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Foundation sticks are the unsung heroes of the multi-tasking makeup world. Not only do they function as a straight-up coverage product, but they can do double duty as a concealer or a contouring product. All in a super compact size that doesn’t take up much room in your makeup bag. It also doesn't hurt that they've come a long way in recent years. Gone are the thick, heavy formulas of preteen dance recitals. Instead, many brands are offering products that marry full coverage with a fresh finish—a beauty combo that’s easier said than done.
So if you want an easy, mess-free, do-it-all coverage product, look no further than our exhaustive edit below. We’ve got long-wearing options, acne-safe picks, and a drugstore gem you can pick up with loose change.
Read on for the best stick foundations available.
Best Overall: Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Stick Foundation
A creamy formula that glides on like a second skin and imparts a gorgeous natural finish? Check and check. This Make Up For Ever product is all your foundation dreams realized. Designed for all skin types, the full-coverage formula helps conceal everything from redness and blemishes to scarring and dark circles. But the best part is that, although it does some heavy-duty masking, the finish doesn’t look cakey.
Best Budget: Wet n Wild PhotoFocus Stick Foundation
We love a makeup cheap thrill, and this budget buy from Wet n Wild is one of the best. It offers full coverage and a flawless finish but in a way that’s not too thick or mask-like. Infused with argan and sunflower seed oils, the product feels hydrating on the skin but still dries down to a soft, matte finish.
Best Splurge: Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick
There’s just something about Tom Ford that makes our heart swoon, this buttery stick included. Creamy and malleable, it’s easy to tailor this product to your desired coverage. Spot-apply it and blend with a damp sponge for a sheer look, or swipe and buff in for a full face. The finish is a natural matte as well, so it won’t settle into wrinkles or fine lines.
Best Shade Range: Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick
With 43 shades in the lineup, this option earns a gold star from us in terms of inclusivity. But the real kicker is the texture. It’s not thick like other stick formulations. Instead, it glides on easily and almost melts, resulting in a complexion that looks luminous. Drier skin types will appreciate the inclusion of emollients like olive extract and shea butter as well.
What Our Testers Say
"A soft, smooth, and creamy product, this foundation stick was really easy to use and apply to my skin." —Khera Alexander, Product Tester
Best Long-Wearing: Hourglass Cosmetics Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick
Byrdie’s resident foundation expert Holly Rhue loves this Hourglass offering for a multitude of reasons. First, it’s waterproof and long-wearing, meaning it can withstand whatever your day wants to throw at you. While it’s heavy in pigment (three times the amount found in regular foundation), the warmth of your skin will ensure it blends like a dream. Expensive, yes, but it's worth it—trust.
Best Applicator: Huda Beauty #FauxFilter Skin Finish Buildable Foundation Stick
Want super fresh skin on the go? Makeup guru Huda Kattan’s FauxFilter stick is seriously amazing stuff. The tapered, triangular tip makes it easy to spot apply in tricky areas, while the creamy finish makes blending a cinch (even fingers will work). It does give skin a filtered look, but in a natural, believable way. Call it magic or just really good makeup, but take our money regardless.
Best for Contouring: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Contour Skinstick
Trust RiRi to create a stick foundation that delivers both coverage and killer cheekbones all in one swipe. The texture is lightweight but super matte, so carving out facial contours is surprisingly easy—all you need is a damp sponge and a little patience. If you’re new to the game, we suggest tracing the product along the underside of your cheekbones, across the top of the forehead (almost in the hairline), and along the jaw. Blend until it’s undetectable and marvel at your bone structure. Rihanna, we owe you one.
Best for Fair to Medium Skin: Nudestix Nudies Tinted Blur Stick
This innovative launch is like a tinted moisturizer in stick form and we’re here for it. Unlike more pigment-heavy options, this goes on quite sheer, blurring the look of pores, blemishes, and uneven skin tone. If you’re someone who prefers CC creams and barely-there coverage, you’ll love this. The line contains a great mix of warm and cool-toned shades for lighter skin hues, too.
