +Sun protection 
Reasons to avoid
-Limited shade range-May not suit sensitive skin

There is a long-held belief among beauty editors that budget foundations are, on the whole, a lackluster bunch. This is in contrast to other makeup, where price often bears little relation to greatness (see: best cheap mascaras). But every now and then, an under-$15 winner like L'Oréal Paris Skin Paradise Water-Infused Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 19 comes along and proves us all wrong.

Skin Paradise Tinted Moisturizer is nearly everything you could want from a foundation: light and silky, with enough coverage to be worthwhile, and more than you would expect from the name of the product. It sets down to a nice glowing sheen and packs in undetectable mineral sun protection. This is a water-based foundation, of course, and also includes moisturizing glycerin, aloe vera, and natural plant extracts with antioxidant properties to brighten. Such juiciness means it may not quite last the whole day, but that easy-going nature is part of the appeal. On a lazy Sunday, you could spread this on with fingers in a few seconds and enjoy a healthy-looking complexion well into the afternoon. 

Still, no product is perfect: The shade range could use an expansion. It’s fragranced, which sensitive skin may not like, and the pleasing “slip” of the texture comes from dimethicone crosspolymer—that may bother some silicone-refusers, although it’s absolutely fine by us for a product we wash off at the end of the day. 

See our full L'Oréal Paris Skin Paradise review 

Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear 24H Foundation: main ingredients, perlite and silica, mattify the complexion without looking chalky, best foundation

(Image credit: Lancôme)

6. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear Foundation

Best long-lasting foundation

RRP: $47/£34
SPF: 15
Shades : 45
Coverage: Full
Finish: Matte
Skin type: Normal to oily
Base: Water, silicone
Reasons to buy
+Very long-lasting+Outstanding shade range+Comfortable  
Reasons to avoid
-High coverage -Fragranced 

There are some skin types and, yes, some occasions that demand a hefty foundation: something that looks supremely polished, will truly cover what needs covering, and can be trusted to stick around when the going gets tough (meaning humid, rainy, sweaty, or all of the above). We can’t think of a better foundation for the job than  Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation. 

This high-cover, the long-lasting base is an absolute mega-seller. This is particularly true in France, where it’s the number-one fluid foundation; it’s also many a beauty ed’s favorite, full-throttle, going “out-out” non-cakey base. The main ingredients, along with a whole lot of pigment, are perlite and silica, both of which mattifies without looking chalky. It also contains SPF 15, which we would file under “every bit helps/better than nothing,” and a flexible polymer makes it feel soft on the skin, as hard-wearing bases go.

Naturally, in exchange for that robust coverage and true all-day-and-night wear, you do have to accept a degree of feeling like you are wearing foundation. Not in a tight or chalky way, but just a light "I’ve got my face on" sensation. For the majority of us, this might make it more suitable for a special occasion. For anyone who wants or needs full coverage day-to-day, this will likely be a good deal more comfortable than many highly pigmented bases you’ve tried before. It also lacks the dreaded drag when applying and crucially is extremely transfer-proof, even when tested on a very hot afternoon. This is also unusually natural-looking, which may come down to that superlative shade selection—45 in total—which means just about anyone should find a seamless match. 

If we had to nitpick, we would say the fragrance is a bit strong. It’s not unpleasant—it smells luxurious and very French—but if you’re someone who avoids fragranced face products in general, then it might put you off. That aside, this is a luxurious, thoughtfully-created classic that fits a need in the market and does so with style. 

See our full Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation review

Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer natural skin perfector: features a hydrating and lightweight texture that offers ingredient benefits and SPF protection, best foundation

(Image credit: Laura Mercier)

7. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer

Best tinted moisturizer

RRP: $47/£34
SPF: 30
Shades: 20
Coverage: Light-medium
Finish: Soft sheen
Skin type: Normal to oily
Base: Water
Reasons to buy
+Light coverage that lasts+Skincare ingredients
Reasons to avoid
-Limited deep shades -Less glow than original

Few bases can truly call themselves iconic, but Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer makes the grade. This is the product that introduced the world to the concept of foundation-skincare hybrids back in the '90s and remains a firm favorite of makeup artists and consumers to this day. The formula has been tweaked throughout the years, and the latest reformulation in summer 2019 saw the addition of improved sun protection plus extra shades. This has resulted in a few shifts in the feel and finish of the product. 

The texture is still hydrating and creamy thanks to hyaluronic acid and macadamia, and kukui seed oils. It also includes antioxidants vitamin E and C to protect skin from pollution and SPF 30 UV protection (up from SPF 20 in the previous formulation). This new iteration does feel slightly thicker and has more opaque coverage. This will be welcome for anyone with oily skin or who wants more of a pigment hit, but you might find it trickier to blend if you have very dry skin.

Thankfully, this is still an incredibly flattering foundation. It blends nicely and doesn’t dry out or settle into lines, thanks to those softening oils. Once applied, the finish is lightly sheeny, almost satin-like, with no sparkle or shimmer. If you're used to the previous formula, especially the Illuminating variant that has now been discontinued, you may find this lacks that obvious sparkling glow. But there is still plenty of dewy light reflection on the finish, so it shouldn't really be an issue unless you have particularly dehydrated or dull skin. 

