The Best Vegan Foundations Are Also Next-level Amazing

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Commerce Photo Composite

Byrdie / Lecia Landis

The beauty world has been hyper-focused on ingredients for quite some time. More and more companies are coming out with their own criteria defining ‘clean beauty,’ and space has never been more saturated. So it can seem admittedly confusing and counterintuitive that there are brands still testing cosmetics on animals. It’s been banned in the EU and many other countries, but it’s still a big problem globally, especially in China (where many companies sell products). Argh.

The good news? There is a growing number of brands going totally cruelty-free, which means that not only is animal testing a no-go, their formulas are also vegan. Think alternatives to common animal ingredients like beeswax, and the certifications to prove it. And while foundation may not be the first category you think of when you think of cruelty-free beauty, there are lots of great vegan foundations out there. Not only are they animal friendly, but they also have some innate added benefits that come along with them. Vegan foundations often include nourishing, plant-based ingredients that deliver great benefits for your skin, while also giving you the coverage that you need, says Jo Levy, a conscious beauty artist, and educator. She adds that many of them also intersect with both the clean beauty and sustainability spaces, a good choice for those looking to either minimize questionable ingredients and/or their impact on the environment.

Ahead, our favorite vegan foundations you’re sure to love.

Best Overall: Exa High Fidelity Foundation

4.5
PFAS-free makeup

Exa

What We Like
  • Contains protective microalgae actives

  • Gives a natural glow

  • Buildable

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to apply

Who else recommends it? Cosmopolitan also picked the Exa High Fidelity Foundation.

What do buyers say? 300+ Credo Beauty reviewers rated this product 4.6 stars or above.

One of Levy’s favorites, this has, “a satin finish and buildable, medium to full coverage that never appears cakey on the skin,” she says. We couldn’t agree more; the base has held a permanent spot in our makeup bag since it first launched last year. The first private label from clean beauty pioneer Credo, you can feel confident knowing that the formula is squeaky clean as well. Levy also lauds the “extensive and incredible” shade range, which includes 43 hues with varying undertones, including lots of options for dark skin.

Coverage: Sheer to Full | Shade Range: Fair to Deep Dark | Finish: Semi-Satin | Size: 1.1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Drugstore: CoverGirl Fresh Skin Milk Foundation

Covergirl Fresh Skin Milk Foundation
What We Like
  • Includes soothing aloe

  • Very moisturizing

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Smell may be overpowering to some

This brand made history a few years ago when it announced that all of its products were now going to be cruelty-free, vegan, and even Leaping Bunny certified, no small feat for such a massive company. In short, they have tons of vegan foundations to choose from, but this is our current favorite—lightweight, perfectly dewy, and with the ability to gently blur away the look of flaws like none other.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: Porcelain to Dark | Finish: Dewy | Size: 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: Flower Beauty Get Real Serum Foundation

Flower Beauty Get Real Serum Foundation
What We Like
  • Made from an antioxidant serum blend

  • Wallet-friendly

  • Produces glowing hydration

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't layer very well

You don’t have to shell out the big bucks to find a great, vegan foundation. A fraction of the price of many others, this wallet-friendly version gives you even more bang for your buck because it has an antioxidant serum mixed right in. Combine that with the light coverage and adaptable pigments (there are only 16 shades available, but each one works with a wide range of skin tones), and you have yourself a foundation that makes your complexion appear naturally perfected, almost instantly.

Coverage: Light to Medium | Shade Range: Ivory to Deepest Dark | Finish: Natural | Size: 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Sheer Coverage: Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint

Perfecting Skin Tint

 Courtesy og Glossier

What We Like
  • Breathable

  • Evens out skin's appearance

  • Gives a brightening, soft-focus effect 

What We Don't Like
  • Not for sensitive and acne-prone skin

This is the complexion perfector to reach for when you want just the slightest, sheerest wash of coverage, but don’t want it to look (or feel) like you’re wearing any makeup at all. The aptly-named product does indeed deliver just a bit of tint, in an ultra-thin formula that makes skin look super glowy; credit diamond powder in the formula. It’s also fragrance-free, a boon for those with sensitive skin.

