Even the best foundations can look off if the texture isn’t compatible with your skin. When your complexion is dry, the wrong base can settle into fine lines, accentuate peach fuzz, and latch onto skin flakes. That’s where hydrating formulas come in. Often packed with oils and acids, these picks promise to soothe skin, moisturize without making you look oily, and photograph well.
I tested many options, with both matte and dewy finishes, to see which could hide imperfections on my parched skin without looking like a heavy layer of spackle. Read on to see which ones resulted in the most radiant, natural-looking skin, and which fell short.
The Amazon Favorite
The name doesn’t lie: This formula goes on smooth and makes you look dewy. With buildable coverage, SPF 18, and a sleek pump applicator, this option is a steal that impressed me with its staying power and hydrating effects. On Amazon, it’s also the best-rated foundation for dry skin with close to 5,000 five-star reviews.
The Best Value Foundation For Dry Skin
I prefer to apply my foundation with a brush or a sponge, but I swiped L’Oréal’s stick on my face straight from the tube and blended it with my fingers. The formula was creamy and glided onto my skin. I found it successful at blurring my pores for a smoother and glow-ier complexion. Expect medium coverage, enough to hide imperfections without looking like you’re wearing an opaque mask. The stick application also makes it easy to touch up on the go. The only thing I found less easy was covering my neck area.
The One That’s Great for Monday Mornings
This foundation hydrated my skin and gave me a smooth, even texture. The light formula provided medium-level coverage that didn’t feel like “too much” for a Monday morning. I applied it using a damp sponge. The result was similar to my usual daytime tinted sunscreen but with longer-lasting coverage. I felt confident enough to skip using any concealer, bronzer, and blush.
The One With the Most Extensive Shade Range
This foundation comes in a range of 50 shades. Sephora reviewers with dry and oily skin alike praise it for its ability to give pretty, natural-looking skin with a matte finish. It’s also oil-free and has SPF 15.
The One That Has Everything
Imagine if your favorite moisturizer also had full coverage that lasted all day. With its creamy texture, this is the foundation that feels most like a straight-up moisturizer. In addition to effortlessly covering up redness and eczema, it also has SPF 50+.
The Long-standing Favorite
Despite being on the pricier side, Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk is a cult favorite, and rightfully so. The fluid texture is lightweight and melted into my skin without settling into any lines or clinging to dry patches. I experimented with shade 5.5, which is slightly too deep for my pale complexion, but even so, it blended seamlessly, giving me a dewy glow that lasted all day. I looked like I had just returned from a sunny escape when I was actually fighting a head cold.
The Luxurious-But-Worth-It Pick
An expensive option that’s worth the money is Chanel’s liquid foundation. The formula is extremely lightweight, with a watery consistency. It yielded medium coverage that looked like a second skin — but better and luminous instead of tired, dry, and pasty. All day my skin appeared even and dewy, like I had just come from getting a facial.
The Longest Lasting Foundation
NARS claims this foundation lasts for 16 hours, and 14 hours later mine still looked fresh, except for a small area around my nose. Of all the ones tested here, this one offers the fullest coverage. While it provided more of a base than I’m used to, it was not flat or masklike, and it erased dark shadows under my eyes, eliminating the need for concealer. In fact, I think it faded slightly and actually looked better as the day wore on. It’s easy to waste product with this one; the tiniest bit was enough to cover my entire face.
The Photo-Ready One
This foundation offers full coverage with a matte finish. I attempted to sheer it out with a damp sponge, but it was still heavier than I was used to. But it didn’t streak or cake up on dry areas. I would try this again for a wedding or any photo-heavy occasion where I wanted a long-wear formula without too much of a sheen.
The One That Feels Like a Tint
What I love most about YSL’s Touche Éclat foundation is that it looks and feels like there’s barely anything there. It gave a hint of coverage that was perfect for everyday wear. The moisturizing formula isn’t too watery, and left me with a light-reflecting glow that lasted all day.
The Best Natural Foundation
It seems like a lot to ask for: dewy coverage that feels like nothing, natural ingredients, moisture, and SPF. But this product has them all, and it comes in 18 shades.
The One That Feels Like a Face Oil
The Fullest Coverage Foundation
Despite being the fullest coverage foundation, this won’t feel dry or look cakey on the skin. Instead, it gives a Saran-wrapped, almost doll-like quality to pores, gliding effortlessly over pimples and dark eye circles to make your whole face look airbrushed. It even comes in 44 shades. Just make sure you double cleanse after wearing.
The Best For Darker Skin Tones
One of the first beauty brands intended specifically for people of color, Fashion Fair is back and at Sephora. This stick foundation comes in 16 shades, and reviewers praise it for being lightweight, creamy, and easy to blend without enlarging the appearance of pores.
The Glowiest Foundation
I love this new option from Dior so much I used it again and again. It blended easily, erasing pink areas around my nose, cheeks, and chin, and didn’t cling to dryness or sink into lines. The result was glow-y and healthy skin that looked even but not like I was wearing heavy makeup. I applied it with a damp sponge for medium coverage.
The Most Luxurious
Yes, $250 for a single makeup item is steep. But, if you think of Clé de Peau’s foundation as the luxury skin-care product that it is (the ingredient list is loaded with skin-plumping extracts and antioxidants), the price tag makes more sense. The formula goes on so smoothly there’s almost no need to use a sponge or brush (but I still did). In fact, the box directs you to apply it with your hands, like you would a skin cream. Any brown spots or redness around my nose and chin vanished instantly with only minimal blending. It left my skin radiant in all the right places, almost as if I had used a highlighter. Also, a few tiny dots of the liquid-gel formula goes a very long way, so consider it a skin-care investment.
This article was originally published January 25, 2019. It has been updated throughout. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.