Best high-street foundation UK: We’ve put dozens of cheap drugstore foundations to the test to find the best
15th February 2023 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber
Looking for the best drugstore foundation in the UK? We’ve tested dozens of them to help you find your ideal match next time you’re on the high street
There was a time when trying to find the best high-street foundation was a tricky experience. When we were growing up (in the 1990s…) we had Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse and that was about it.
Today, however, there is an increasing number of cheap foundations that are easily available on the high street and which often outperform more expensive luxury rivals.
In an attempt to finally discover, once and for all, which is the best high-street foundation in the UK, we recently started a long-running series over on TikTok.
We explain more about how we’re testing the foundations here (which includes buying a lot of oranges, and strawberries and updating an ever-growing spreadsheet…) but for this guide we’re highlighting those which are fully available in high-street stores/drugstores – or whatever you call them – and which cost less than £15.
This test is also helping us determine which would be the best foundation for mature skin, oily skin, dry skin, and more, and we will be updating the relevant Best Buys as and when a contender emerges. All of these guides can be found on our foundation hub page.
FURTHER READING: How we test foundations | How to find your perfect foundation match | MUA explains how to get flawless makeup
Best cheap drugstore and high-street foundation UK
- Collection Lasting Perfection Matte: Buy now – £6.49
- SheGlam Skinfinite: Buy now – £7.49
- Revolution Conceal and Hydrate: Buy now – £9
- Essence Pretty Natural: Buy now – £5
- e.l.f Camo Foundation: Buy now – £14 (Best vegan)
- NYX Born to Glow: Buy now – £9
- Max Factor Facefinity: Buy now – £13.99 (Best for dry skin)
- 17. Second Skin: Buy now – £5
- SheGlam Skinfluencer Balm: Buy now – £6.99
- Vichy Dermablend Fluid Corrective: Buy now – £20
- NYX Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Buy now – £15 (Best full-coverage)
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Best concealer | Best makeup brush | Best foundation brush | Best eyeshadow palette | Best foundation | Best foundation for dark skin | Best foundation for oily skin | Best foundation for dry skin | Best foundation Best contour kit | Best lip gloss | Best lip liner | Best mascara| Best primer | Best highlighter | Best brow pomade | Best blusher | Best setting spray| Best makeup sets | Best false eyelashes | Best eyeliner
♥︎ Editor’s Pick: Collection Lasting Perfection Matte
£6.49 | Buy now
Collection Cosmetics – a staple makeup brand of our childhood – recently had an entire overhaul and it’s well and truly become a favourite of ours.
We often opt to wear Collection foundation and concealer over the many, many other base products we have. Including products that cost 10 times as much.
So we were delighted that the Lasting Perfection Matte performed so well in our foundation group test.
For £6.49 you get the choice of 20 shades – which isn’t amazing but is impressive for such a cheap brand – and an SPF rating of 30.
It offers full coverage and a soft matte finish that lasts for hours. Collection promises 16 hours but we’d say it’s closer to around 12. Plus, this staying power drops for oily skin types.
That said, because of both the hydrating nature of this foundation (it only dropped hydration by 1.3 percentage points), coupled with its matte finish, this foundation lasts much longer on our oily skin than other foundations ever have.
While a selection of Collection products are vegan-friendly, there are still some items that use animal byproducts.
Collection is cruelty-free but, due to the fact it’s not entirely vegan, it dropped points.
Buy now from Boots
♥︎ SheGlam Skinfinite
£7.49 | Buy now
SheGlam promises premium products at affordable prices and is a popular choice among influencers and users alike over on TikTok. In particular its SheGlam Skinfinite.
It performed as we’d expect for a medium-coverage foundation in the strawberry test but not the orange, scoring three and one respectively.
It did, however, score the maximum number of points in the blotting paper test and was one of the very few drugstore foundations (or any foundation for that matter) that increased the hydration of our skin.
Given how little oil and moisture came out on the blotting paper, and the fact it offers a natural-matte finish, this hydration increase was a pleasant surprise.
What’s more, it didn’t just increase hydration by a small amount. It rose the hydration by 1.2 percentage points which is equivalent to 4.4%.
Elsewhere, the foundation is vegan and cruelty-free and it’s available in a not-too-shabby 30 shades.
Relatively speaking, this isn’t a huge amount but it’s notably better than other cheap and drugstore foundations.
