The 8 Main Types of Foundations, Demystified


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?

We’ve put together a quick guide to eight common types of foundations, each of which has its own set of advantages. Read on to refresh your makeup bag with confidence.


Liquid foundation is one of the most popular types of foundation because it glides on easily and is a good choice for both dry and combination skin. These tend to provide the most coverage and are best used if there are larger patches of skin you’re looking to even out.

Under this umbrella, you've got cream foundations and waterproof formulas. Whether you’re working with a water- or an oil-based makeup, it’s a good idea to shake the bottle before use to avoid separation and make sure the color is well blended. You can apply it with a wet or dry sponge, or with a brush; the former leaves a more natural finish, while the latter provides fuller coverage.

CoverGirl Clean Matte Foundation
CoverGirl Clean Matte Foundation $6
Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation $35


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. This type of foundation typically provides a more lightweight, natural-looking appearance and a matte finish.

Maybelline Superstay Better Skin Powder Foundation $10
Air Brush Flawless Finish Micro-Powder
Charlotte Tilbury Air Brush Flawless Finish Micro-Powder $33


Mousse, also marketed as a whipped foundation, is liquid makeup with air whipped in, creating a light texture. These foundations tend to have a matte look and a weightless feel. They're typically good for all skin types, and those with dry or mature skin will love the smooth, non-cakey application.

Beautyblender Bounce Liquid Whip Long Wear Foundation
Beautyblender Bounce Liquid Whip Long Wear Foundation $40


If covering blemishes is your main goal, stick foundation is one of the best types of makeup 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.

Iman Second to None Stick Foundation $16
Skin Foundation Stick
Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick $46

Mineral Powder

As interest in natural and organic makeup solutions grows, there have never been more options for mineral powder. This type of makeup foundation is powder-based and typically comes in a compact or sifter. The only downside to this option is that it can be quite messy if not applied carefully. It's best used during your morning routine; swap in a powder compact for touch-ups during the day.

Nyx Mineral Matte Finishing Powder $6
Mineral Powder Classic Beige 0.34 oz/ 9.5 g
Laura Mercier Mineral Powder $42

Tinted Moisturizer

The primary purpose of a tinted moisturizer is skincare. This means that coverage will be pretty sheer and may not be ideal for masking heavy discoloration or blemishes. However, tinted moisturizer is amazing for creating a bright, dewy complexion and evening skin tone. This is also a great lightweight option for summer.

E.l.f. Cosmetics Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20
e.l.f. Cosmetics Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 $3
Perfecting Skin Tint
Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint $26

BB Cream

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 oily skin, use a BB cream with a mattifying effect.

CoverGirl Clean Matte BB Cream $6
Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35 Light/Medium 1 oz/ 30 g
Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream $42

CC Cream

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.

It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream with SPF 50+ - cc creams vs bb creams
IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream With SPF 50+ $39
Cellularose® Moisturizing Cc Cream
By Terry Cellularose Moisturizing CC Cream $86

Any of these foundation formulas can come with SPF, but it's always a good idea to layer sunscreen underneath makeup for extra protection.

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