Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
This summer, I've been giving my skin a breather. Usually one to prep, apply, and blend before leaving the house, I now reserve my foundation and concealer for special occasions. Since making my skin's health a priority, the last thing I want to do is layer on formulas that could clog pores or aggravate skin during the day. Instead of my usual full-coverage foundation, I've been favoring a new lineup of skincare products that treat, rather than camouflage.
These foundation alternatives go beyond tinted moisturizer. I've been using setting sprays and serums that help keep my skin looking its best—and sometimes add a touch of color, lightweight coverage, or bronzy glow. I've noticed that the more I refrain from applying makeup in the summer heat, the clearer my complexion becomes. When I do break out, pimples appear to settle down faster when I don't try to mask them with a concealer.
Keeping coverage to a bare minimum has also improved the efficacy of my sun protection. I now use formulations with a higher SPF and reapply throughout the day without worrying about disturbing my beauty look. Above all, I love seeing the state of my natural skin and working toward improving its natural healthy glow.
Here are the skin-perfecting products I've been using instead of foundation this summer.
Best Overall: Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 35 PA+++
If there ever were a perfect sunscreen, this might be it. Its lightweight silky-smooth texture graces skin with a matte, poreless-looking finish (and doubles as a primer). I don't leave the house without it. When I reapply it throughout the day, instead of worrying about ending up greasy or covered in white, I know it's refreshing and protecting my skin.
Best Bronzing: Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi™ Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops
For a little help with the whole glowy, bronzy thing (without harmful UV rays), look no further than this multi-tasking serum from Drunk Elephant. In addition to imparting the perfect touch of sunshine, the drops boost your skin's defense against pollution and other environmental stressors (perfect for city-dwellers) and replenish skin with vitamins and fatty acids to support a healthy skin-barrier function. The flattering complexion-blurring, summer-ready glow is just a bonus.
Best Sunscreen: Shiseido Waso Color-Smart Day Moisturizer Oil-Free SPF 30 Sunscreen
For a touch of color, this brand new tinted moisturizer from Shiseido customizes to your skin tone. The SPF 30 moisturizer comes out white, but then adapts to blend with your complexion the moment you apply it to your skin. It also boasts the Japanese superfood, loquat leaf, to balance sebum levels and ensure you enjoy a long-lasting matte effect throughout the day.
Best for Dark Circles: Becca Under Eye Brightening Corrector
Just a touch of this eye brightener goes a long way to make the most sleep-deprived face look instantly refreshed and well-rested. Described as "eight hours of sleep in a jar," this formula tackles dark circles as well as fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes. On days that I need a pick-me-up, I gently touch the tip of a Beauty Blender into the pot and then lightly dab just below my eyes before blending—no extra shot of espresso necessary.
Best Pore Minimizer: Laneige Mini Pore Blur Perfector
As the final touch to my summer beauty look sans foundation, I lock everything in place with a refreshing mist of this mattifying skin finisher. Mint water moisturizes, while pine needle extract reduces the look of pores and shine, and after all is said and done you're left with sheer, skin-perfecting coverage.
Best Face Oil: Pai Skincare Rosehip BioRegerate Oil
Everything begins with good skin. To ensure I wake up to hydrated, even skin that doesn't need covering up, I've been using this celebrity-loved oil (Kourtney Kardashian is a fan) to replenish and balance my skin while I sleep. The potent formula works as an overnight reset to undo daily damage, even for dry or sensitive skin. Its star ingredient, Andean rosehip oil, boasts high concentrations of omegas 3, 6, 7, and 9, as well as antioxidant carotenoids to help repair and protect your skin. Every morning my skin is smoother, plump with moisture, and ready for a foundation-free day.
For more ways to skip foundation this summer, here are the eight best tinted moisturizers of 2020.