Although it feels heavy upon first application, it doesn’t dry too quickly which gives you time to blend and smooth. We get the best results with a foundation brush, but it works just as well with a damp beauty blender.
Coverage-wise, it covers our redness and blemishes well and helps to even and balance our complexion without flattening it too much, and it lasts well all day. It doesn’t slide off on our oily skin, but it also doesn’t dry it out.
All-in-all, this is a great foundation for a cheap price. The downside is that it’s only available from Shein so can take a little bit of time to arrive.
Buy now from Shein
♥︎ Best inclusive high-street foundation: Revolution Conceal and Hydrate
£9 | Buy now
The second entry in our best drugstore foundation list from the Revolution family, this time for the Revolution Conceal and Hydrate foundation.
As was the case with the 17. Second Skin and Max Factor scores when looking for the best high street foundation for dry skin, there could have been a couple of winners of the best inclusive foundation.
Yet Revolution took the title because it both offers a huge range of shades – 50 in total – while also being suitable for a wide range of skin types, and at a price that suits most budgets.
For just £9, you get a medium-full coverage foundation that exceeded our expectations on the orange and strawberry tests.
It did let out a huge amount of oil and other liquids on the blotting paper but given the addition of hyaluronic acid, this wasn’t unexpected.
Hyaluronic acid is a wonder ingredient that helps to hydrate, plump and smooth the skin. Both in the short term and over time, too.
We had expected better results in the hydration test, given the foundation’s focus on hydration – the word “hydrate” is even in the name… Yet a drop of 3.7 percentage points is still well below the average of 10 points, so it’s not a huge problem.
Due to this small hydration decrease, coupled with the skincare benefits it provides and the radiant finish it produces, this foundation is suitable for all skin types. Especially dry, combination, and mature skin. It would even suit oily skin as long as a setting and finishing powder is applied.
Buy now from Boots
♥︎ Best vegan drugstore foundation: e.l.f Camo Foundation
£14 | Buy now
Among the dozens of foundations we’ve tested are a handful of CC creams and skin tints. This is because many people use CC creams, skin tints, and even concealer in place of foundation.
One such cream is the Camo CC Cream from e.l.f. As you can read in our e.l.f spotlight, we’ve huge fans of this brand because all of its products are fantastic, affordable as well as vegan and cruelty-free.
What’s more, this CC cream outperformed many foundations. Even foundations that cost up to ten times as much.
It promises medium-full coverage and exceeded expectations on both the orange and strawberry tests. Due to the fact it’s a CC cream, this coverage also borders on a concealer-type coverage, which is great if you have dark spots or dark circles.
Elsewhere, the e.l.f Camo is a hydrating CC cream, letting out more than average oil, and dropping a below-average 3.1 percentage points in the hydration test.
e.l.f claims the finish is natural but we’d say it errs on the side of soft-matte. It certainly doesn’t dry or mattify the skin like a traditional matte foundation or CC cream, but it’s not as skin-like as 17. Second Skin, or XX Revolution’s Liquid Skin.
You do get the added benefit of SPF 30 across its range of 20 shades, though. Plus, it contains collagen and peptides to help improve the texture and elasticity of the skin. This makes it an especially great foundation for mature skin.
Not bad for £14!
Buy now from e.l.f
♥ Best cheap foundation: 17. Second Skin
£5 | Buy now
Another high-street foundation favourite from our childhood, 17 Cosmetics recently made a comeback in Boots stores.
Not only does the entire range punch well above its weight in terms of performance, especially given its cheap price, but it’s also committed to always being vegan and cruelty-free.
The 17. Second Skin is one of the few foundations in our group test to have a water base and is one of only a handful to increase hydration in the skin, by 1.4 percentage points.
This may sound small, but almost every other foundation dropped hydration during our tests so any increase is welcomed and impressive.
This also makes 17. Second Skin a great choice for dry or mature skin.
Coverage-wise, 17. promises a medium coverage but we felt it exceeded our expectations in both the orange and strawberry tests and was closer to Full coverage. Without feeling too thick or cakey.
It did release a lot of liquid on the blotting paper, but given its water base, this isn’t surprising. It also talks to how hydrating this foundation is.
Elsewhere, it matches Collection’s shade range for 20 tones to choose from. Not super inclusive, but not bad considering this foundation costs just £5.
