Why is your skin so good? A dedicated skin-care routine certainly helps, but sometimes a really good foundation is the unsung hero behind that pristine glow. Foundations have come a long way from the days when they could all be described like pastries (“cakey,” “flaky,” “powdery”). Today’s formulas have nailed that your-skin-but-better finish, and the 19 below are the best of the best. Whether you’re looking for full coverage or a no-makeup-makeup filter, these foundations will leave you feeling confident — and looking like yourself at the same time.
The Best Drugstore Foundation
This is the internet’s overwhelming favorite drugstore foundation. The reviews are extensive (over 3,000 on Ulta and over 86,000 on Amazon), and they’re all full of compliments. People praise its varied shade range (it has 40 options, just like Fenty) and its long-lasting and smoothing abilities. Even though it has a matte finish and will conceal blemishes quickly, it won’t make your face look like plaster. Plus, it’s very affordable.
The Best Luxury Foundation
If money is no object, this is the best foundation you can buy. It’s velvety smooth, blends seamlessly into skin with zero stickiness, and makes your face look pretty much perfect in a natural, well-hydrated, person-with-disposable-income-for-pricey-skin-care-products kind of way. Though it’s regularly used by makeup artists for red-carpet appearances, its application is surprisingly foolproof for the rest of us, too. And, it’s one of the most popular auto-refill beauty products.
The Foundation Rihanna Created
If you find yourself “lookin’ busted” (Rihanna’s words, not ours) for whatever reason, try the full-coverage foundation that launched a million shades. The formula feels lightweight on the skin but puts in the work, leaving your entire face with a soft, matte, airbrushed finish all day long, like it has never met a pore in its life. And if shade-matching has been a longtime struggle, Rih’s got you: Pro Filt’r comes in 50 different shades, so you don’t have to settle for “close enough.”
The Best Lightweight Foundation
If your past experiences with foundation can be generally summed up as “cakey,” this formula will help make amends. It’s comfortable, flexible, and melts onto skin, like those sleek, liquid-looking leggings that are so comfy and cooling you convince yourself they are indeed pants so you can wear them all day. You can easily wear this foundation all day without rationalizing; it has SPF for when the sun is still up, and a fresh-looking glow that will still be there when the sun is long gone.
The Best Foundation for Combination Skin
Moms have loved this classic foundation since it debuted in 1997. In the years since, the company has only made it better, adding an extended shade range (numbering 56 shades and counting). It’s oil-free, matte, and blends easily; reviewers praise it as looking especially flawless on combination/oily skin. It’s rumored to last a full 24 hours, so it should easily cover the workday and beyond.
The Best Clean Foundation
Ever since Rose-Marie Swift launched RMS, she’s perfected this magic balance of clean and nourishing formulations with seriously dewy payoff. A few small strategically placed dabs of this rich creamy foundation, anchored by Swift’s signature cold-centrifuged coconut oil, are enough to cover an entire face. It’s soft enough to let your fingers do the blending. The glow it imparts will make you wonder how you managed to live without this stuff.
The Best Skin-Care/Foundation Hybrid
The skin-care ingredients in this foundation (aloe-leaf extract, jojoba oil, mastic) support founder Sasha Plavsic’s belief that taking care of your complexion is a double-duty job. Its liquid formula, which comes in 18 shades, is better for those who prefer light to medium coverage, but it’s easily buildable should you need more or want more.
The One That Feels Like A Tint
If you love your favorite face oil but wish it also had the slightest tint, your dream product is right here. The only tinted face oil on the market that we know of, this makes your skin feel velvety and even cancels out redness. It’s ideal for beauty minimalists who don’t want a complicated routine, and it comes in 16 shades.
The Best Full-Coverage Foundation
This is the foundation universally beloved by drag queens, sexy older ladies, and anyone who wants their skin to look otherworldly. This isn’t a light foundation — it will completely cover every pore, whether it has a blemish or not. But the thick formula feels pretty weightless and is easily blendable. It will absolutely make your skin look filtered, and it comes in 44, wide-ranging shades.
The Best Foundation for Rich-People Skin
If you want a foundation that your grandma, mom, and fancy aunt will also all love, it’s this one. The soft blurring action makes skin of all ages look flawless, glowy, and bright. It gives a refined, nurtured quality to skin that makes it look expensive. Despite the luxury price point, a little goes a long way and the results last all day.
The Everyday Favorite
It calls itself a CC cream, but friends know to call it a foundation. Although the formula might look alarmingly thick right out of the tube, it blends with very little effort to make skin look airbrushed. And since it’s a sort of hybrid product, you can use it to quickly buff over redness, under-eye circles, and blemishes. The best part: It works well on all skin types, including those with eczema and psoriasis.
The Foundation Meghan Markle Uses
This is the foundation that goes best with a tiara. Worn by Meghan Markle on her wedding day, it gives a pretty, believable skin-brightening effect. And the feel is very light, almost like that of a tinted moisturizer. It also comes in a convenient and secure squeeze top, making it great to tote around for travel.
The Best OG Foundation
In the early days, Bobbi Brown was one of the first makeup artists to create a diverse foundation range, with 30 shades. The undertones were just right, so it quickly became a favorite of Oprah and Naomi Campbell (she was shade #8). The foundation is still a big hit backstage and among makeup artists for its easy, blendable coverage that looks like real skin.
The One That Can Replace Everything in Your Skin-Care Regimen (Except Soap)
Let’s say you’re tired of applying serum, then moisturizer, then foundation, then sunscreen (or would that be sunscreen, then foundation?), or maybe you just want more room in your medicine cabinet. This medium-coverage base has a host of ingredients that emulate what all of the aforementioned products do — but also contains enough pigments to be a foundation. And if all that isn’t enough, its formula is clean.
The Airbrushlike Foundation That Won’t Budge
Gucci Beauty’s medium-coverage liquid foundation instantly leaves everyone questioning if your skin is really that perfect. A few pumps leaves the complexion smooth sans lines, marks, or anything else, giving it an airbrushlike finish that never gets oily, even on combination skin. Asia Milia Ware, the Cut’s fashion-and-beauty junior writer, says that she receives compliments every time she wears this foundation. She especially loves to wear it for Sunday brunch because it doesn’t budge through bottomless mimosas.
The Best Foundation with SPF
Before this product even launched, it already had a wait list of more than 2,500 people. Blended with mineral sunscreen SPF 30, this light coverage foundation leaves no cast, has a flawless, natural finish, and was formulated to seamlessly match even those hard-to-match undertones. It is also perfect for Zooms and excess screen time since the formulation includes prickly-pear extract, which allegedly helps protect against blue-light pollution.
The Best Foundation for Dry Skin
Dry skin calls for a heavily moisturizing, satinlike foundation, and that’s how this liquid makes the skin feel (and look). It is also full coverage and leaves a luminous finish. Multiple reviewers dub it their “holy grail” and turn to it for the natural finish, along with the radiance it provides even for the driest complexions.
The Foundation That’s a Surprisingly Perfect Match
Unlike most liquid foundations, this one comes with a wand applicator, which makes blending the serumlike foundation incredibly easy. With its 48-shade range, reviewers with darker skin tones have found that its rich pigmentation blends well with complexions. It also has a super-lightweight consistency with a medium-coverage finish.
This article was originally published February 9, 2021. It has been updated throughout. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.