A makeup look isn’t complete without a base yet there are hundreds of brands to choose from and thousands of shades to match. This means choosing the best foundation can be one of the hardest parts of buying makeup.
READ NEXT: What’s really in your foundation?
Plus, not all foundations are created equal when it comes to oily, dry, combination, acne-prone or mature skin. Below we’ve listed our favourite products designed for all skin types, however, we’ve also detailed more specific choices in our best foundation for oily skin list, and our best foundation for dry skin roundup.
In our science of foundation article, we’ve explained that ingredients you need to look out for and which types of foundation are better for which skin types, and below is our pick of the best foundations that will give you the ideal canvas for all your make up needs.
If you’re unsure which foundation colour you need, or what your skin’s undertone is, we’ve explained all in our how to find your perfect foundation match explainer. We’ve also handpicked the best foundation for dark skin if you don’t find what you’re looking for below.
What’s more, our resident makeup artist Victoria Howe explains how to get flawless skin whatever your age in her How To guide.
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Best concealer | Best makeup brush | Best foundation brush | Best eyeshadow palette | Best foundation for dark skin | Best foundation for oily skin | Best foundation for dry skin | Best contour kit | Best lip gloss | Best lip liner | Best mascara| Best primer
£28 | Buy now from Cult Beauty
Why we love it: If you’re regularly readers of mamabella, you’ll have come across IT Cosmetics’ Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream in many of our Best Buys articles.
This is because it ticks so many skincare and makeup boxes. It’s so versatile, we honestly believe it could replace at least XX of your current beauty products.
As the name suggests, it is a fantastic CC cream – CC stands for colour-correcting – and it helps to balance redness, and get rid of dark circles and uneven skin tone with a single pump.
Because its colour correcting properties are so good, this can also double-up as a concealer and a foundation.
Consistency-wise, we’d say it errs on the side of runny to medium. This means that a lot goes a long way – making it great value for money – but if you like fuller coverage, its formula also makes it highly buildable.
Beyond the makeup element, IT Cosmetics’s entire range is developed alongside plastic surgeons and dermatologists so this wonder product also contains a host of skincare benefits as well. Namely, hyaluronic acid, soy extract, collagen and hydrolysed silk, along with grapefruit, orange, bergamot and lemon oils to infuse skin with refreshing vitamins.
This in addition SPF50+ broad-spectrum mineral sunscreens, which protect from harmful UVA and UVB rays. The one downside is that it’s available in 12 shades – which isn’t a huge amount compared to some other brands.
This is our go-to product, especially when travelling, combining all the benefits of primer, concealer, moisturiser, CC cream and foundation in one.
FURTHER READING: Why we love IT Cosmetics so much
£5.70 | Buy now from Lookfantastic
Why we love it: If you’ve not heard of, or tried products from The Ordinary, then you’re seriously missing out.
It manages to combine the best of both worlds when it comes to quality and price and its minimalist packaging and scientific approach has helped it garner a loyal following in both makeup and skincare circles.
This foundation – one of two types available from the brand, the other being called The Ordinary Coverage Foundation – goes on like a dream and leaves a natural finish.
Because it’s a Serum Foundation, it has a thinner consistency than other foundations in this list and it’s designed to leave your skin looking hydrated and dewy.
As a result, it doesn’t provide particularly high coverage but it is very buildable so you can just add more to get closer to the coverage that you want or need. This isn’t a huge issue; it builds well and it’s not like it takes reams and reams of the stuff but it’s worth noting.
If coverage is more your thing, but you don’t want to fork our for some of the more expensive foundations in this list, try The Ordinary Coverage Foundation. It’s near-on identical to this Serum foundation, other than the fact it gives better coverage from the off.
READ NEXT: How to apply foundation like a pro
The plus side is that with a slightly thinner consistency, whether you apply it with a foundation brush or a sponge, The Ordinary’s foundation doesn’t settle into creases and fine lines and it doesn’t look heavy or cakey. Even when you’ve applied a couple of layers.
For such a cheap foundation, we’re impressed by The Ordinary’s 21-shade range although there is a lack of colours as you move towards the darker end of the spectrum.
Why we love it: Said to be inspired by charmeuse silk, this lightweight, luxury addition from Giorgio Armani covers imperfections and evens out skin tones while leaving skin looking silky smooth.
It gives a wonderfully glowy, dewy finish with great coverage, and without leaving your face looking shiny or cakey.
Ideally applied with a sponge, the beauty of Giorgio Armani’s foundation range is that you can get an even base by using very little product, which is lucky really because, at £50, this foundation needs to last a while.
READ NEXT: How to get flawless skin
Because it has depth to its colour, it provides a glow and means it pairs beautifully with a golden highlighter. It also works well on all skin types but leans towards normal to dry types.
The key to this performance, according to Giorgio Armani, is its so-called Micro–fil Technology. This apparently uses light-reflecting particles that work to “sculpt and brighten the skin”.
