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We’re not going to beat around the bush: When it comes to beauty products, expensive formulas are by no means better than their affordable counterparts. And trust us, we love a good wallet-friendly find just as much as anyone else. That being said, there are also plenty of expensive products whose price tag is completely justifiable. And foundations happen to be one category where many pricier picks truly are worth every penny, be it for the amazing finish, addition of extra benefits, unbeatable texture...you get the picture.
Ahead, the best high-end foundations that are for sure worth splurging on.
Best Overall: Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation
Blends well and doesn't feel heavy
Lasts all day
Shades look slightly different online
Who else recommends it? Cosmopolitan and Elle both recommended the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation.
What do buyers say? 90% of 3,600+ Nordstrom reviewers rated it 4 stars or above.
We affectionately think of this cult classic as the prom queen of the foundation world. It’s luxe in every sense of the word, from the packaging to the creamy formula, to the perfectly radiant, skin-perfecting finish, to the buildable coverage. First launched in 2000, it’s been a makeup artist staple for over two decades. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, the brand also expanded the shade range; there are now 40 available.
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 40 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
"What makes the foundation so wonderful is its ability to cover extremely well, without looking or feeling heavy or cakey on the skin." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester
Best for Dry Skin: IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream with SPF 50+
Limited shade range and undertone options
We know this is technically a CC cream and not a foundation, but trust us, it offers just as much coverage as a foundation—plus a host of other benefits. We’re talking plenty of broad-spectrum sun protection, along with youth-boosting peptides, collagen, vitamins, and antioxidants. Not to mention that the ultra-creamy formula never cracks or creases.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 12 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Oily Skin: Chantecaille Future Skin
Calms sensitive skin
Gives a natural, skin-like finish
Not ideal for acne-prone skin
Those with slick skin will appreciate that this formula is both oil-free and gel-based. In fact, it’s made of 60 percent water, which is what gives it its undetectable feel. The buildable coverage works to hide all imperfections, as do the light-diffusing pigments, which make your complexion look naturally flawless.
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 15 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Mature Skin: Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation
Gives a dewy, skin-like finish
Not a wide range of shades
Generally speaking, the more lived-in your skin is, the lighter you want to go when it comes to both the formula in general and the coverage. Thicker bases can tend to settle into and accentuate fine lines and wrinkles, the last thing you want. That’s not the case here. “This offers the best dewy coverage that doesn’t even look like foundation, just like perfected skin,” says New York-based makeup artist Shayna Gold. As an added benefit, there are pseudo-ceramides in the mix to help keep your skin hydrated for up to 18 hours.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 12 | Finish: Radiant | Size: 1.4 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best With SPF: ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
Lasts all day
Not ideal for dry skin
Gold says this sheer formula “hugs the skin” in the best way possible. It’s a true multi-tasker, combining yes, a nice dose of daily SPF, along with hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and squalane, along with a wash of tint. (The shade range recently expanded and now features 30 different hues.) We love it as a top pick for either sunscreen haters or foundation haters.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 30 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Sheer Coverage: Chanel Vitalumière Aqua Ultra-Light Skin Perfecting Sunscreen Makeup
Lightweight, barely-there formula
Fresh and natural finish
Won't cover dark spots or blemishes
Here’s a base for the "no makeup makeup" fans out there. The featherweight texture disappears into the skin, leaving your complexion perfected and tone more even and imparting the perfect amount of glow and brightness.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 17 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Make sure to give it a good shake before use, as it is a hybrid formula.
Best Medium Coverage: Clé de Peau Beauté Radiant Fluid Foundation SPF 24
Buildable without caking
Gives skin a glow
“This foundation has true medium coverage with a natural finish. It leaves skin glowing without ever drying it out,” Gold says of another one of her picks. The serum-like texture blends seamlessly into skin and hydrates, too. Also noteworthy: The addition of a unique powder in the formula that helps the color adjust to color changes in your skin tone throughout the day.
