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The best lightweight foundations to buy in 2023

Put your best face forward with lightweight foundations that feel as good as they look

Beauty begins with healthy skin, and a good foundation that evens the skin tone and texture is the basis for any makeup look. Even if you’ve been blessed with glowing, blemish-free skin, a light foundation will prepare your skin and help cosmetics look stronger and stay in place longer; the majority of us will look to a foundation to even out discolouration, spots and dark circles.

Lightweight foundations are formulated with airy, hydrating ingredients to feel silky-soft and comfortable on the skin. While the formula is lightweight, the colour coverage can be anywhere from sheer to full-coverage – so a heavy-duty base doesn’t have to be heavy on your skin.

Read on to find out which lightweight foundations we recommend for a flawless finish without a weighty feel.

How to choosr the best lightweight foundation for you

What does it mean for foundation to be lightweight?

Traditional foundations tend to come in cream or thick liquid formulations that offer excellent coverage and can give good, long-lasting results – especially for a more dramatic evening look, or for photographs – but cover the skin quite opaquely and can feel heavy and look less natural in daytime. Some skins may find heavy, full-coverage foundations clog the pores and lead to spots and blemishes.

READ NEXT: Best foundations

Modern pigment technology means that a similar medium-to-full coverage can be provided in a lighter liquid or gel formula. Lightweight formulas feel fresher on the skin and tend to look more natural – as such they’re suitable for a lighter, daytime makeup look. Many lightweight foundations include hydrating and radiance-boosting ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or Vitamin C, as well as light-diffusing particles to brighten the appearance of the skin.

Lightweight foundations come in a range of finishes, from dewy to matte; we’ve included a range of coverage and finishes below.

What’s the difference between a lightweight foundation and a BB cream?

Similar to a tinted moisturiser, a BB cream combines the benefits of moisturiser and serum with a light colour coverage, giving skin a more even look but with a sheer finish that allows the natural skin to show through. A BB cream or tinted moisturiser might typically be worn alone or with very light makeup, such as a simple mascara and lip gloss. Lightweight foundations give more colour coverage and can be worn either alone or as part of a full makeup look.

How do I apply my lightweight foundation?

Lightweight foundation can be applied with a brush, sponge or even with the fingertips as you prefer. For a stronger and more defined look, and with products that offer fuller coverage, a brush can be a good choice; a sponge or beauty blender will create a dewy, natural finish.

Always begin with cleansed and moisturised skin; allow moisturiser to sink into the skin to prevent creasing or slipping, then follow with a primer if using. To apply liquid foundation with a brush, apply a small amount to the back of the hand, then dip the brush into the foundation. Apply to the centre of the face (nose, chin and forehead) first, then blend outwards using short strokes. Start with a little and build up if needed – it’s easier to keep the finish smooth and even if you build up in small amounts.

To apply with a sponge, dot your foundation with the fingers onto the centre of your face as above; then blend with a dampened sponge or beauty blender by pressing gently over the face. Note that the sponge is used for pressing the foundation into the skin after dotting it on – squirting your foundation onto the sponge and smearing it on will give you lumpy and cakey results.

Finish by dotting your concealer over blemishes, and set with a light dusting of translucent powder.

How we test lightweight foundations

At Expert Reviews, we know that hands-on testing delivers the most complete information about a product. We’ve personally tested all of the lightweight foundations in the roundup below, applying the formulas with our fingers or a sponge, following any directions for use where provided.

Wearing the foundations as directed for at least one full day, we consider the coverage of the product and how the foundation sits on the skin. We note the colour range available for each brand, the finish of the foundation (matte, semi-matte or dewy), and how well the colour and finish last over the course of a typical day of wear. We also consider any moisturising, SPF or light-reflecting benefits, any issues with application such as clumping, pilling, flaking or patchiness, and the overall comfort and feel of the product on the skin.

