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Ready for your close-up? If you need to be, a 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 makeup 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, dewy, 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.
Below, the best cream foundations on the market.
Best Overall: MAC Studio Tech
Because it's a professional-quality product, the results are hard to beat, which is why we're giving it top honors. The formula is easy to build and easy to match to a variety of skin tones, and it’s long-wearing and is non-acnegenic so your special occasions won’t end with a nasty breakout.
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.
Best Stick: 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.
Best Compact: IT Cosmetics Confidence in a Compact
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 the look of your skin.
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, 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 it. 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 Contouring: Anastasia Beverly Hills Cream Stick Foundation
This stick foundation is 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.
Best for Dark Skin: Black Up Full Coverage Cream Foundation
Cream foundations can suffer from a lack of diversity in both shade and undertone. Black Up 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.
Best Budget: Mehron Celebre Pro HD Cream Foundation
Mehron’s professional-grade cream foundation builds coverage very easily. The oil and fragrance-free cream formula contains pomegranate, vitamin E, and aloe vera to help soothe the skin.
Bonus: 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 also suitable for everyday wear, ensuring your skin will always be ready for its close up.