The 11 best foundation sticks for flawless coverage and on-the-go application

Our beauty team's tried-and-tested pick of the best foundation sticks, with expert tips on how to choose

A selection of the best foundation sticks by Bobbi Brown, Tom Ford and Fenty Beauty
(Image credit: Future/brands pictured)

Want great coverage that doesn't cake or crinkle? The best foundation sticks may be the answer to your complexion prayers, and all in a handy, purse-friendly formula.

Pinning down the perfect foundation shade and coverage level can be as challenging as finding a new pair of jeans. But if you love both the blendability of a liquid and the longevity of powder formulas, this surprisingly versatile third option could be your perfect match in the quest for the best foundation. Not to mention, they're as portable as it gets and won't ever spill – this is foundation, but in lipstick-like packaging. 

"Stick foundations are an easy on-the-go formula," Bobbi Brown Pro Artist Hollie Ellis) agrees, "they are perfect for anyone wanting a five-minute makeup look, or for someone who does their makeup on their commute, and they provide a creamy yet silky formula that glides onto the skin so seamlessly. You can have a lightweight-looking foundation finish or you can use it for a full coverage look," she adds. Sounding good so far? To help you find your new on-the-go makeup staple, we tested dozens of foundation sticks to curate this edit of the best. 

How we tested the best foundation sticks

Why you can trust Woman & Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

A selection of the best foundation sticks from Westman Atelier, Bobbi Brown, Hourglass and Tom Ford

A selection of foundation sticks one tester tried for this feature

(Image credit: Lucy Abbersteen)

To ensure that all skin types and budget levels were catered to, we trialed dozens of foundations from drugstore brands, mid-range offerings, and luxury designer names. Our expert beauty testers wore these foundations for at least one full day and considered the following factors when judging each stick formula. 

  • Number of shades available
  • Ease of application
  • Buildability
  • Finish 
  • How it wears throughout the day – did it go shiny, patchy, or transfer?
  • Packaging
  • Cost

The result is a collection of the market's top-performing stick foundation buys, catering to all skin tones and types and with a variety of price tags. Let's get stuck in.

The best foundation sticks, as chosen by our experts

Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick

(Image credit: Bobbi Brown)

1. Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick

Best foundation stick overall

Specifications

RRP: $52/£33
Shades: 43
Coverage: Buildable, medium to full
Finish: Demi matte
Skin type: All

Reasons to buy

+
Adapts to skin
+
Water and sweat-resistant
+
Buildable coverage
+
Ideal for combination skin

Reasons to avoid

-
Harder to blend with fingers

Meet the OG foundation stick. Launched in 1992, this swipe-on base product really revolutionized the makeup game with its creamy, natural, skin-like texture. If your skin type doesn't sit firmly under "dry" or "oily" – a little Column A and a little Column B – then trust us that this is a great all-rounder for you. The smart formula addresses multiple needs at once, controlling oily areas and hydrating dry patches. When a wash of tinted moisturizer isn’t going to cut it, and a little more coverage is required, this is our go-to.

An initial swipe, or targeted application only to the areas that need it, delivers medium coverage at a minimum. But build another layer and you’ve got full-on, blemish-masking coverage that's creamy and ever-so-slightly matte. If you're looking for the best foundations for combination skin, this could be just the thing. This full finish comes with a small price to pay in that the denser texture isn’t the easiest to blend with fingertips alone, but a stippling brush does a fine job at buffing everything together seamlessly. 

We found wearing this base incredibly easy; it’s weightless on the skin and looks natural and smooth, rather than cakey, particularly on pores. Despite the portability, the sweat-proof, water-resistant formula doesn't actually require much touching up. Our testers saw that coverage remained pretty flawless by mid-afternoon, even on the T-zone. Bobbi Brown’s cult foundation stick may be an oldie, but we can confirm it is most certainly a goodie, and it's the overall best foundation stick in our guide.

BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Hydrating Foundation Stick

(Image credit: BareMinerals)

2. bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Hydrating Foundation Stick SPF25

Best hydrating foundation stick

Specifications

RRP: $33/£29
Shades: 20
Coverage: Light to medium
Finish: Dewy
Skin type: Dry

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to blend
+
Glowy finish
+
SPF 25
+
Vegan-friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires touch-ups
-
Stick is a little melty

If your opinion of foundation sticks has been marred by stiff, cakey first-generation formulas, then we urge you to give this water-based option a try. Imagine, if you will, a light, hydrating tinted moisturizer in a stick. That's essentially what this is. If you love the sheer, glowy coverage of bareMinerals' fan-favorite tinted moisturizer, you will love this twist-up version. The brand describes this as the first water-based liquid foundation stick, and we found its hydrating properties were obvious from the get-go. There was no pulling or dragging upon application, it felt as silky as swiping on a lip gloss and blended just as easily with fingers. 

Made with 30 percent enhanced mineral water, squalane, and natural seed oils, we found this to be more of a skincare-makeup hybrid – and indeed trials showed a 146% improvement in skin hydration after two weeks of use. When we tested it out, we found that our skin retained a plump, comfortable feeling throughout the day. The downside of this built-in moisture is the stick itself can be prone to smushing, so don’t press too hard if you're applying it directly to the skin. But our favorite aspect of this foundation stick was the radiant, glowy finish. 

The coverage is on the sheer side, so don't expect heavy-duty coverage of blemishes, but it does have enough pigment to disguise uneven skin tone and redness somewhat. For blemishes, a swipe-then-dab approach works best. Apply an all-over layer, then dot onto areas that require further camouflage. Yes, you may have to re-swipe after a few hours, but the light tube is extremely portable (not to mention ideal for a makeup declutter) so that’s a pay-off easily worth the beautiful, liquid-like finish. 

Max Factor All Day Flawless Matte Panstick Foundation

(Image credit: Max Factor)

3. Max Factor All Day Flawless Matte Panstik Foundation

Best affordable foundation stick

Specifications

RRP: $18/£12.99
Shades: 18
Coverage : Smooth and silky
Finish: Medium
Skin type: Oily skin

Reasons to buy

+
Doesn’t slip 
+
Natural color
+
Good for oily to combination skin 

Reasons to avoid

-
If you liked the original Panstik

One of the first creations by Max Factor back in the 1940s, the iconic Panstik, has been reformulated for the modern age. Now with 30% pure pigments (translation: natural-looking skin colors), it provides a medium to high coverage finish that is smooth and silky, which makes it one of the best foundations for oily skin. However, if you were a diehard fan of the original formula and you’re not oily, then you might not be impressed as it's not as thick and the consistency isn’t as hard-wearing. That being said, we still like it, and if you weren't obsessed with the original, we think you will too. 

We placed it in the areas we felt needed covering the most and then blended it out from there. Like many products we tried, this is best done with fingertips or a soft blending sponge. If you want to apply it all over and with a brush, then you can just expect a fuller and thicker effect.    

It’s perfect for those who like a dewy look as you can apply a small amount and retouch as and when you please. The shine control end helps to lock the product in place if you apply it pre-foundation and with one quick swipe it also eradicates oiliness afterward. 

Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick

(Image credit: Tom Ford)

4. Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick

Best luxury foundation stick

Specifications

RRP : $89/£66
Shades: 40
Coverage: Full
Finish : Soft matte
Skin type : All

Reasons to buy

+
Full coverage; doubles as a concealer
+
Leaves skin looking flawless yet natural
+
Generous size

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive 

This foundation stick is an iconic beauty buy, albeit an incredibly expensive one. But we are having to put that to one side because it's pretty brilliant. There are 40 different shades on offer here, making it easy to find the right match, and it applies directly to the skin and blends fairly easily. 

Its dense cream stick format is actually somewhat misleading, as we found the finish manages to strike that crucial balance between giving good coverage and feeling lightweight while you wear it. The finish is healthy, radiant, and all-around flawless –  we'd describe it as being like your best skin day ever in stick form.

