Best foundations 2021: from full coverage to soft tints

From young to mature skin and oily to dry, here’s everything you need to know about the top foundations to cover all bases

Best foundations
(Image credit: Getty)

Let’s face it, months of lockdown has played havoc with our faces. It’s time to rid our dull and tired skin and get the glow back. As we head into the depths of winter, it’s more important than ever - after weeks indoors- to touch base and get skin looking soft and radiant. And that’s where the best foundation comes in hand. 

What once suited you perfectly in the office may no longer deem suitable for those daily zoom meetings that highlight not only the chalkiness of foundation but also give off a wrong shade of colour under the glare of the screen light.

The ultimate goal is a foundation that looks like your own skin—only better. From full coverage to soft tints, these foundations will take your make-up to the next level, feel comfortable on the skin, cover lines and help give a visible improvement to the complexion. 

How to buy the best foundation

When shopping for the best foundation there are a few things to consider before committing to a particular type, brand or shade. Read on for the top tips on how to buy the best foundation for your skin type.

Check your skin tone

The most important one being your skin tone. Some people have a ‘cool’ undertone and some have a ‘warm’ undertone, and this will be important to know when choosing the right shade for you. 

If you’re unsure what skin tone you have, you can either seek advice from a make up artist (if you have the time and money for that), or you can simply take a look at your veins! In natural light, take a look at the veins in your arm – if you have blue/purple veins then you have a cool undertone, and if your veins appear more green-y blue, then you have a warm undertone. If you’re unsure and they look a bit of both, then you have a neutral skin tone. 

Try before you buy

In order to buy the best foundation, you must test it on your skin before purchasing. If available, use one of the shops testers to apply the product in natural lighting to your forearm or your neck. You ideally want the foundation to be one shade lighter than your natural skin tone, as this will achieve the most natural look. In summer, you may wish to choose a slightly warmer shade, but again, be sure to test it on your skin first to ensure it’s a good match. 

Pick your coverage

Understand what you want from your foundation before you purchase one. Do you want light coverage for a super natural everyday look, or do you want full coverage for a more made up look? Do you have dry skin or oily skin? Are you prone to acne? All of these questions are really important when choosing the consistency and formula of your foundation. 

Make sure you check the label for the ingredients and consistency. Thinner liquid products tend to offer lighter coverage but can be buildable for more coverage, whereas thicker, creamier foundations will provide a lot of coverage and a little goes a long way. If you’re someone who only wears foundation to go out occasionally then this might be the best option for you.

How to apply foundation

Now comes the tricky part! While you may think you can just whack it on and hope for the best, there’s a number of techniques and tools that can be utilised to ensure you get that perfect airbrushed finish. It doesn’t have to be overcomplicated, but here’s a few tips on how to apply foundation…

Choose your application method

The most common choice for applying foundation is with a foundation brush (check out our article on the best makeup brushes). This is an easy way to get good coverage and they work well with most liquid foundations. You can use a foundation brush to build upon your coverage to get the look you want. 

Another popular option for applying foundation is with a sponge or what is known as a ‘beauty blender’. These are great for those wanting fuller coverage, as they help you get a very even and totally flawless finish. Beauty blenders are used by blotting the face rather than brushing, so you can easily build coverage in areas without the foundation looking too heavy on the skin. 

However, if you don’t have makeup brushes at home and you don’t want to invest in some then you can apply with your fingers. With clean hands, simply smooth the product over the face. This method works well for light coverage foundations or tinted moisturisers, BB cream and CC creams. However, this application method wouldn’t be sufficient for heavier products and could leave you seriously blotchy! 

Application technique

Use a small amount of product to begin with and add more if needed. Apply to the entire face either blotting or brushing from the nose outwards. Add more foundation to areas such as under the eyes and where you want to cover any blemishes. Blending the product is a must, and this is why it is super important you have the right shade. Pull the product down past your jawbone and onto the neck for a full, even application that matches the rest of your skin. 

The best foundations you can buy today:

Best foundations: Bobbi Brown Skin Long-wear Weightless Foundation SPF 15

(Image credit: Bobbi Brown)

1. Bobbi Brown Skin Long-wear Weightless Foundation SPF 15

Bobbi Brown makes it easy to find your perfect shade

Reasons to buy
+16-hour, full-coverage matte formula+Huge number of shades+Comfortable+Blendable
Reasons to avoid
-Can be a little sticky

With around 16-hour wear and medium to full coverage, this lightweight formula is designed to both feel and look great. It delivers a matte finish that’s comfortable, breathable, and weightless. The Weightless Foundation features a blend of skin-loving ingredients, oil-controlling actives, and skin-true pigments. Perhaps best of all, it's available in a range of shades that are expertly calibrated to skin’s undertones.

