Foundation: Our Favorite Formulas for All Skin Types

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

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 alland 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 camouflagejust 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.

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