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In our humble opinion, cream foundations don’t often get the love they deserve. But the benefits of this rich texture are plentiful. “Cream foundations are super versatile. You can easily build them up for full coverage, or blend them out for a barely-there, second-skin finish,” explains celebrity makeup artist Lynn Simpson. And, per the name, it should come as no surprise that this formula is innate, well, creamier, filled with more hydrating ingredients than its liquid or powder counterparts. It’s why cream foundations are so great for those with drier skin, says Simpson, who adds that they also marry beautifully with cream blushes and bronzers, all seamlessly melting into the skin. The other upshot? Creams are ideal for travel since there’s no need to worry about the spills that can come with a liquid or the cracks that can come with a powder.
Ahead, our favorite cream foundations.
Best Overall: Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick
This earns top place in our book, thanks in part to its super creamy consistency that glides seamlessly onto skin. Once on your complexion, it melts in beautifully, never caking or creasing (credit the addition of marshmallow root extract). Free of many common irritants, it’s also infused with soothing chamomile and moisturizing blue lotus and touts the perfect level of medium coverage. There’s a nice line-up of 36 shades, which Simpson, who’s a fan, likes to use not only as a base but also for highlighting and contouring.
Best Stick: Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick
A true OG, both when it comes to cream foundations and foundations in general, this was designed to truly enhance your skin, rather than cover it up. Powder foundation fans will appreciate that it actually contains light-diffusing powders and oil-controlling ingredients in the creamy base, ensuring the final finish is perfect and indeed, totally skin-like.
What Our Testers Say
"This is the type of foundation I love: one that is hassle-free, melts into my skin, has a beautiful finish, and makes my makeup look like I spent a lot of time working on it even when I didn’t." — Khera Alexander, Product Tester
Best Drugstore: Honest Beauty Everything Cream Foundation
For whatever unknown reason, there aren’t a ton of cream foundations to be found at the drugstore (here’s hoping), making this standout all the more noteworthy. The coverage is buildable, though definitely skews more towards the medium-to-full end of the spectrum; the finish is satiny, a demi-matte texture that tamps down unwanted shine but doesn’t mask your skin’s natural radiance.
Best Radiant Finish: Chanel Sublimage Le Tint
On days when you want to ever so slightly enhance your complexion and simply make it look crazy healthy and glowy, reach for this splurge-worthy pick. “I love that this super luxurious foundation feels like a rich moisturizer, yet still evens out skin tone and creates a perfectly radiant finish,” says Simpson. Despite how thick it looks in the jar, it feels completely featherweight, and also comes with a brush included.
Best Matte Finish: Tarte Clay Stick Foundation
While cream foundations may be more often appropriate for those with drier skin, this particular one can work even for those with more oily to combination complexions. The unique formula works to either hydrate or mattify, depending on your skin’s needs, though always leaves behind a beautiful matte finish. Plus, it also has a long-lasting wear time, points out Simpson, who is a fan.
Best Multi-Tasker: Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer
There’s really no shortage of ways to use this highly versatile formula. A tiny dab straight out of the jar works as a concealer since the pigments are super opaque and pack a lot of coverage. Similarly use a lighter shade as a highlighter, or, for foundation purposes, apply it on its own or even mixed with a touch of moisturizer to create a gorgeously dewy effect. Either way, just keep in mind that it’s very concentrated, so a little goes a long way.
What Our Testers Say
"Its radiant finish, lightweight feel, and smooth texture gives me the natural look I’m after without compromising the coverage I want." — Khera Alexander, Product Tester
Best Full-Coverage: Hourglass Cosmetics Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick
We try new foundations on the regular, but this staple holds a permanent spot in our makeup bag. It packs long-wearing, concentrated coverage with just one swipe—so much so that we often use it instead of concealer. Still, if you need a little less pigment, it can be sheered out with a damp beauty blender sponge. Bonus points for the unique triangular tip, that makes application in even hard-to-reach spots a breeze.
Best Clean: Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation
This is an amazing formula, even more so given that it’s coming from a clean beauty brand, says Simpson. “It has natural coverage with a semi-matte finish, and is easily applied and blended with either your hands or a foundation brush,” she adds. And, to the point of clean, it’s free from over 2,700 potentially questionable ingredients, and loaded with natural goodies instead, like the coconut, sweet almond, and jojoba oils that make up the formula’s base.
Best for Dark Skin Tones: BLK/OPL True Color Skin Perfecting Stick Foundation SPF 15
The 12 shades of this creamy stick are all geared towards darker and deeper skin tones, and tout a unique Shade ID technology that helps the pigments perfectly adjust to your particular complexion, further upping the imperfection hiding abilities. We appreciate the velvety finish and the fact that there’s not only sunscreen in the mix but also protective antioxidants as well.
Best for Light Skin Tones: Cle de Peau Beauté Radiant Cream Foundation SPF 24
‘Full coverage’ and ‘radiance’ don’t always go hand-in-hand when you’re talking about foundations, but this does in fact check both boxes. It covers any and every imperfection, without ever looking cakey or flat, instead of leaving your complexion with that coveted, lit-from-within effect. There are only 12 shades available, though they’re great for those with paler skin, as the lighter hues have a variety of undertones.
Best for Dry Skin: Kevyn Aucoin Beauty Foundation Balm
Byrdie Editor Holly Rhue is just one of many devoted users of this ultra-hydrating pick, packed with moisturizing ingredients you’re more likely to find in skincare than in makeup, think hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and avocado oil. Still, despite the creaminess, it feels surprisingly silky and light when applied. (To that point, it’s best applied using a foundation brush.)
Best Long-Wearing: AJ Crimson AJC Dual Skin
Set this with the brand’s accompanying powder and you’ll score a whopping 18 hours of wear-time. The base is water-resistant, too, and has buildable coverage that can even be used to hide tattoos. Creamy but never greasy, it works for all skin types, though, FYI, it is best applied with a brush.
If you’ve never tried a cream foundation, what are you waiting for? The Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick is a great place to start, an easy-to-apply stick that looks as good as it feels when swiped on skin. Cream foundations are not surprisingly a good option for those with dry skin, the Kevyn Aucoin Foundation Balm, a Byrdie editor favorite, in particular. The Hourglass Vanish Seamless Stick Foundation is another top choice, boasting full coverage, while the splurge-worthy Chanel Sublimage Le Tint is ideal when you want a touch of color but lots of radiance and hydration.
What to Look For In a Cream Foundation
It’s a misconception that all creams have a luminous finish. There are satin and matte options out there too, so consider the final look you’re trying to achieve.
The previous sentiment applies here as well. While creams may look thicker and heavier, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many that offer sheer coverage. And, to that point, the innate consistency of a cream foundation means it can easily be sheered out based on your application technique.
When in doubt, opt for a cream foundation in a stick. They’re easy to work with, says Simpson, and, unlike those that come in a jar, tube, or compact, tend to be easily applied and blended with your fingertips, no brush or tools required.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She swears by cream foundations, sticks in particular.
Meet the Expert
Lynn Simpson is a Southern California-based celebrity makeup artist, known for her work on celebs including Jessica and Ashle Simpson. She’s also the owner of Delilah Beauty. owner of Delilah Beauty.