The Best Foundations for Every Skin Need

As we emerge back into the world after a rather bare-faced year, it’s a worthy time to track down an old friend: foundation. The reintroduction to makeup might be an adjustment, but the wisely chosen formula should do its work by stealth, evening out the complexion while letting your natural radiance shine through. 

There’s an art to finding the right foundation. First, consider the amount of coverage you usually prefer. Then, factor in the conditions. “If you’re going through a spell of extremely dry skin due to weather or other circumstances, opt for lighter coverage,” says makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran. “Or, if you live somewhere with changing seasons, like summer and winter, that can also help you make the decision.” Warmer months typically call for featherweight, sweatproof tints, whereas creamy foundations with more coverage are best left for winter. 

The correct shade can also fluctuate throughout the year. Instead of testing a formula in a single spot, “I recommend trying the color on multiple parts of your face, including your jawline, as most people have varying tones in the center and perimeter of the face,” says Jaikaran. “Additionally, be sure to test it in natural light, as different lighting can alter the look of the foundation dramatically.”

Once you have your formula of choice, it’s time to apply. “Start by prepping with moisturizer, then primer,” advises makeup artist Daniel Martin, who is the global director of artistry and education for Tatcha. Together, the two can extend the wear of your foundation and ensure that it blends seamlessly onto skin. More traditional formulas, be they light- or full-coverage, are best blended with brushes or sponges. For tinted moisturizers, Martin recommends applying simply with your fingers. This imparts a “light amount of pigment coverage while still giving you the moisturization and [breathability] you want,” he says. With that in mind, here are some of the best versatile options to best suit your skin needs. 

Fenty Beauty Eaze Drop blurring skin tint

Rihanna’s beauty brand broke the mold with its huge range of inclusive foundation shades. This new launch does the same for those who prefer tinted moisturizer. It offers 25 shades—an unusually thorough offering for a lightweight skin tint—and unlike others, it’s resistant to both sweat and humidity.

Buy on their website $44

Saie Slip Tint tinted moisturizer SPF 35

For a clean formula that does it all, consider this sheer tint. It delivers a nourishing combination of hyaluronic acid and argan oil, along with just enough coverage to see you through the day. Plus, the mineral-based SPF 35 ensures your skin is adequately protected.

Buy on their website $32

NARS Pure Radiant tinted moisturizer SPF 30

One of Jaikaran’s go-tos, this product touts itself as a moisturizer first, with humectants alongside vitamin C for added defense against damaging free radicals. “Water-based formulas and tinted moisturizers keep the skin hydrated as the day goes on,” she says.

Buy at ULTA $45

Armani Beauty NeoNude foundation

If you’re a devotee of the brand’s cult classic Luminous Silk foundation, meet its sheer, nourishing sister. Infused with hyaluronic acid and glycerin, two gold-standard moisturizing agents, it leaves skin soft and smooth, even for those prone to dryness.

Buy at Nordstrom $40

Merit The Minimalist Perfecting Complexion foundation and concealer stick

Merit, the new makeup line from WhoWhatWear founder Katherine Power, is all about convenience, and this complexion stick is no exception. It serves as a medium-coverage foundation or concealer, depending on how you apply it, and the solid format makes it portable enough for travel or on-the-go touch-ups.

Buy at Sephora $49

NYX Professional Makeup Total Control PRO Drop foundation

Designed to offer customizable coverage, this buildable foundation makes it easy to do just that: Try two drops for a tint, three drops for light coverage, and so on. It’s also vegan and feels practically invisible on skin.

Buy at ULTA $14

Clinique Even Better Clinical serum foundation SPF 25

This serum foundation reads like a greatest hits of skin-care ingredients, complete with hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, vitamin C, and the brand’s proprietary dark-spot corrector. The formula can also withstand up to 24 hours of wear without caking, settling into lines, or losing luster.

Buy at Nordstrom $42

Patrick Starrr Turn Up The Base powder foundation

Powder foundation can have a throwback feel, but leave it to YouTube phenom Patrick Starrr to create one that redefines a classic. This formula evens out skin texture as much as it does tone, and it imparts a matte, oil-absorbing finish designed to last all day.

