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These are the only 4 foundations I’m wearing right now — and one is only $6

They get top marks for coverage, staying power and confidence-boosting.
Courtesy Danielle Murphy

Before leaving the house, what's the first thing you're grabbing? It's a common topic that comes up in conversation once in a while, so much so, that you probably already have an answer prepared. Keys? Wallet? Phone? Gum? For me, it's not so much what I'm taking, but what I (absolutely) (100%) need to put on.

Unless I'm running a quick errand, for any occasion that requires socializing, I'm not leaving my home without putting on foundation. Ever since my early college days, when my skin first started to flare up with acne, my makeup bag never went without a cover-up of some kind. Throughout the years (unfortunately, my serious acne phase lasted well into my twenties), I've tried a myriad of foundations, from drugstore options to more high-end products — anything to hide the pimples that kicked my confidence to the curb.

And while my complexion has mostly cleared up, and I no longer use foundation as full-on makeup armor to face the day, this is still a no-skip step in my beauty routine. I've grown to love an even skin tone and simply feel put-together when it's on. Plus, years of blemishes have resulted in scarring and hyperpigmentation (that I don't have the money to correct), so I like to dial them down when I can.

All this to say — I know a thing or two about foundation. In fact, out of the many I've tried, there are four that come to mind as my ride or dies, all due to their incomparable coverage levels, consistency and staying power. And if there's anything this list proves, it's that price doesn't necessarily determine performance.

If you're in the market for a new foundation, or just want an upgrade to the tried-and-true product you've had for years, these are the four I would highly recommend.

Best budget-friendly foundation

E.l.f. Flawless Finish Foundation

Over the last few months, I haven't been able to go a day without seeing this foundation on my TikTok feed. So, it was only a matter of time before I gave in to try it myself. And I have to say, it not only lived up to the hype, but it also exceeded expectations.

First, let's talk about the elephant in the room — that price. I normally don't bother picking up anything that low, as I expect the formula to feel cheap, melt off my face in seconds or give little to no coverage. But reviewers were seriously raving about it (and a few Shop TODAY editors as well), and now I see why. Not only is the coverage there, but it also looks natural. It gives my skin a smooth, even finish and is surprisingly long lasting. The last time I wore it, I didn't put any powder on (which is usually an un-skippable part of my routine as well), just a few spritzes of setting spray. It didn't budge for hours.

It also plays well with other products. I like to mix my foundations with bronzing drops when my skin tone gets darker after a vacation or long weekend in the sun, and the formula didn't negatively react at all.

Most lightweight foundation

Haus Labs by Lady Gaga Triclone Skin Tech Foundation

Miss Gaga nailed this one. I don't have a good poker face, so I couldn't lie to you if I tried. This is without a doubt one of the best foundation formulas out there. I rarely see a complaint about it (and in a world where opinions are widely accessible — and unsolicited — that's pretty uncommon), which must have everything to do with the lightweight formula. When I first touched the formula, I was instantly worried as it was more on the watery side — for me, that consistency doesn't normally mesh well with my oily skin. Instead, it just made my skin look like ... well, skin. Just better.

It seriously feels like nothing on my face, which I love because I can't stand the icky feeling of heavy foundations that give me the urge to wash my face the second I walk in the door. Its lightweight consistency also makes it buildable, so whether you like a sheer application or a full beat, you've got choices. Speaking of choices, shoppers have 51 shades to choose from. Is it me or did this foundation singlehandedly raise the beauty industry's standards when it comes to shade range inclusivity? Bravo, Mother Monster.

Best full-coverage foundation

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Longwear Foundation

If there's one foundation I have been able to rely on for years, it's this one from L'Oréal. This one is the thickest formula of the bunch but still has that barely-there feel on the skin. And because its instantly full coverage (which is my preference), I don't have to dispense too much product to achieve the look I'm going for.

The packaging says "pro-matte," and they mean matte. So, don't expect a glow. However, my trick is to mix in a few pumps of the brand's True Match Lumi Glotion to thin out the foundation for a less dramatic matte look. Now, I don't wear one without the other since it makes such a perfect pairing.

What makes this formula a go-to is the no-shine promise it lives up to. I have slightly oily skin, so when it gets shiny, I need to add more powder — which means more of a chance of clogging pores and breaking out. I don't need to worry about having to irritate my skin more when applying this infallible formula.

Best long-lasting foundation

Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Longwear Foundation

If you want staying power, this foundation delivers. If I need a full face for a wedding or event that requires a long-lasting beat, I reach for this one every time. It's that good. Other than its full-coverage, matte finish, there's no denying how good this feels on my skin. I've never described a foundation as feeling "hydrating," but this is the closest I've come to feeling fresh while layering product on my skin. I guess I have all of the skin care magic featured in the formula, which includes a handful of tongue-twisting ingredients like Replexium, MossCellTec No. 1 and AirCool. Charlotte says they're supposed to help with wrinkles and hydration. I say it just makes my skin look great.

Another bonus is that the formula is sweat-proof, which I've learned firsthand after wearing this foundation on many sweaty NYC commutes over the summer. I eventually stopped packing the bottle in my commuter bag, because I never had to touch up!