It’s great to see this classic base keeping up with the times, both in terms of ingredients and extending the shade range to 20 with a decent sweep from fair to very deep. That said, there’s always room for improvement, and we hope to see the selection keep growing, especially the darker end of the spectrum. 

See our full Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer review

bareMinerals complexion rescue hydration: easy to apply and blend, without looking for feeling cakey like other foundation sticks, best foundation

(Image credit: bareMinerals)

8. bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Hydrating Foundation Stick SPF25

Best foundation stick

RRP: $33/£24
SPF: 25
Shades: 20
Coverage: Light buildable
Finish: Dewy
Base: Water
Skin type: Any
Reasons to buy
+Light, hydrating formula+Portable+Natural-looking radiance+Environmental protection
Reasons to avoid
-Not for heavy cover-Can require touch-ups

Stick foundations don't have the best rep. In many cases, deservedly so, as in order to achieve that firm twistable form, products tend to sacrifice blendability for a thick, cakey feel that drags during application—and who wants that? 

Bareminerals Complexion Rescue Hydrating Foundation Stick is markedly different. Somehow, this modern, clean beauty brand has successfully managed to recreate the comfortable feel and glowing finish of their best-selling Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturizer in handy portable form. Aside from the obvious purse and travel-friendly stick foundation, this is a breeze to apply without tools. Simply sweep it over your face, and it blends easily with fingers and melts right into skin. The coverage is light and sheer, so it won't suit those who like a very uniform high-coverage base, but there will be enough pigment power here to gently veil what needs covering for most people. 

Even better, it's got SPF 25, blue light protection (if that's your thing), plus 30% mineral water and other solid skin-nourishing ingredients like squalane and natural seed oils. Sure, you might need an extra swipe at lunch if your skin is particularly oily, but it's a small price to pay for a foundation that ticks both 'useful' and 'beautiful' boxes at the same time.

MAC studio fix fluid: features a loose, buildable formula, an outstanding shade range that keeps on growing, and a unique ability to give skin pro-standard polish without creasing, drying out, or appearing heavy, best foundation

(Image credit: MAC)

9. MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation SPF 15

Best foundation for all skin tones

RRP: $28.05/£20
SPF: 15
Shades: 67
Coverage: Medium
Finish: Soft matte
Base: Water and silicone
Skin type: Normal-combination
Reasons to buy
+Best shade range on the market+Buildable, lasting coverage+Light fluid texture+Professional finish
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks skincare benefits

If you've ever been on a photoshoot or had your makeup applied by a professional in any capacity, you've probably seen MAC Studio Fix Fluid. This classic base is beloved by makeup artists and has been for decades. No wonder: It's got a loose, buildable formula, an outstanding shade range that keeps on growing, and a unique ability to give skin pro-standard polish without creasing, drying out, or ever appearing heavy. 

What's the secret? We'd say this foundation isn't trying to be everything to everyone. It's not trying to replace your moisturizer, so rather than including skincare, the formula is packed with ingredients that make a foundation work as hard as possible. It's not trying to jump on the BB cream bandwagon and pretend to be particularly light either; this is a legitimately proper foundation and gives skin a grown-up, 'finished' quality that really lasts—another reason it's a makeup artist's favorite. 

Any catches? If you like a very sheer base, this might be a bit much, although it feels light and fluid-like on the skin. You might also be overwhelmed by the sheer number of shades to choose from, but MAC has a handy Foundation Shade Finder tool to help with that.

Givenchy prisme libre: formula imparts a radiant, buildable base and dewy finish, best foundation

(Image credit: Givenchy)

10. Givenchy Prisme Libre Foundation

Best foundation for tired skin

RRP: $49/£36
Shades: 30
Coverage: Light-medium
Finish: Dewy
Base : Water
Skin type: Dry, dull
Reasons to buy
+Very hydrating +Radiant finish+Beautiful packaging+Fresh feel
Reasons to avoid
-Not ultra long-lasting-Fragranced

Most of us have probably experienced the effects of tiredness on our skin at some point: Skin gets dull, dry, and almost certainly blotchy. If this sounds familiar, Givenchy Prisme Libre Foundation could be the one for you. This radiant, buildable base injects instant radiant energy into tired complexions and checks plenty of other boxes too. The formula is comprised of 90% skincare ingredients, and you can tell from the moment you apply it. The loose, silky texture is more like a serum than a foundation and feels refreshingly cool as you apply. The pigment is sheer and buildable, so it glosses over uneven tone rather than masking it and has an incredibly dewy finish.  

If this all sounds like a dream come true, well, it will be for anyone seeking a light, fresh foundation who doesn't mind spending nearly $50 to get one. On the flip side, those with oily skin could find it a bit too sheeny, and the fragranced formula might not suit very sensitive types. Oh, and to state the obvious, this foundation won't be top of the list for bargain-hunters—it is Givenchy after all.

woman&home thanks Amy Conway of Bobbi Brown for her time and expertise.