obsessive tester

The 20 Best Foundations for Dry Skin

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Hanna Flanagan

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Even the best foundations can look off if the texture isn’t compatible with your skin type. 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.

FAQs

What type of foundation is best for dry skin?

“It’s important to find a formula that will glide onto the skin and not grab onto any dryness,” says Amber Dreadon, makeup artist to the likes of Lorde, Karen O, Rita Ora, and more. She suggests using a brush to apply foundation so that it goes on smoothly, before blending it fully into your skin with a damp sponge. Aharon agrees and says a wet beauty blender can help give you a dewier complexion, but if you prefer using zero tools, the warmth of your fingertips works — and can help push moisturizing ingredients deeper into your skin.

Dreadon emphasizes that a moisturized base is just as vital as the foundation itself, so she recommends using a hydrating face spray (she prefers Iris & Romeo Reset Spray), before applying moisturizer on your face to lock in the hydration even further.

What ingredients should I look for?

Dreadon says to look for foundations that contain moisturizing properties and ingredients with humectants to draw moisture to the skin, like natural oils, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid. “Rosehip oil is one of my personal favorites, and squalene is always in my makeup kit!” says makeup artist Lisa Aharon, who has worked with such names as Florence Welch, Rachel Brosnahan, and Jasmine Sanders.

How we tested the best foundations for dry skin.

As a dry-skin girl myself, I put the most reliable foundations in my beauty cabinet — along with several new-to-market formulas and a few cult classics that have been sitting in my shopping cart for months — to the test. I tried foundations with different finishes (matte, natural, and dewy) and coverage levels (light, medium, full, and buildable), as well as drugstore favorites, mid-price options that are available at Sephora and Ulta, and high-end formulas that are infused with luxury skin-care ingredients.

Since all good experiments need a control variable (it’s called science, people!), I kept the process consistent. I did a full-day wear test for every foundation and used the same base products under each one: serum, moisturizer, and my all-time favorite SPF 50 primer by Charlotte Tilbury. Over the top of each foundation, I applied my normal complexion products: concealer, cream bronzer, cream blush, and translucent setting powder on my T-zone. I also took photos after applying each one (and before applying the rest of my makeup).

Throughout the day, I checked for cakiness and made sure nothing was slipping and sliding around my face. I also noted if any of the foundations were transferring, clinging to dry patches, or just feeling uncomfortable on the skin.

The foundations below passed my rigorous test with flying colors and earned the title of “Cut Editor Approved.” If you’re looking for a foundation that will work with your dry skin instead of against it — or you just want your complexion to look dewy and hydrated — these products won’t disappoint.

Our top picks:

The Overall Best Foundation for Dry Skin

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium, buildable | Shades: 24

I’ve tried (what feels like) hundreds of foundation formulas over the years, but I always come back to this one. It’s one of those rare products that never lets me down — even when I’m feeling particularly dry, having a bad makeup day, or struggling with a breakout. The formula goes on smooth and makes you look dewy but never feeling greasy. With coverage that can build from medium to full, SPF 18, and sleek packaging that feels high-quality, the Maybelline Fit Me Dewy + Smooth is a steal with serious staying power and hydrating effects. On Amazon, it’s also the best-rated foundation for dry skin with close to 20,000 five-star ratings. My only complaint? The shade range needs improvement.

The Most Dewy Foundation

Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Medium | Shades: 30

Want that glazed-doughnut look? The Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint is your best bet. It has a dewy finish that feels like nothing, natural ingredients, moisturizing hyaluronic acid, and SPF 40, plus it’s available in 30 shades. For people with extremely dry skin, apply a light layer of this formula to create a long-lasting glow that feels comfortable on the skin. But for me — and anyone else who has dry skin that sometimes leans combination — applying setting powder over top is essential, especially in the hot summer when sweating is inevitable.

The Best Foundation for Long-lasting Hydration

Photo: Hanna Flanagan

Finish: Natural and radiant | Coverage: Medium | Shades: 36

This new formula is perfect for people with dry and textured skin because the star ingredient is Make Up For Ever’s signature Hydra-Skin Booster Complex, which is designed to mimic the smoothing and hydrating effects of a sheet mask. It’s easy to blend and feels lightweight on the skin.

The Best Foundation to Protect Against Blue Light

Photo: Hanna Flanagan

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium | Shades: 36

Featuring a serum-like consistency, this foundation creates a natural, dewy-looking finish. It’s especially great in the summer months or on a beach vacation because it’s easy to apply and covers imperfections without feeling heavy on the skin. It also contains ingredients that will help improve your complexion over time, including Japanese lilyturf for skin-barrier support, biomimetic oat to reduce redness, and cacao peptides to help protect against environmental stressors and blue light.

The Best Lightweight Foundation

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium, buildable | Shades: 48

Selena Gomez’s popular foundation definitely lives up to its name — I would go as far to say it’s one of the most lightweight options on the market. The formula is buildable, buttery smooth, and never clogs my pores while also providing a good amount of coverage. It’s what I reach for when I don’t want to feel like I’m wearing makeup but still want to even out my complexion.

The Best Foundation for Dry Combination Skin

Finish: Natural to satin | Coverage: Medium, buildable | Shades: 42

The Dior Forever Skin is a great middle-of-the-road option that’s not overly dewy but not matte, either. On my skin, it yields a satin finish that I can wear during the day to quickly even out my complexion or build up at night for full coverage. The best part? The finish is so natural-looking that I feel totally confident wearing it sans powder, bronzer, blush, and other products that I usually need to feel somewhat put-together.

