For more of the Cut’s favorite fashion, beauty, and home finds, sign up for the weekly Cut Shop Newsletter.
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”).
As beauty editors, we can confidently say that finding the best foundation is no easy feat. Even after almost 20-plus years in the industry combined, we’re still playing trial and error and testing new formulas to find out what is the most compatible for our specific skin types. Although by now we finally feel like we’ve found our perfect match (more on that later, below), there are several factors to consider when you’re on the hunt for the perfect foundation.
As soon as you determine your skin type (dry, oily, combination, or acne-prone), you will have to determine the type of coverage you’re looking for, whether you’re more of a full-coverage, sheer, or medium to buildable type of person. Lastly, you need to make sure the foundation range is inclusive and has a shade suited for your complexion and unique undertone. Thankfully, the shade range market has expanded and now there are more colors than ever before to choose from.
Pay attention to how the formula interacts with your skin. It’s best to search for a noncomedogenic foundation that will not clog your pores. Do a patch test first to be sure the formulation is compatible with your skin type. Thankfully, we’re in a “skinification of makeup” era, so plenty of formulas double up as skin care and work overtime to not only enhance but also nourish the skin.
Whether you’re looking for a stick or pump format, the best drugstore option, or a luxury foundation that’s actually worth your money, we’ve got you covered with editor-vetted options and other options tested by makeup artists like Katie Mellinger and Angela Levin that will leave you feeling confident — and looking like yourself at the same time.
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.
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.
This is the internet’s overwhelming favorite drugstore foundation. The reviews are extensive ( over 113,000 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.
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.
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.
This 86 percent skincare-based foundation has a natural-looking luminous finish that will make your complexion look hydrated and healthy. The star ingredient, Make Up For Ever’s signature Hydra-Skin Booster Complex, will mimic the effects of your favorite sheet mask by helping to visibly plump and brighten skin after just a few weeks of use.
Use it as a foundation on full-glam days or as a spot concealer when you want a light makeup look; either way, this creamy vegan formula will melt into the skin for a flawless, radiant finish that never feels heavy. The coverage is buildable, and reviewers say it lasts all day long.
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.
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.”
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.
For makeup artist Katie Mellinger, a holy-grail foundation offers light-to-medium coverage (but is still buildable to full coverage,) is unscented, lasts all day, and comes in every shade imaginable. When it comes to her go-to, Mellinger always reached out to Tom Ford’s creamy foundation stick, which checks off all her foundation boxes.
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.
Those who love a natural-looking foundation with buildable coverage, especially on dryer skin, know that the Pat McGrath liquid foundation is a must-have. This product is one of celebrity makeup artist Angela Levin’s top picks. “I love the consistency and ease of application with a brush, sponge, or even your hands. Also, the ability to build it up for more coverage is amazing,” she says.
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 a pair of 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.
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.
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 and the glow it imparts will make you wonder how you managed to live without this stuff.
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.
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. Mellinger is also a fan of how this foundation tones out redness with a barely there feel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you prefer a light foundation that feels great on the skin, this skin tint is for you. Mellinger loves how it melts into the skin and notes that it doubles as a great primer if you want a bit more coverage. However, as with any skin tint, it’s hard to build up to medium coverage, so this works best for a light shine.
Name another foundation that doubles as skin care, let alone one that boasts ashwagandha, turmeric, and hyaluronic acid. “The shade range of this foundation is insane,” says Mellinger. “I also love that it has added skin-care benefits and looks like skin once applied.” Plus, it’s the first Black-owned clean-beauty brand at Sephora.
Ever wondered what the go-to foundation is for red carpets? According to Levin, it’s Chanel, of course. It gives you nice coverage and comes in great colors.
TikTok always seems to have a makeup product on blast. This time around it’s the foundation from Makeup by Mario. And rightfully so. According to our very own junior beauty writer, Asia Milia Ware, it’s completely worth the hype. It blends seamlessly into your skin, making it look, you guessed it, surreal.
We will never get over the “your skin but better,” dewy makeup look. Saie makes one of our favorite highlighters and blushes, so we’re more than happy with its new serum foundation. Its lightweight formula is buildable enough to leave your skin looking radiant.
This viral foundation has completely dominated your TikTok For You page for a reason. It’s that good and the formula deserves all its flowers. If you’re usually skeptical of celebrity-founded beauty brands, so are we, but hear us out: This Triclone skin tech formula will quickly win you over with its glow-inducing powers. It features innovative ingredients, like fermented arnica, which isn’t in most foundations on the market and helps soothe redness and inflammation. The inclusive 51-shade range instantly blurs and smooths the skin like no other without feeling too heavy or pore-clogging. Plus, celebrity makeup artists like Ariel Tejada, who does Kylie Jenner and more, approve.
This high-end foundation is definitely a pretty penny, but a little goes a long way and it literally lasts all night with a 24-hour wear claim, so you’ll get your money’s worth. Not that you’ll necessarily need to wear this foundation for a full day, but just in case, you can trust that the formula will not steer your skin wrong. The hyaluronic acid and jasmine-petal extracts both hydrate and brighten the skin while leaving behind a matte yet luminous finish. The formula is made to feel “breathable,” as the brand describes, and is made with such skin-enhancing ingredients that you can trust it’s working double duty to both enhance and nourish the skin from the inside out.
- Katie Mellinger, makeup artist
- Angela Levin, makeup artist
- Maya Allen, former beauty director-at-large at the Cut
- Asia Milia Ware, junior fashion and beauty writer at the Cut
- Hanna Flanagan, shopping writer and editor at the Cut.