Shiny foundation ruining your makeup? Here’s our pick of the best matte foundations for every type of look
When you’ve got the best matte foundation, having flawless makeup that lasts all day couldn’t be easier. Not only will it smooth out any imperfections on your skin and even your skin tone, but a matte foundation is great for keeping oily skin at bay. It’s also more versatile than any other type of foundation — by applying foundation with a matte finish, you can add blush and highlighter exactly where you want it, rather than having an all-over glow that risks looking too shiny.
However, finding matte foundations can be a tricky task — often they are matte when applied, but a few hours in they’ll either start to go oily if you’ve got oily skin, or they’ll dry down and stick to any blemish, dry skin or hair, making it look worse than when you started. Luckily for you, we’ve tested a whole range of matte foundations; below you can find a guide on how to find the best one for you and a list of our favourites for every kind of coverage.
Best matte foundation: at a glance
- Best full coverage matte foundation: KVD Good Apple | £34
- Best budget lightweight matte foundation: 17. Second Skin | £5
- Best all-round matte foundation: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r | £30
- Best buildable matte foundation: OPV Stick Foundation | £7.50
- Best hydrating matte foundation: Morphe Filter Effect | £18
How to choose the best matte foundation for you
It’s impossible to test the formulation of a foundation through a screen, which makes purchasing the perfect foundation online tricky. Online colour-matching quizzes can find you the perfect shade match, but to make sure every formula we recommend keeps your skin matte and shine-free all day, we’ve tested every single foundation on this roundup. Here are our top tips for picking the best matte foundation.
No foundation is one-size fits all, and finding the right coverage can make or break your look. Here’s a quick guide to how each coverage works:
Light coverage – If you’re looking for a natural finish where your skin tone is evened out but you’ll still be able to see things like freckles underneath the foundation, then a light coverage foundation is best for you. It’s perfect for those ‘no-makeup’ makeup days because it covers mild redness and unevenness without looking like you’re wearing any foundation at all.
Medium coverage – This coverage is a great middle ground for those who want a foundation that can suit every occasion. The coverage won’t be too high for everyday wear and it will still cover blemishes and even out your skin tone for when you want to wear a heavier makeup look. Medium coverage foundations also tend to be pretty buildable which means that you can spot-tackle problem areas and build up to a higher coverage without it looking cakey.
Full coverage – There are no prizes for guessing what a full coverage foundation looks like. This kind is king if you’re hoping to cover up larger blemishes and have a completely flawless finish on your foundation. Try opting for a silicone-based full coverage foundation if you want a filter-like look that will effortlessly blur out your skin texture.
Buildable coverage – When a foundation is buildable, you can use layers to build up the coverage from light to medium to full. That means it’s the most versatile kind of foundation to have so it’s best for those who want an all-singing-all-dancing foundation in their kit. Buildable foundations can be light, medium or full coverage, so be sure to choose one that suits your needs and be careful because layering too much buildable foundation can make your face look ‘cakey’, which is never a good look.
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In any foundation, getting the shade right is really important. Granted, for low coverage foundations the match doesn’t need to be spot on but for high coverage foundations, it’s best to get the shade right so you don’t need to overcompensate with bronzer later on. That’s why finding a foundation that has a wide range of shades available is the best way to get a good match for every skin tone.
Luckily, some brands have a virtual skin-tone quiz that will help you find your perfect shade, like this one from Fenty Beauty that uses diagnostic questions, or the shade finder on Morphe that uses your existing makeup products to estimate your perfect shade. Remember, many women need to swap out their foundation shades in the summer and winter so keep this in mind when shopping around.
When looking at foundations, it’s always a good idea to check the ingredients list. Some are formulated with skincare such as niacinamide, others have SPF built in — though not usually enough to effectively protect your skin from the sun, so it’s best to use a separate SPF before you apply your makeup. All, however, will have a base of either water, oil or silicone — this is a key thing to pay attention to because it affects the way the foundation applies.
Oil-based foundations are great for those with dry skin and tend to give a dewy look; for that reason, there won’t be many of them on the matte foundation market. Silicone molecules are larger than water molecules, so silicone-based foundations create a barrier on the skin that effectively blurs large pores and fine lines, whilst locking moisture into your skin to prevent dryness. Water-based foundations contain little to no oil or silicone in their formulas, making them ideal for those with acne-prone or sensitive skin. They always come in a liquid form and tend to be lighter coverage than other foundations, but the water base provides much-needed hydration to stave away dry skin.
You can tell which base a product uses easily because it will be one of the first listed ingredients on the primer and foundation. However, if the formula is a liquid the first ingredient could be water but if the second ingredient is a silicone (i.e. an ingredient ending in ‘-cone’ or ‘-methicone’) that indicates that the foundation is silicone based.
Furthermore, when you use a primer before your foundation to prep the skin (a step you can read more about below), it needs to work in conjunction with the foundation. So if you’re using a water-based primer, then your foundation needs to have a water base too. In essence, the base products need to match, otherwise, the makeup might look patchy and weird.
Matte may be synonymous with dull but this isn’t always the case with foundations. For the best finish, make sure you’re using a good exfoliant and moisturiser in your skincare routine — this will help to minimise blemishes and get rid of any dead skin that foundation likes to cling onto.
Some people choose to add a primer before they apply their foundation. Primer can help to boost the longevity of your makeup and smooth over any visible pores so that the foundation applies onto a flatter surface to further minimise blemishes and skin texture. This is by no means a necessary step, especially if you’ve got a good skincare routine, but if you’re looking for the best primers to use, here are our recommendations for oily skin and dry skin.