We love it so much that the Luminous Silk also features on our best foundation for dark skin tones list – thanks to the fact there are 40 shades to choose from. Something you don’t necessarily get with cheap makeup.
Why we love it: Estée Lauder’s Double Wear foundation is considered to be the Holy Grail, appearing on many best foundation lists.
We do think it’s good, but it doesn’t quite offer the skincare benefits of IT Cosmetics’ CC+ Cream nor the value for money of The Ordinary.
This is why it comes in slightly lower in our list. That said, it’s great on all skin types and is particularly perfect for oily/combination skin due to its semi-matte finish.
It offers a full-coverage finish that doesn’t settle into pores and fine lines and its wide shade range, with a variety of subtle tones and undertones mean you can get the perfect shade – or at least extremely close to it. Plus, it comes with SPF 10.
This is quite a low SPF rating, so you’ll likely need an extra SPF product if you have fair skin, or will be outside a lot, but it’s good to know we have a layer of sun protection for quick pops to the shops. You can read more in our guide to the best SPF makeup and skincare.
The best thing about this foundation, though is that it stays put all day. Even without the use of setting spray, our skin looked almost as good as we headed up to bed as it did when it was first applied.
We’ve also worn it to the gym before and while it doesn’t quite survive a full workout, it holds out a lot longer than many other foundations we’ve tried. It’s also transfer-proof.
The downside is that there’s no pump, it involves pouring the foundation out and this can result in wastage, which – at this price – can be painful. If this is a dealbreaker for you, it is possible to buy a pump separately, from Lookfantastic, for an extra £5.50.
Whichever method you use, this foundation does have a tendency to settle so make sure you give it a shake before use.
£10.99 | Buy now from Superdrug
Why we love it: L’Oreal Paris’ Infallible 24hr foundation has great coverage and boasts a matte, lightweight finish.
As its name suggests, it has great staying power – not as great as Estée Lauder’s but close – although it can be prone to transferring if setting powder or spray isn’t used. You can read more about how setting spray works in our explainer.
This brand is definitely targeted more towards oily or combination skin, as this can stick to dry patches.
This may be due to its gel formula which does make the liquid feel slightly thicker than others in this, so less is definitely more when applying this.
We have better luck getting a more even finish by using a damp beauty blender rather than a foundation brush.
For such a cheap, high-street foundation, L’Oreal Paris’ Infallible 24hr Foundation is also available in 26 shades with lots of options across the range.
This is rare for cheap makeup, and this foundation can be used with the Infallible 24hr concealer which makes it easy to pair.
The concealer is equally as good, and it made it onto our which makes it onto our best concealer list.
£44 | Buy now from Amazon
Why we love it: It’s got the lightest, smoothest and silkiest texture and goes on wonderfully with a brush.
It’s buildable to very full coverage, hiding unwanted redness, scarring or dark spot and is kind to sensitive skin.
READ NEXT: Best BB cream
Elsewhere, Pro Filt’r is cruelty and paraben-free – you can read more about what this means in our guide to clean beauty – and comes in incredible 50 shades.
It does oxidise slightly, so it’s better to go a shade down, but works like a dream when paired with the Fenty concealer and setting powder.
It lasts all day, doesn’t budge and looks beautiful in person and in photography.
You can also find this foundation on our best foundation for dark skin tones list because Rihanna made Fenty Beauty with diversity and inclusion in mind.
£48 | Buy now from Cult Beauty
Why we love it: We love NARS and its Natural Radiant Longwear does exactly what it says on the tin.
It creates a natural finish, leaves your skin looking radiant and the foundation doesn’t budge all day.
It’s buildable up to perfect full coverage, but you can choose to have a more natural “no makeup, makeup look” simply by using slightly less.
Because NARS’ Natural Radiant Longwear is available in 34 shades, it’s suitable for a wide range of skin tones and types, and this is enhanced by skin-matching technology to avoid oxidisation.
Enriched with fruity extracts, it improves the skin’s texture if used on a regular basis and works a treat when matched with the NARS Radiant creamy concealer.
£45 | Buy now from Feelunique
Why we love it: Filled with ingredients to protect and improve your skin, increasing resilience to everyday environments, and with an SPF of 15 to protect against the sun’s rays, Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Foundation has a flawless and semi-matte finish, with ultra-long staying power and looks amazing in photographs.
When paired with the world-renowned makeup artist’s Magic Cream (read our best moisturiser page for more information) this foundation gives a smooth base.
There are other foundations in the Charlotte Tilbury range but we feel the Magic range ticks all the boxes for us.
Charlotte Tilbury recently teased a new serum launching within the same Magic range. Called Magic Serum Crystal Elixir, the serum is designed to sit between your toner and moisturiser – and before you apply her Magic foundation – and promises to brighten and lift the skin.
Libby graduated from Bournemouth University with a degree in Multimedia Journalism. She’s worked as a researcher and writer for Heart Radio as well as a features writer for a Somerset newspaper. She’s since taken time out to travel, manage a hotel restaurant, do a lot of dog walking, and now works in London’s West End