Coverage: Sheer, Light | Shade Range: Fair to Deep Dark | Finish: Dewy | Size: 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Medium Coverage: ILIA True Skin Serum Foundation

4.4
default image
What We Like
  • Minimizes pores

  • Promotes a youthful complexion

  • Mattifies and refines skin throughout day

What We Don't Like
  • Can become flaky once dry

For those who prefer their foundation coverage to fall right in the middle of the spectrum, this base is perfect. It’s a classic, medium-coverage, pigmented enough to totally conceal what needs concealing, but not so much that your skin doesn’t show through ever-so-slightly. (The radiant finish helps ensure it never veers into the mask-like territory.) It’s also packed with tons of soothing and hydrating plant-based ingredients. 

Coverage: Light to Medium | Shade Range: Extra Light to Extra Deep | Finish: Natural, Radiant | Size: 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Full Coverage: Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation SPF 15

Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation

Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • SPF 15 provides UV protection

  • Glides on like silk

  • Waterproof

What We Don't Like
  • Settles into fine lines and wrinkles

When you want a full-on foundation that you can feel certain isn’t going anywhere, reach for this guy. Matte but never flat, it touts the brand’s signature Amazonian Clay for the best, most long-lasting wear—we’re talking up to 12 hours worth of coverage. Emollient vitamin E ensures it feels smooth and creamy going on...and stays that way, no matter how long you wear it. And as an added benefit, you do get that little extra dose of SPF, too.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: Fair to Deep | Finish: Natural Matte | Size: 1.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best with Skincare Benefits: Kosas Cosmetics Tinted Face Oil

4
Kosas Tinted Face Oil Foundation

Kosas

What We Like
  • Made from plant-based oils

  • Deeply hydrating

  • Featherweight

  • 10-second application

What We Don't Like
  • Not long-lasting

This option is proof positive of Levy’s point about many vegan foundations containing good-for-your-skin ingredients. It’s one of her favorites, both for the serum-like texture, perfectly photo-finished effect, and lightweight feel. Plant-based oils—avocado, red raspberry, and rosehip—work wonders for your skin, and it’s also an easily customizable formula. “Use only a few drops for a tinted moisturizer-like effect or four or more drops for medium coverage,” she says.

Coverage: Medium | Shade Range: Porcelain to Ultimate Deep Dark | Finish: Satin | Size: 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Radiant: Too Faced Born This Way Foundation

4.3
Too Faced Born This Way Foundation

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • No flashback

  • Replenishes skin's moisture levels

  • Supports skin's health

What We Don't Like
  • May feel greasy to some

Make no mistake, there’s no shimmer in this formula. Instead, the natural finish is somehow perfectly skin-like, making for the most natural radiance there is. Credit the addition of hydrating ingredients such as coconut water and hyaluronic acid in the oil-free foundation, which still delivers enough pigment to help cover anything you want to be covered.

Coverage: Medium to Full | Shade Range: Fairest to Rich | Finish: Flawless | Size: 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

"I found Too Faced's Born This Way Foundation to be really impressive: it didn’t take much to achieve even coverage, the product felt comfortable on, and my skin had a natural finish that mimicked its best days." — Khera Alexander, Product Tester

Best Matte: Milk Makeup Blur Liquid Matte Foundation

Milk Makeup Blur Liquid Matte Foundation

Courtesy of Milk

What We Like
  • Supports skin's natural elasticity and suppleness

  • Filled with antioxidants

  • True to color

What We Don't Like
  • May settle into pores

The name says it all. This oil-free, silicone-free formula is lightweight and water-based, yet delivers a surprising level of full-on coverage. The matte finish is enhanced by the addition of powder-filled microspheres that work to even so effectively (yet naturally) blur away the look of prominent pores and other imperfections, making the result appear perfect.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: Very Fair to Deepest | Finish: Matte | Size: 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Stick: Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick

Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick
What We Like
  • Combats redness

  • Only contains natural ingredients

  • Restores suppleness

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

“This delivers natural, adjustable coverage and works beautifully for those with normal to dry skin, thanks to moisture-boosting ingredients that melt into skin,” says Levy of another one of her favorites. (Think coconut oil and vegetable-derived squalane, just to name a few.) A girl after our own heart—you know how much we love stick formulas of any kind—she adds that the solid formula makes it easy to apply wherever it’s needed, then blend in with your fingertips. 