Something that may soften the blow of this foundation stick's slightly extortionate price tag is that its coverage is very long-wearing, meaning top-ups aren't really required here. Between that and its chunky size (it's much wider than other foundation sticks on the market), it should last you a while once you've made the investment.

Hourglass Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick

(Image credit: Hourglass)

5. Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick

Best foundation stick for flawless coverage

Specifications

RRP : $48/£45
Shades: 32
Coverage : Full
Finish : Demi-matte
Skin type :

Reasons to buy

+
Creates flawless, full coverage
+
Lovely finish
+
Doubles as a concealer
+
Waterproof

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite pricey

This foundation stick is a dream to use. The coverage is very full, meaning you don't need to use a lot at a time, and it, therefore, makes light work of blemishes or discoloration. This didn't come as a great surprise to us, considering that the brand says it has twice the amount of pigment as traditional foundations, and that it's billed as a two-in-one foundation and concealer. But it certainly delivered on that front when we tested it, wowing our testers with its camouflaging powers and proving itself to be one of the best full coverage foundations

As well as being aesthetically pleasing, the triangular shape is handy for direct application to harder-to-reach areas like under the eyes and around the nose. As for how it applies, it blends seamlessly into the skin – as seamlessly as its name suggests – thanks to technology that allows the formula to adjust to your body temperature. It's impressive stuff, as is the flawless finish that doesn't crease with wear.

This is closer to $50/£50 than is ideal, so we have to acknowledge that it's by no means the cheapest foundation stick in our guide. But considering how pigmented this formula is, it'll last you very well even if you like all-over coverage, every single day – as well as being a dream to use!

Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick

(Image credit: Milk Makeup)

6. Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick

Best foundation stick for redness

Specifications

RRP: $36/£32
Shades: 36
Coverage: Medium
Finish: Naturally radiant
Skin type: Dry and red-prone

Reasons to buy

+
Glow-giving finish
+
Comfortable wear
+
Skin-soothing ingredients

Reasons to avoid

-
Concealer required to cover dark blemishes

This twist-up stick is particularly suitable for rosacea sufferers, or anybody who is prone to redness or discoloration. The formula is imbued with blue lotus and chamomile, which together alleviate flare-ups and tone down redness from the inside out, and the buildable formula will mask the outward signs of irritable skin quite effortlessly. 

For our testers, this stick was one of the more enjoyable formulas to apply – creamy and easy to manipulate over the contours of the face with just the fingers. That pliability comes from the marshmallow root extract – the ingredient that gives marshmallows their plump and squishy texture. This added elasticity translates into a seamless, natural finish that doesn’t cake or crease. 

If ingredients are important to you, this is a kind choice that has some great eco-credentials. It’s vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, as well as free from silicones, sulfates, alcohol, and parabens. Although buildable and certainly dense enough to mask hints of rosiness, it does require extra assistance from a supporting concealer to cover dark circles and angry blemishes. The radiant finish acts a bit like a real-life Instagram filter, though, gently airbrushing discoloration and unevenness like a true champ.

Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick

(Image credit: Westman Atelier)

7. Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick

Best skin-loving foundation stick

Specifications

RRP : $68/£62
Shades : 21
Coverage :
Finish:
Skin type :

Reasons to buy

+
Contains skincare ingredients like antioxidants, squalane, and camellia seed oil
+
Builds nicely
+
Chic, embossed packaging  

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive

This particular foundation stick was created by none other than Jennifer Aniston's makeup artist, Gucci Westman, which is about as good as endorsements get. Proving that the trend for skincare-makeup hybrids isn't going anywhere any time soon, it packs antioxidants, squalane, and camellia oil (which is non-comedogenic) for a formula that cares for and moisturizes your skin. 

Coverage-wise, we are talking medium and very buildable, while the finish is skin-like and slightly glowy and wears nicely throughout the day. While it plays nicely on oilier skin, its texture does lend itself better to drier types because of the added nourishment, so take note if you're on the hunt for the best foundation for dry skin

This is another very, very expensive foundation stick, though in this case the amount of product inside isn't extra generous. But the formula is lovely enough on the skin that our testers deemed it a worthy inclusion nonetheless. We also have to give a shout-out to the beautiful, chic packaging. With the brand name embossed on one side and a satisfying magnetic click-on lid, it's an all-around lovely user experience.

