Every great makeup look starts with a great base. Here's how to create a flawless complexion as well as our pick of the best foundations
Finding the best foundations for your skin type or the finish you’re trying to create is one of the main staples of an effective makeup bag, along with finding the best budget mascara and best cream blusher in our opinion.
Once you’ve found your best foundations then the rest of your makeup is easier to put together because a flawless base is the foundation (pun very much intended) for all other products to go on top of.
What the best foundations means is, of course, relative to your skin type, how you like your skin to look once it’s on and the budget you’re shopping to but if there’s one piece of advice we could give it’s that foundation is the one product that it’s worth investing some money on. It’s the product that you will probably be reaching for on a daily basis, will last you the longest and when you get it right might be the only product you want or need to wear.
That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the best foundations out there in our edit as well as calling on our makeup expert friends for some of their top tips on how to apply it perfectly.
All about the prep
“If your skin is hydrated enough, you don’t need much foundation,” says Chanel makeup artist Zoë Taylor. Who recommends applying a hydrating serum followed by a rich moisturiser before you go in with your foundation.
Ever wondered how A-listers on the red carpet always look so dam fresh-faced? Makeup artist and founder of skincare-meets-makeup brand Westman Atelier, Gucci Westman, has the answer (and she's prepped the faces of everyone from Demi Moore to Cameron Diaz). Before even thinking about makeup, she pops a face mask on ( 111Skin De-Puffing Facial Masks, £85 are a favourite) and combines it with some facial massage.
Westman uses Jonna Czech’s facial massager , £178 but your fingers can work just as well. This will help to rejuvenate lacklustre skin and is “great for boosting circulation and elasticity,” says Westman.
How to choose the right foundation formula
For that second-skin look, you can’t beat a cream-based foundation. “They provide a more natural-looking finish and they’re easier to build in the areas that need more refinement,” says Westman
If you’re finding that your foundation is still erring on the matte side, then Taylor suggests mixing it with your moisturiser to create something that’s tailored to you. Nothing says, your skin but better like a bespoke foundation, right?
Find your skin undertone
You’ve probably heard the term ‘undertone’ thrown around when you’re searching for foundation but you may have not given too much thought to how it affects the overall finish of your foundation. Your undertone is basically the permanent underlying colour that your skin casts out, it’s not as obvious as your actual skin tone but getting it right is key to achieving glowy, glossy skin. Why? Because if your foundation has the wrong undertones for you then it can deaden skin, making you look flat, not fresh, says Barnes.
The general rule of thumb: if you have pink or blue tones under your skin you probably have a cooler undertone, yellow or peachy skin tends to be warmer undertone and if you see a mix of both then you’ll be neutral, and lucky you can get away with most shades.
“Cool undertones tend to look beautiful in blue-based pinks and reds,” says Westman, while warmer undertones look better in golden or peachy makeup shades.
The best foundations to choose from
1.Best foundation for oily skin: Saie Glowy Super Skin Foundation, £3
Shade range: 36
Containing 85 per cent skincare ingredients you can easily approach this foundation as a serum that happens to contain makeup pigment rather than a foundation that has a bit of skincare in it. So what skincare is it? Well, it’s packed full of hyaluronic and polyglutamic acid, the ingredients for adding moisture and hydration to the skin. It feels super silky on the skin and delivers good coverage that’s easily buildable if you prefer a bit more. It creates a natural lit-from-within finish that’s a little bit matte but also glowy at the same time which oily skins will relish.
2.Best foundation for cool tones: Ilia True Skin Serum Foundation, £54
Shade range: 30
While there are enough shades in the range to suit all skin tones, this foundation works particularly well for cool-toned skin thanks to the number of shades with a hint of blue and yellow to them. The formulation contains niacinamide which is an absolute wonder skincare ingredient as it solves so many issues and the coverage is medium but on the sheer side. It feels ultra-light on the skin so great for warmer days when you don’t want anything too heavy.
3. Best long-lasting foundation: KVD Beauty Good Apple Full Coverage Liquid Foundation, £34
Shade range: 40
Most definitely the foundation for anyone that really puts their makeup through a lot as this is completely sweat and humidity-proof. This is thanks to very clever flexible polymers that bend with the skin as it moves. It has a seriously impressive shade range and creates a full, quite matte finish. As with all KVD base products it contains high amounts of pigment so is ideal for anyone looking to conceal scarring, pigmentation or spots.
