It’s been a while since I shared a beauty top five! A recent group text with my girlfriends about our favorite foundations got me thinking that I should round up a handful of my best base picks: two multitasking skincare/coverage hybrids; a buildable water-based formula that’s a staple in every pro makeup artist’s kit (and mine); the luxury foundation that’s my go-to for every special occasion; and my #1 budget-friendly pick from the drugstore.
Before I dive into my recommendations, let me tell you a bit about what I look for in a foundation, because everyone has different skin types and preferences. I personally prioritize skincare over makeup, so I love a minimal base for every day. As I get older and my skin texture changes, I stick to hydrating creams and liquids in my makeup routine and avoid anything that’s matte or powdery, as it tends to accentuate dry patches and fine lines. I prefer natural-finish foundations that dry down to a satin sheen or slight dewiness — not too shiny or greasy — with buildable formulas for customizable coverage. Most days I prefer a sheer-to-light wash of color to even out tone and texture, but I like to build it up to medium coverage for special occasions. Either way, I always want my base to look like healthy glowing skin, while letting my freckles peek through.
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It Cosmetics CC+ Cream with SPF 50+ :: If you’re into streamlined morning routines, you’ll love this all-in-one cream that’s infused with skin care benefits and SPF 50. It’s the most full-coverage base product in my collection, but it doesn’t feel heavy or “made up”; it just makes my skin look lovely. When I use it — which is most weekday mornings — I think of it as a last step in my skin care ritual and the first step of my makeup routine in one easy step; I like to quickly blend it out with the flat end of a Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. My only complaint with this CC cream is the longevity: I want to ‘put on my face’ in the morning and not touch it until I wash it off at night; and while this wears beautifully for 5-6 hours, it needs a late afternoon touch-up with a blotting sheet and/or powder to set it back down. (My shade: fair/light)
NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 :: This is a long-running favorite of mine that I repurchase every time I finish a tube. It’s a tinted moisturizer, but wears like a lightweight foundation and really delivers on the ‘radiant’ claim; there’s no shimmer or glitter, but my skin looks even, brightened, and glowy when I use it. I like to apply it in light layers with my fingers or the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, and it wears well throughout the entire workday. A note: I recommend going in to Sephora or Ulta to find your perfect match for this tinted moisturizer, because most shades have a considerable golden/yellow undertone. I use the shade ‘Terre-Neuve’, which is the most neutral light shade in the lineup.
MAC Face and Body Foundation :: This is a cult-favorite and professional makeup artist staple. It’s buildable from a sheer wash of color to medium coverage, but no matter how much you pile on, it stays undetectable on the skin. It’s a spring and summer essential for me: it’s water-based and so lightweight; and it doesn’t budge from sweat and humidity (which is why it’s perfect for the body, too). It’s best to apply this one with your hands, because as you warm it up with your skin it gets thicker and ‘grippier’ for seamless blending. It’s super radiant, but you can tamp down the extra shine with powder; I love pairing it with MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural Powder. (My Face and Body Foundation shade: C1)
Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation :: This is what I always wear for special occasions or events, because it photographs beautifully and stays put for hours; it’s the foundation I wore when I was a bridesmaid in my girlfriend’s wedding last spring. Plus, as a luxury product, it just feels fancy and special. It’s formulated with Micro-Fil technology, which ‘produces a low-density product that pairs high-impact pigments with weightless texture’. Simply put: it makes your skin look like silk with a seamless finish.
L’Oreal Infallible Longwear Foundation Shaping Stick :: If you’re looking for a quality drugstore foundation, 10/10 would recommend this creamy stick foundation. I bought it after Mariah Leonard called it comparable to the Hourglass Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick, and plot twist: I actually prefer it to the Hourglass! It’s less dry and waxy, and is easy to build and blend. It has the added benefit of SPF 27, too. I draw it onto my face straight from the stick, then blend it out with a sponge or the Real Techniques Expert Face brush. Super quick, super unfussy. These foundation sticks are designed to build and layer, and you can play with darker/lighter shades from the lineup to contour and highlight. (I’ve used the shade ‘honey’ as a cream bronzer.)
Kosas Tinted Face Oil :: this is an honorable mention and a recent addition to my foundation lineup. After hearing a lot of buzz about it, I bought it at a discount during the Sephora sale last month. I haven’t used it enough to include it as an official recommendation, but I’m really enjoying it so far! I don’t have anything like it in my collection; the watery formula made with nourishing oils gives super sheer coverage, making it perfect for no makeup days when you just need a little somethin’ to perk up your skin.