The Most Hydrating Foundation

$39

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium | Shades: 30

This medium-coverage foundation has a natural finish that lasts all day long. It’s infused with hydrating hyaluronic acid, so it never clings to dry patches or feels tight on the skin (no matter how many times I touch up with powder throughout the day). When I wear this formula, I’m always pleasantly surprised by how youthful and supple my complexion looks. Even if I haven’t been keeping up with my at-home face masks and skin-care treatments, this foundation makes it seem like I have. The brand claims it helps plump the skin … and it’s not wrong.

More options:

The Best Viral Foundation

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium, buildable | Shades: 30

You’ve probably seen this new Laura Mercier product all over TikTok, and the hype is real. It blends effortlessly, seamlessly melting into the skin in seconds, especially when applied with the equally-viral Makeup Forever 108 Straight Brush. A little goes a long way, plus the waterproof formula lasts stays put for up to 12 hours without separating, looking cake-y, or feeling heavy. In fact, reviewers say it leaves the skin feeling healthy and hydrated.

The Best Clean Foundation for Dry Skin

Saie’s serum-like, glow-enhancing complexion products are a dream for folks with dry skin — and this weightless foundation is no exception. The star ingredient, hydrobounce™ complex, is five times more hydrating than traditional hyaluronic acid.

The Best Skin Tint for Deep Skin Tones

Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Light, buildable | Shades: 16

Skin tints have come a long way over the years. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all shades that … don’t actually fit all. This modern version from Black-owned brand Danessa Myricks has a wide range of options for light, medium, and dark skin tones. It has a good amount of coverage compared to traditional skin tints, plus it’s infused with dry-skin-friendly ingredients like ceramides, peptides, and cactus extract.

The Best Light Coverage Foundation

Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Light to medium | Shades: 20

This liquid formula leaves you with a dewy (but not wet-looking) complexion, and Aharon loves it because the first ingredient listed is squalane. For those who like their makeup and skin care to go hand in hand, it also improves firmness, texture, and radiance over time. Finish it off with setting powder if you like less shine, or skip it to embrace the glistening Twilight look.

The Best Foundation Stick for Dry Skin

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium to full, buildable | Shades: 11

Creamy and easy to apply, this foundation blurs pores for an overall smoother and glowier 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 Best Oil-Free Foundation for Dry Skin

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium | Shades: 40

Despite being on the pricier side, Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk is a cult favorite, and rightfully so. The fluid texture is lightweight and melts into skin without settling into any lines or clinging to dry patches. It blends seamlessly, making it the perfect base for the rest of your makeup routine. Dreadon also notes that it’s a great medium-coverage option that never looks cakey. I have large pores and tend to get greasy in my T-zone, so I appreciate the fact that Luminious Silk has a nice blurring effect and an oil-free formula. There’s a reason it’s been a favorite among celebrity makeup artists and beauty gurus for years!

The Best Foundation for Mature Skin

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Medium | Shades: 30

The lightweight, water-based formula makes this Laura Mercier foundation ideal for mature skin because it doesn’t settle into fine lines and is so easy to apply. It’s one of those rare foundations that melts into the skin with a single swipe of a brush or sponge, so I never have to spend extra time working it into my skin or tugging on my face while blending. It never separates or emphasizes my texture when I pair it with other products in my beauty arsenal, so it’s perfect for those of us who like to mix “foundation cocktails” to create our dream shade and formula.

The Best Tinted Face Oil

Finish: Sheer | Coverage: Light | Shades: 16

When the weather starts to get blustery, you’ll be extra grateful for this tinted face oil. It works just like a regular oil, sealing in the moisture, but also has a very slight, flattering tint.

The Best Tinted Sunscreen

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Light | Shades: 17

For a lightweight foundation to throw, or rather hurriedly smear, on before you run out the door, this Tower 28 formula with reef-safe SPF 30 will do the trick. It’s lightweight enough for a natural finish while still giving you the coverage you need. Dreadon recommends it if you want your skin to look hydrated — thanks to its mix of glycerin and acids — but not too made up.

The Best Foundation for Summer

Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Light to medium | Shades: 17

An expensive option that’s worth the money is Chanel’s liquid foundation. The formula is extremely lightweight and has a watery consistency, so it’s refreshing, easy to apply, and great for tropical vacations or hot summer nights that call for fuss-free makeup. It yields medium coverage that looks like a second skin — but better and luminous instead of tired, dry, and pasty. If you want fresh and healthy-looking skin, this is your best bet. Pro tip: Make sure to shake before using to prevent the thin formula from separating.

The Best Full Coverage Foundation for Dry Skin

Finish: Natural | Coverage: Full | Shades: 22

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 contains SPF 50+. It offers a flawless, full coverage finish that never looks cakey — especially when applied with the IT Cosmetic’s cult-favorite Airbrush Blurring Foundation Brush.

The Best Longwear Foundation for Dry Skin

Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Full | Shades: 34

NARS claims this foundation lasts for 16 hours, and we can attest that, 14 hours later, ours still looked fresh. Of the foundations tested here, this one offers among the  fullest coverage— but it doesn’t dry down flat or masklike. A little goes a long way — and it may even eliminate your need for a follow-up concealer.

The Best Luxury Foundation for Dry Skin

Finish: Radiant | Coverage: Sheer, buildable | Shades: 15

Yes, $270 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 ingredients list is loaded with skin-plumping extracts and antioxidants) and take the display-worthy packaging into consideration, the price tag makes more sense. The formula is so creamy and goes on incredibly smooth, so 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 thick, liquid-gel formula goes a very long way, so consider it a skin-care investment. Word to the wise: Dreadon says Clé de Peau’s radiant fluid foundation gives you flawless, hydrated-looking skin for half the price.

20 Foundations Your Dry Skin Won’t Hate