What Is Sheer Foundation and Who Should Use It?

Black woman with no-makeup makeup look

Rosdiana Ciaravolo / Getty Images 

When you hear about different types of foundations, "sheer foundation" is always in the mix. But what exactly is sheer foundation? And more importantly, should you bag your current foundation for it?

Sheer foundation is one of the most common and popular forms of foundation, since it glides on smoothly, giving skin the coveted no-makeup makeup look without the heaviness of a traditional foundation. Because it won't mask your natural skin, it's a great bet for women who want just enough coverage to create an even skin texture.

And in warm weather conditions, a light sheer foundation can even out the skin tone without a mask-like feeling and possibly improve skin depending on the ingredients. For added benefits, you'll want to look for formulas with vitamin C, vitamin A, and hyaluronic acid. 

But sheer foundation is not everyone's cup of tea. Read on to learn more.

What Makes Sheer Foundation So Sheer?

Sheer foundations are usually made with silicone, which is why they glide on so beautifully. Unlike heavier foundations (think cream foundations or stick foundations), sheer foundation won't give you "cake face" if you apply too liberally. In fact, you can build up coats of sheer foundation if you choose, but you'll want to have the right tools to build out the coverage. We recommend a damp Beautyblender (or makeup sponge) to create a natural finish. 

Who Should Buy Sheer Foundation?

Sheer foundation works best on women with normal to dry skin. They also work beautifully on mature skin because the product won't settle into fine lines or wrinkles.

So who isn't it for? You don't have to count sheer foundation out entirely if your skin is less than perfect or on the oily side, but if you want to cover up acne or rosacea, you might consider a heavier formula. In the event you still want to give a sheer foundation a try, having a good concealer on deck will change the game. With the right concealer, you can cancel hyperpigmentation spots that peek through a sheer foundation without caking on too much product.  

If you have oily skin, the silicone in sheer foundation may make your skin feel too oily. Try an oil-free foundation instead, and don't forget to prime the skin before applying your foundation, as that will help keep the oil at bay. Many brands of sheer foundations contain SPF, which gives you the added benefit of sun protection, but experts recommend supplementing with sunscreen unless the SPF is 40 or above.

Favorite Sheer Foundations

Here are a few amazing sheer foundations to consider adding to your makeup bag.

NARS Sheer Glow Foundation
NARS Sheer Glow Foundation $47

Infused with vitamin C and turmeric, NARS Sheer Glow Foundation has a buildable formula that is ideal for those who want lightweight foundation coverage that keeps skin at its best. 

Laura Mercier Silk Creme Oil-Free Foundation
Laura Mercier Silk Crème Oil-Free Photo Edition Foundation $48

If your skin is combination or oily, Laura Mercier's oil-free formula serves up a mattifying formula that helps smooths imperfections while letting your skin shine through. 

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

With hyaluronic spheres, silica powders, and sericite that hydrate, blur, and smooth, this foundation is ideal for dry or mature skin. Not to mention, with a range of 50 shades, everyone should be able to meet their match. 

Dior skin Nude Air Ultra-Fluid Serum Foundation SPF 25
Dior Diorskin Nude Air Ultra-Fluid Serum Foundation SPF 25 $53

Diorskin's talc-free sheer foundation is a great option for those with sensitive skin types. We can't forget about the dropper design as it makes it simple to apply just what you need. 

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