READ NEXT: Best BB creams

The best lightweight foundations you can buy in 2023

1. Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation: Best for light coverage

Price: £9 | Buy now from Amazon

Healthy Mix is a beautifully lightweight moisturising foundation from Bourjois with a velvety finish that makes skin look smoother and more even. The foundation contains brightening Vitamin C and extracts of melon and apricot, as well as hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5. The soft and creamy foundation builds from a sheer to a medium coverage with a flattering semi-matte finish that lasts all day. A silky, light and very natural-looking foundation at a great price.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Coverage: Sheer-medium; Finish: Semi-matte; Shades: 12

2. Too Faced Born This Way Foundation: Best for full coverage

Price: £32 | Buy now from Too Faced

Too Faced’s bestselling Born This Way is a super-lightweight oil-free foundation that builds easily to a full coverage for a flawless base that still looks like natural skin. The foundation contains coconut water and hyaluronic acid for a hydrating boost to leave skin looking and feeling fresh, and the light-textured liquid blends easily to blur imperfections and smooth the skin with a natural, slightly luminous finish. Born This Way comes in a good range of 35 shades, and there’s a Matter version of the product (also in 35 shades) for oily skins or those who prefer a fully matte finish.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Coverage: Full; Finish: Semi-matte; Shades: 35

Buy now from Too Faced

3. L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Glow Foundation: Best high-street

Price: £13 | Buy now from Amazon

An excellent high-street product that performs as well as some of its pricier counterparts, L’Oreal’s Infallible is a soft and blendable foundation that gives medium coverage with a dewy, glowing finish. The hydrating, water-based formula is particularly good for drier skins as it keeps the skin fresh and moist all day. The creamy colour is long-lasting, and the 12 shades available match a reasonable range of skin tones.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Coverage: Medium; Finish: Dewy; Shades: 12

4. Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder: Best for a radiant finish

Price: £34 | Buy now from Feel Unique

Light Wonder is a featherlight foundation with light-diffusing particles to blur imperfections and add a soft radiance to skin. The intense pigmentation means a little of this liquid foundation goes a long way –- just dot onto the areas of the face that most need coverage and blend with a sponge or fingertips. The hydrating and lightweight foundation is especially good for dry or mature skin as it blends in seamlessly and sits comfortably on the skin without caking on dry areas or fine lines. Coverage builds from sheer to medium, and Light Wonder is available in 12 shades.

Hydrating, illuminating, feather-light and breathable, glowy illuminating finish.

Key specs – Pack size: 40ml; Coverage: Sheer-medium; Finish: Dewy; Shades: 12

Buy now from Feel Unique

5. Boots No. 7 Beautifully Matte Foundation: Best matte finish

Price: £15 | Buy now from Boots

If you have oily skin, or prefer a velvety-matte finish to your foundation, this oil-free foundation from Boots will give you a long-lasting matte finish. The lightweight liquid foundation contains oil-absorbing powders to keep skin shine-free from dawn to dusk, and gives a softly blurring effect to minimise the appearance of blemishes. The foundation gives a medium coverage, good for evening out skin discolouration or redness; Beautifully Matte feels very light and breathable on the skin, and would be especially good for summer wear. The mattifying formula is good for oilier skins; dryer skins would benefit from one of the hydrating formulas elsewhere on our list.

Key specs – Pack size: 28ml; Coverage: Sheer-medium; Finish: Matte; Shades: 18

Buy now from Boots

6. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear: Best long-wear formula

Price: £30 | Buy now from Boots

A modern classic, Lancôme’s best-selling Teint Idole long-wear foundation promises up to 24 hours smudge-free coverage. The lightweight and oil-free liquid foundation provides a natural-looking and flattering demi-matte finish which gives skin a smooth and velvety look, and can be built from medium to full coverage to cover discolouration and blemishes.

Teint Idole is available in a very good range of 40 shades, with particularly good options for pale and porcelain skins; the foundation also contains an SPF 15 sunscreen for added sun protection. In our tests we found that the colour and mattifying effect both lasted well throughout a typical day’s wear. With lightweight, hydrating long-wearing coverage, Lancôme’s foundation feels comfortable from dawn to dusk.

Key specs – Pack size: 30ml; Coverage: Medium-full; Finish: Demi-matte; Shades: 40

Buy now from Boots

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