4. Best foundation for dry skin: Jones Road What The Foundation, £42
Shade range: 12
We wrote a Jones Road What The Foundation review when it launched at the tail-end of last year as it caused quite the hype and we’re pleased to say it hasn’t died down as so often can happen. It is very unique in that it is a balm-meets-foundation so the consistency is slightly on the more buttery side. Dry skin types will love it because it feels so nourishing and hydrating but oily skin types might find it a bit much. It creates an ultra glowy and healthy finish and it has a fairly heavy essential oil scent, which you will either love or loathe. The shade range isn’t vast but because it is so uniquely balmy each shade really does span quite a few different tones.
5. Best medium coverage foundation: Kosas Revealer Skin Improving Foundation SPF25, £35
Shade range: 36
Kosas makeup is the latest must-have US brand to come to our shores. Hailey Bieber is a huge fan of the concealer but the foundation is definitely worth a try too. The fact that it contains SPF25 is brilliant as we all know how important it is to wear a daily SPF on our faces. The formulation is described as a medium coverage but we would say it’s a medium on its way to being full coverage. If you prefer a lighter effect then you only need the smallest amount or add some moisturiser to it to sheer it out a bit. And because the pigment is so good we found you need to buff it into the skin with a fluffy foundation brush over a flat one to create a gorgeously flawless finish.
6. Best foundation for glow: Nars Light Reflecting Foundation, £37.50
Shade range: 36
Nars has always been masters at creating glow enhancing foundations and this one is unreal. It’s already becoming a firm favourite amongst beauty editors. It gives just enough coverage to cover up any bits you want to hide while having a sheer enough finish that your natural skin still shines through.
7. Best non-transferable foundation: Dior Forever Skin Glow Foundation, £45
Shade range: 36
Dior revamped its iconic long-wear foundation 'Forever' into a cleaner formula with 86 per cent skincare ingredients and making it totally non-transferable, which is always a bonus. The Skin Glow version (there's also a classic and a matte) is so fine it's like a second skin, which you can apply lightly for a barely-there look or layer for medium-to-full coverage and a little really does go a long way with this. This is expensive-looking skin for a surprisingly reasonable price tag and one of our all-time favourites.
8. Best budget foundation: Max Factor Miracle Pure Skin-Improving Foundation SPF30, £14.99
Shade range: 20
Containing hyaluronic acid to hydrate and vitamin C to brighten the skin this budget foundation feels like it should come with a far more luxe price tag. It delivers really impressive coverage without feeling or looking cakey and also contains a broad spectrum SPF. Our only niggle? The nozzle is quite fine so it feels like you’re having to squeeze out quite a bit, but you’re not!
9. Best natural-looking fountain: Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin Foundation, £39
Shade range: 30
You couldn’t have a foundation edit without including a product from the self-declared ‘queen of glow’ Charlotte Tilbury. Beautiful Skin makes skin look almost multi-dimensional, light bounces off it in all the right places and you give off an almost translucent glow. We are big fans.
10. Best lightweight foundation: Chanel No1 De Chanel, £57
Shade range: 20
Building your foundation is the key to a healthy glow and this is great for layering up until you reach your desired coverage. A top tip is to use this liquid foundation from Chanel's No1 de Chanel sustainable range just in the places where you need a little extra coverage, such as around your nose. It's packed with skin-fixing and hydrating ingredients to fix what Chanel calls the five most common signs of ageing.
11. Best oil-free foundation: Sisley Phyto-Teint Nude, £73
This oil-free foundation is on the pricey side but you’re left with very expensive looking skin. It’s a runny skincare/foundation hybrid – there’s hyaluronic acid and konjac in there to hydrate the skin – and yes it really does make your skin look like it’s had a big drink of water. Makeup artist Florrie White is a fan. Read her tips for applying it and avoiding common foundation mistakes .
12. Best serum foundation: Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Foundation SPF40, £54.50
Shade range: 23
Another skincare meets makeup offering but this, unlike lots of other hybrids, gives pretty full coverage. I don’t know whether it’s the combo of cordyceps, ginseng, hyaluronic acid and vitamin E that leaves skin looking positively energised but this is one of the glowiest foundations out there. If you have oily skin, you’ll probably need a little setting powder to stop you from going into ‘wet look’ territory.
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