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Best foundation: Perfect your look with the best foundations

Victoria Woollaston Philippa Pearne
6 Dec 2019
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Looking for a flawless finish? Here’s our pick of perfect foundations, from £6 to £40

Makeup lovers everywhere know that the right foundation is the key to an all-over polished finish. Whether it’s a subtle, healthy glow you’re looking for or full-on coverage, choosing the right base helps to create your perfect look and boost your confidence.

However, with so many new formulas, textures and shades on the market now it’s hard to know which to pick – especially when you factor in your personal skin type, application preference and the odd bad skin day.

That’s why we’ve put together a handy list of the best foundations out there: with options ranging from powders to liquids, pumps to compacts, and matte textures to radiant finishes, at a variety of prices, there’s something for everyone. Read on to find out what to look for in a foundation, learn how much you should really be spending and discover the best base for your buck.

How to buy the best foundation for your skin

How much should I spend?

Your ideal “package” needn’t cost more than £45; anything over that is a luxury. Think about how much you’re going to use it – if you wear foundation daily, you may want to steer clear of more expensive products, as the price will quickly add up.

And since no two people have identical skin, or daily routines, it’s not always true to say that spending more money on foundation will produce better results. One person’s dry skin may best suit a designer liquid foundation, while another’s oily complexion might be the perfect match for a high-street powder. The important thing to consider is what it’s promising to do for your skin, and whether it ticks all the boxes for your desired look. In all cases, there’s very rarely a need to go over the £45 mark.

What features should I look out for?

To answer that, think about your daily skin behaviour, and what you want to get from your base. Oily skins should check the label for the words “mattifying” or “oil-free”; for dry, dull-looking skin, go for radiance-enhancing formulas – perhaps ones that contain light-reflecting particles. 

Consider the packaging too: do you prefer to work with a squeezy tube or do you find a pump easier to handle? Sun protection factor (SPF) might be another attraction, but remember that this will only have a small effect, and is no substitute for real sunscreen.

What sort of coverage can I expect?

The packaging should provide a coverage estimate, but in general a liquid will provide a thicker layer than other textures. A gel or tinted cream/serum formula will be quite sheer, and powder is usually buildable, so you can tailor it to your desired coverage.

If you’re looking to cover up things like spots, blemishes or pigmentation, but don’t want a heavy foundation, you can always combine your foundation with concealers or colour correctors, either on top or underneath.

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The best foundation you can buy

1. Nars Sheer Glow Foundation: Best foundation for dry skin

Price: £33 | Buy now from John Lewis

Dry skin? Choose the wrong face base and you'll fun the risk of drying out your complexion further, a cakey finish or flaking foundation. To remedy your skin woes, use a quality foundation that will hydrate your skin and leave a refreshed and healthy glow, and the Nars Sheer Glow foundation does just that. Earning cult status in the beauty industry, the dewy foundation is suitable for dry to normal skin types and can be built from a sheer to a medium coverage. 

Best applied with fingers or a damp beauty blender, the Sheer Glow has a smooth and satin-like texture that feels lightweight on the skin yet lasts all day. It has a brightening formula that works hard to hydrate dry skin and even out the tone to create a radiant and healthy glow. Annoyingly, you'll have to buy a dispenser separately but if you're seeking a natural-looking foundation that's custom built for dry skin, the Nars Sheer Glow deserves your attention.

Key info - Available in 39 shades

Buy now from John Lewis


2. Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Gel Foundation: Best cheap foundation for dry skin

Price: £11 | Buy now from Superdrug

The low price belies the quality of this foundation. Being a serum formula it’s the dream solution for dryer skins; it’s highly blendable, and it gives a beautifully fresh finish thanks to its luxurious, dewy texture. It has a distinctive fruity fragrance, which comes with healthy ingredients: a vitamin and anti-oxidant cocktail of litchi, goji berries and pomegranates to be exact, which help protect skin from the day’s pollution. Some serum foundations are slightly on the runny side – greasy even – but this one’s more silky, with a finish that’s both flattering and long-lasting. In all, it’s a real hydrating treat for your skin, which just so happens to be very affordable.

Key info - Available in 15 shades 

Buy now from Superdrug


3. Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation: Best foundation for mature skin

Price: £30 | Buy now from John Lewis

A hydrating and illuminating face base with buildable coverage will work wonders on mature skin. Our pick of the bunch is Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation. This collagen-boosting formula is packed with hyaluronic acid, mushroom extract and Vitamin C to plump and firm the skin for a youthful look. Promising to help reduce age spots, the Magic Foundation won’t settle in fine lines or cling to dry patches. Simply apply the foundation with a light hand for a sheer to medium finish and build the product up on areas that need a little more coverage.