Best foundations: 3INA 24h Foundation

(Image credit: 3INA)

2. 3INA 24h Foundation

This foundation has full staying-power around the clock

Reasons to buy
+Lasts from dusk to dawn+26 shades so huge choice of colour
Reasons to avoid
-Pump dispensed out more liquid than needed

When it comes to choosing the best foundation, you want one that is long-lasting and that will stand the test of time—and sweat, tears and other bodily functions – this ticks all the boxes. And that is the real sell here – it really does have staying power. Admittedly it was more a 16 hour day we trialled it for- from an early-morning school run, work, gym visit and evening out – and the foundation remained flawless.

Best foundations: Tropic Beauty Booster

(Image credit: Tropic)

3. Tropic Beauty Booster Sheer Foundation

The best weightless formula foundation

Reasons to buy
+Lovely consistency+Skin feels like silk
Reasons to avoid
-Only available in eight shades, so not as big a choice as others

For summer wear you don’t want anything thick and heavy, which is why the light coverage this foundation gives is perfect. It is so lightless you actually feel as though you are not wearing anything. The product glides onto the skin easily and gives a dewy look capable of covering up light imperfections. For more mature skin, I would either apply this more thickly or opt for a heavier formula. After weeks of going make-up free, this provided the perfect foundation to return too and because of its lightweight texture didn’t sit in the lines or wrinkles of the skin, just merely glided over them.

Best foundations: Chantecaille Future Skin Foundation

(Image credit: Chantecaille)

4. Chantecaille Future Skin Foundation

Full-coverage foundation for all weather

Reasons to buy
+Pure luxury+A tiny bit goes a long way
Reasons to avoid

When a foundation comes in at +£50 / $60, you have to question if it is really worth the price tag. Well, for someone with dry or sensitive skin, I have to say yes it is. Dark circles and dehydrated skin brought on by weeks of staying indoors and little exposure to sunlight need all the TLC we can get, and this product does what it says on the pot – it literally provides a future skin. Use sparingly as all you need is a few dabs on your brush for full coverage and the hydrating factor is almost instant as the foundation settles onto the skin. Blendable and buildable for a more dramatic shade or appearance, it is super easy to apply with zero caking effect.

Best foundations: IL MAKIAGE Foundation woke up like this

(Image credit: IL Makiage)

5. IL MAKIAGE Woke Up Like This Flawless Base Foundation

One of the most hyped makeup brands of the year

Reasons to buy
+50 shades for all skin tones+100% cruelty free
Reasons to avoid
-For buildable coverage you need to use quite a lot of product

There they are. Deep lines and wrinkles from a bad night’s sleep and you have an important Zoom work meeting. What do you do? Without a doubt reach for this foundation that has such a lightweight texture you can build upon it to provide medium-to-high coverage. All skin imperfections get covered up without leaving any cake or chalky foundation marks. As well as resulting in a natural matte finish, this product is ideal for mature skin, as it is packed with Vitamin E for anti-aging benefits and hyaluronic acid for hydration, protection and filling wrinkles.

Best foundations: Morphe fluidity full-coverage foundation

(Image credit: Morphe)

6. Morphe fluidity full-coverage foundation

An affordable foundation which sits nicely on your skin

Reasons to buy
+Stays put in the sun+huge number of shades
Reasons to avoid
-Limited stockists 

This foundation sits well (both in terms of price and on your skin) if you are looking for a good product at an affordable price. Once you have got past the difficult task of matching your skin tone to the right shade, then everything else blends in nicely. The constituency does come out a tiny bit thick so be sure to use sparingly. An excellent buy if you suffer with oily skin as it dries matte and calms everything down.

Best foundations: Clarins Everlasting Youth Fluid Foundation

(Image credit: Clarins)

7. Clarins Everlasting Youth Fluid Foundation SPF15

Bonus if you love makeup that has a strong skincare element!

Reasons to buy
+SPF15 provides UVA & UVB protection+Easy to blend
Reasons to avoid
-Glass bottle so not easily transportable

To its credit, for a brand best-known for skincare, Clarins has covered all stops (and spots) in creating this wonderfully flawless foundation. A product promising everlasting youth is a huge deal, but whatever your age, if you suffer from dehydrated skin, this instantly covers all bases whilst hydrating and plumping the skin. With extracts of chicory and red jania for brightness, the overall effect left skin dewy and glowing and felt refreshingly light on the skin. Available in 24 shades.

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