If we had to raise one complaint, this foundation doesn’t last very long unless you use a setting spray or setting powder. We’d also recommend using a primer, but make sure you choose one with a water base so the two don’t slide all over each other. You can read more about this in our What does primer do? guide.
Buy now from Boots
♥︎ Best full-coverage drugstore foundation: NYX Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
£15 | Buy now
Through lock down, the NYX Can’t Stop Won’t Stop foundation was the go-to for many influencers across TikTok and Instagram. It consistently gets five-star reviews online and in our foundation group test, it scored an impressive 42 points.
It has a great choice of 45 shades and each one gives full coverage with what NYX calls an “ultra-matte” finish. Despite offering the fullest coverage possible, it also managed to exceed our expectations for just how full and even the coverage was when applied to the orange and strawberry.
It has a silicone base, which means it will likely pair nicely with most primers.
In our blotting paper test, this foundation released an average amount of oil, scoring 5 out of 10, and in our hydration test, it dropped the hydration levels of our skin by 5.6 percentage points. The average hydration drop across all the foundations we’ve tested is 10.
This would be decent anyway, but given how matte this foundation is we think it’s an impressive feat. It manages to mattify the skin without drying it out completely. As a result, this would be a great foundation for combination skin. It also gives this high-street foundation superb staying power.
Beyond this, the brand is vegan and cruelty-free.
Buy now from Boots
♥︎ Best drugstore foundation for oily skin: XX Revolution Liquid Skin
£15 | Buy now
The XX Revolution Liquid Skin is one of our favourite foundations we’ve tested and in almost every category it scored higher than its cheaper, drugstore price would suggest.
It has 55 shades, making it super inclusive. It offers full coverage with a lovely silk finish and the entire range is vegan and cruelty-free.
The only categories it lost points in were SPF – it doesn’t offer any SPF protection – and the hydration test, dropping 8.6 percentage points. Yet, this hydration drop is what makes it the best drugstore foundation for oily skin.
It dries out the skin enough to leave it looking matte, but not so much that it clings to dry patches, or settles into creases around the eyes or mouth. What’s more, because it creates a silk finish, this foundation creates a youthful glow without too much shine, or without making your skin look flat.
If you have oily or oily-mature skin, this is one of the best foundations for full coverage and for such a cheap price.
The downside, as is the case with almost all of the foundations in our best high-street foundation list, is that XX Revolution’s Liquid Skin doesn’t last all day. It left our oily patches looking a little shiny by the end of the working day.
But this can be remedied with a good primer and setting spray.
Read more in our science of oily skin guide and our how to master makeup for oily skin article.
Buy now from Boots
♥︎ Best for dry skin: Max Factor Facefinity
£13.99 | Buy now
If we hadn’t already awarded 17. Second Skin the title of the best cheap high-street foundation, it could have easily taken the crown for the best drugstore foundation for dry skin.
A worthy alternative, however, is Max Factor’s Facefinity. Or to be precise, Max Factor’ 3-in-1 Facefinity All Day Flawless Liquid Foundation. It gets its name from the fact the brand claims it can be used as a primer, foundation and concealer in one.
For £13.99, you get a decent choice of 33 shades. Each one offering medium-full buildable coverage and providing a matte finish and all with SPF 20.
Despite promising to work as both a concealer and foundation, the coverage was a little lacking compared to what Max Factor promises. In fact, we’d go as far as to say this creates a light/sheer- medium coverage at best. It underperformed on the orange and met expectations on the strawberry.
In the blotting paper test, it released an above-average amount of oil and other liquids, which suggests it’s a hydrating foundation. This was further bolstered by the fact it increased the hydration of the skin by 1.3 percentage points.
It’s one of the few foundations to boost hydration – alongside 17. Second Skin, as well as SheGlam Skinfinite and more expensive foundations and skin tints from Estee Lauder and Fenty Beauty. This is even more impressive when you consider Facefinity gives a matte finish to the skin.
As a result, any of those foundations would be great for dry, or combination skin yet few do it as affordably, nor are they as widely available on the high street, as Max Factor Facefinity.
Despite the fact it promises to contain a primer as well as a foundation and concealer, it’s not a particularly long-lasting foundation so make sure you prime with a silicone-primer, and set your base.
Buy now from Boots
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Victoria is founder and editor-in-chief of mamabella, freelance journalist and Mum. She has a passion for empowering people to feel beautiful whatever their age, size, skin type and budget
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