Available in 20 shades and suited to all skin types, the demi-matte foundation will give a poreless, smooth finish that leaves you looking well rested and refreshed. Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation really does live up to its name.

Key info - Available in 20 shades

Buy now from Charlotte Tilbury


4. Rimmel London Stay Matte Liquid Mousse Foundation: Best cheap foundation for oily skin

Price: £6 | Buy now from Boots

Mousse textures offer a lighter alternative to the creams and liquids of the foundation market, so if you prefer a lightweight finish this could be the product for you. It’s especially good for those with oily skin, as affordable, weightless, matte formulas are quite hard to come by. It’s comfortable to wear, controls shine well and goes on easily when applied with fingers. The claim of minimising pores may be slightly ambitious, but at such a low price that’s easy to forgive.

Key info - Available in 6 shades

Buy now from Boots


5. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear Foundation: Most versatile foundation with range of shade options

Price: £31.50 | Buy now from Boots

This excellent liquid foundation comes in forty (yes, forty) different shades, and it’s perfect if you’re looking for full coverage without a heavy, cakey finish. Best applied with a flat brush with synthetic bristles, it glides onto your skin and stays there until removed. In the meantime, you enjoy durable radiance and a natural-looking, flawless finish, thanks to clever pigments that are specially coated to work with the pH level of your skin. Packaged in a luxurious glass bottle, this may not be the most travel-friendly option, but its pump dispenser allows you to very easily control how much product you’re releasing without any wastage – and that huge choice of shades is a very convenient bonus.

Key info - Available in 40 shades

Buy now from John Lewis


6. Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder SPF 15: Best powder foundation for sheer finish

Price: £39 | Buy now from Boots

Packaged in a chic beige and black compact case, and accompanied by a mini curved brush, this powder has become a foundation icon thanks to its beautiful velvet finish and skin-smoothing benefits. It’s definitely not for those seeking a full-coverage base: it’s so sheer, you could almost use it as a setting powder over a heavier, liquid foundation. On its own, it provides a touch of colour, a subtly even finish and no-fuss application, making it the perfect choice for those wanting to eliminate shine in one clean sweep. The only downside is that it’s so good you’ll want to put more than is necessary onto your skin; it’s really intended as a lightweight powder that doesn’t clog your pores. And while it’s one of the pricier options, it lasts and lasts.

Key info - Available in 6 shades

Buy now from Boots


7. Maybelline New York Fit Me Matte & Poreless Powder: Best cheap powder foundation

Price: £6 | Buy now from Superdrug

Cult high-street beauty brand Maybelline New York is known for hard-working, low-cost products, and this clever pressed-powder foundation certainly fits the bill. Where other powders might leave clogged pores and a dull finish, Maybelline uses special oil-absorbing micro-powders to create a second skin with a touch of radiance, instead of a claustrophobic mask. There aren’t many shade options to choose from – four to be exact – but if you’re lucky enough to match up to one of them then you’re onto a winner.

Key info - Available in 4 shades

Buy now from Superdrug


8. Bareminerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel: Best foundation for a natural glow

Price: £28 | Buy now from Boots

It may sound like a skincare product, but this hydrating gel is actually a pigmented base with added skincare benefits. The gel-like texture leaves the natural glow of a tinted moisturiser, yet is thick enough to cover blemishes and dark circles, providing the best of both worlds. And after a week of use, skin feels more hydrated and nourished, thanks to the inclusion of marine botanicals, glycerin and coconut. Our only warning is that if you don’t like getting messy with your foundation, forget it: although the manufacturer recommends you apply it with a brush, the formula sinks into the bristles quickly, so it’s better applied with fingers. You may also feel the need to touch up half way through the day, depending on how much you applied in the morning – but that’s not a big problem as it’s very buildable.

Key info - Available in 16 shades

Buy now from Boots


9. YSL Touche Éclat Le Cushion: Best cushion foundation

Price: £40 | Buy now from John Lewis

Classic designer brands like YSL may sell on style, but they know their stuff, and often have a well-known makeup artist helping to create excellent products. This cushion-style foundation is essentially a liquid formula contained in a rather beautiful compact case for easy, mess-free application. It comes with a double-sided sponge which allows you to customise your finish; the flat end helps to create a natural, medium coverage while the flocked side provides fuller coverage with a more radiant finish. That might sound like a gimmick, but it works brilliantly and gives long-lasting results. If you’re looking for a versatile base that’s easy to take with you and instantly perks up and evens out skin, this is the one.

Key info - Available in 8 shades

Buy now from John Lewis

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