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We get it, the world of “natural makeup” can be confusing and tricky to navigate. As we’ve mentioned more than once, there’s no set or agreed-upon definition of "natural;" not to mention the fact that brands can pretty much use it whenever and however they please. Still, there’s no denying that more and more consumers are seeking to incorporate cleaner, non-toxic formulas into their makeup bag.
When it comes to which products you may want to consider going natural with first, foundation is a good place to start. More likely than not you’re applying it day in and day out, all over your face, so why not try to minimize your exposure to any potentially questionable chemicals? Particularly given the fact that there are more incredible natural foundations out there than ever before, touting a wide array of finishes, coverage levels, and textures. Case in point—the standouts below.
Read on for our picks of the best natural foundation on the market.
Best Overall: ILIA True Skin Serum Foundation
Coverage: Light to Medium | Shade Range: 18 | Finish: Radiant
Both Byrdie editors and readers alike rave about this base, a true skincare-makeup hybrid. On the skincare side, ingredients such as aloe and jojoba oil to hydrate and mastic to mattify. On the makeup side, light to medium, easily buildable coverage refines skin, while the array of 18 shades makes it easy to find one that matches your complexion.
Best Cream: Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation
Coverage: Medium to Full | Shade Range: 16 | Finish: Semi-Matte
For those confused about what exactly is and isn’t natural, seeking out certifications is an easy way to gain some peace of mind. This certified organic formula is not only squeaky clean, but it’s also downright awesome. A blend of oils give it its creamy base, which translates into a velvety, semi-matte finish.
Best Powder: Aveda Inner Light Mineral Dual Foundation
Coverage: Sheer to Full | Shade Range: 11 | Finish: Matte
Those who like to change up their preferred coverage level will appreciate that this can be used dry (for full coverage) or wet (for sheer to medium color). It works to both balance skin tone and deliver pigment, and, as a nice added touch, the packaging is made from 100% post-consumer recyclable materials.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Sappho Essential Foundation
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.
Coverage: Light to Medium | Shade Range: 14 | Finish: Radiant
We love us some coconut oil, but it can be potentially problematic for those prone to breakouts. You won’t find it in this liquid formula, though you will find jojoba oil, which is very beneficial if you’re dealing with pimples. (Not only does it act in a way that’s very similar to the natural oil in your skin, but it’s also anti-inflammatory and can help balance excess oil production.) The coverage is middle-of-the-road, though easily built up or sheered out based on your particular preference. It’s free of silicones, too, so it never feels heavy.
Best Two-in-One: RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up All Natural Concealer & Foundation
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 16 | Finish: Natural
For anyone who appreciates multi-tasking and/or is trying to streamline their makeup bag, this dual-purpose complexion perfector reigns supreme. Creamy and rich, it melts seamlessly into skin, no matter whether you’re using it as a strategic concealer or an all-over base. It’s no surprise that it’s one of the best-selling natural makeup products out there.
Best Hydrating: 14e Cosmetics Aloe Nourish Foundation
Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: 13 | Finish: Semi-Matte
Hydrating foundations can also skew towards the more sheer side, which is why we like that this goes against the trend, offering medium coverage and a semi-matte dry down. Still, rich in hydrating aloe, argan oil, and jojoba oil, it’s perfect for quenching even the most parched complexions.
Best Serum Foundation: Gressa Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 21 | Finish: Velvet
Why not give your skin a little extra love while making it look good too? This liquid base is packed with good-for-your-skin botanical extracts (broccoli!). A little goes a long way too, with just a drop or two offering enough coverage for your full face. Top tip: Make sure to give it a good shake before use.
Best Drugstore: Physicians Formula Organic Wear Silk Foundation Elixir
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: 7 | Finish: Natural
Generally speaking, the natural makeup market is still largely dominated by prestige and masstige brands, with drugstore options lacking a bit. One of the best exceptions is this wallet-friendly buy. Choice for those who like lighter, more tinted-moisturizer-esque formulas, the featherweight fluid evens out skin ever-so-naturally.
Best Shade Range: Lawless Woke Up Like This Flawless Finish Foundation
Coverage: Medium to Full | Shade Range: 20 | Finish: Natural
The fact that this comes in a whopping 20 shades would be impressive enough, but even more noteworthy is that they all have varying undertones, too. In other words, there’s a perfect fit for pretty much any and every complexion color. And speaking of color, it packs a full coverage pigment punch, though never looks caked on. Infused with skin-balancing oils, it has the added benefit of keeping moisture levels on point, too.
Best Full Coverage: 100 Percent Pure Fruit Pigmented Healthy Foundation
Resveratrol is a naturally occurring antioxidant that can be found in the skin of grapes, peanuts, all berries, and even dark chocolate. It's part of a group of compounds called polyphenols that act as key antioxidants, serving on the front lines to protect the cells against damage that leads to cellular aging.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: 6 | Finish: Dewy
True foundation fans should try this guy. True to the name, you get complete coverage, though still with a dewy finish, a pairing that is often thought of as oxymoronic in the foundation world. It’s also loaded with protective antioxidants—resveratrol, green tea, pomegranate, just to name a few—to help improve the look of skin both instantly and over time.
Best Stick: Vapour Luminous Foundation
Shea butter is a plant lipid that comes from African shea tree nuts and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It's used to help moisturize, nourish, and soothe the skin.
Coverage: Light to Medium | Shade Range: 19 | Finish: Luminous
Stick foundations are one of our go-to's for quick touch-ups and this one doesn’t disappoint. Heavy-hitting hydrators such as shea butter, jojoba oil, and sunflower seed oil make for a rich and creamy texture that glides seamlessly across the skin. You can also blend it in well using just your fingertips, no brush or sponge required, making this all the more perfect for on-the-go application.
What to Look For in a Natural Foundation
Hydrating, Skin-Friendly Ingredients
“Since foundation is made to be on the skin all day, it should support—not sabotage—your skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. With that in mind, she recommends reaching for formulas packed with ingredients that hydrate and shield the skin from environmental stressors, such as aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, and plant-derived squalane. There also aren't many regulations for marketing a product as "natural" or "clean," so it's still crucial to thoroughly read the ingredient list of any product. “Avoid fillers and chemicals like parabens, fragrances, and formaldehyde releasers, which can harm your skin,” she adds.
Considering that foundations sit on the skin for hours at a time, Dr. Engelman also stresses the importance of using formulas that won’t clog your pores, especially if your skin is oily or acne-prone. “Look for the label non-comedogenic to ensure that your foundation won’t cause a breakout,” she says. “Ingredients with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, like witch hazel and tea tree oil, are also great additions to foundations as they kill acne-causing bacteria and tame redness.”
Antioxidant Protection and SPF
“As a dermatologist, protection from UV rays and environmental aggressors is top of mind,” says Dr. Engelman. That said, she’s a big fan of any natural formula that contains ingredients to defend against damaging and aging free radicals—such as antioxidant vitamin C—as well as SPF to protect against sun damage.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic in New York City.