Buy at Sephora $43

VANITY FAIR

12 Best Drugstore Eyeshadows That Start At Just $5

Of all the products in your makeup bag, the one that allows you to show the most creativity is your eyeshadow. The colored powders in those little pans highlight the most expressive part of your face. The looks you dream up can be anything from subtle to glam, and eyeshadows come in every color to match any mood or outfit. However, palettes can get pretty pricey. That’s where drugstores come in. 

Affordable brands like Maybelline, L’Oréal Paris, NYX, and more make shadows that stack up to the quality of high-end brands—and sometimes even out-perform them. Although drugstore eyeshadows used to be entry-level products beauty lovers first experimented with in middle school, they’re now staples in the makeup kits of professional artists and beauty influencers alike.

  • Maybelline Total Temptation Eyeshadow + Highlight Palette

    Patrick Ta, go-to makeup artist of Gigi Hadid, Adriana Lima, and Shay Mitchell, thinks that this palette is “the perfect drugstore eyeshadow option.” He loves the blendability of the shades and says you can create both natural and smokey eye looks with it. Plus, the metallic shades double as face highlighters so you can glow all over.
  • ColourPop Give It To Me Straight Palette

    For a bronze smokey eye, Henney says that there is no palette better than this one. She loves that the metallic tones work to give the center of the eye a pop. She also regularly brings it when she is doing makeup for swimwear campaigns because it creates when she calls a “beach babe eye.”
  • Wet n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow 10-Pan Palette

    You can’t really go wrong with a $5 eyeshadow palette, especially when the quality is as good as this one is. It comes in four different shade ranges so you can select the one that best fits your mood, or collect them all—for less than the price of one high-end palette. Makeup artist and YouTuber @RawBeautyKristi says that these palettes are a go-to of hers when she needs something both affordable and quality, and emphasizes that Wet N Wild is an “underrated drugstore brand.”
  • Karity Nudes and Rudes

    Bartlett also reaches for this palette when she needs to create a neutral look. She loves that each of the shadows are highly pigmented and blendable, and it comes with 21 total hues in the palette. It’s versatile enough to create both natural and dramatic looks.
  • Maybelline The Burgundy Bar Eyeshadow Palette Makeup

    Celebrity makeup artist and #DewyDumpling Instagram phenomenon Nam Vo, who works with everyone from Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to Kylie Jenner, uses this palette to create what she describes a “warm dumpling eye,” because the entire set is subtly metallic and warm-toned.
  • NYX Professional Makeup Prismatic Eyeshadow

    Vo is also partial to this metallic baby pink shadow single. She gently taps it into the center of the lid to give a glossy shock of glitter to any eye look, especially when she wants to give off a sweet, “innocent” vibe.
  • E.l.f. Mad for Matte Eyeshadow Palette

    Beauty YouTuber and founder of Dominique Cosmetics, Christen Dominique, loves how the shadows in this palette are buildable in coverage and are universally flattering on a variety of skin tones. It also comes in sleek black packaging that will look great both in a makeup flatlay and sitting on your vanity countertop.
  • Milani Bold Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette

    Beauty influencer Foinika Kay—also known as @ExteriorGlam—says this palette is one of the best ones that she owns. Though it falls on the pricier side of drugstore palettes, she loves how pigmented it is, and that the shades are so different that you can create a plethora of fun looks.
  • BH Cosmetics Opalescent 24 Color Shadow Palette

    Kay also really loves this BH palette for its long-lasting power. It has a ton of neutral shades ranging from golds to pinks, and it even has a few purples thrown in, so you can go for a more neutral, soft-glam look.
  • NYX Swear By It Shadow Palette

    Beauty influencer and musician Bri Hall swears by this palette, pun intended. The color diversity, as well as the mix of textures and finishes, makes it an easy go-to for the makeup lover on-the-go. She loves that it has a combination of warm and cool tones, and regularly reaches for this palette whenever she’s in a pinch.

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