The history of makeup can be traced back to ancients time. The invention and common usage of the underlying foundation to create an even skin tone is much more recent. Foundation was first used in theater productions with a mixture containing lard. The cosmetics company Max Factor, since discontinued in the early 2000s, marketed the first commercial foundation as “pan-cake” makeup for actresses to wear on television.
Thanks to the lightweight, natural-look of pan-cake makeup, the product evolved from being used on-screen to being an essential step in makeup routines. Foundation is meant to create a uniform color to the complexion while covering patchy or shiny blemishes.
Types of Foundation Makeup
The three main types of foundation are powder, liquid and cream. Which type works best for your skin can depend on its complexion and amount of blemishes. Foundations typically provide three different measures of coverage – sheer, medium or full coverage.
Coverage, of course, refers to how much it will conceal the skin.
Sheer formula is also called “lightweight” or “hydrating.” Medium coverage can be labeled as “semi-matte,” while full coverage is just “matte.”
A sheer foundation is the most transparent. Because it doesn’t mask your natural skin, it gives the outward impression that you’re not wearing any foundation. People with few blemishes choose this foundation.
A Medium foundation is a bit heavier and can hide freckles, the red marks of pimples or other blemishes. This foundation works wonder for people who had mild acne as teens.
A Full Coverage foundation is meant to cover birthmarks, scars and the blotchy skin pattern of vitiligo. It is the most opaque foundation coverage.
We’ve found 5 of the best foundations for each skin type and coverage level:
Foundation for Oily Skin
Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse – Light Coverage
The dream matte mousse is a lightweight formula that provides light coverage with a clean matte finish, despite its initial thick appearance. The product can make dry skin patchy, but for oily skin, it smoothly evens the skin and reduces problematic shiny areas.
Maybelline Fit Me! Balance Stick – Light Coverage
The compact stick has lightweight powder in the center of the anti-shine core. While it goes on creamy, it changes into a matte finish that dissolves excess oil and leaves your skin well-blended and oil-free.
L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation – Medium Coverage
L’Oreal brings you a foundation that reduces oil for over 12 hours while hiding imperfections and creating a flawless base. This foundation provides medium coverage in a creamy, lightweight format.
Covergirl Outlast Stay Fabulous 3-in-1 Foundation – Medium/Full Coverage
This product by Covergirl is a foundation, primer and concealer all in one. The thin liquid gives a somewhat sheer coverage, but can be built upon for a medium-to-full coverage without being cakey.
Covergirl Clean Oil Foundation – Full Coverage
This foundation by historical cosmetic company Covergirl offers full-coverage and non-oily skin for people with normally oily skin. The no-frills package doesn’t include a pump or tube, but hides blemishes well enough that concealer isn’t even necessary!
Foundation for Dry Skin
Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint – Light Coverage
This smooth foundation moisturizes the skin while giving you a fresh natural look for up to 24 hours. The 10 blendable shades are lightweight and oil-free, so they won’t clog your pores.
E.l.f. BB Cream – Light Coverage
The BB Cream foundation is infused with skin hydrating ingredients, such as cucumber, vitamin E and aloe. Lightweight and moisturizing, this product has SPF 20 to protect your skin and gives you a clean complexion.
Physicians Formula The Healthy Foundation – Medium Coverage
Full of healthy vitamin E, this foundation hydrates the skin with medium coverage. The formula lets your skin breathe while ensuring an even, smooth skin tone.
Revlon Colorstay for Normal Dry Skin – Full Coverage
Revlon’s Colorstay products are transfer-resistant, leaving the makeup on your face and not your clothes. This foundation includes SPF 20 for sun protection. The lightweight formula gives you comfortable coverage that lasts all day.
Foundation for Combination Skin
Wet n Wild Photo Focus Foundation – Medium Coverage
Wet n Wild is one of the cheapest options for makeup, but they are improving their quality/price ratio with this camera-ready foundation. Made with a light-diffusing complex, the matte results in medium coverage to hide your skin impurities while making you Instagramable.
Revlon Colorstay for Combination Skin – Full Coverage
This oil-free foundation guarantees a matte finish for up to 24 hours. The SPF15 provides basic sun protection while keeping an even, impeccable complexion for the entire day.
