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

Included in this guide:

Three of the best foundations by Sisley, It Cosmetics and Clarins
(Image credit: Future)

Finding the best foundation for you is one of the most important steps in developing a solid makeup routine. After all, as the name suggests, foundation—or base—is the bedrock of your whole beauty look. Get this first step right and every other product you layer on top of it will be in better shape too.  

Beauty brands are well aware that the best foundation breeds loyalty like no other makeup, as once you've found a formula that suits your skin tone and type, why would you mess around with anything else? We'd argue because times move on. Brand new formulas and improved versions of classics are developed each year. And given that our skin is certainly not immune to the passage of time, it's worth keeping an eye out for something that might just take your look to the next level. 

Just as we reassess the best eye cream or best face cream for our skin's needs every now and then, our base deserves a chance to evolve with our faces too. The latest ingredients and formulas may well be more comfortable, flattering, and skin-improving than anything you’ve tried before.

How to choose the best foundation for you

The smart way to find the best foundation is to treat it like skincare, and tailor it by skin type: 

  • Normal: For skin that’s neither especially dry or oily, go for a water-based formula with buildable pigment to ensure your skin gets the coverage it needs that day, rather than being overloaded.
  • Oily: Look for silicone-based formulas with mattifying elements like micro-powders. This will help soak up any excess oils and leave a satin, rather than shiny, finish.
  • Dry: Pick products with oils, and other hydrating ingredients such as glycerin or hyaluronic acid. These help base glide on more easily and prevent patches or flaking.
  • Combination: Tinted moisturizers and BB creams offer the sweet spot between coverage and a natural sheen—then simply top up with powder on oily bits.
  • Sensitive or hyperpigmented: If you have sun spots, redness, or thread veins, consider full coverage. This doesn’t mean total camouflage—just enough pigment to hide what you don’t like while letting skin still show through.

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)

Best foundation for most skin types

Specifications
RRP: $39.50/£32.50
SPF: No
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 damning with faint praise, 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 issues, while two give more robust coverage for days when that’s required. Either way, you can expect a healthy amount of skin show-through. Despite looking and feeling just like—you guessed it—better skin, you’ll get a decent day’s wear with the occasional powder touch-up for shine 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 packed with skin actives. What we lose in its non-inclusion of SPF, we gain in aloe leaf juice, hyaluronic acid, softening glycerin and Vitamin E doing its antioxidant thing. Texture-wise, this 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 foundation in a grown-up glass bottle from It Cosmetics, the cult problem-solving brand 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 

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)

2. MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation SPF 15

Best foundation for all skin tones

Specifications
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 regarded as one of the best foundations for professionals.

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 number of shades to choose from, but MAC has a handy Foundation Shade Finder tool to help with that.

BareMinerals Original Liquid Mineral Foundation

(Image credit: BareMinerals)

3. BareMinerals Original Liquid Mineral Foundation

Best mineral foundation

Specifications
RRP: $35/£31
SPF: 20
Shades: 30
Finish: Radiant
Base : Water
Skin Type: Normal to sensitive
Reasons to buy
+Skin-kind formula+Buildable coverage+Fresh look+Great shades
Reasons to avoid
-Faint natural aroma

This is not the only inclusion for Bareminerals on this list, but we'll make no apologies for doubling up—this brand makes some of the best foundations on the market, across the board. What's so special about Original Liquid Mineral Foundation then? Essentially it's the best of both worlds. A modern-feeling base that looks great and lasts the distance but, crucially, is made with mineral-based pigments that are a cosmetic lifeline to those whose skin doesn't get along with other makeup.

This is unusual stuff. Generally, for sensitive types, there is a sliding scale between what is kind to their skin and what feels and looks like a sophisticated formula. It 'aint easy to formulate a foundation that does both. Ingredients aside this looks great, it's medium-light in pigment and has a real glow about it while blurring over skin texture. You can build up the layers for a heavier effect, but unless you have something major to hide, why would you? A healthy, fresh look is what this foundation is all about. The slick twist-up packaging is pleasing and prevents dribbles, and the 30 shades run well in both light and dark directions. The only thing we didn't love about this was the (very faint) smell, which to us was like a cocktail of coffee grounds and spearmint. Some people might like the natural aroma, and we still found it 100% preferable to a honking great splash of artificial perfume.

 

Clarins Everlasting Youth Fluid SPF15

(Image credit: Clarins)

4. Clarins Everlasting Youth Fluid SPF15

The best foundation and skincare

Specifications
RRP: $42.99/£35
SPF: 15
Finish: Medium
Base: Water-Silicone
Skin Type: Mature
Reasons to buy
+Skincare ingredients+Polished look+Classy bottle +Long lasting
Reasons to avoid
-Fuller finish

What an alluring name—everlasting youth in a bottle? Yes please. If anyone can make that happen, Clarins can. The French house has long catered for a chic, decidedly grown-up clientele with its makeup offering, which is why we now get excellent foundations like this little number. It's packed to the rafters with skincare ingredients, designed to protect and hydrate as you wear, and has a medium-bodied finish that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a 'polished' makeup look.  

