The best foundation to suit every budget and skin type

Finding the best foundation formula for you is no mean feat—our guide helps you discover the ideal option no matter what your skin type or budget

three of My Imperfect Life's best foundation picks from MAC, Pat McGrath and Oxygenetix on a colorful background with powder drop shadows around each product shot
(Image credit: Future)

Trying to find the best foundation for you is the beauty equivalent of finding the perfect pair of jeans: you know it’s out there somewhere but you just have to try a few on before you finally settle on The One.

We get it, though. It’s not always easy. In fact, it can be a bit soul-destroying—mostly because the best foundation for you could come in many guises; it just depends on the occasion and how you need the formula to perform at any given time. That said, using the right foundation can make your life infinitely easier. It can speed up makeup staying time tenfold—and if it lasts all day without slowly disappearing then you don’t need to worry about constantly checking your face in the mirror, nor will it require any touch-ups.

But how exactly do you go about finding the does-it-all formula that you can put your faith in? Here, we share the best way to find a foundation that suits you, plus we’ve shared the ones that we think will never let you down. You’re welcome.

How to choose the best foundation for you

A good foundation should tick a few boxes, as it must be comfortable to wear and should also look like your skin for the most flattering look. Remember, makeup is always about working with what you already have and not covering it up. There are also a few negotiables that come down to personal preference:

  • Price: Foundation come at a whole range of prices, so it's important to choose one that fits your budget—and there will always be a great option at every budget
  • Shade range: One of the most important factors when choosing a foundation, as your it should always match your skin tone. You can also decide whether to wear different shades in summer and winter.
  • Coverage: Do you want a light/sheer coverage, medium, full or something that's buildable?
  • Finish: Do you prefer a glowy, satin, or matte finish?
  • Application method: Different formulas work well different application methods, so it could be worth thinking about whether you prefer to use a brush, sponge or your fingers and then match that to the formula that you choose.
  • Skin type: If your skin is on the drier side, it’s better to avoid a super heavy, full-coverage matte formula because it is more likely to cling to dry patches. Instead, choose products that are enriched with hydrating skincare ingredients, like hyaluronic acid or glycerin, to help keep moisture levels up. Oily skin types will benefit more from a lightweight matte foundation that will help reduce excess shine. Likewise, if your skin is blemish-prone, you might want to opt for a mineral powder foundation that’ll absorb excess oil, will be non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores), and will be kind to skin.

The best foundations as reviewed by our experts

Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Foundation, one of My Imperfect Life's best foundation picks

(Image credit: Pat McGrath)

1. Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Foundation

Best foundation for longwear—all day and nightwear—with a natural-looking finish

Specifications

RRP: $68/£60
Number of shades: 36
Coverage: Buildable
Finish: Natural, soft matte
Best applied with: Foundation brush or finger tips

Reasons to buy

+
Wide range of shades
+
Helps blur imperfections
+
Extremely long wear
+
Doesn't look cakey or too matte

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
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If you’re looking for full, matte coverage—you won’t get that from this

Expensive, yes, but Pat McGrath really delivered with this base and we’d go as far saying that it’s worth every penny. It gives one of the most natural-looking, skin-like finishes we’ve ever tried, imparting a soft focus, lit-from-within glow that’s entirely customisable. You can apply a light layer for a sheer look, or build it up for fuller coverage – but know you’ll never achieve a matte, one-dimensional finish because that just isn’t possible with this foundation. Instead, it’ll simply even out your complexion and provide the most incredible ‘your skin but better’ appearance that you’ll ever experience.

MAC Cosmetics Studio Radiance Face and Body Foundation, one of My Imperfect Life's best foundation picks

(Image credit: MAC)

2. MAC Cosmetics Studio Radiance Face and Body Foundation

Best foundation for a sheer, satin finish

Specifications

RRP: $36/£29
Number of shades: 30
Coverage: Light
Finish: Sheer and natural glow
Best applied with: foundation brush or finger tips

Reasons to buy

+
Effortless and easy to apply
+
Super lightweight feel
+
Long wear formula
+
Waterproof

Reasons to avoid

-
Barely there coverage
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Contains fragrance

A mainstay backstage at fashion week and in just about every makeup artist’s kit bag, Mac’s Face and Body is a real cult favourite—and for extremely good reason. Incredibly lightweight, instantly hydrating and waterproof, this little bottle provides super sheer coverage and leaves skin with a natural, radiant glow. It has stay-true colour technology that means it won’t oxidise throughout the day, and it’s suitable for all skin types—even those with sensitive or reactive skin.

