When it comes to creating the perfect look, there’s one type of makeup that literally lays the foundation for all else. But foundation—regardless of quality—can vary widely in terms of consistency, application, and ingredients. So how do you know which type is right for you?
"First let me say foundation is a misunderstood product," says celebrity makeup artist Sandy Linter. "Some people think it has to match the skin perfectly. It doesn't. It can be used to enhance the color of your skin by adding more warmth or toning down redness, etc." We’ve put together a quick guide to eight common types of foundations, with the help of experts. Each has its own set of advantages. Keep scrolling to get the scoop on the main types of foundations and find out which one you should be using.
Liquid foundation tends to provide the most coverage and is best used if there are larger patches of skin you’re looking to even out. "For different skin types, it’s actually more about the ‘finish’ of the foundation than the ‘type’ of foundation—I prefer using liquid foundations on all skin types because it has the ability to look most like really skin," says Melissa Murdick, celebrity makeup artist and creator of The Pretty Fix, an organization that educates transgender folks on makeup.
"My favorite glowy foundation is Cle De Peau Radiant Fluid ($128) because it is absolutely gorgeous on the skin and offers about a medium coverage," Murdick adds. "Make Up For Ever Ultra HD foundation also doesn’t get enough hype. It offers a natural finish and an amazing shade range—this is where I tell most of my clients to start if they don’t have a clue what foundation to buy."
Powder foundation is convenient and easy to apply. It typically comes in a compact case, which is ideal for on-the-go touch-ups. However, given its drier formulation, it’s best used on oily skin without too many fine lines. "I only use foundation powders sparingly to reduce shine (I don’t ever use them on the whole face)," says Murdick. She recommends powders from Shiseido and Cle De Peau, which "look most like real skin when you apply lightly them with a powder brush."
"Creams are emollient and mimic skin effortlessly," says Brandy Allen, professional makeup artist and diversity consultant. "For clients who previously had acne scarring or matured skin, cream fills in the surface and creates a doll-like finish." She loves the Danessa Myricks Vision Cream Cover, which comes in a bottle with a pump. Most skin types can find a cream formula that works well for them. "Although it can be a bit more dewy for oily skin, cream foundations can be paired with a shine control primer, a oil controlled moisturizer, blotted with a powder and sealed with a setting spray," notes Allen.
"A cream comes in a stick, bottle, pot or compact," says Allen. If covering blemishes is your main goal, a stick foundation could be for you. Since it comes in an easy-to-use stick format, it’s great for slipping into your purse or makeup bag. The consistency tends to be a bit thicker, so it’s important to find your ideal shade.
Stick foundations can also be applied as concealers to larger areas of the skin if you prefer a cream formulation to liquid. In general, targeted application is a good tip to follow: "Quit doing heavy coverage over your entire face—especially if you have naturally healthy, even skin," says Murdick. "Instead, do a light layer of foundation all over, and then build up the coverage only in the specific areas that need it. This will still give you flawless skin, but now your foundation won’t walk into the room before you do."
As interest in natural and organic makeup solutions grows, there have never been more options for mineral powder. This type of foundation is loose and typically comes in a sifter. The only downside to this option is that it can be quite messy if not applied carefully, as opposed to pressed powders. It's best used during your morning routine to set your makeup; swap in a powder compact for touch-ups during the day.
Tinted moisturizer tends to have sheer coverage and may not be ideal for masking heavy discoloration or blemishes. However, it's amazing for creating a bright, dewy complexion and evening skin tone. This is also a great lightweight option for summer. "I go for more glowy products for dry or mature skin (because both skin types tend to look dull), and more natural finish for oily skin," notes Murdick.
Perfect for a broad range of skin types, BB cream stands for “blemish balm” or “beauty balm.” It’s made with a relatively creamy formulation and can help even skin tone while moisturizing skin and providing just a touch of color. If you are prone to oil and blemishes, don't run: "Contrary to what most people would choose, I almost never use matte finish products for oily skin types," says Murdick. "They look too flat, powdery, or makeup-y in my opinion. If someone has oily skin, I’ll start with a magnifying primer and then use a natural finish foundation (plus a bit of powder as needed)."
Similar to BB cream, CC cream (which stands for “color correcting”) is intended to provide a light layer of coverage with a natural tint. These creams are often hydrating and frequently contain anti-aging ingredients. Just like their alphabetical predecessor, CC creams can help even skin tone to create a bright, fresh-faced look. To apply CC cream or another liquid-y foundation, "I love to use a brush for application to save the amount of foundation and buff in the product. After I use a moist sponge to set powder and keep the skin as fresh and satin as possible," says Allen.