Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Ready for your close-up? If you need to be, then cream foundation might be what you’re looking for. Cream foundations are the most concentrated of all foundation types—they’re the ones you most often see in a compact or stick, and they’re a staple in professional make-up artist kits for their versatility. If you’re prepping for a day with a lot of photos, like a wedding or birthday party, a cream foundation will give you a seamless, light-diffusing effect that makes your skin look flawless and even. Even if you’re just going out into the world on a bad-skin day and your regular foundation isn’t cutting it, the right cream foundation formula is the best way to guarantee the coverage you need. The upsides of a cream foundation are also the downsides—it can emphasize dryness, wrinkles, enlarged pores, or anything that creates an unevenness on the skin. Make sure to thoroughly prep your skin before wearing and after removal to keep your face in tip-top shape.
Best Overall: M.A.C Studio Tech
Makeup lovers know M.A.C. as a brand for professional-quality products, and their foundation line is designed for professional application. That means you need to know your stuff when it comes to layering and applying products—this is a water-based cream-to-powder formula, so it works best with a water-based primer and moisturizer underneath, and because the formula is thicker than a liquid foundation, it’s best to blend with fingers rather than a brush to minimize skin irritation. However, professional-quality also means the results are hard to beat. The formula is easy to build and easy to match to a variety of skin tones, and it’s long wearing, safe for contact lenses and sensitive skin, and is non-acnegenic so your special occasions won’t end with a nasty breakout.
Best Budget: Mehron Celebre Pro HD Cream Foundation
Easy to find for $10-$15 apiece for 25 grams of product, Mehron’s professional-grade cream foundation can go on very sheer or very full coverage and builds coverage very easily. It’s extremely HD friendly, so if you’re planning for a day of photos or looking for wedding-day makeup, this is the choice of many professional makeup artists. It’s really important to match your shade perfectly with cream foundation, particularly if you’re going for a full coverage look, so the gentle price point removes some of the stress of trying out a few different shades—if you can’t swatch them in person and guess wrong the first time, you’re not out $50 for a foundation that doesn’t suit your skin tone. The oil and fragrance-free cream formula contains pomegranate, vitamin E, and aloe vera to help soothe the skin.
Best Powder: Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Finish Setting Powder
Rule of thumb: you can put powder over creams, but you can never put creams over powders. If you’re used to layering creamy or liquid color cosmetics on top of foundation, there’s no reason you have to stop if you’re using cream foundation alone, but if you’re looking for a truly full-coverage look, powder is a must to set your foundation and control shine, and this powder is one you’ll instantly fall in love. It uses rose wax and almond oil to hydrate the skin throughout the day, reducing shine from oil, but creating a bright, flawless finish by diffusing light as it hits your face. If you’re worried your skin is too oily for cream foundation, this is your secret weapon.
Best Cream: Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Foundation
Perhaps best known for her legendary brow products, it’s probably not surprising that a Beverly Hills-based brand would branch out into a camera-ready foundation. It’s extremely buildable and gives a truly matte finish once fully applied, but it’s possible to sheer out with water or moisturizer if needed, and most importantly it doesn’t feel super heavy or dry on your skin once applied. If you’re looking for a contouring option, these sticks are easy to draw with and layer on, and it comes in 30 different shades. Reviewers say that it works best on normal-to-oily skin (like most cream foundations, it can emphasize dryness or texture on the skin) and they love it for spot-concealing with a brush directly from the stick, too.
Best for Dry Skin: Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer
This super-concentrated formula is extremely versatile—it’s opaque enough right out of the jar to use as a concealer, can be applied with your fingers or a brush as a foundation, and has enough sheen to it that you can even use it as a highlighter, depending on your shade. If you have dry skin that struggles to find a formula that won’t leave you looking flake, take advantage of the super-pigmented nature of this product and mix it with your go-to moisturizer to create a creamy foundation that nourishes your skin exactly how you need. While it’s also enriched with minerals and designed to hydrate your skin on its own, a custom blend will leave you with a truly dewy and youthful finish.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick
This is one of the gold standard products in the cream foundation category, delivering medium-to-full coverage and moisture with a few simple swipes. It’s designed to look like your best, healthiest skin rather than a full face of makeup, and it’s formulated with olive extract and shea butter to moisturize. The stick combines the benefits of cream and powder together, mixing in light-diffusing powders and oil-controlling ingredients to perfect the final finish. And for skin that’s sensitive to irritants, every one of their 31 shades is paraben-free, phthalate-free, sulfate-free, sulfite-free and gluten-free.
Best for Mature Skin: IT Cosmetics Confidence in a Compact
There are a lot of tricks to making cream foundation work on mature skin--mainly, using less of it only where it’s truly needed is key to making sure that excess product doesn’t settle into fine lines and wrinkles or become noticeable in enlarged pores. The best way to set yourself up for success? Keep your skin as hydrated and smooth as possible, which in the case of IT’s “solid serum foundation” can go right through to your makeup itself. Enriched with hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, squalane, antioxidants, and a super ceramide cream, this is basically a high-powered anti-aging serum mixed with a heavy-duty demi-matte foundation, giving you the best of both worlds for enhancing and improving aging skin.
Best for Dark Skin: BlackUp Full Coverage Cream Foundation
Like many makeup collections, cream foundations can suffer from a lack of diversity in both shade and undertone. BlackUp was founded in Paris in 1999 to be the first makeup artist brand created for women of color, that celebrated the beauty of all skin tones. Designed for tan skin and darker, it’s formulated to hide dark spots and acne scars, as well as current blemishes without caking. Makeup artists (including Beyonce’s go-to, Sir John) love it for its creamy texture enriched with super-fine pigments to give a really even result for all skin tones.
Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular cream foundations on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 60 different foundations overall, screened options from 35 different brands and manufacturers, read over 36 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 3 of the foundations themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.