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When you’re dealing with dry skin, it’s the skincare products you use that will undoubtedly have the biggest impact. But that doesn’t mean you should underestimate the power of choosing the right makeup formulas as well, especially when it comes to complexion products such as foundation. In fact, no matter how much effort you put into addressing your dry skin issues with creams, serums, essences, and lotions, the wrong foundation could end up leaving you looking cakey, crepey, and far from the glowing, healthy finish you’re after. Along with using a good moisturizer, finding a hydrating base that works to both cover imperfections and defeat dryness in one fell swoop is paramount.
The good news? There’s no shortage of these to choose from. The even better news? There are a plethora of moisturizing foundations to be found at the drugstore, helping to quench your parched skin without taking a toll on your wallet. The best news? Many of the following foundation offerings contain ingredients that can boost your skincare game even further, from added SPF to providing protection against other environmental aggressors, such as blue light.
Here, our picks of the best drugstore foundations for dry skin.
Best Overall: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint
Effective for up to 24 hours
Can be drying for some
Who else recommends it? Allure, Good Housekeeping, and The Strategist all picked Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint.
What do buyers say? 84% of 8,000+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
Hyaluronic acid is a standout moisturizing ingredient in the skincare world, lauded for its unique ability to both attract and retain water in your skin. This insanely hydrating foundation is proof positive that it can do the same in makeup. And despite the hefty dose of moisture, it still feels surprisingly lightweight, thanks to an oil-free, water gel-based formula. It moisturizes (and plumps skin) for up to 24 hours while delivering just the right amount of ‘I’m not even wearing any makeup' coverage.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 10, Fair to Deep | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Brydie Clean: No
Best Sheer Coverage: CoverGirl Fresh Skin Milk Foundation
For those who want to show off their skin, not their makeup, this lightweight option is choice. It delivers just a sheer wash of color, enough to even out skin and blur away imperfections, but without ever looking like a full-on foundation. At the same time, coconut milk and aloe deliver plenty of soothing hydration. Not to mention that it’s also vegan and cruelty-free.
Coverage: Lightweight | Shade Range: 14, Fair to Deep/Dark | Finish: Sheer, Dewy | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Brydie Clean: No
Best Medium Coverage: Maybelline Dream Radiant Liquid Hydrating Foundation
12 hours of effectiveness
Easy to apply
Limited shade range
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air) making them plump.
Anyone who likes middle-of-the-road type coverage will like this pick. It’s another option made with that oh-so moisturizing hyaluronic acid, delivering up to 12 hours of hydration. Couple that with the medium coverage and you’ve got a surefire way to leave your skin looking smooth and flawless.
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 6, Fair to Deep | Finish: Natural-Radiant | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Brydie Clean: No
Best Full Coverage: Burt's Bees Goodness Glows Full Coverage Liquid Makeup
Goes on smoothly
Limited shade range
Jojoba oil is a natural oil produced from the seed of the Chinensis plant, a drought-resistant shrub native to southern Arizona, California, and Mexico. It mimics natural sebum and conditions and seals moisture in the skin without clogging pores or exacerbating acne.
Fans of full coverage will appreciate this buildable, pigmented formula. Still, despite the intense color, it has a radiant finish that never looks mask-like. Also noteworthy: An ingredient list that’s 98.9% natural, relying on plant-based oils such as meadowfoam seed and jojoba to impart plenty of moisture.
Coverage: Medium-to-Full | Shade Range: 7, Dark | Finish: Natural-Radiant | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Brydie Clean: Yes
Best With SPF: L'Oréal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation
Infused with SPF 50 for extreme UV protection
Wide shade range
Suitable for sensitive skin
Can be cakey
For the most effective sun protection, the best move is to always use a separate sunscreen. That being said, makeup with built-in SPF is a great way to score another layer of back-up protection. And whereas most foundations out there top off at an SPF 15 or 20, this one stands out for offering a whopping SPF 50. That’s exciting in and of itself, but those with dry skin will also appreciate the fact that it’s formulated with both a hydrating serum and niacinamide. The latter helps improve the skin barrier to lock in natural moisture, majorly important if you’re dealing with dryness.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 29, Fair to Deep | Finish: Dewy | Size: 8 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Brydie Clean: No
Best for Fine Lines: No7 Protect & Perfect Advanced All-in-One Foundation
Suitable for sensitive skin
May look patchy
Multi-tasking for the win. It’s not just hydration (24 hours-worth, to be exact) that this foundation offers. It also boasts always-important SPF, plus youth-boosting retinyl palmitate and peptides to minimize lines and wrinkles. Not to mention that the medium coverage works well to blur away the look of any imperfections in and of itself.