Monika Blunder Beauty Blunder Cover Foundation, one of My Imperfect Life's best foundation picks

(Image credit: Monika Blunder)

3. Monika Blunder Beauty Blunder Cover

Best foundation for dry skin

Specifications

RRP: $52/£45
Number of shades: 14
Coverage: Buildable
Finish: Dewy
Best applied with: Foundation brush, specifically Monika Blunder's Hybrid Cream Brush

Reasons to buy

+
Formulated with natural botanicals and hydrating oils to nourish skin
+
Can be applied as sheer or as heavy as you like, the coverage is totally customizable
+
Doubles up as concealer

Reasons to avoid

-
Only available in 14 shades, although the brand says they can be mixed and matched to create bespoke shades for every skin tone
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Falls on the expensive side

Monika Blunder has painted some of Hollywood’s most famous faces, and her debut product from her namesake beauty brand is this. Aptly named Blunder Cover, this little pot of joy can be used as an all-over base, as a concealer, to contour or just applied to the places you need the most coverage. 

The hydrating, skin-friendly formula harnesses the power of arnica to reduce redness, aloe vera to moisturise and plump skin, chamomile to soothe and rosemary extract to calm inflammation. The one downside is that there are only 14 shades, however the brand does state that the product is specifically designed to be mixed and matched, so everybody can find their perfect skin-true shade. 

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation, one of My Imperfect Life's best foundation picks

(Image credit: Fenty)

4. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation

Best foundation for oily skin

Specifications

RRP: $36/£30
Number of shades: 50
Coverage: Buildable
Finish: Soft matte
Best applied with: Foundation brush or sponge

Reasons to buy

+
Seriously impressive shade range
+
Flattering soft matte finish
+
Comfortable to wear
+
Buildable coverage

Reasons to avoid

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Dries down quickly so fast application is a must
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May look cakey if you apply too much
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Could cling to any drier patches

Rihanna made it her mission to cater to every skintone, and through her vast creation of 50 shades she really has delivered. Pro Filt’r Soft Matte was the first foundation in the Fenty range, and this soft matte, long wearing formula is a real crowd pleaser. It has buildable, medium-to-full coverage that’s best applied with a brush or a damp sponge. Always make sure you prep and prime skin properly prior to application, and finish with setting spray and we guarantee it’ll last all night long. 

Oxygenetix Oxygenating Breathable Foundation, one of My Imperfect Life's best foundation picks

(Image credit: Oxygenetix)

5. Oxygenetix Oxygenating Breathable Foundation

Best foundation for blemish-prone or sensitive skin

Specifications

RRP: $66/£55
Number of shades: 14
Coverage: Sheer buildable
Finish: Natural, soft matte
Best applied with: foundation brush or sponge

Reasons to buy

+
Entirely breathable formula
+
Incredibly gentle, suitable for even the most sensitive of skin
+
Soothes skin with aloe formula
+
Antibacterial so great for acne-prone skin
+
Boosts collagen production
+
Strengthens and hydrates skin

Reasons to avoid

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Limited shade range
-
Expensive, especially considering the size of the bottle

This is truly a foundation like no other. Oxygenetix has created—what they call—‘the most breathable foundation you’ll ever apply’. It’s made with a unique complex called ceravitae, which delivers oxygen to skin cells, working to keep skin healthy. In turn, it encourages healing and collagen growth to help strengthen, hydrate and smooth delicate skin; that’s why it’s a foundation recommended by both surgeons and doctors and can be used following various procedures, including microdermabrasion and skin peels. It’s safe for people with acne, rosacea, psoriasis, eczema and even burns, and the formula is free of fragrance, oil, dye and parabens making it a good choice for anybody with reactive skin. Admittedly, the shade range is extremely limited but hopefully there are plans to extend it in the near future. 

Lucy Partington has been a beauty journalist for eight years, writing for titles including Stylist and Cosmopolitan. She’s a true skincare nerd who’s on a lifelong quest for a glowing complexion and loves nothing more than learning about new ingredients and products. She’s obsessed with having perfect eyebrows and collecting eyeshadow palettes she’ll probably never use.