The 18 Best Drugstore Foundations of 2022 That Rival Expensive Formulas

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Makeup claimed our top spot

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Best Drugstore Foundations

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

If you're like us, the drugstore beauty aisle was your introduction to makeup: a place to explore shades and formulas, where you could buy products within your adolescent budget. But no matter how old you are or what you can afford, pharmacies remain one of the best destinations for cosmetics. And when it comes to foundation, drugstore brands often rival their premium counterparts.

According to celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg, "A good foundation should blend into the skin seamlessly without looking too cakey, greasy, or streaky." When shopping around, makeup artist Jasmin Lo says to look for a formula that "looks natural and wears well through the day without looking heavy."

Of course, everyone's idea of the perfect foundation is different. So we rounded up options for a wide range of skin types and tones in several finishes and coverage levels.

Scroll down for the best drugstore foundations currently on the market.

Best Overall: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup SPF 20

neutrogena-healthy-skin-liquid-makeup-spf-20

Amazon

What We Like
  • Silky texture melts into skin

  • Blends beautifully

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

  • Limited shade range

Neutrogena is kind of like the drugstore version of Clinique in that it embraces a pharmaceuticals-meets-cosmetics vibe. And some of its products are even better than the high-end stuff. The brand's Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup is the best foundation not just at pharmacies but maybe across the board.

You don't have to take our word for it. In one of her no-BS TikTok reviews, Bethenny Frankel said she "went to the drugstore and bought every single foundation they have." After trying them all, she named Healthy Skin the reigning champion. Noting that "it literally melts into your skin," Frankel announced it's "officially [her] favorite foundation, period, full-stop."

The lightweight, non-greasy formula glides on like silk, blends beautifully, and leaves you with a natural-looking finish with fewer visible imperfections—extra points for the SPF 20 (although you should still wear a dedicated sunscreen; you need SPF 30+ to be safe). In the end, we just wish this foundation came in more shades for deeper skin tones.

Price at time of publish: 14

Coverage: Medium | Finish: Natural | Shades: 14 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Budget: Essence Pretty Natural Hydrating Foundation

4.5
essence-pretty-natural-hydrating-foundation

Amazon

What We Like
  • Enhances complexion

  • Hydrating

  • Diverse shade range

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for oily skin

  • Contains PEGs and fragrance

On a budget? Don’t sleep on Essence products. The entire line is super affordable, and our home tester gave this foundation nearly perfect scores, explaining that she loved the hydrating, complexion-enhancing formula and was impressed by how long it lasted. It comes in 31 diverse shades, and you can snag a tube for less than $5—a total steal.

Price at time of publish: $17

Coverage: Medium | Finish: Natural/dewy | Shades: 31 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Long-Wear: Revlon ColorStay Longwear Makeup

4.2
Revlon ColorStay Makeup for Combination/Oily Skin SPF 15

Amazon

What We Like
  • Lasts 24 hours

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

If you want something that lasts all day (or night), Revlon has you covered. This waterproof, transfer-resistant, anti-smudge formula promises to stay put for up to 24 hours without cracking or drying your skin. While it does contain SPF 20, don’t count on this formula to be your only line of protection—think of it as topping off your previously applied sunscreen. 

Price at time of publish: $14

Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Natural | Shades: 43 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Transfer-Resistant: L'Oréal Paris Infallible Fresh Wear Foundation

loral-paris-infallible-fresh-wear-foundation

Amazon

What We Like
  • Lasts 24 hours

  • Lightweight and breathable

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs and BHT

L'Oréal makes our favorite transfer-resistant drugstore foundation. Infallible Fresh Wear is buildable to a stunning satin finish, promising waterproof coverage for up to 24 hours while maintaining a lightweight, breathable feel. A wide shade range of 40 options seals the deal as being an inclusive pick as well. 

Price at time of publish: $16

Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Satin | Shades: 40 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Mattifying: Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation with Clay

Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation Makeup

Amazon

What We Like
  • Absorbs oil

  • Controls shine

  • Won't clog pores

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

If you're all about that matte makeup, Maybelline is your best bet. This oil-free foundation calls on clay to absorb excess grease and control shine, leaving you with a smooth, even-toned complexion that doesn't look flat or cakey.

Price at time of publish: $8

Coverage: Medium | Finish: Matte | Shades: 40 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Dewy Finish: Wet n Wild Photo Focus Dewy Foundation

wet-n-wild-photo-focus-dewy-foundation

Amazon

What We Like
  • Moisturizing

  • Lightweight, silky feel

  • Blurs imperfections

What We Don't Like
  • Limited shades for deeper skin tones

  • Contains PEGs and fragrance

For those after a dewy glow, we highly recommend Wet n Wild. This exceptionally lightweight and silky foundation is buildable and blendable. It moisturizes your skin, blurs imperfections, and leaves you with a fresh face that lasts all day.

