Which Type of Foundation is Best for You?


In This Article:

Finding the right foundation to match your skin color, skin type, and personal preference (light to heavy coverage) is like trying to find a needle in a haystack—it can feel like an endless search. We’ll help sort through the stack of options so you can hone in on the one that’s best for you. Prepare to be amazed at the difference the right foundation makes!

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One Size Does Not Fit All

It's extremely important to choose a foundation that balances the needs of your skin type and skin concerns. For instance, a matte foundation that complements oily skin isn’t going to be the best formula for dry skin and vice versa. Or if you want to camouflage breakouts or redness, you’ll need a higher coverage foundation than what someone with a perfectly even skin tone may prefer.

So how do you choose? Following is a general rundown of the pros and cons of the most popular types of foundations. Knowing how to match your skin color, understanding your skin type and level of desired coverage can make it far easier for you to find a foundation you'll love to wear!

Matte-Finish Liquid Foundations for Normal to Oily Skin


  • Lightweight texture and finish (doesn't feel heavy on skin).
  • Easy to blend; buildable coverage.
  • Ideal for oily skin; helps hold back excess shine for at least a few hours.
  • Generally a safe choice for covering blemish-prone skin.
  • Beneficial for those who live in humid climates and cannot get their foundation to last.

But watch out for:

  • Foundations with a matte finish can exaggerate wrinkles if the finish is too dry. You can remedy this by applying a light layer of moisturizer or a serum underneath, although this can reduce the matte finish.
  • Attempting to blend any mistakes after it sets can cause rolling or streaking that’s hard to correct.

Moisturizing Liquid Foundations


  • Typically provide light to medium coverage that allows for a natural look.
  • The best ones hydrate skin without being greasy.
  • Satin or satin-matte finish are perfect for normal to dry skin.
  • Many have a slight sheen for a youthful-looking glow.

But watch out for:

  • Generally not the best option for combination to oily skin (the moisturizing finish can makes oily areas look oilier).

Pressed Powder or Loose Powder Foundations


  • For those with normal to slightly oily or slightly dry skin, powder foundation is a fast, easy way to get a smooth finish.
  • Some powder foundations have a slight luminescence, which can add a soft glow.
  • Pressed powder versions are portable and extremely easy to apply.
  • Lightweight feel.
  • Excellent to use over a daytime moisturizer with sunscreen. These foundations help reduce the shiny finish of some sunscreens.

But watch out for:

  • If you have very oily skin, powder foundations can look clumpy or slip into pores.
  • If you have dry or flaky skin, the powder will absorb moisture, making your skin drier.
  • Can change color on those with very oily skin. The color change occurs when pigments in the foundation mix with the excess oil and oxidize.
  • Keep in mind that if you need more coverage, building powder on your skin can look heavy and overdone.

Cream-to-Powder Compact Foundations


  • Blends quickly and easily with a sponge or brush, setting to a semi-matte or powdery finish.
  • Great for those with normal to slightly dry or slightly oily skin if you don't want a true matte or dewy finish.
  • Wide range of coverage, from sheer to full.
  • Works well for touching up on-the-go.

But watch out for:

  • Depending on the formula, can blend on too thick and look more obvious than other types of foundation.
  • Not for very oily skin because the cream portion exaggerates shine and the powder finish isn't strong enough to keep excess oil in check.
  • Not for very dry skin because the finish exaggerates dry areas, even when they're prepped with moisturizer.

Stick Foundations


  • Typically offer medium to full coverage.
  • Works well for touching up on-the-go.

But watch out for:

  • Some stick foundations have a thick, waxy texture that looks heavy and can lead to clogged pores and/or worsen breakouts.
  • Not always easy to blend over large areas.
  • If the finish is too creamy, it can crease into lines around the eye.

Tinted Moisturizers (and BB Creams)


  • Due to the sheer nature of tinted moisturizers (and many BB creams), you don't have to worry about matching the foundation perfectly to your skin color as they tend to blend on almost invisibly.
  • Great for adding a touch of color for a natural look.
  • Often combines soft color, hydration, and sun protection in one product for triple the benefit.
  • Bonus if the formula contains more skin-replenishing ingredients.

But watch out for:

  • Coverage can be too sheer for more apparent imperfections.

Choosing the Right Shade of Foundation

After all is said and done, the best way to find your foundation shade match is to try it on. That makes the department store counter or cosmetic store a good choice due to testers and samples.

Select three or four shades that you think look the best and stripe them on your jaw, in parallel lines pointing toward your neck. If the shade appears relatively "invisible" and seems to disappear into your skin that’s a good fit.

Then apply the foundation all over you face and check the color in daylight if possible. That’s the real test to see if the foundation matches your skin’s color and undertone.

Now you’re on your way to becoming your very own makeup artist! If you’re still wondering about how to get a perfect foundation shade match use our guide here to determine your skin’s undertone to finish the selection process.

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See See Paula's Choice Face Makeup.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!

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