How to Pick the Perfect Foundation for You
Find your foundation match
Mousse? Stick? BB cream? Navigating the foundation aisle can be intimidating, and if you choose the wrong one, you could end up looking about as natural as a Real Housewife. But we've got you covered. Put your best face forward with this foolproof guide to choosing the best foundation for you.
At the store, grab three samples: one that seems to match your skin, one a shade lighter and one a shade darker. Apply each, let dry, then choose the one that disappears. No testers? Hold bottles under your jaw.
The benefits: Whipped versions—a mix of powder and emollients—deliver the best results for combination to oily skin, as most have a matte to semi-matte effect. "They feel weightless, thanks to the air-light texture," says celeb makeup artist Melanie Mills. First rub a bit between your fingertips; it'll warm up, spread more evenly and melt into skin for a seamless finish.
One to try: Marc Jacobs Beauty Marvelous Mousse Transformative Foundation, $55; marcjacobsbeauty.com.
The benefits: Fabulous for mature skin, serum foundations soften discoloration and help make wrinkles less obvious, since the barely-there texture won't settle into fine lines and emphasize them. Also lovable: Many contain anti-aging and brightening ingredients. Just note that they're too sheer to camouflage blemishes or scars.
One to try: BareMinerals BareSkin Serum Foundation SPF 20, $48; qvc.com.
The benefits: Portable, easy to apply, foolproof: check, check, check! "The creamy texture glides on, and the high concentration of pigment offers heavy-duty coverage and staying power," explains celebrity makeup artist Julianne Kaye. Swipe across your forehead, over each cheek, down your nose and on your chin, then blend. Or simply cover flaws.
One to try: Revlon PhotoReady Insta-Fix Makeup, $14; at mass retailers.
The benefits: Rich and pudding-like, it hides everything from blemishes to dark circles. Because it's oil-based and thickish, Mills notes, pigment stays truer longer (no risk of looking blotchy at the 3 p.m. office meeting). Plus, it leaves a dewy finish, especially flattering on women with drier skin. Use a pea-size amount; a little goes a long way.
One to try: Clarins Extra Comfort Anti-Aging Foundation SPF 15, $62; clarins.com.
Liquid to Powder
The benefits: These long-lasting, mattifying foundations are a godsend for those with oily skin. Upon contact, the fluid transforms into a velvety, powder-like texture that absorbs oil and blurs imperfections. "Superfine particles give excellent coverage without the extra weight," Kaye says. Be sure to blend in fast, as it dries almost immediately.
One to try: Lancôme Nude Miracle Liquid-to-Powder Makeup, $42; sephora.com.
The benefits: Perfect for when you don't feel like wearing makeup or prefer a totally au naturel effect. These skin quenchers hold just enough pigment to even out skin tone and boost radiance without the look or feel of foundation. "They virtually disappear for the most natural finish—like your skin, only better," Kaye says.
One to try: Philosophy No Reason to Hide Instant Skin-Tone Perfecting Moisturizer SPF 20, $45; philosophy.com.
Sheer to full
The benefits: Liquid foundations offer the most versatility and control: "They're easy to blend and can be layered to any level of coverage," Mills says. Plus, there are options for all skin types, from mattifying to moisturizing. "When in doubt, choose liquid," Kaye says. For full opacity, buff in with a brush. To go sheer, use a damp sponge.
One to try: Estée Lauder Perfectionist Youth-Infusing Makeup SPF 25, $45; esteelauder.com.
Sheer to moderate
The benefits: Originating in Korea and trending here, cushion compacts (also known as air cushions) contain a superthin fluid foundation in a spongy holder. Because of the soluble formula, you can layer it without risking cake face, making it ideal for touch-ups. Press into skin with a makeup sponge for a thin, even layer of coverage.
One to try: IT Cosmetics CC+ Veil Beauty Fluid Foundation SPF 50+, $38; ulta.com.
Sheer to moderate
The benefits: Short for "beauty balms," BBs are the ultimate multitaskers: They pack pigment, hydrators, anti-agers and sunscreen in one tube. Count on the hybrids to even out your tone and enhance radiance, without making you look like you're wearing coverage. "Great for everyday use, they sit light on skin and typically have a silky finish," Kaye says.
One to try: MAC Cosmetics Prep + Prime BB Beauty Balm SPF 35, $34; maccosmetics.com.
Sheer to full
The Benefits: Loose pigments soak up shine, smooth out texture and soften the appearance of flaws. These powders are a go-to for many women with sensitive skin because they're free of chemicals and fragrance. Set with a hydrating mist to add glow. Avoid them if your skin is on the parched side, as they can be drying.
One to try: Eve Lom Natural Radiance Mineral Powder Foundation, $50; neimanmarcus.com.