Price at time of publish: $7

Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Dewy | Shades: 14 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Radiant Finish: NYX Professional Makeup Born To Glow Naturally Radiant Foundation

nyx-professional-makeup-born-to-glow-naturally-radiant-foundation

Amazon

What We Like
  • Smooth and blendable

  • Subtle illumination

  • Diverse shade range

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

  • Not ideal for oily skin

What do you get when you crank a dewy finish up a notch and add luminescence? A radiant finish. NYX's aptly named Born To Glow is our favorite radiant-finish foundation, offering smooth coverage and an even-toned complexion that subtly catches the light in all the right ways. Kudos to the brand for its diverse shade range.

Price at time of publish: $10

Coverage: Medium | Finish: Radiant/dewy | Shades: 45 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Mature Skin: Covergirl + Olay Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Foundation

Covergirl + Olay Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Liquid Foundation

Amazon

What We Like
  • Skincare-meets-makeup formula

  • Hydrates and brightens

  • Evens skin tone

What We Don't Like
  • Limited shades for deeper skin tones

  • Contains PEGs and fragrance

This brilliant collab from Covergirl and Olay is just the thing for mature skin. The skincare-meets-makeup formula hydrates, brightens, and evens skin tone with hyaluronic acid and vitamin C while delivering buildable coverage that blends to a healthy-looking, radiant finish.

Price at time of publish: $16

Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Radiant | Shades: 16 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Dry Skin: Physicians Formula Butter Believe It! Foundation + Concealer

physicians-formula-butter-believe-it-foundation---concealer

Amazon

What We Like
  • Plant-derived butters

  • Supremely creamy

  • Melts into skin

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs and fragrance

Parched complexion? Go with Physicians Formula. This supremely creamy yet virtually weightless foundation leans on a blend of plant-derived butters to nourish and moisturize, melting into your skin and leaving a naturally radiant glow in its wake.

Price at time of publish: $16

Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Natural/radiant | Shades: 12 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Oily Skin: e.l.f. Cosmetics Flawless Satin Foundation

e.l.f. Cosmetics Flawless Finish Foundation

Courtesy of Target

What We Like
  • Oil-free

  • Evens tone and texture

  • Lightweight feel

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

For oily skin, we recommend e.l.f. This oil-free liquid foundation promises to blur the look of your pores without clogging them, address uneven tone and texture, brighten your skin, and leave you with a semi-matte finish that lasts several hours.

Price at time of publish: $6

Coverage: Light/buildable | Finish: Semi-matte | Shades: 34 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Almay Make Myself Clear Clear Complexion Makeup

https://www.target.com/p/almay-clear-complexion-makeup-with-salicylic-acid-1-fl-oz/-/A-13960272

Courtesy of Target

What We Like
  • Won't clog pores

  • Contains salicylic acid

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

If you're battling breakouts, reach for Almay's Make Myself Clear foundation. Beyond covering imperfections and correcting for redness, the all-star formula calls on salicylic acid (BHA) to clear and prevent pimples, then soothes with aloe vera. It's also oil-free, so it won't clog your pores.

Price at time of publish: $15

Coverage: Medium | Finish: Semi-matte | Shades: 20 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Dark Skin Tones: Black Opal Mineral Matte Crème Foundation

BLK/OPL True Color Mineral Matte Crème Foundation with SPF 15

Courtesy of Target

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Works as setting powder

What We Don't Like
  • Can be hard to blend

Silky smooth and surprisingly lightweight, this cream-to-powder formula glides over the skin and has a nice matte finish. It wears well, and the colors are specifically designed with POC in mind—so there are no grayish, ashy undertones. Wear it alone, or use it to set your liquid foundation.

Price at time of publish: $13

Coverage: Full | Finish: Matte | Shades: 12 | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Shade Range: ColourPop Pretty Fresh Foundation

ColourPop Pretty Fresh Foundation
What We Like
  • Nourishing formula

  • Doesn't settle into fine lines

What We Don't Like
  • Can oxidize over time

With 42 diverse shades, ColorPop’s Pretty Fresh Foundation is five stars in our books. It’s packed full of hydrators like coconut water and hyaluronic acid, so it’s fantastic if you find your foundation settles or dries out during the day.

Price at time of publish: $16

Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 42 shades | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 ounce | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Fluid: Catrice Cosmetics HD Liquid Coverage Foundation

Catrice HD Liquid Coverage Foundation

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Long-lasting

  • Easy to blend

What We Don't Like
  • Can dry up quickly

Into full, Kardashian-style glam? This liquid formula from Catrice applies like a dream and settles down to a true matte second-skin-like finish. It’s super pigmented, so a little goes a long way—try using your fingers or a sponge to blend it in.

Price at time of publish: $10

Coverage: Full coverage | Shade Range: 20 shades | Finish: Matte | Size: 1.01 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Stick: Black Radiance Color Perfect Foundation Stick

black-radiance-color-perfect-foundation-stick

Amazon

What We Like
  • Good for on-the-go use

  • Multipurpose product

  • Built-in brush

What We Don't Like
  • Can be hard to blend

  • Contains PEGs

If you like the convenience of stick makeup or just want something for on-the-go use, this affordable foundation has your name on it. The highly pigmented cream is perfect for concealing, covering, contouring, and shading, and there's a handy brush on the other end for blending.