Huda Beauty FauxFilter Skin Finish Buildable Coverage Foundation Stick

(Image credit: Huda Beauty)

8. HUDABEAUTY #FauxFilter Skin Finish Buildable Coverage Foundation Stick

Best foundation stick for the gym

Specifications

RRP: $39/£32
Shades: 39
Coverage: Light to medium
Finish: Naturally filtered
Skin type: All

Reasons to buy

+
10-hour wear
+
Humidity- and sweat-resistant
+
Blurs skin texture nicely

Reasons to avoid

-
Diamond applicator can feel awkward

This diamond-shaped bullet has been designed to offer extra precision, making life easier for those who want to create the kind of razor-sharp, supermodel-esque cheekbones through contouring and sculpting. Some testers did feel that this makes it a little more uncomfortable to use than its more common, cylindrical cousin, but it's not a dealbreaker. 

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s discuss the perks, of which there are many. Here we have a supremely spreadable, luxurious-feeling stick that offers a light, luminous, and sheer wash of color when blended out with fingertips. Denser coverage is achievable if you apply the stick directly to a flat-headed stippling brush, then buff it into the skin.

It certainly lives up to its name with a filtered, "Vaseline on the lens" type finish – our visible pores didn’t seem quite as glaringly gaping, while our skin tone appeared more uniform. It’s also sweat-, humidity- and water-resistant, so it makes a good option for gym bunnies who want a speedy cover-up after a vigorous spin class. 

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Skinstick

(Image credit: Fenty Beauty)

9. Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Skinstick

Best foundation stick for oily skin

Specifications

RRP: $25/£21
Shades: 20
Coverage: Medium, buildable
Finish: Naturally matte
Skin type: Oily to combination

Reasons to buy

+
Smart magnetised packaging
+
Good shade range
+
Cream-to-powder finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Clings to very dry patches

If like us, you're a sucker for packaging, aesthetics don't come much slicker than Rihanna's eponymous makeup line, Fenty Beauty. Described as a foundation-slash-concealer-slash-contouring stick, the hexagonal peachy-pink tube is magnetic so you can keep your myriad shades (because in an ideal world, we'd have one as a foundation, a lighter tone to highlight cheekbones, and a darker shade to sculpt bone structure) in one clickety-click.

This twist-up stick feels a little more solid to apply, but it does melt with the warmth of your fingers to create a smooth, even, and velvety finish. That said, you'll get an even better effect with a stippling brush. This cream-to-powder formula won't suit everyone, and those with dry, flaky skin should look for something a little more hydrating. But for the shine-prone among us, it's certainly one of the best matte foundations in stick form that somehow manages to avoid a flat, lifeless finish. Instead, this corrective stick gives a natural appearance – imagine your own skin, but better.

Revolution Fast Base Stick Foundation

(Image credit: Revolution)

10. Revolution Fast Base Stick Foundation

Best for creating a filter-like finish

Specifications

RRP: $8.99/£5.99
Shades : 18
Coverage : Light - Medium
Finish : Matte but dewy
Skin type: Normal and oily skins
SPF: No

Reasons to buy

+
A little goes a long way 
+
Extremely pigmented 
+
Creates a flawless effect 
+
Pretty packaging 

Reasons to avoid

-
Separates a little after a few hours
-
Not that long-lasting 

This blends beautifully onto the skin and gives you a finish that’s both dewy and filter-like. It has an OK shade range, so finding a match was relatively easy, and the shades we put to the test were very natural and skin-like. 

If contouring is your thing, it’s worth picking up a darker color, too, to create shadows and shape your face as the pigment is intense, and you only need a tiny amount to create realistic-looking definition. It does tend to slip and separate a little over time, so is probably not ideal for oily or combination skin types, but if your skin isn't especially oil prone we think you’ll love it. 

