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Turns out some of the best beauty buys can be found in the aisles of your local drugstore.
Many beauty brands are expanding their offerings — from broadening the spectrum of shades to offering a range of textures and coverage options. The flip side of having a sea of options, however, is the very personal (and often overwhelming) task of having to narrow down the one that’s right for you.
Because we’ve certainly been there, we’ve tasked makeup artists with breaking down some of the key things to consider during your search. From skin type to undertone, read on for everything you need to know before you go, plus some recommendations to get you started.
When choosing a foundation, one of the first things you'll want to factor in is skin type. “Knowing your actual skin type is really important when it comes to selecting the right formula and finish,” explained New York-based makeup artist Markphong Tram.
If you have oily skin: Celebrity makeup artist Katherine Dorn of Pierre Michel Salon suggested trying a lighter tinted moisturizer, mineral powder or an oil-free foundation. “Choose a foundation with a matte finish to give you a flawless and poreless effect,” added makeup artist Shira Aaron.
If you have dry skin: Dorn recommended a liquid or cream foundation, which she said tend to provide more moisture for the skin. “Make sure to choose a foundation with a semi-matte or dewy finish to help give you a luminous glow, and don’t be afraid to add oil or moisturizing lotion to your liquid foundation, especially during winter months when many experience additional dryness,” added Aaron.
If you have combination skin: According to makeup artist Vandy Vanity, those with combination skin (such as herself) might find that they have more versatility, or that their needs change depending on seasonal or even diet and hormonal changes.
“I keep both matte and dewy foundations in my collection and I adjust based on the day of wear. However, the best way to keep things balanced is to stick to a consistent skincare routine. A consistent routine will clear up dry patches, dark spots and help prevent unwanted breakouts, which in turn will require less covering up,” Vanity explained.
TEXTURE AND THICKNESS
As skin ages, it typically tends to get thinner, which means heavier foundations can start seeping into unwanted spaces.
To avoid this, Aaron said to look for non-matte foundations with buildable formulas that allow you to achieve that "less is more" look. "Use a liquid foundation that has a more fluid consistency. You can layer the foundation where you need it the most while avoiding the areas where you want it least,” she said.
As for product packaging, Aaron suggested looking for buzzwords like “buildable coverage,” ”luminous” and “glow,” along with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin C which are good for improving your skin’s tone and texture.
Another pro tip is to incorporate a primer into your routine. “This will help blur some of the fine lines you may have, and the foundation won’t have to work as hard,” explained makeup artist Meredith Baraf. “You can also try using a hydrating foundation with a yellow base. Yellow makes the skin warmer and warmer skin makes you look younger!”
While those with oily skin might also want to opt for lighter coverage to allow skin to breathe, Tram pointed out that coverage is often a personal matter, with some desiring more than others based on a range of factors.
“For sheer coverage, I suggest a tinted moisturizer or BB cream. For something a bit heavier, you might want to opt for a matte finish,” he explained.
Tram said label terms like “long-lasting” and “24-hour wear” typically lend themselves to fuller coverage, whereas “weightless,” “dewy” and “glowing” are often used when describing lighter formulas.
BLENDABILITY AND WEARABILITY
Coverage also goes hand-in-hand with blendability, as lightweight formulas tend to blend more seamlessly, whereas thicker, long-lasting formulas can typically be expected to stay put longer.
“If I’m working on set all day, I want my foundation to be long-wearing so I don’t have to do a lot of touching up, but if you’re just going out for a meeting with friends for a couple of hours to then come home and take off your makeup, why would you want to put on a 24-hour foundation that is just going to be harder to take off?,” explained Tram.
As for application, Vanity said lighter foundations tend to go on well with fingers or dense sponges, while full coverage goes on well with dense brushes. "Just speaking from my experience. Every artists has different techniques."
SHADE AND UNDERTONES
According to Aaron, knowing your skin’s undertone can be extremely helpful when determining what shade to pick.
“If your skin appears more golden, then you have a warm undertone. If it appears rosier, then you have a cool undertone. If it’s a combination of the two, you have a neutral undertone,” she explained.
Baraf said packaging terms that often correlate with golden undertones include “warm”, “golden”, or “yellow,” whereas some cool shade terms are “cool”, “pink” or, for darker shades, “red.” “Neutral foundations will always say neutral,” she said.
Aaron added that the best place to check your skin tone is on your neck or jawline. While undertones typically stay the same (and experts say you should be using a sunscreen year round), Tram also pointed out that it’s important to remember skin shades can range, often appearing darker in summer months.
“If you’re still unsure, you can consult with a sales associate or consultant at a makeup counter or cosmetics store. Ask for a sample to try before you buy,” he advised.
As for problem areas, Baraf said you can use corrective concealer to cancel out the tones you’re seeing in your skin so the foundation is even all over.
"Dark circles are blue or purple in color and will be best if covered by an orange or yellow concealer. Redness and blemishes can be canceled out with green color correctors and so on,” she explained.
Now that you have a sense of what to look for, read on as our experts prescribe their personal foundation picks for various skin types and needs.
THE BEST DRUGSTORE FOUNDATION, ACCORDING TO EXPERTS
- 1. CoverGirl TruBlend Matte Made Foundation, $5, Target
Recommended by Tram for those with oily skin who are looking for fuller coverage, this liquid foundation from CoverGirl lasts for up to 12 hours and comes in 40 shades, so you should be able to find the perfect match.
- 2. L'Oreal Infallible Pro-Matte Liquid Longwear Foundation, $13, Ulta
According to Baraf, this versatile foundation from Maybelline provides a semi-matte finish "so it won’t be 'too' anything — just lovely medium coverage." She also loved how it can be sheered out with a moisturizer or luminizer for a more dewy/luminous finish (and the fact that it stays put for hours).
- 3. Neutrogena Healthy Skin Compact Foundation Makeup with SPF 55, $9, Target
If you have dry skin, try this creamy compact from Neutrogena, which goes on smoothly and hydrates with wear. "It also has SPF 55, which is very rare for a foundation compact. Whether you have dry skin or not, you want to protect it from the sun," Tram said.
- 4. Maybelline FitMe Matte + Poreless Foundation, $5, Target
Vanity has come to rely on this foundation from Maybelline for her own combination skin. "I also have a very hydrating skin routine and the matte formula balances everything out," she said. Her personal shade, which she says is "spot-on," is Spicy Brown (shown).
- 5. Honest Beauty Everything Cream Foundation, $22, Target
Recommended for those with combination skin who are looking for medium to full coverage, Baraf appreciates this pick from Honest Beauty for its "gorgeous skin-loving ingredients" such as vitamin E and jojoba oil for keeping skin nourished. "The application is beautiful and the formula blends so easily — perfect for a stunning velvety-matte finish," she said.
- 6. IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream with SPF 50+, $39, Sephora
Baraf also recommended this CC cream from IT Cosmetics for medium coverage with a natural-looking finish. "It also contains hyaluronic acid which is a tried-and-true moisturizing ingredient to keep skin hydrated and plump. Plus, it has an SPF 50 without any flashback (perfect for the red carpet or nighttimes selfies!)," she said.
- 7. Laneige BB Cushion Hydra Radiance with SPF 50, $38, Sephora
Tram suggested this 'cushion' from Laneige for those with fine lines and wrinkles because of its easy application and light, buildable formula. It also contains a special brightening technology for added radiance (and SPF for protection against future sun damage).
For more drugstore makeup recommendations, check out:
- The best drugstore beauty buys for less than $5
- 15 makeup removers that beauty editors swear by
- I tried Joanna Gaines' favorite $4 eyeliner — and I'm obsessed