Coverage: Luminous, Adjustable | Shade Range: Neutral to Warm | Finish: Radiant, Natural | Size: 0.31 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dry Skin: KVD Beauty Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Hydrating Foundation Balm

4.8
KVD Beauty Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Hydrating Foundation Balm

Sephora

What We Like
  • Buildable

  • Non-cakey

  • Fully recyclable

  • Goes into effect quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Feels a bit heavy

For those with perpetually parched skin, this pick is choice. Hydrating sodium hyaluronate gives it an ultra-creamy feel, though, unlike many other hydrating formulas, it’s unique in that it touts a matte (rather than luminous) finish. The coverage is buildable though on the fuller side, and, as a nice extra perk, the packaging is totally recyclable.

Coverage: Full | Shade Range: Very Fair to Very Deep | Finish: Matte | Size: 0.35 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Oily Skin: Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation

Natural Finish Foundation G20 1 oz/ 30 mL
What We Like
  • 12-hour coverage

  • Gives a second-skin finish

  • Easy to apply

What We Don't Like
  • Sinks into the pores

The fact that many vegan foundations are oil-based can be potentially problematic for those with oily skin, who really don’t want to add any more oil into their skincare or makeup routines. Enter this alternative, which is water-based, so there’s no need to stress about slick spots. Still, it imparts 12 hours worth of hydration (because even oily skin needs that) and 12 hours of wear time, too.

Coverage: Buildable | Shade Range: Fairest to Deepest Rich | Finish: Natural | Size: 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

There are more vegan foundations out there than ever before. We can’t stop obsessing over the Exa High Fidelity Foundation (and many makeup artists feel the same way), a vegan, skin-loving, and clean formula that’s incredibly versatile. At the drugstore, pick up the COVERGIRL Clean Fresh Skin Milk Foundation; FYI, all of the brands’ products are now vegan. Those who love sticks should check out the Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick, while anyone who needs full coverage from their base will appreciate the super-pigmented Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage SPF 15.

What to Look For In a Vegan Foundation


The Leaping Bunny Certification

According to Levy, seeking out this external seal of validation is the easiest way to ensure that a product is both truly vegan and cruelty-free. (She adds that it can usually be found on the side or back of the packaging.)


Beeswax alternatives

Beeswax is the ingredient in many traditional foundations that gives them their slip and smooth texture when applying. Look for vegan alternatives—candelilla wax, carnuba wax—if you want to make sure your base will glide seamlessly onto skin, suggests Levy.

FAQ
  • Are vegan foundations really vegan?

    Yes. For verification, make sure the product has the Leaping Bunny certification. But true vegan formulas are certified to contain no animal-derived ingredients, like carmine, beeswax, lanolin, honey, and many others.

  • Does vegan mean cruelty-free?

    Yes. In a nutshell, all vegan products are cruelty-free, but not all cruelty-free products are vegan. While cruelty-free means the product and its ingredients were not tested on animals, it may still contain animal-derived ingredients. Vegan products contain no animal ingredients or animal byproducts and were not tested on animals.

  • Is vegan foundation good for your skin?

    There shouldn't be too much of a difference between a non-vegan and vegan foundation as far as skincare benefits. Some, like non-vegan foundations, are oil-based, which can be problematic for acne-prone skin. If your skin is prone to breakouts, you'll want to look for an oil-free, water-based foundation, like the pick for oily skin on this list, Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation.

How We Researched & Tested

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. An avid animal lover (she holds a special affinity in her heart for rescue dogs), she vehemently opposes any kind of animal testing, and makes it a point to use exclusively vegan beauty products as much as possible.

Meet the Expert

Conscious beauty artist and educator Jo Levy has spent nearly two decades working in the beauty industry. Working with brands such as Armani, Laura Mercier, Bobbi Brown, and BECCA Cosmetics, Levy has extensive experience in the bridal and editorial space.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any vegan foundations from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. 15 Best Vegan Makeup Brands and Products to Shop Right Now. Cosmopolitan. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/g38015876/best-vegan-makeup/

Related Stories