As much as we live and breathe for good skincare, we're simultaneously just as in love with makeup. It all starts with a clean canvas, and a good foundation will change everything. Foundation has the power to take a look up several notches, and when you're wearing a really, really good foundation, oftentimes you don't need much else. As we're all on this quest for amazing skin, we thought we'd provide a little help along the way.
There are a lot of different formulas floating around out there, and you better believe we've tried many of them. Some we've encountered and quickly parted with, which is why we have an undying love for the ones that have stuck around through all our skin has endured: acne troubles, discoloration, melasma, you name it. You know those days when you get so many compliments on your skin, putting you on a cloud you don't want to come down from? Ahead are the 13 foundations that get us the most praise and in turn a confidence-boosting high.
You're going to want to invest in these.
Editorial Director Faith
"I take foundation very seriously—as in, I hoard it, clutching it tightly to my chest in a Gollum-like manner and whispering my precious each morning before doing my makeup. My current foundation of choice is Make Up For Ever HD Foundation because it's buildable, creamy, and doesn't crease."
After getting reacquainted with this foundation back in 2016, favored by Byrdie's beauty director, Deven, Faith had some thoughts: "I have to admit this is not the first time I've tried Light Wonder. I had a bottle the Charlotte Tilbury team bestowed upon me a few years ago, and I remember thinking highly of it when I used it then. I can't say why I stopped using it, but I was eager to try it again now. And had my tastes changed? Simply put, no. The foundation was as silky and light as I remembered, spreading evenly over my skin when I applied it with my fingers.
It really feels more like a tinted moisturizer, but you can easily build it for more coverage. My naturally oily skin was still glowing (not greasy) at the end of the day, and I didn't experience any creasing whatsoever. Lovely seeing you again, old flame."
Managing Editor Lindsey
"I live and die by this foundation. It's only $8, and it works perfectly with my combination skin. In fact, as the day wears on and I get slightly oilier, the product starts to melt perfectly into my complexion and looks better than when I first applied it that morning. I also love how full-coverage it is without looking cakey and how well it lasts throughout the day. I can even blow my nose and have the product still be intact."
Senior Editor Hallie
"In terms of texture, this product has everything else beat. It's whipped (read: feels pillowy) but also cooling and gel-like at the same time. It's a hybrid, really, a mix of all the best parts of liquid, cream, and serum foundation. Plus, it's multitasking. Complexion Rescue combines all those hydrating skincare benefits with the sheer (but buildable, if you so choose) coverage I'd been dreaming of. And it incorporates a mineral-based sunscreen for safe and effective, non-chemical sun protection.
Want proof? The brand's clinical trials found it boosts hydration by 215% after one week of use, and 100% of women (there were 63 participants) experienced improvement in their skin texture after in the same amount of time."
"Tarte Shape Tape Hydrating Foundation is perhaps the first-ever formula to check all my immaculate-looking skin boxes. It features collagen and hyaluronic acid (my two favorite hydrating, plumping ingredients) to keep your skin smooth, moisturized, and firm throughout the entirety of the time you wear it. The finish is luminous and buildable, so the coverage can be pretty customizable based on your needs (for me, it's usually whether there will be natural light or not). So it's dewy but not shiny, covers discoloration but doesn't cake, and includes vitamin C to protect against sun damage and aging.
All around, it's a spectacular foundation, and I owe all my Instagram likes to this very bottle."
Wellness Editor and The/Thirty Managing Editor Victoria Hoff
"It's a split between Sulwhasoo's cushion compact and Laneige's cushion compact. They're [very similar], but one is budget-friendlier than the other. If you want the full VH effect, mix a couple drops of it with a face oil and moisturizer. I like to do more of a tint than a full face of foundation."
Beauty Director Deven
"It's rare to find a foundation in your true match color. What's even rarer is finding that shade in a formula you love. Light Wonder feels like a tinted moisturizer, but you can build it up for more coverage. When I'm running out the door in the morning, I squeeze some onto my fingertips, apply all over, and go. If I'm going for more of an airbrushed finish, I apply it with a damp sponge, and it allows me to layer the areas that need more coverage. Its radiant finish delivers a believable glow (i.e. not shimmery) without getting greasy, even after hours of wear.
