The 14 best lightweight foundations of 2024 for radiant skin all year round

Our team reviews the best lightweight foundations for a fresh, flattering finish – with picks to suit every skin type and budget

Collage of three of the best lightweight foundations featured in this guide from Glossier, Trinny London and DCYPHER
(Image credit: Glossier/Trinny London/DCYPHER/Future)

The aim of the game with the best lightweight foundation is a finish that looks like your skin, just better. Some go above and beyond appearances too, delivering skincare benefits like hydration and UV protection.

The best foundation with a lightweight texture will work what you already have. “Using a lightweight foundation allows your natural skin texture and features to show through and enhances their beauty,” says pro makeup artist Lan Nguyen-Grealis. “They tend to be quick and easy to apply, often just with your fingers, and don’t require extensive blending or layering – which will save time in your makeup routine.” 

When choosing a foundation it’s always important to consider your skin type, and the good news is that lightweight formulas suit most people. “Light foundations are suitable for a wide range of skin types, including sensitive and combination,” continues Nguyen-Grealis. They're great on dry skin as the barely-there texture doesn’t cling to rough patches or settle in lines, but also won't result in congestion in oily skin: “These foundations are more breathable, reducing the risk of clogged pores or breakouts.” They're also brilliant in summer for less of a heavy feel on skin (the best foundations with SPF are also a good option for this time of year for added protection). 

To save you from scouring the shelves or losing hours to mindless scrolling, we've tested every lightweight foundation we could get our hands on to bring you a reliable, beauty editor-approved guide to the best ones to buy right now. 

The best lightweight foundations, reviewed by our experts

How we tested and selected the best lightweight foundation

image of best lightweight foundations ready for testing

A selection of the foundations we tested for this guide

(Image credit: Jess Beech)

To be able to write a thorough and comprehensive guide to the best lightweight foundations, we tested products from several different price points to ensure our final edit included options for various budget levels. When testing each one, we took a number of factors into consideration, including the following. 

  • Texture: The most important thing to look for in a lightweight foundation is texture, so we were searching for products that felt undetectable and comfortable on the skin.
  • Finish: The next thing we took into consideration was the finish, from sheer to soft matte, and how they wore through the day.
  • Ingredients: Every lightweight foundation in our guide has had its ingredient list thoroughly scrutinised, with skincare actives and base liquids assessed (as this will differ hugely between the best serum foundations vs a traditional foundation vs CC cream, for example).
  • Performance: Each was applied to the face and worn for at least a day, often several, to see how it performed.
  • Value for money: Finally, we paid close attention to packaging and value for money. We know that comparing a £60 foundation with one that costs £9.99 isn’t apples for apples, so the cost-to-performance ratio was carefully considered. 

How to choose the best lightweight foundation

When shopping for the best lightweight foundation, there are a few things that are worth considering. Our experts have elaborated on these further on, but the top-line list is as follows. 

  • Your skin type and needs
  • The key ingredients in the formula and the results they give
  • The texture you prefer
  • Price point

Consumers without additional skin concerns "Can have their pick of lightweight foundations," says pro makeup artist Rose Gallagher. "Those who want glow can look for something with a skincare base, or for something more skin-like opt for an oil-free formula." To find the best foundation for oily skin in a light texture, Gallagher recommends looking for ingredients designed to balance oil, such as niacinamide, clay or charcoal. 

Sensitive or dry skin types should “Look for formulas that include ceramides, squalane, and hyaluronic acid to ease the dryness," according to Gallagher. "Soothing ingredients like vitamin B5 and E are a bonus as they nourish and protect the skin."

Beyond this, think about the finish and texture you're after. "Lightweight foundations can be quite sheer, and if you want a bit more coverage than that you might have to use another layer or a little concealer on top," adds Elanna Pecherle, makeup artist and founder of Pearl Beauty. "Choosing a foundation that is either buildable or pairs well with other liquid products on top is key. There are also lightweight powder foundations that can work better on oily skin types than liquid foundation."

Pecherle continues: "Lightweight foundations will usually have water at the top of the ingredient list, as well as water-soluble actives like hyaluronic acid, peptides and fermented extracts that are highly compatible with the skin. These formulas absorb easily and enhance the skin-like feel." If you can find a foundation with these factors within your budget, you'll be onto a winner.

Lan Nguyen-Grealis
Lan Nguyen-Grealis

Lan is a well-established makeup artist who has worked with big names including Beverly Knight, Paloma Faith and Nicole Scherzinger. She has more than 20 years of experience in the industry and is always keen to test out new products for her kit – especially foundations and bases. 

Rose Gallagher
Rose Gallagher

Professional makeup artist Rose has grown a huge online following over the years thanks to her easy-to-follow tutorials as well as her honesty and practical advice. Rose is candid about her rosacea, a condition that causes skin to appear red and feel both dry and uncomfortable. This makes her a reliable source for helping you find a lightweight foundation that provides plenty of coverage and doesn't irritate the skin. 