Back to those ingredients. We've got the usual big hitters for softness and hydration (hyaluronic acid, glycerin, apricot kernel seed oil) then plenty of the unique plant extracts Clarins is known for including in their high-end skincare. There's chicory, with tone-boosting properties and red jania extract— a seaweed that encourages cell turnover to boost your natural glow. While that lot is getting to work behind the scenes you can enjoy a relatively lightweight texture and a full day of wear. This makes Everlasting Youth fluid one of the best foundations for time-poor types who enjoy post-work socializing without but hate hastily applying makeup at their desk. The pigment is medium to full and the finish is satin, so if you want ultra-sheer this won't suit you. Otherwise, this more than lives up to the promise on that very classy glass bottle.

Sisley Phyto Teint Nude

(Image credit: Sisley)

5. Sisley Phyto Teint Nude

The best ultra light foundation

Specifications
RRP: $95/£68
SPF: No
Finish: Radiant
Base: Water
Skin type: Any
Reasons to buy
+Easy to apply+Makes skin glow +Weightless feel+Luxe brand
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive 

Wowza, you'd better check your account balance before you buy this. Can any makeup product, even the best foundation in the whole world be worth that spend? That's a rhetorical question by the way. It is if you can afford it, and if you can't, no worries! There's good stuff in your price range too. 

Now that's out of the way, let's talk about why this is our best ultra-light foundation. It is, unsurprisingly, extremely light on the skin. Truly, it feels like nothing, but it looks like something—a glowy, fresh, and hydrated complexion-of-your-dreams kind of something. The formula is water-based and extremely loose, so you can spread it on with your hands and not worry about buffing and blending much at all, which is convenient. It contains blurring particles that smooth over pores and lines as well as mica crystal that reflects the light for an 'I drink green juice every morning and I've just had a very expensive facial' type of glow.  For all that feathery-lightness it actually lasts surprisingly well. Oily skin types will need a top-up at lunch, most people by the end of the day but the cute squeezy tube (unusual for Sisley who normally favors glass doorstop-type bottles) makes it easy to carry around with you. 

Shade wise we'd like to see a few more, but they are sheer enough to adapt to most tones. If you want a matte, high cover formula or prefer to look 'done', this won't be for you. Otherwise, providing you can spend that kind of money on a foundation, you'll be glad you did on this one. 

Dior Forever Skin Glow, one of w&h's best foundations picks

(Image credit: Dior)

6. Dior Forever Skin Glow

Best glow foundation

Specifications
RRP: $52/£39
SPF: 35
Shades: 31
Coverage: Medium to full
Finish: Radiant
Base : Water
Skin type: All
Reasons to buy
+Hydrating+Glowy finish+Range of shades+Skincare benefits+Creamy texture
Reasons to avoid
-Can transfer

The clue is in the name—if you're looking for a glowy finish that lasts, here she is. This goodness-packed formula will leave skin with a radiant glow that lasts all day. Thanks to its hydrating but every so slightly soft-focus formula, it's a winner for most skin types. Those with dehydration will benefit from the fact that 86% of the formula is hydration-preserving ingredients. The soft matte finish will work well on oilier skin types who want sheen without looking slick. 

As for the coverage, it's fairly buildable. The creamy formula blends into skin with a luxurious feel without sinking into pores. And if you need more coverage, it can handle a second layer without any pesky pilling. The wide range of shades available also means that most skin tones can find something that works for them. When it comes to staying power, this foundation does last quite well, however it can sometimes see some transferring—especially in hotter or more humid environments. A touch of setting powder over the top of your foundation may come in handy, to make sure you're really getting the most out of this fantastic formula. 

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)

Best foundation for dry skin

Specifications
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 foundation that promises superlative hydration but Estée Lauder Futurist Hydra Rescue Moisturizing Makeup SPF 45 sits very much apart from water tints and tinted moisturizers et al. 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 but who also need solid pigment to cover rosacea, pigmentation, or hormonal breakouts. Similarly, this might be the best foundation for oily-combination types who like the idea of a sheer base but hate how it dissolves into nothingness by midday. 

The ingredients list is an impressive cocktail of the usual hydrating 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—AKA water—is ion-charged. What does that mean? 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 the best foundation base a girl could hope for: 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)

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

Best foundation for oily skin

Specifications
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

You can’t have everything, but Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Fluid Powder Foundation ticks enough of the boxes to make it one of best foundations 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 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 day, this soft matte look was still very much ongoing.  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)

Best premium foundation

Specifications
RRP: $65/£44
SPF: No
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 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 and enhances the dewy effect. Offering only eight shades does feel minimal, although these are sheer enough to be highly forgiving. We’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 a broader shade selection at some point. 

Let’s address the diamond-encrusted elephant in the room: This base costs $60/£44, so either you have that much to spend on the best foundation, 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 slick pump bottle that ensures you squeeze every last drop out and an envy-inducing object to show off. 