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 11, Medium to Dark | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Brydie Clean: No
Best Long-Wear: Revlon ColorStay Makeup for Normal/Dry Skin SPF 20
Suitable for dry skin
Doesn't stay on
For super long days or instances where makeup touch-ups just aren’t going to be feasible, reach for this guy. It touts up to a 24-hour wear-time, plus a hydrating (though still oil-free) formula. One pump delivers medium coverage, but it’s easily buildable if you need or want more.
Coverage: Medium-to-Full | Shade Range: 15, Fair to Deep | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Brydie Clean: No
Best Stick: BLK/OPL True Color Skin Perfecting Stick Foundation SPF 15
Wide darker shade range
Infused with SPF 15 for solid UV protection
Contains vitamins C and E and aloe to hydrate
May be a bit oily
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin and oil often found in anti-oxidant blend topicals or moisturizers. It also helps soothe the skin and protects the lipid barrier.
We adore stick formulas for their versatility and ease of application—AKA no tools or mirror required—and this one is particularly good if you have normal to dry skin. It glides on seamlessly and touts both vitamin E and aloe. It has a matte finish and full coverage, so a little goes a long way.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 21, Medium to Deep | Finish: Seamless | Size: 0.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Brydie Clean: No
Best Tinted Moisturizer: ColourPop Pretty Fresh Hyaluronic Tinted Moisturizer
Evens skin tone
Infused coconut water softens skin
Can be streaky/patchy
At the risk of pulling a Captain Obvious, tinted moisturizers are a great pick for those with dry skin. This one in particular gets our vote for several reasons. One, it’s heavy on the ‘moisturizer’ part, packed with hyaluronic acid and coconut water. And in terms of the ‘tinted’ part of things, it has enough coverage to appease foundation fans and comes in an array of 21 shades, a high number for a tinted moisturizer.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 21, Fair to Deep Dark | Finish: Dewy | Size: 1.45 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Brydie Clean: No
Best Shade Range: Milani Screen Queen Foundation
Wide shade range
Easy to apply
Might be patchy
Finding the right color foundation can be an admittedly tricky process, one that’s made that much harder—if not impossible—when you’re dealing with products that only have limited shade offerings. Happily, that’s not the case here. This base comes in an extensive line-up of 45 different hues for an array of different skin tones. That’d be noteworthy in and of itself, but the formula also earns high marks for being packed with protective antioxidants that can help shield your skin from damaging blue light emitted by the screens on your phone and computer.
Coverage: Light-to-Medium | Shade Range: 30, Fair to Deep | Finish: Natural-Luminous | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Brydie Clean: No
What to Look For in a Foundation for Dry Skin
Hyaluronic Acid is a powerful humectant, a compound that essentially attracts water to the skin, thus helping to provide deep hydration. Already found in your body, from lubricating your joints to keeping your eyes and skin cushioned and hydrated, hyaluronic acid is able to hold nearly 1,000 times its weight in water. Packed into a foundation, it can help maintain constant hydration while protecting the skin’s moisture barrier for smoother, more supple skin.
Those who are parched but still experience the occasional bout of acne may appreciate the saving grace of jojoba oil. Due to its ability to closely mimic skin’s natural sebum, this natural emollient helps hydrate, provides anti-inflammatory and antibacterial protection, and can even help reduce acne breakouts while softening and smoothing skin.
Due to the inclusion of serum-like ingredients, many a hydrating foundation has a surprisingly light texture, despite packing some pretty serious pigment. This allows you to build up coverage to suit the occasion without it looking heavy or cakey.
Which type of foundation is best for dry skin?
Seek out a formula containing moisturizing and hydrating ingredients that do double duty, keeping your skin moist and supple while maintaining a fresh, crease-free finish. Be on the lookout for hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and jojoba oil, to name a few.
Is liquid foundation better for dry skin?
On the whole, many people with dry skin prefer liquid or cream foundations because they tend to be rife with key hydrating ingredients like oils and hyaluronic acid. However, there are also a number of stick-based foundations that are rich in thick emollients, and even a powder foundation infused with ingredients like vitamin E can help nourish and moisturize dry skin.
Does dry skin need primer?
For most, the right combination of skincare and foundation designed to hydrate and moisturize should be enough to help combat excessive skin dryness. However, if you’re ultra-dry and need an extra dose of moisture, a primer formulated for dry skin could do the trick, helping to smooth skin and provide a hydrated base for foundation to follow.
22 Drugstore Foundations That Go Toe-to-Toe With Luxury Splurges. Allure. https://www.allure.com/gallery/best-drugstore-foundation
The 13 Best Drugstore Foundations for Flawless-Looking Skin. Good Housekeeping. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/makeup/g4857/best-drugstore-foundation/
The 12 Very Best Foundations for Mature Skin. The Strategist. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-foundations-mature-skin.html
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Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070