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How we test matte foundation
The first test we perform on matte foundations is an oil-level test. This involves carefully measuring and placing an even amount of each foundation onto a sheet of cardboard. Over the course of a day, any oils in the formula will bleed into the cardboard – foundations that have a large ring of oil or bleed out quickly may not be so suitable for long-lasting matte formulas.
Of course, no amount of formula testing beats an all-day wear test. We also put every foundation through its paces by applying it early in the morning on clean, moisturised skin, and monitor how it wears throughout the day. For matte foundations, we’re looking for a shine-free finish that doesn’t settle into pores and fine lines, or cling onto dry patches. That means we must pay particular attention to the oily T-zone to ensure the foundation will provide great coverage all day. At this point, we also examine how full the coverage is.
As a final test, we thoroughly check through the ingredients lists of a foundation. Firstly, we check to see what the base of the foundation is. We’ll also check to see if the foundation includes any skincare ingredients that can boost the foundation’s performance, as well as note whether the formula includes any nasties like fragrance.
The best matte foundation you can buy in 2023
1. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r: Best all-round matte foundation
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Boots
Founded in 2017, Rihanna’s beauty brand took the world by storm because of its unmatched, inclusive range of foundation shades. The star of the show was the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r foundation, which originally launched with 40 shades. Since then, 10 new shades have launched so you won’t struggle to find your perfect match, especially considering that Fenty has its own shade-finder quiz to steer you in the right direction.
The quality doesn’t disappoint: it’s formulated with no oil, making it long lasting and gentle on the skin. Its silicone formula applies smoothly to the skin and effortlessly blurs out fine lines, blemishes and unevenness leading to a flawless finish. Better still, it’s buildable, making it suitable for every occasion. It’s well worth the price if you’re on the lookout for an all-singing all-dancing matte foundation with excellent coverage and an even better shade range.
Key details — Shades: 50; Coverage: medium to full, buildable; Base: silicone
2. KVD Good Apple Skin perfecting foundation balm: Best full coverage matte foundation
Price when reviewed: £34 | Check price at LookFantastic
This matte foundation balm from Kat Von D is full coverage and, thanks to its hydrating formula which combines sodium hyaluronate and apple extract, it’s not drying in the slightest. In fact, it’s a little oily-feeling and settled into fine lines when used without primer or powder. To solve this, Kat Von D suggests using a primer on oily skin to maintain the flawless look all day. We think the lightweight feel of this full coverage foundation is worth the extra effort because when it’s on, it barely feels like you’re wearing foundation at all.
The balm is easy to apply with a brush, your fingers or a beauty blender and totally covers any uneven colouring and rosacea without looking cakey. It’s really buildable and can be used as a spot-concealer on problem areas, which makes it incredibly versatile.
This foundation has also been designed with the planet in mind; because it has no mirror or metal, the packaging is designed to be 100% recyclable without compromising on aesthetics. Its compact packaging makes it really easy to bring out with you for re-application on long hot days.
Key details — Shades: 40; Coverage: full; Base: silicone
3. 17. Second Skin: Best budget matte foundation
Price when reviewed: £5 | Check price at Boots
If you’re on the lookout for a matte foundation that won’t break the bank, the 17 Second Skin foundation is better-formulated, longer lasting and much cheaper than other drugstore foundations. It’s advertised as medium coverage, but after a days’ wear it actually falls somewhere between light and medium.
Alongside a smooth application, this water-based foundation doesn’t set into any fine lines, even hours after application. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid to keep your skin’s surface hydrated and vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that’s naturally found in the skin’s oil. Better still, it’s also vegan friendly so you can rest assured that this product is as kind to your skin as it is to the planet.
One thing to note is that some reviewers complained that this foundation settled into their larger pores, so those with this problem might want to try a silicone-based foundation instead.
Key details — Shades: 20; Coverage: light; Base: Water
4. Morphe Filter Effect: Best hydrating matte foundation
Price when reviewed: £18 | Check price at LookFantastic
Matte foundation doesn’t have to be dry-feeling — the Morphe filter effect foundation has a silicone base to lock-in existing moisture and comes formulated with super-hydrating glycerin and hyaluronic acid to keep the skin feeling supple throughout the day. The formula is also oil-free, making it less irritating than other foundations.
The coverage is natural but buildable and it effortlessly evens out your skin tone and blurs imperfections for a picture-perfect finish that photographs like natural skin. Morphe also makes it really easy to find your perfect shade out of the 40 it offers; simply input the shade of any brand’s foundation and concealer you currently use into its site and it’ll decipher which shade is best for you.
Key details — Shades: 40; Coverage: medium to full, buildable; Base: silicone
5. OPV Stick Foundation: Best buildable matte foundation
Price when reviewed: £7.50 | Check price at Cult Beauty
OPV is a UK-based black-owned beauty brand which brands itself as an “ethical, inclusive beauty movement.” Their stick foundation is available in 13 buildable shades which can be used to create any look, from a light-coverage tinted moisturiser look to a full coverage foundation. Yes, you read that right — it really is that versatile.
Its oil-based formula is super creamy and blendable, allowing it to sit naturally on the skin. However, the oil-based formula creates a softer matte finish; if you’re looking to achieve a fully matte look, this isn’t the foundation for you. We think the soft matte finish of this foundation strikes a good balance between matte and natural finish, staving off the dryness that sometimes comes with super-buildable matte coverage.
Key details — Shades: 13; Coverage: light; Base: oil