How to Find the Right Foundation for Your Skin

  • Copy by: Mary Hood Luttrell
  • Feature Image By: Louise Roe
  • Header Image By: Byrdie

A beautiful base is essential for a gorgeous makeup look. But finding the right foundation can involve a lot a trial and error, however. First, you must strike the right balance between not enough and too much coverage. As makeup artist Laura Mercier quips, “You want people to say, ‘Your skin looks great!’ and not ‘Your makeup looks great.’”

Then, there’s the issue of finding a formula that works well with your skin type. With products ranging from dewy to matte, there’s quite a lot to choose from—and that’s where we come in! Use these tips to find the right foundation formula for oily, combination, dry, hyperpigmented, and sensitive skin types.

BB (Blemish/Beauty Balm) Cream (Liquid, Cream)

Try it: Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer, Sephora ($36.00)

Perfect for: oily and combination skin and low-maintenance beauty routines (may not be suitable for dry or mature skin)

Coverage: light

To wear: Designed to be a moisturizer, primer, sunscreen, sheer foundation, and acne-fighter, BB creams can be worn alone or as a primer for a fuller-coverage foundation.


CC (Color Correction) Cream (Liquid, Cream)

Try it: Pacifica Ultra CC Cream Radiant Foundation, Ulta ($18.00)

Perfect for: most skin types and uneven skin tone/hyperpigmentation

Coverage: light

To wear: Like BB creams, CC creams aim to protect skin from the sun, moisturize, and provide some level of coverage. CC creams can be worn to camouflage sun spots and uneven skin tone and may be worn alone, over a primer, and/or under a fuller-coverage foundation.


Tinted Moisturizer (Liquid)

Try it: Honest Beauty Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20, Ulta ($28.00)

Perfect for: all skin types. If you have dry skin, a tinted moisturizer may need to be combined with a regular day cream for extra hydration. Oily skin-types may want to try an oil-free tinted moisturizer.

Coverage: light

To wear: Can be worn alone or with a primer for a fresh, natural look.


Sheer Foundation (Liquid)

Try it: Make Up For Ever Water Blend Face and Body Foundation, Sephora ($43.00)

Perfect for: clear skin or those who want to show off freckles

Coverage: light

To wear: Wear over primer and set with a translucent powder for staying power.


Satin Foundation (Liquid) 

Try it: Too Faced Born This Way Foundation, Sephora ($39.00)

Perfect for: somewhere between dewy and matte, satin foundation is suitable for most skin types (except oily)

Coverage: light to medium

To wear: Apply to freshly cleansed and primed skin using a stippling brush and set with translucent powder.


Matte Foundation (Liquid, Powder)

Try it: Kat Von D Lock-It Foundation, Sephora ($35)

Perfect for: oily, blemished complexions for long-lasting coverage (or a more formal look—matte foundation tends to photograph well)

Coverage: full

To wear: Apply over primer using a flat foundation brush or a beauty blender. Matte foundation tends to set very quickly, so work efficiently. Set with translucent powder for extra staying power.


Dewy Foundation (Liquid, Cream)

Try it: Josie Maran Vibrancy Argan Oil Foundation Fluid, Sephora ($45.00)

Perfect for: normal and dry skin types and/or extra glow

Coverage: light to medium

To wear: Apply to freshly cleansed skin with or without a primer. Use in conjunction with liquid or cream blush as powder may look blotchy when applied to dewy foundation.


Mineral Foundation (Powder)

Try it: Cover FX Pressed Mineral Foundation, Sephora ($36.00)

Perfect for: sensitive and acne-prone skin types or oily skin

Coverage: light to full (buildable)

To wear: Mineral foundation works best when it’s buffed onto clean skin using a kabuki brush. Begin with a light layer and if more coverage is needed, wait a few minutes for the product to set. Add another light layer, repeating the process until desired level of coverage is reached.

What foundation formula works best with your skin? Tell us in the comments below!