Elanna Pecherle
Elanna Pecherle

With more than a decade of experience in the beauty industry, makeup artist Elanna noticed a need for more minimal product offerings, which inspired her to launch her own brand called Pearl Beauty. Her chosen look is glowing, natural-looking skin, making her a font of knowledge surrounding lightweight foundations.

Mira Parmar

Mira Parmar is a London-based professional makeup artist and hair stylist whose work has taken her all over the world. Having worked with several celebrities and on many shoots over the years, she knows what makes a great lightweight foundation – both on and off camera. 

What ingredients might you find in a lightweight foundation?

As the formulations for lightweight foundations aren’t as packed full of pigment as a full-coverage base might be, there’s more space for added ingredients. These will not only help to enhance the finish of your foundation but also improve the all-round health of your complexion. The ones to look out for are:

  • Antioxidants: Including vitamins C and E, antioxidants can shield skin from a type of cell called free radicals, which are emitted by pollution, UV rays and blue light, for example. If the skin isn’t protected, these free radicals can damage our healthy cells, accelerating the look of fine lines and hyperpigmentation. Antioxidants do their best work during the day when our skin is most exposed to these kinds of stressors. 
  • Hyaluronic acid: This is a kind of ingredient called a humectant, which means it works like a magnet to attract water into the skin and hold it there. Small but mighty, a single molecule of hyaluronic acid can hold up to a thousand times its weight in water. 
  • Glycerin: Like hyaluronic acid, this is also a humectant, which makes it another brilliant ingredient for preventing dehydration so that skin looks plump and dewy rather than dull and tight. 
  • Aloe vera: A lovely calming ingredient that's great for soothing dry or sensitive skin experiencing a flare-up. 
  • Ceramides: If you picture the outer layer of our skin like a wall, then ceramides are the mortar that helps to hold the cells together. If that mortar isn’t structurally sound, much-needed moisture can escape from our skin, and things like pollution and bacteria can sneak in through the cracks. Using ceramides in your skincare and makeup will help prevent this from happening, keeping your complexion soft and healthy. 
  • SPF: It’s really important to wear sunscreen year-round, even when it’s gloomy outside. UVA rays, which are responsible for the majority of skin ageing, can penetrate through clouds. We always advise using a dedicated sunscreen to ensure your skin is fully protected, but having a little extra in your foundation as a supporting act is never a bad thing. 

Which types of foundation are the most natural looking?

"The most natural foundation finishes are soft, lightweight and breathable formulas, making them the perfect spring or summer foundations and giving you just enough coverage," says makeup artist Mira Parmar. "The perfect foundations that are natural looking are your sheer tints which provide a hint of colour whilst evening out skin tone. Tinted moisturisers are heavier but still lightweight and tend to be dewy and fresh."

Beauty balms and colour correctors are other great options for a natural base. "BB creams also provide skin benefits like blemish control, and CC creams are 2-in-1 makeup and skincare, so work to neutralise and colour correct the skin," Mira continues. "Some formulations are dewy and radiant and some are matte, so which you choose will depend on your preference." 

What's the best way to apply lightweight foundation?

This largely depends on the formula in question (and may take some trial and error as you find the finish you like best). But as a general starting point, something with light, buildable coverage can work well with a fluffier brush or blended with your fingertips, while a thicker formula often benefits from being buffed into the skin to create a flawless finish. If improving your base product's longevity is important, applying one of the best primers with gripping properties beforehand will also help to lock your foundation down.

Which is better, cream or liquid foundation?

Cream foundations can be great for those with dry and/or mature skin as they tend to be slightly richer in consistency and more hydrating. Not only do they quench dry skin, but they are often more flattering on fine lines. However, if you're after a truly weightless finish, this is harder to find in a cream formula.

Liquid foundations, on the other hand, can be great for quick application and have more of a lightweight consistency. They can range from velvety matte to fresh and glowy in finish, so it’s good to have an idea which one you’re looking for before you start shopping. If you want to manage a particular skin concern – such as oiliness – but also want something lightweight and undetectable, liquids are great for ticking both boxes. 

Which type of foundation is best when trying to achieve a no-makeup-makeup look?

Don’t be fooled by the name, a fair amount of work still goes into a no-makeup-makeup look, even if you want the end result to look like you barely made any effort at all. Choosing the right foundation is important, as you want your skin to still look like skin. “I’d recommend a tinted foundation or a tinted moisturiser as they’re sheer with light coverage, which allows your natural skin to show through without looking cakey,” says Nguyen-Grealis. “These tend to be less matte and more satin or dewy in texture, mimicking the natural look of healthy skin.” 

If you’re on the go or in a hurry, applying with your fingers is fine – just make sure you warm your hands first and really press the product into your skin to maximise its staying powder. Ideally, though, you'll use a brush with relatively spaced-out bristles to buff in your lightweight foundation or tinted moisturiser for an even finish. 

Fiona McKim
Beauty Editor, womanandhome.com

 As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.

With contributions from