When applied all over our faces we did find that it settled into forehead creases, so we decided to concentrate the product on the areas that really needed it, like the cheeks and chin – an approach that worked well for us. It covers blemishes and redness well, and we preferred how the foundation looked when we used a sponge to blend, rather than a brush. We must also mention the pink and gold casing, as it makes for some of the most glam foundation stick packaging we’ve seen. A great one to pull out of your handbag when you’re out and about. 

Wet n Wild Photo Focus Stick Foundation

(Image credit: Wet n wild)

11. Wet n Wild Photo Focus Stick Foundation

Best affordable foundation stick

Specifications

RRP : $6/£6.99
Shades : 21
Coverage : Medium-Full
Finish : Demi-Matte
Skin type : Dry-Combi
SPF : No

Reasons to buy

+
Moisturising 
+
Great value
+
Dewy finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Creases a little over time

This was the first Wet n Wild product that more than one of our testers had ever tried, and it impressed us. It’s currently available in 21 shades, which for a budget stick foundation is more than average, and the color match to our complexions was more natural than some of the designer and high-end sticks we put to the test. 

The formulation features argan oil and sunflower oils, which made us wince a little because our first thought was that it would slip and slide all over our faces. But it didn’t; the demi-matte finish that’s promised is delivered, and the effect it gives the skin is dewy but not too shiny. 

We did notice a slight oiliness appear over time, and it started to crease, so it’s probably not quite as long-lasting as it claims to be. However, that being said, we’re still fans of this product, and for under $7/£7, it ticks quite a few more boxes than beauty products three or four times the price. We liked it!

What skin type is stick foundation best for? 

This totally depends on the stick foundation in question – some stick formulations are very nourishing, making them brilliant for dry skin types, while others are non-comedogenic and mattifying, lending themselves well to oily skin types. Stick foundations have historically been thought of as a no-go zone for acne- and blemish-prone skin types, but there are plenty of breathable, non-pore-clogging options on the market. 

Do stick foundations clog pores? 

Rightly or wrongly, there's long been an association between foundation sticks and clogging pores because these formulas have historically been much thicker and denser than their liquid counterparts. The key to knowing that a formula definitely won't clog your pores – in the case of any foundation format, not just sticks – is to look out for the word non-comedogenic. This specifically indicates that a skincare or makeup product does not contain any pore-clogging ingredients. In this guide, Huda Beauty, Milk Makeup, and bareMinerals' offerings are all non-comedogenic. 

How to choose the best foundation sticks for you

If it’s full coverage that'll last the entire day that you’re after, look for something that suggests long-wear in the title. Oily skin will benefit from a matte finish to prevent the foundation from slipping and sliding, while those looking for a match for dry skin should seek out water-based formulas with hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin.

As for choosing the right color match, the selection of undertones and shades has never been better, with many brands offering ranges that include 20+ shades. It can be tricky to purchase a new base online, but it is possible to find the perfect foundation match from the comfort of your own home. Many beauty brands offer virtual shade-matching tools to help make the process easier. It also helps to have the best foundation brushes on hand when you can for seamless blending.

Knowing the undertone of your skin is also vitally important when it comes to nailing a seamless match. Undertone is the shade within your skin tone; sun exposure can change your skin color, but your undertone – cool, warm, or neutral – never changes. Most foundations list the letters C, W, or N after the shade number, so it’s easy to pick the right undertone. Here are a few ways to suss out yours:

  • Hold a piece of paper against your face. If your face looks rosy next to it, you’re cool. If you look more yellow, you have warm tones. If you don’t see a change, you’re neutral.
  • Assess your sun sensitivity. If you usually burn while under the sun, you’re likely to be cool-toned. If you tan, you’re probably warm. If you burn, then tan, you’re likely to have neutral undertones.
  • Look at the veins on your wrists. A blue tint denotes cool undertones. If they look greener, you’re likely to be warm. If it’s a combination of the two, you’re neutral.
  • Assess your favorite jewelry. Cool undertones look great in silver jewelry, while warm undertones are flattered by gold jewelry. Neutral undertones look equally vibrant with either metal.