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Whether you want something matte, dewy, full coverage, or sheer, foundation is the backbone of any beautiful makeup look. Of course, there are so many options on the market, it can be hard to pick which one is best for you. Formulas are created to suit different skin types and skin tones, and it takes some digging to find your perfect fit.
While it’s easiest to tell which makeup products are best by actually trying them out in person, it's also possible to find your perfect foundation online. First, determine what formula you'd like—liquid, stick, or powder—and what finish (matte or dewy) suits you best. Also, figure out if you want sheer, medium, or full coverage. Once you’ve determined those things, you’ll be able to narrow down your options. Below, we share some of our favorite foundation picks to get you started.
Best Overall: Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation
Make Up For Ever's Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation has been a long-time best-seller—and for good reason. It’s suitable for all skin types, has buildable medium to full coverage, and delivers a semi-matte (what Sephora calls 'natural') finish. The series also comes in a whopping 40 shades, ranging from very fair to very deep, with both red and yellow undertones so everyone can find their perfect match. Once applied, Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation makes skin look completely airbrushed, but it still melts into the skin for a seamless finish. Depending on what level of coverage you'd like, you can apply the foundation with a flat foundation brush, buffing brush, or beauty blender. No matter your method, two pumps of the foundation should be enough.
Best Drugstore Option: L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Glow & Pro-Matte Foundation
For beauty lovers balling on a budget, there is no better drugstore option than L’Oreal’s Infallible line. Both formulas—Pro-Glow and Pro-Matte—are buildable from medium to full coverage; the first leaves a more radiant finish, while the latter is completely matte. Pro-Glow is more compatible with drier skin types, and Pro-Matte works better for oilier skin.
Though the end result is a little different between the two foundations, the core formula is essentially the same. In fact, many people mix the same shade in both to get a semi-matte foundation that delivers full coverage. Since the formula is also quite thin, you don't have to worry about it looking or feeling too cakey.
Best Full Coverage: Too Faced Born This Way Foundation
Too Faced’s Born This Way Foundation has been a leading formula for some time as it offers full coverage without weight. It completely blurs out imperfections, makes skin look flawless, and leaves a radiant finish no matter your skin type. Formulated with coconut water, alpine rose, and hyaluronic acid, the foundation also helps moisturize, strengthen, and smooth out your complexion. Born This Way comes in 35 shades with a variety of undertones, so you're certain to find a match. Since the formula is vegan and paraben-, gluten-, and cruelty-free, it's also a feel-good purchase.
Best Sheer Coverage: MAC Studio Face & Body Foundation
If you’re looking for a sheer coverage foundation that leaves your skin looking fresh and dewy, it doesn’t get much better than MAC's Face & Body foundation. This liquid formula doesn’t do much to cover up blemishes, but it acts as a buildable face tint and gloss, delivering a radiant finish that makes your skin look bouncy and healthy. (It also works if you want a little bit of coverage on your neck, shoulders, chest, and decollete.) Because it's so sheer, there isn’t a huge shade range. If you're unable to find an exact match, you can generally get away with blending out a shade that's slightly lighter or darker.
If you choose to buy Face & Body, keep in mind that MAC’s coding system for foundation shades is a little different than other brands. “C” means cool undertones, while “N” means neutral. While that fact is consistent with other brands, you should buy the undertone of foundation that is opposite your skin’s undertone, based on MAC’s system. If you’re a warm undertone—gold, yellow, or olive—you use a “C” shade, and if you’re a cool undertone—red, pink, or blue—use an “N” shade.
Best Radiant: NARS Radiant Longwear Foundation
Though NARS' Radiant Longwear Foundation is a recent addition to the world of foundations, it has really taken the beauty industry by storm. Since its launch in December 2017, it has garnered over 1,000 five-star reviews on Sephora’s website. It’s a lightweight formula that is suitable for all skin types and it offers buildable medium to full coverage that still has a dewy finish. A blend of raspberry, apple, and watermelon extracts help to support your skin’s elasticity, improve texture, and maintain the radiance of the foundation. Though it's suitable for all skin types, reviewers note that it does wonders for dry skin in particular.
Best Matte: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
Boasting possibly the widest shade range on the market right now—the line has recently expanded to a whopping 50 shades after its initial launch of 40—Rihanna's foundation is a fan favorite. Pro Filt'r offers solid medium coverage that can be built up, and its cruelty-free formula is also free of parabens and phthalates. The matte finish is described as “light as air,” and it’s resistant to sweat and humidity so it won’t clog your pores after all-day wear. Reviewers commend the foundation not just for its variety of shades, but also its ability to prevent pesky oil breakouts.
Best Powder: BareMinerals Original Loose Powder Mineral Foundation
To say this pick from BareMinerals is popular is a major understatement. The power brand's original foundation was one of the trailblazers in powder formulas, and the product has amassed more than 15,000 five-star reviews on Sephora alone. What's so great about it? It’s a buildable medium-coverage foundation and it contains five different mineral ingredients that start as a powder and melt into a cream to create a long-wearing, natural finish. It also has SPF 15 to offer sun protection (though you should still use an actual sunscreen underneath this).
Though powders are known to clog pores and appear cakey on the skin, both the brand and many Sephora commenters note that this foundation does neither. It also comes in 30 different shades so everyone can find their match.
Best Stick: Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick
If you’re looking for a foundation that isn’t in liquid form, the Hourglass Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick is a great one to try. It delivers solid medium coverage that doesn’t feel heavy on the skin, even after you build it up. It glides on easily with and without primer and helps fill pores and blur out imperfections. The stick's long-wearing, waterproof formula also guarantees a comfortable feel throughout the day. Plus, it is free of mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, and triclosan, and contains less than one percent of synthetic fragrances.
Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular foundations on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 10 different foundations overall, screened options from 9 different brands and manufacturers, read over 30 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 5 of the foundations themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.