Price at time of publish: $11

Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Natural | Shades: 8 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Cream: Milani Cosmetics Smooth Finish Cream To Powder Foundation

Milani Conceal + Perfect Smooth Finish Cream-To-Powder Foundation
What We Like
  • Nourishing formula

  • Absorbs excess shine

What We Don't Like
  • Can be hard to blend

What’s notable about Milani’s Cream-to-Powder formula is that it’s enriched with antioxidants, including green tea and vitamin E, and bamboo extract. The creamy formula takes a little blending but softens down to such a nice, touchable matte finish—great for anyone who needs a foundation that goes the distance.

Price at time of publish: $12

Coverage: Full coverage | Shade Range: 22 shades | Finish: Natural matte finish | Size: 0.28 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Powder: Maybelline Super Stay Full Coverage Powder Foundation

maybelline-super-stay-full-coverage-powder-foundation

Amazon

What We Like
  • Ultra-fine powder

  • Blends beautifully

What We Don't Like
  • Not very buildable

We like Maybelline Super Stay if you’re looking for a powder foundation. The ultra-fine formula goes on super-smooth, blending beautifully into an even, non-cakey finish. While it's not ideal for building and layering throughout the day, you might be surprised to learn it delivers full coverage.

Price at time of publish: $10

Coverage: Full | Finish: Matte | Shades: 12 | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Hybrid: Makeup Revolution Conceal & Define Full Coverage Foundation

makeup-revolution-conceal--define-full-coverage-foundation

Amazon

What We Like
  • Doe-foot applicator

  • Blends seamlessly

  • Diverse shade range

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

We love a good makeup hybrid, and this product doesn't disappoint. Part foundation, part concealer, the creamy formula covers imperfections with precision, thanks to the doe-foot applicator, and blends seamlessly into a streak-free, semi-matte finish. This double-duty pick is an excellent choice for travel, too.

Price at time of publish: $7

Coverage: Buildable/full | Finish: Semi-matte | Shades: 40 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

Our number one pick is Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup, which boasts a silky-smooth texture that melts into the skin and blends beautifully into a natural-looking finish. But if you're looking for something even more affordable, you can't go wrong with Essence Pretty Natural Hydrating Foundation. Finally, the line with the widest shade range is NYX Born to Glow, with a whopping 45 skin tones to choose from.

Meet the Expert

Jamie Greenberg, celebrity makeup artist

Jasmin Lo, makeup artist

What to Look for in a Drugstore Foundation

Shade

The most important thing when buying a drugstore foundation is getting the shade right. This can be tricky, but not impossible, to do online. If possible, look at the available shades on multiple screens (like your laptop and smartphone) to make sure your view isn't affected by a color filter.

You'll also want to ensure the foundation matches your skin's undertones. Warm hues will look peachy and golden, cool tones lean pinkish-blue, and neutrals are somewhere in between. To find your undertone, Greenberg says to look at the veins on the inside of your wrist. "If they look blue, you're likely cool, but if they look green, you're probably warm! If it's somewhere in between, you're likely neutral."

If you're not sure where you lie, makeup artist Jo Levy says to go with neutral undertones, as they work with most skin tones.

Coverage

Coverage is essentially how light or heavy you want your foundation to appear. Do you want it to cover all imperfections and transform your complexion? Go with full coverage. "If the formula is good, the product should also ideally last all day," says Greenberg.

Do you just want it to enhance and even out your skin tone? Lightweight coverage might be the way to go. There are also many medium-coverage foundations as well as buildable formulas that allow you to add more until you reach the desired effect.

Finish

Lastly, consider the finish. This is the sheen (or lack thereof) you're left with once everything is blended and dry. Drugstore foundations are available in matte, semi-matte, natural, dewy, satin, radiant, and luminous finishes.

It's mostly a matter of preference, though oily and acne-prone skin types may prefer mattifying formulas, whereas those with dry skin might appreciate a hydrating foundation that leaves a dewy glow. Levy says a middle-of-the-road satin or natural finish is always a safe bet, as it'll mimic your real complexion without looking overly dry or shiny.

FAQ
  • How do you apply drugstore foundation?

    According to makeup artist, Jasmin Lo, skin prep is the first step when it comes to even foundation. “Make sure your skin is smooth, and exfoliate if needed. Hydrate the skin and take time to massage in your moisturizer. I don’t often use primer, but you may want to apply a little to the t-zone if you’re shiny. When it comes to the application itself, I love a damp beauty blender. I use a stippling motion, bouncing the sponge over and over. Start with a small amount of product first, and then layer to increase coverage. You could try a brush or fingers if that was your preference.”

  • Do drugstore foundations expire?

    All cosmetics have an expiry date. Once opened, liquid products can typically last up to 24 months, but check your specific product to be sure. A good rule of thumb is to bin anything that has changed scent, texture, or has separated.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland is a freelance commerce writer and product tester specializing in cosmetics. For this story, she compiled expert insights and researched today's best drugstore foundations, narrowing it down to blendable, comfortable formulas available in a diverse range of shades. Theresa has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020, where she covers makeup, skincare, and haircare. Of the above products, she has personally tried Neutrogena, Essence, L'Oréal, Maybelline, Physicians Formula, Catrice, and Milani.

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