Coverage: Sheer to medium | Finish: Natural | Size: 1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Full Coverage: Tarte Face Tape Foundation
Covers blemishes and dark spots
Wide shade range
Lasts all day
Not ideal for dry skin
Taking a cue from the brand’s best-selling Shape Tape Concealer, this base also boasts some serious coverage. AKA it really will hide anything you want hidden, not to mention that it’s also transfer-proof, waterproof, and sweatproof, so you never have to worry about the long-wearing base budding or smearing. Bonus points for the fact that it comes in 50 shades with five different undertones.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 50 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Two-in-One: La Prairie Skin Caviar Concealer Foundation Sunscreen SPF 15
Naturally dewy finish
Blends in seamlessly
Yes, this is crazy pricey, but consider the fact that you’re getting a concealer and foundation—and an application brush and magnifying mirror— in one product. “It’s supremely luxurious and truly all you need after cleansing to walk out the door. It has the most balanced coverage and is one of those products that feels like it’s turning back time,” Gold says. To that point, both the foundation and concealer are infused with the brand’s lifting and firming caviar extracts.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 5 | Finish: Dewy | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Natural: RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up Concealer
Creamy, rich feel
Can be difficult to blend
Don’t be fooled by the name: This guy works just as well dabbed on strategically as a concealer as it does applied all-over as a foundation. Either way, the medium coverage is an excellent choice for calming redness, hiding flaws, minimizing the look of pores, and adding radiance to your skin. And yes, it’s a squeaky clean formula, too, relying on natural coconut and jojoba oils for the moisturizing base.
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 16 | Finish: Natural | Size: 0.2 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Tinted Moisturizer: Natura Bissé Diamond Cocoon Sheer Cream
Works on several skin tones
Looks very natural
“This is really more of a skincare product than a true foundation and is perfect for someone who has slightly dry skin and just wants to balance out their skin tone,” Gold says. Indeed, the brand calls it a color-enhancing moisturizer, a hydrating cream that has a subtle hint of color. (FYI, there’s only one shade, though it does blend in well on a variety of lighter complexions.)
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 1 | Finish: Natural | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Shade Range: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
Matte, natural finish
Wide shade range
A little goes a long way
There are 50, count ‘em 50, shades of this fan-favorite foundation, all across a nice range of undertones to boot. It boasts full coverage and a soft matte finish that’s velvety, never chalky, and is perfect for blurring away the look of pores and tamping down shine. Still, despite all of this, it has surprisingly lightweight and comfortable wear.
Coverage: Medium to full | Shade Range: 50 | Finish: Matte | Size: 1 fl. oz | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“The oil-free formula evened out my skin, kept my T-zone matte, and the shade matched my skin tone seamlessly.” — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester
Yes, the right foundation can be well-worth your hard-earned cash. You really can’t go wrong with the cult-classic Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation, which has been racking up legions of devoted fans for over two decades. Choosing a formula with additional skincare benefits is one good way to justify spending a bit more; the IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream with SPF 50+, Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40, and La Prairie Skin Caviar Concealer Foundation Sunscreen SPF 15 all offer exactly that. Many high-end foundations do skew on the more sheer side, so check out the Tarte Face Tape Foundation (view at Ulta) if you prefer full-on coverage.
What to Look for in a High-End Foundation
According to Gold, looking for a formula with good-for-your-skin ingredients makes it more of a multi-tasking product and helps justify the price tag. Hyaluronic acid is one of her favorites to look for, as it has an instantaneous plumping effect.
As with any other foundation, consider whether you want matte or radiant, though, per Gold’s point, many of the hybrid formulas that do offer all those skincare benefits will usually have more of a natural or sheer finish.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She loves herself a good high-end foundation; the Armani option in this story has been one of her go-to choices for years.
Meet the Expert
Shayna Goldberg is a New York-based makeup artist and consultant who often works on editorial as well as brand campaigns.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough high-end foundations from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
20 Foundations ELLE Editors Won't Shut Up About. Elle. https://www.elle.com/beauty/makeup-skin-care/tips/g9064/editors-favorite-foundation/
18 best foundations of all time — according to our Beauty team. Cosmopolitan. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/beauty-hair/makeup/reviews/g922/best-foundation/