We Tested the Best Liquid Foundations—These 10 Are Worth the Hype

Our favorite was NARS' Light Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation

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liquid foundation hero

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

While beauty balms, CC creams, and tinted moisturizers are having a moment, there will always be a place in beauty for tried-and-true foundation—especially the liquid variety. "Liquid formulas allow for the most customized level of coverage," celebrity makeup artist Bryan Cantor tells Byrdie. And with the right brush and technique, he says you can count on stunning, natural-looking results.

Byrdie Tested & Approved

For best overall liquid foundations, the NARS Light Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation checked off our boxes. Not only does it come in a diverse range of shades (36, to be exact), our tester said the formula felt more like lotion than makeup and didn't settle into her creases. If that's out of your budget, we recommend the L'Oréal Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation due to its perfect consistency and natural-looking finish.

The liquid foundation market is undoubtedly saturated. To help you narrow down your options, we researched today's best-selling, highly rated formulas and selected upwards of 30 to try out in The Lab.

Keep reading for the best liquid foundations tested by our editors.

Best Overall: NARS Light Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation

4.8
nars light reflecting advanced skincare foundation

Sephora

Our Ratings
  • Texture
    5/5
  • Transfer Resistance
    4.5/5
  • Finish
    5/5
What We Like
  • Blends and builds easily

  • Doesn't settle into creases

  • Skincare-first formula

  • Excellent shade range

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

What do buyers say? 1,000+ Sephora reviewers rated this product 4.2 stars or higher.

After trying over 30 liquid formulas, NARS Light Reflecting Foundation was a clear winner. The lightweight consistency goes on smooth and dries quickly. It offers medium coverage, but you can easily build it up to your desired coverage level. Our tester liked that the natural-looking, slightly dewy finish didn't settle into her creases.

We love the high-end feel of the glass bottle too. While the pump makes it easy to dispense, the watery liquid drips a little. Still, our tester said the skincare-first formula melted into her skin, explaining that it felt more like lotion than makeup. Available in a diverse range of 36 shades, the color blends beautifully and offers a complexion-enhancing, flattering effect that lasts all day.

Shades: 36 | Coverage: Medium/buildable | Finish: Natural/dewy | Key Ingredients: Oat, cacao peptides, milk thistle, Japanese lilyturf | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"I loved the formula. It melted into my skin and looks great."—Elizabeth Hecht, Product Tester

Best Budget: L'Oreal Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation

5
L'Oreal Paris Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation

Walmart

What We Like
  • Perfect consistency

  • Doesn't settle into fine lines

  • Beautiful finish

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs and BHT

For something more affordable, we highly recommend L'Oréal Infallible Fresh Wear. Our tester loved everything from the packaging to the application process to the natural-looking finish. Lightweight and easy to blend but also not runny or overly thick, this foundation has a perfect consistency.

It dries down quickly, too, but not before you can start working it into your skin. The buildable coverage evens out your skin tone without looking cakey or feeling tight, and it won't settle into your fine lines.

Shades: 40 | Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Natural | Key Ingredients: Octinoxate, titanium dioxide | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

L'Oreal Infallible 24 hour fresh wear

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

What Our Testers Say

"This product has a beautiful finish on the skin that went on super easily. I would definitely wear it again for everyday use or build it up for special occasions."—Julia Fields, Product Tester

Best Splurge: N°1 DE CHANEL Revitalizing Foundation

5
N°1 De Chanel Revitalizing Foundation

Byrdie / Ulta

Our Ratings
  • Texture
    5/5
  • Transfer Resistance
    5/5
  • Finish
    5/5
What We Like
  • Perfect consistency

  • Hydrating

  • Leaves skin plump/dewy

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Contains fragrance

The steep price of N°1 De Chanel is kind of a bummer, especially since we liked it so much. But if it's within your budget, you'll be glad to have this top-shelf foundation in your glam kit. The consistency is just right—not too thick or runny—and goes on smooth with buildable coverage. 

Our tester loved the heavy frosted-glass container and said the pump makes it easy to dispense. She said the formula evened out her skin tone, blurred imperfections, and left her with a plump, dewy complexion.

Shades: 20 | Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Luminous | Key Ingredients: Glycerin, ​​camellia seed oil | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"It leaves the skin looking plump and dewy."—Julia Fields, Product Tester

Best Matte: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation

4.2
FENTY BEAUTY BY RIHANNA Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation

Sephora

What We Like
  • Buildable coverage

  • Velvety smooth

  • Diverse shade range

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs and fragrance

Prefer a shine-free finish? Fenty Pro Filt'r has your name on it. "RiRi did it again!" one tester exclaimed. She loved the tall, frosted container and said the pump dispenser made it easy to use.

This buildable foundation offers medium to full coverage. Available in a diverse range of 50 shades, it goes on velvety-smooth, blends beautifully, and leaves a natural-looking, soft matte finish in its wake.

