We Have to Ask, What Is Foundation Made Of?

products on a vanity

Lolita Says So

When we think of the world's oldest types of makeup, visions of kohl eyeliner and rouge lipstick come to mind. While foundation may seem like a new product, it's actually been in play for centuries. In fact, foundation variations have been a beauty standard since ancient Greek and Roman times. Of course, the formulation has changed somewhat (e.g., we no longer use fatal doses of lead), but it's still absolutely worth asking what your foundation is made of. Whether you opt for luminous or matte, here's a quick guide that will make your favorite product's composition a little less opaque.

Types of Foundations

Powder-based foundation relies heavily on powder for its consistency, typically in the form of talc. Other ingredients include pigment (tailored to the hue of the product), emollients, and binding agents that help the foundation adhere to the skin. Some powder-based foundations also include wax, which may be either natural or synthetic.

Water-based foundation utilizes either a combination of oil and water or a blend of water and emollients or fatty alcohols to achieve a lightweight, easy-to-apply consistency.

If you're looking to avoid high-shine, try a water-based foundation. The clay (a common ingredient in the formula) lends a matte finish.

Silicone-based foundation, true to its name, involves a blend of water and silicone as the primary base. While specific formulations tend to vary among products, a few of the most common types of silicone used are dimethicone, polysiloxane, and phenyl trimethicone. Other ingredients that make up this type of foundation include mineral oil, alcohol, and minerals like titanium oxide and zinc oxide.

As anyone who's ever shopped for the ideal foundation can attest, formulas can vary widely, not only in their ingredients but in the way those ingredients play out on one's complexion.

If you're looking to experiment with a new foundation, here are 10 classic formulas we love.

Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation $35

Fenty Beauty revolutionized foundation offerings with a line of over 40 shades.

Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation
Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation $43

Created for television and film, this lightweight formula provides flawless, everyday coverage.

Professional Makeup Total Control Drop Foundation
Nyx Professional Makeup Total Control Drop Foundation $14 $10

Nyx is a go-to brand for affordable, high-quality beauty, and its Total Control foundation provides seamless, buildable coverage.

True Skin Serum Foundation Chios
Ilia True Skin Serum Foundation Chios $54

Ilia's unique foundation toes the line between skincare and makeup.

ColorStay Makeup
Revlon ColorStay Makeup $8

This pick is tailored toward oily and combination skin types.

Luminous Silk Foundation
Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation $64

Giorgio Armani's Luminous Silk Foundation is a standout with its lightweight coverage and highly pigmented formula.

Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation
Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation $8

If you have normal to oily skin, this matte foundation may be your perfect fit. It also minimizes the appearance of pores.

Perfecting Skin Tint
Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint $26

If "no-makeup" makeup is more your style, this is a foundation to add to your makeup bag.

Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation
Nars Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation $49

Nars's Longwear Foundation boasts 16 hours of coverage.

Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Foundation
Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Foundation $40

Urban Decay's Naked Foundation is formulated for combination skin types and provides substantial coverage.

For those looking to discover the very best in ingredient-conscious and environmentally friendly makeup products, here are eight awesome vegan foundations.

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