Whether you're covering up acne or uneven skin tone, foundation is a staple for most makeup wearers. Traditionally, foundation is liquid, but nowadays, powder foundations, sprays, creams, and mineral ones are all popular.
There are so many considerations when purchasing a foundation -- formula, shade, finish, and coverage -- that we've created this shopping guide to help you navigate your endless options. We've also included our favorite foundations on the market, including our top pick by Christian Dior.
What is foundation for?
Foundation is the base for your makeup and is applied all over the face in a shade matching your natural skin tone. Foundation can even out discoloration and fill in fine lines and pores for a smooth-looking complexion. It can be also used to color correct redness or other skin tone issues. In addition, depending on the formula, foundation can add shine-free finish to oily skin or a luminous glow to dry skin.
Considerations when choosing foundation makeup
Types of foundation
Liquid is the classic type of foundation and has the consistency of a thick liquid. Liquid foundations can be applied with the fingers, a makeup sponge, or a foundation brush.
Powder foundation looks like face powder, but it contains more pigmentation and is pressed for fuller coverage. Powder foundation usually comes in a compact that can be taken on the go and is applied with a round makeup sponge or brush.
Mineral foundation comes in powder form, often as a loose powder in a sifter container that's applied with a brush. This variety has more natural and/or organic formulas.
Cream foundation is a newer form that comes in a stick applicator that's applied directly onto the face, then rubbed or blended in with fingers, a sponge, or a brush. The stick applicator makes this foundation type very convenient to carry wherever you go.
Spray or "airbrush" foundation comes in an aerosol can, which emits a fine mist of liquid foundation. You can spray it directly onto your face for a natural, long-lasting finish. Alternatively, you can spray it on your hands, a makeup sponge, or brush, then apply.
The three most common finishes for foundation are matte, satin, and radiant.
Matte finish gives off no shine, which is ideal if you already have oily skin. Some formulas actually help absorb oil to keep you shine-free throughout the day.
Satin finish is also called demi-matte. It gives a more natural, less flat look than matte foundations and is good for normal skin types.
Radiant finish gives a dewy or luminous glow to the skin, which is better for dry or mature skin types.
This refers to how opaque a foundation is on the skin. For instance, sheer coverage allows your natural skin to show through, whereas full coverage won't at all. Light and medium coverage are also available. Choose coverage based on how much you want to hide. Heavier coverage is recommended for people with acne or skin discoloration.
Look for a shade that matches your skin tone as closely as possible. Foundations offer warm, neutral, or cool undertones in addition to fair, light, medium, and dark shades. Warm shades have yellow undertones, cool shades have pink undertones, and neutral shades have an equal mixture of both.
Foundation makeup prices
Expect to pay between $5 and $150 for foundation makeup. At the lower end of the spectrum, you'll find drugstore brands, and at the opposite end are designer luxury brands. For a quality foundation, expect to pay at least $15 to $40.
Q. How can I tell if I have a warm, cool, or neutral skin tone?
A. One trick of the trade is to take a peek at the veins on the inside of your wrist or arm. If they're greenish, you've got warm skin. If they're bluish, you've got cool. If you can't tell, opt for a neutral foundation shade.
Q. Do I use a concealer before or after applying foundation?
A. For powder and mineral foundations, apply the concealer first to avoid a cakey look. For all other foundation types, including cream, liquid, and spray, apply it after. You may find you need less concealer after applying these formulas.
Foundation makeup we recommend
Best of the best: Christian Dior Capture Totale Triple Correcting Serum Foundation SPF 25
Our take: A luxurious foundation made from the finest ingredients.
What we like: Silky smooth to the touch with a radiant finish. Perfect for aging skin. Corrects redness and dark spots. Contains SPF. Won't rub off.
What we dislike: Very expensive.
Best bang for your buck: BareMinerals Original Foundation SPF 15
Our take: A powder-to-cream foundation with great layerable coverage.
What we like: Unique formula can be used for full or sheer coverage. Thirty shades offered for perfect match. Works on various skin types. Contains mineral SPF.
What we dislike: Powder-to-cream formula comes with a learning curve.
Our take: Premium mineral foundation that provides sheer to medium coverage.
What we like: Unique "bead" liquid mineral formula feels airy on the skin and lasts all day. Custom color if you visit the manufacturer's website. High-quality, natural ingredients.
What we dislike: Doesn't provide enough coverage for acne or major skin discoloration.
Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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