I never get so many compliments on my skin as when I'm wearing Light Wonder. My only wish is that the brand would make a big bottle."
Features Editor Amanda
"Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation is sort of a sleeper hit in the U.S., used by nearly every makeup artist but not as much by everyday consumers. By contrast, in Japan, it's a household name and the go-to product for movie stars and on-camera talent whose skin has to look perfect but also like it's not caked in makeup, in super HD. In April of this year, the brand relaunched the product with an updated formula, intended to be lighter in weight but with better coverage. The formula is complete with soft-focus pigments that make the skin look airbrushed, in addition to nourishing ingredients like jojoba oil, olive squalene, and shea butter for a hydrating effect.
Whenever I want my skin to look naturally flawless in the Japanese style, I spend 10 minutes with my lotion pack, make myself a matcha tea, and apply this foundation. It's a routine that blends old traditions with modern technology, and I feel honored to have gotten to witness it firsthand."
Social Media Editor Kelly
"Whenever I wear this, I get compliments on how good my skin looks. As someone who struggles with acne and rosacea, hearing that my skin looks smooth and even is maybe the nicest thing anyone could say. The formula is really lightweight, but it still manages to even my skin tone without feeling heavy or cakey on my sensitive skin."
Assistant Editor Erin
"Truth be told, I've only ever loved one drugstore foundation in my life. Thus, this relatively new launch sat in the mountain of products surrounding my desk for far too long. Firstly, the doe-foot applicator is brilliant and raises the bar where product design is concerned. Secondly, there's an ample amount of SPF in the formula; it fits my day-to-day craving for buildable medium-to-full coverage with a featherlight feel. Read: It doesn't feel like you're wearing anything. I liked that the finish wasn't too matte or too dewy—I'd describe it as satin—and my fellow editors couldn't get over how great my skin looked.
I never thought I'd say this, but I may have found one of my new favorite foundations. And yes, it's less than $15."
"This long-wearing foundation from Laura Mercier has to be my absolute number one. Although, the aforementioned Physicians Formula Healthy Foundation SPF 20 offers a more affordable price point and comes in at a close second. Not only is the finish smooth and velvety, but it's also satisfyingly durable, which I've found to be clutch. After all, the key (IMO) to having 'perfect skin' is having consistent skin, aka a complexion that looks the same at 8 p.m. as it did at 8 a.m. This one fits the bill."
Contributing Writer Kaitlyn
"Giorgio Armani's Face Fabric Foundation has a creamy, almost mousse-like, texture. It applies like a dream. Even if I use my fingers instead of my trusty makeup sponge, it looks natural and uniform on my skin. Though it's not the type of full-coverage foundation I usually go for, I've been wearing it almost every day since I first tried it thanks to some stellar compliments from friends and family."
Rihanna has been my sister (in my head) since her "Pon de Replay" days back in the early 2000s. As you can imagine, I was more than hyped when she announced she was dreaming up a beauty line a few years ago. After much anticipation, she did not disappoint with the incredible formulation of the Fenty foundation. To be real, this was a toss-up between her Trophy Wife highlighter, which is equally amazing, but I rely on this foundation religiously to give me selfie-worthy skin that warrants a compliment every single time I wear it.
I love a full-coverage finish that doesn't crease up or feel cakey after a while. This is my dream formulation, and I can't help but be proud of the fact that all brown-skinned beauties are represented in this line of 40 shades. Respectively, other beauty brands are following suit and extending their makeup lines to be shade-inclusive. Major props to Rihanna for creating an affordable and amazing foundation.
This is the first luxe foundation I fell in love with. As a baby beauty intern, I had the honor of interviewing Beyoncé's makeup artist, Sir John, for InStyle.com, and he told me this was one of his favorite foundations for dark skin tones. I haven't let it go ever since I learned it has his expert stamp of approval. It's always been a challenge for me to find a shade to match my deep skin tone, and since the beginning, this line has come in an impressively diverse range of shades. I lean on this dreamy formula heavily in the summer because the glow factor is next-level.
It envelops my skin in a silky veil of dewiness, and I'm constantly chasing that lit-from-within look. If you're into a radiant, second-skin look, this light-reflecting formula is for you.
Next: Want to talk scent? We always do. These are the fragrances Byrdie editors get the most compliments on.