Shades: 50 | Coverage: Medium to full | Finish: Soft matte | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Foundation

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Best Natural Finish: Rare Beauty Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation

4.6
Rare Beauty Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation

Byrdie

What We Like
  • Very lightweight

  • Smooth, even coverage

  • Evens skin tone

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

  • Not very buildable

  • Not transfer-resistant

We also liked Rare Beauty's Liquid Touch Foundation, which offers more of a natural finish. Our tester said the lightweight, slightly watery consistency dries down within 30 seconds. Though you might be able to add one more layer, anything beyond that may start settling into your creases.

The doe-foot applicator makes the formula easy to apply, and the natural-looking pigments do an excellent job evening out your skin tone and concealing redness. We noticed some transferring, but all in all, we were impressed with the results.

Shades: 40 | Coverage: Medium | Finish: Natural/matte | Key Ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, botanical extracts, vitamin E | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Rare Beauty Foundation Test

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

What Our Testers Say

"Rare Beauty's Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation does indeed feel weightless! It transfers a little bit, but for medium coverage, you can't do better." Rachel Nussbaum, Product Tester

Best Full Coverage: HOURGLASS Vanish Seamless Finish Liquid Foundation

4.3
HOURGLASS Vanish Seamless Foundation

Ulta

Our Ratings
  • Texture
    4/5
  • Transfer Resistance
    4.5/5
  • Finish
    4.4/5
What We Like
  • Thick yet spreadable

  • Not heavy or cakey

  • Doesn't settle into fine lines

What We Don't Like
  • Contains PEGs

If you prefer full coverage, Hourglass Vanish is your best bet. Though the consistency is somewhat thick, it goes on smooth and won't drip down your face before you get a chance to blend it in.

As the product claims, a half-pump was enough to cover our tester's entire face, and she was even able to build the coverage as needed. It didn't settle into her fine lines, and the natural-looking finish had a hint of a glow.

Shades: 26 | Coverage: Full/buildable | Finish: Natural | Key Ingredients: Glycerin, jojoba esters | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

HOURGLASS Vanish Seamless Finish Liquid Foundation

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

What Our Testers Say

 "I love the way my skin looks when wearing this foundation. It would be amazing for special events when I want to cover redness, acne, or other imperfections."—Julia Fields, Product Tester

Best Medium-Coverage: Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation

4.5
Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation

Nordstrom 

What We Like
  • Smooth, lightweight texture

  • Doesn't settle into fine lines

  • Lasts up to 24 hours

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Contains paraffin and PEGs

Our tester loved the smooth, lightweight texture of Lancôme Teint Idole, explaining that it's not watery or overly thick. We wish the price was more accessible, but the medium coverage is conveniently buildable and doesn't feel heavy or tight on the skin.

Offering a natural-looking, semi-matte finish with a slight glow, this liquid foundation doesn't appear cakey or settle into fine lines. Our tester also liked the feel of the heavy glass bottle and appreciated that the formula lasts up to 24 hours.

Shades: 35 | Coverage: Medium/buildable | Finish: Natural/matte | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Foundation Test

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

What Our Testers Say

"This product is the perfect combination of dewy and matte without sacrificing any of the coverage." —Julia Fields, Product Tester

Best Light-Coverage: ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint with SPF 40

4.5
ILIA Skin Tint

ILIA

Our Ratings
  • Texture
    4.5/5
  • Transfer Resistance
    4/5
  • Finish
    4.5/5
What We Like
  • Doesn't settle into creases

  • Hydrating

  • Contains SPF

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Dropper bottle

Ilia's uber-popular Super Serum does, indeed, have a serum-like consistency. This slightly runny liquid blends effortlessly and delivers lightweight, semi-sheer coverage with a healthy-looking dewy finish that doesn't settle into your creases.

The dropper bottle isn't our favorite, as it's hard to dispense the exact right amount of product. Still, we appreciate the built-in SPF 40 protection, the hydrating formula, and the "looks like skin" results.

Shades: 30 | Coverage: Light/sheer | Finish: Radiant/dewy | Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, squalane, hyaluronic acid, zinc oxide | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Ilia Super Beauty Serum Test

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

What Our Testers Say

"Its coverage is definitely more sheer, but it imparts a dewy, natural-looking glow and blends incredibly easily." Avery Stone, Associate Commerce Editorial Director

Best with SPF: FLOWER Beauty Light Illusion Liquid Foundation

4.5
Flower Beauty Light Illusion Liquid Foundation

Ulta

Our Ratings
  • Texture
    4/5
  • Transfer Resistance
    4.5/5
  • Finish
    5/5
What We Like
  • Light and non-drying

  • Buildable coverage

  • Hybrid sun blockers

What We Don't Like
  • SPF could be higher

  • Contains PEGs

Flower Beauty Light Illusion calls on a hybrid blend of mineral and chemical blockers to provide SPF 18 protection. But since the SPF is relatively low, we recommend wearing sunscreen underneath.