Rimmel London Stay Matte Foundation – Full Coverage
Rimmel is a drugstore makeup staple and this shine-free foundation does not disappoint. The product diminishes visible pores for a lightweight, blended finish.
NYX Stay Matte But Not Flat Foundation – Full Coverage
This foundation is water-based, making it a full coverage option of combination (or oily) skin. It provides a natural, lightweight finish that lets you forget that you’re even wearing makeup.
Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Foundation – Full Coverage
This product is made with ingredients that are proven to dissolve oil and preventing breakouts. The natural, smooth foundation won’t clog your pores and gives you full coverage that lasts for hours.
Foundation for all Skin Types
Burt’s Bees BB Cream – Light Coverage
The company beloved for its lip care products takes a foray into makeup with this light coverage foundation. This weightless cream hydrates the skin and has SPF 15 for sun protection.
L’Oreal True Match – Light Coverage
Best applied with a damp sponge, this buildable foundation doesn’t leave your face cakey or blotchy. The oil-free ingredients can benefit all skin types, but especially those prone to acne.
Maybelline Fit Me! Dewy & Smooth Foundation – Light Coverage
The light matte finish of this product is perfect for the day, but it can also be built upon for fuller coverage. This foundation comes in a wide range of shades for all skin types.
Honest Beauty Everything Cream Foundation – Medium Coverage
This demi-matte foundation gives you a velvety finish with buildable coverage. Its lightweight moisturizing formula contains jojoba oil and hydrating vitamin E for nourished, even skin.
Revlon ColorStay Foundation – Full Coverage
While the oil-control properties of this foundation make it perfect for oily skin, it can work equally as well on all skin types. It easily blends into the skin for long-lasting wear and a natural, matte finish.
Best Light to Medium Coverage Foundation
Almay Age Essentials
Almay Age Essential cosmetics line contain anti-aging ingredients as well as moisturizers. The lightweight foundation is comfortable on the skin without looking patchy or flaking. It smooths and hydrates skin as it firms and lifts age lines.
Covergirl TruBlend Liquid Makeup
This hypoallergenic foundation provides you with sheer, dewy coverage without being overly heavy. If you find it too light, it is easily built upon for full coverage.
Maybelline Dream Liquid Mousse Foundation
Achieve the look of completely poreless skin with a perfected airbrushed finish. Dream Liquid® Mousse lightweight foundation delivers the look of completely poreless skin. Achieve the look of completely poreless skin with a perfected airbrushed finish. Lightweight and breathable, this 8-hour liquid foundation delivers cake-free, medium coverage that moisturizes all day. Dermatologist tested. Allergy tested. Non-comedogenic. Ideal for normal skin. Suitable for sensitive skin.
Revlon PhotoReady Candid
This foundation by Revlon includes anti-pollution ingredients that repel environmental dirt and debris from clinging to your skin. It smoothly blends into your skin tone while moisturizing with a weightless feel. The anti-blue light properties will leave your candid photos looking fresh and natural.
Covergirl Vitalist Healthy Elixir
Covergirl packed this hydrating foundation with vitamins E, B and SPF 20 sun protection. Your skin will glow will this light coverage that can be adjusted for a flawless look.
Best Full Coverage Foundation
Almay My Best Blend
Makeup and moisturizer in one, this creamy foundation is lightweight for flawlessly covering blemishes. The product’s SPF 40 protects your skin and the built-in blending tool makes application simple and easy.
Rimmel Lasting Finish Breathable Foundation
This liquid foundation is blended into the skin for full coverage that looks natural, while hiding visible pores. Your skin will look smooth and dewy for hours to come.
NYX Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Foundation
This product has 45 waterproof shades to choose from. It is lightweight, glides on smooth and lasts all day.
Revlon PhotoReady Airbrush Effect
The light-filtering technology used to create this foundation gives your skin a radiant, full coverage glow. Your skin will look so poreless and luminous that you won’t even need to put filters on your Instagram photos.
L’Oreal Paris Infallible Total Coverage Foundation
This product promises 24 hours of full coverage with a natural finish. Lightweight, the foundation blends with your skin tone to hide dark spots, scars and other blemishes. It is fortified with Alliagel, which smooths the skin for a flawless complexion.
With these drugstore foundations, you can have a perfectly even, smooth-as-a-pearl face at half the price.