Best for Dark Skin: BLK/OPL True Color Skin Perfecting Stick Foundation SPF 15
BLK/OPL is a cosmetic line formulated specifically for deeper skin tones, so the shade offering here is very impressive. The coverage is second to none, so it works well on hard-to-conceal conditions.
Best for Oily Skin: Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick
Occasionally, oily skin and matte finishes don’t mix—the oil just causes the product to settle or separate. Milk Makeup offers a solution with Flex, a workable but mattifying option that won’t crack or crease when midday shine appears. The secret ingredient is marshmallow root, an extract that gives the product bounce and freedom to move with your facial contours (rather than against them).
Best for Dry Skin: Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick
If you typically don’t like stick foundations, this product will convert you (we promise). Not only is the texture light and blendable, but the stick itself is full of skin-loving ingredients like vegetable-derived squalane, camellia seed oil, and coconut. The texture is heavenly and working it into the skin hardly takes any effort. Best of all, it provides lasting hydration for dry skin types.
Best Full-Coverage: Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Longwear Foundation Stick SPF 21
Want bulletproof coverage that won’t budge? Lancôme has got you covered. This handy stick ticks all the boxes: It's full-coverage, long-wearing, transfer-proof, and buildable. There’s a lightweight SPF in there too, but we suggest layering over your regular sunscreen for adequate protection (can’t have too much of a good thing).
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Hydrating Foundation Stick Broad Spectrum SPF 25
BareMinerals is known for its acne-friendly products and this stick is no exception. Free from clogging oils and heavy fillers, it conceals marks, blemishes, and redness with ease. Use it all over or as a spot concealer or to touch up makeup throughout the day.
Stick foundations are actually an incredibly versatile product. By default, they typically offer full coverage and a natural matte finish, but what’s great is that you can tailor the application to suit your aesthetic. Team Byrdie particularly loves Hourglass (see at Sephora) for its creamy consistency, Make Up For Ever (see at Sephora) for its flawless coverage, and Westman Atelier (see at Violet Grey) for serious hydration. But if you want a bargain, we can’t get past Wet n Wild (see at Ulta)–a triple threat in terms of pigment, staying power, and price.
What to Look For in a Stick Foundation
One of the best things about today’s crop of modern stick foundations is the lightweight formulas that make them oh, so versatile. Dot a little on where you need it as concealer, add more for a light coverage foundation, or build all the way up for medium to full coverage that looks completely natural and never thick or cakey.
A Lightweight Formula
Don’t assume that just because it’s a stick foundation it’s super heavy. Some of the contenders on our list impart quite sheer coverage in a lightweight formula that may be more suitable for oily or acne-prone skin.
Your Preferred Finish
Just like liquid or cream varieties, stick foundations offer the same versatility in terms of finish. From simple matte to dewy and luminous and even a pore-blurring finish that’ll make you selfie-ready in seconds, there’s a formula for everyone.
Which foundation stick is best?
The easy answer is the one that works best for you. The hard answer is finding that product, but consider these three factors to help hone in your search: 1) Shade range—take your time to find the ideal shade to match and enhance your skin tone. 2) Coverage—today’s selection of stick foundations offers coverage that ranges from barely there to full, with plenty of happy-medium products that allow you to build coverage to suit the occasion. 3) Finish—from traditional matte to skin-blurring, find the finish that best complements your skin.
Are foundation sticks better than liquid?
Traditionally, stick foundation was sought out by those looking for full coverage that was easy to apply. However, today’s formulations offer a lot in terms of coverage and finish, making stick foundation as versatile as liquid. It all comes down to your own texture preference.
What does a foundation stick do?
Think of a foundation stick as solid makeup, or essentially a more solid form of liquid or cream foundation that can be easily applied and blended into the skin. Thanks to the convenience of the format, you can easily use stick foundation to conceal and contour as well.