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)

Best budget foundation

Specifications
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 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)

Best long-lasting foundation

Specifications
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 

Some skin types and 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, 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 dial down shine without looking chalky. It also contains SPF 15, which we would file under "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, 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 drag when applying and crucially is extremely transfer-proof, even when tested on a very hot afternoon. This is also unusually natural-looking. That may come down to the 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 perfumed skincare, 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)

Best tinted moisturizer

Specifications
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 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)

13. bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Hydrating Foundation Stick SPF25

Best foundation stick

Specifications
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

Even the best foundation sticks often 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-friendliness, this is also a breeze to apply without tools. Simply sweep it over your face, and it blends easily with fingers and melts right into the 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 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.

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

(Image credit: Givenchy)

Best foundation for tired skin

Specifications
RRP: $49/£36
SPF: No
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.

Urban Decay Stay Naked Hydromaniac Tinted Glow Foundation

(Image credit: Urban Decay)

15. Urban Decay Stay Naked Hydromaniac Tinted Glow Foundation

Best medium coverage foundation

Specifications
RRP: $29/£29
SPF: No
Shades: 12
Coverage: Medium buildable
Finish: Sheer glow
Base : Water
Skin type: Dry, dull, combination
Reasons to buy
+Marula oil for hydration+Glowy finish+Buildable+Flexible and forgiving shades+Adaptable formula+Practical packaging+Long-wearing
Reasons to avoid
-Not for those who need full coverage

Urban Decay has already developed a good reputation for face makeup thanks to its previous foundation releases and of course its range of setting sprays that have become a must-have for any regular makeup wearer. And their newest foundation definitely doesn't let the famous name down. The clever formula binds a reliable foundation formula with skincare benefits and an enviable glow worthy of a subtle highlighter. It offers an intense hit of hydration thanks to the addition of marula oil, without any excess grease or shine so can work well with most skin types, rather than just drier ones. And miraculously, you can even get long wear out of it, with little fading throughout the course of a full day and no sinking into pores—even on an oily skin wearer. 

We also love the flexible shades that adapt to your skin color for a more accurate and natural-looking match, and the fully vegan formula is a welcome addition. A little goes a long way if you want to use this for lightweight coverage, but it works best as a medium coverage option—leaving a sheer but polished finish. The buildability means you can apply extra coverage if needed: It won't cover up more obvious imperfections, but it does layer nicely over concealer to give a seamless finish.

Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint

(Image credit: Glossier)

16. Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint

Best dewy foundation

Specifications
RRP: $26/£20
SPF: No
Shades: 12
Coverage: Light
Finish: Dewy
Base : Water
Skin type: Dry, dull
Reasons to buy
+Hydrating+Dewy finish+Breathable formula+Adaptable shades+Fresh feel
Reasons to avoid
-Won't cover up imperfections

The Glossier Skin Perfecting Tint is one of those foundations that is so thin, some might question what the point is in it. But the formula is a must-have for anyone to achieve a healthy, dewy finish. Easy to apply with just your fingertips, this sheer formula gives skin an even look and adds a touch of glow so that you're left looking like you've got a fresh, healthy tan. It's even thin enough to let natural freckles shine through for an extra just-off-the-beach look. 

The pliability of the formula also means that you're left with a healthy skin feel too—with the foundation sinking silkily into the skin rather than caking itself on top of it. And the adaptable colors will match most skin tones by working with your natural shade rather than covering it up. For a natural look and comfortable feel, there's nothing we like better than this offering. 

MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation, one of w&h's best foundation picks

(Image credit: MAC)

17. MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation

Best lightweight foundation

Specifications
RRP: $37/£30
SPF: 30
Shades: 23
Coverage: Sheer to medium
Finish: Dewy
Base : Water
Skin type: All
Reasons to buy
+Hydrating+Long-wearing+Range of shades+Skincare benefits
Reasons to avoid
-Can sink into pores

While foundation is great for covering up a multitude of sins on your skin and giving the rest of your makeup a sturdy base, you may not love the feel of a heavy sheen on your face. That's where a foundation like MAC Studio Waterweight comes in, as it provides what you need from a quality foundation in terms of base and coverage, but with comfort and nuance and without the cloying cakey feel atop your skin. Similar to the Glossier Skin Tint, it is a lightweight formula that you can dab or glide onto skin for a light layer of coverage wherever you need it. It has a bit of a serum-like feel to it, which makes it a pleasure to apply and also speaks to the skincare benefits infused into the formula that boost the product's hydrating properties so that skin is left plump and dewy rather than dry and flaky. And with water rather than an oil base, it means that even oily skin types can take advantage of the hydrating properties.

The pliable formula also layers nicely so that you can build up to medium coverage if you want a more airbrushed finish. And we found that it stayed true to its long-wearing claims, as it sat on the skin nicely without fading throughout the day. If you're one who sports pores that are on the larger side, you may find that the formula sinks into the pores creating a slightly cakey look. However, this can be easily remedied by a quality pore-minimizing primer, like Laura Mercier's Pure Canvas Blurring Primer or Smashbox's Photo Finish Pore Minimizing Primer.

How to find the best foundation shade

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 a bronzer to add color.” If you’re buying the best foundation online, work out your skin’s undertone:

  • Cool: (blue or pink-undertoned)
  • Neutral: (peachy-undertoned)
  • Warm: (yellow-undertoned)

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.

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