This liquid foundation has a lightweight, watery consistency. Our tester said it took a little while to dry but liked the buildable coverage and natural-looking, dewy finish.

Shades: 15 | Coverage: Light/buildable | Finish: Natural/dewy | Key Ingredients: Octinoxate, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Flower Beauty Light Illusion Luminous Makeup SPF 18

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Best Lightweight: Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Foundation

4.1
Pat McGrath Skin Fetish Sublime Foundation

Bergdorf Goodman

Our Ratings
  • Texture
    5/5
  • Transfer Resistance
    5/5
  • Finish
    3/5
What We Like
  • Goes on smooth

  • Evens skin tone

  • Fancy glass bottle

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Not very buildable

  • Contains PEGs

Our tester said Skin Fetish has a lightweight, watery texture. It offers medium coverage, but since it dries down quickly, it's not the most buildable formula we tried. Still, this foundation goes on smooth and does a great job covering redness and evening out your skin tone.

It's easy to dispense, too, thanks to the high-end glass pump bottle. The thin consistency was slightly messy, but our tester said it was generally easy to apply with a makeup brush and sponge.

Shades: 35 | Coverage: Medium | Finish: Natural/luminous | Key Ingredients: Amino acids, diamond core powder | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Foundation

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Final Verdict

The best option we tried was NARS Light Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation. The skincare-first formula blends and builds effortlessly, doesn't settle into creases and offers a natural-looking, dewy finish that lasts all day. If you're on a budget, we highly recommend L'Oréal Infallible Fresh Wear Foundation, which boasts an amazing consistency and a beautiful, natural-looking finish that lasts up to 24 hours.

Milk Makeup Foundation

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

How We Tested

Byrdie editors carefully researched today's best liquid foundations, then narrowed it down to 32 to try in The Lab, our product-testing facility in Manhattan. After inspecting the packaging, reviewing the ingredients lists, and looking at the directions, our in-house testers applied the formulas to see how they performed in a real-life setting.

We assessed the consistency, feel, blendability, and buildability, then performed a transfer test to see how well the pigment stayed put once dry. The foundations were then awarded a score from 1 to 5 for texture feel, finish, transfer resistance, and wear. With price and shade range taken into consideration, those with the highest overall scores were ultimately selected for this roundup.

Liquid Foundations Test

Byrdie / Tamara Staples

Other Options We Tested

NYX Professional Makeup Born To Glow Foundation

This thick, gel-like foundation takes about three minutes to dry, and while it's buildable, we found it hard to achieve a full-coverage effect. And although we appreciate the diverse range of 45 shades, the squeeze tube makes the liquid formula a bit messy.

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

Our tester liked the lightweight, breathable feel of this fancy foundation, noting that it felt like she wasn't wearing any makeup. While we can appreciate the product's dedicated following, it just wasn't our favorite liquid formula, and the price was a bit too steep.

Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint Foundation

We liked the smooth, non-greasy texture of this foundation. Our tester appreciated the unique dispenser, and unlike other full-coverage formulas, it left her with a nice glow. While we don't have many complaints, we ended up liking other formulas better.

Meet the Expert

Bryan Cantor is a global celebrity makeup artist based in New York City. He brings his impressive knowledge of skincare, makeup products, application techniques, and professional tips and secrets to clients and companies in New York City and across the globe.

What To Look For In a Liquid Foundation

Buildable coverage

According to Cantor, the ideal scenario is one in which the coverage your foundation offers is just enough to camouflage any redness and even out your overall skin tone, but not necessarily eliminate blemishes or spots (that’s a concealer’s job ). Happily, most liquid formulas are buildable, and how you apply them can also dictate the level of coverage (more on that in a moment).

Consider your skin type

“Some liquid foundations are made for all skin types and others for specific skin types,” says Cantor, so choose one that suits you. If it is an “all skin type” situation, how you prep your skin before the foundation will be key for making that foundation work for your skin, he explains. 

FAQ
  • How do you apply liquid foundation?

    While you can dab it on with your fingertips if you really want to, applying a liquid foundation with a foundation brush will make for more full coverage. For this, choose one with synthetic bristles since it won’t absorb the product as natural hairs can. To sheer it out, stipple on the base with a makeup sponge.

  • How long does liquid foundation last?

    Many of today’s formulas are more long-lasting than ever, boasting waterproof, sweatproof, and transfer-proof claims. For even more lasting power, prep skin with a primer, then top foundation with a loose finishing powder or setting spray to help lock it in place.

What Is Byrdie Verified?

Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Theresa Holland is a freelance beauty writer and product reviewer. She compiled insights from a celebrity makeup artist, extensive notes from our lab testers, and her own research and experience to write this story. Of the featured brands, she has personally used NARS, Fenty, L'Oréal, Ilia, Hourglass, Armana, Milk Makeup, and NYX. Theresa has been covering makeup, haircare, skincare, and wellness products at Byrdie since 2020.

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