The Best Lightweight Foundations on the Market

written by BETH GILLETTE

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Source: Glossier
Source: Glossier

When the first blemishes sprouted upon my face in the mere fifth grade, I started stealing my mom’s concealer to cover them up. About a year and many, many zits later, my mom suggested I get a foundation to “dry out my skin.” Soon after, I got a foundation at the drugstore and never looked back. My skin preferences for the first almost-decade I wore makeup were as follows: heavy, thick, full-coverage, drying, matte. 

If you’ve ever listened to me talk about makeup before (I hope!), you’ll know I, and the rest of our editors here, basically despise any combination of any of those when it comes to our faces. And thankfully, the makeup industry finally agrees! Makeup doesn’t have to be sticky and gross all day long, and the handful of launches from the last year have proved it. Everything from lightweight foundations to tinted moisturizers and CC creams to skin tints have made their way into my vanity at this point, and I figured it was mighty time to break them down.

And it’s not just a summer trend either—we’re definitely going to keep seeing lighter coverage as a preference amongst makeup artists and regular people alike. I mean, who needs a heavy foundation when they’re wearing a mask that covers half of their face? (One could argue we don’t need foundation at all or ever—to which I agree, but if you like to add a little somethin’-somethin’, that’s cool too!) Even as the summer heat departs and cool air emerges, we’re looking at a smooth canvas that doesn’t feel sticky, heavy, or uncomfortable. And here, we’re sharing our favorites for all skin types, shades, and preferences.


Skin Tints

A skin tint is the most light-coverage of the bunch, often even leaning toward “sheer” coverage. These won’t cover your gnarly period acne, and that’s OK! They’re some of the most comfortable and (obviously) natural-looking skin products on the market. They’ll make you look extra glowy and hydrated. Plus, these have the least transfer (since they’re more minimal coverage), so you can say goodbye to maskne and masks full of makeup by the end of the day (or your 30-minute run to the grocery store).

Perfecting Skin Tint

This is basically the skin tint to beat all skin tints if you ask me. It’s very low-coverage, but there’s a reason it’s still a Glossier best-seller after all this time. Your skin looks exactly like your skin, only better.

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Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation

This definitely has a lot of coverage for a skin tint. It’s similar to a favorite of mine below (this is how I keep ‘em reading) in that it’s kind of a mix between a serum and a foundation; all the lightness of a serum with the coverage of a foundation. It goes on smooth and even, and you only need a little to cover your entire face because it’s very spreadable like a serum. This makes the high price tag seem much more worth it! It’s the perfect “threw it on in the morning before work, but touched up with a concealer for happy hour” situation. Buy this if you like medium-coverage without feeling like you’re wearing medium-coverage on your face.

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Charlotte Tilbury
Hollywood Flawless Filter

While this isn’t marketed as a foundation, in the summer, I like to use it as such when I want to look glowy as all hell. I'll apply it all over with a sponge and call it a day! It's probably a little much for some, but it's been an obsession of mine all summer long to look like I'm basically radiating through the screen in Zoom meetings. Note: the shade range is trash if you look at it like a foundation, but I find it to be pretty good as a highlighter. This doesn’t really add any color, mostly just sheen and glow, so there is some leeway in what shade you can use. My shade ranges quite a bit between winter and summer, and shade #4 works for me basically all year round!

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Fenty Beauty
Eaze Drop Skin Tint

If you hadn’t tried a skin tint before Fenty launched this, you likely have now. Arguably one of Fenty’s biggest launches in the last year, Eaze Drop is a lightweight skin tint with a light coverage that blurs your skin and looks flawless. You only need a little bit, and Rihanna even recommends applying this with your fingers. If you lean on the more combo/oily end of the spectrum or just prefer a satin or natural skin finish over some extra dew on your face, this is a great choice. Read our editors’ full review.

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Tinted Moisturizer

These are the next in the coverage category; however, some really do pack a punch. These feel light on the skin, but they’re more likely to even out your skin tone and cover up redness than the latter options. You’ll notice maybe a little transfer in your mask, but nothing you can’t get out with a trusty Tide To-Go. 

Pretty Fresh Hyaluronic Skin Tint

I ordered this after our Editorial Assistant Jess had raved about it to me the two months of 2020 we actually spoke IRL. (Ah, the good times!) And I’m here to say I love it too! It’s very light and stays on all day, even through the sweat and humidity below my mask (and LOL, the rest of my face, let’s be honest). Colourpop’s website has a really helpful shade finder too which made it easy to make a purchase without going into a store!

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Bare Minerals
Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30

I’ve talked about this tinted moisturizer for a while. I started using it on heavy rotation throughout 2020. It gave me just a hint of coverage so I felt better and more put-together while I was working without making my skin feel gross at the end of the day. Would buy over and over again.

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Laura Mercier
Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 30

How could I write a roundup on tinted moisturizers without referencing quite possibly the most famous one in the world? This is a staple in makeup artists’ kits for a few reasons. Firstly, the shade range is quite inclusive, boasting 20 shades (which feels about average now, but pre-Fenty Beauty days, 20 shades for even a full-coverage foundation range was a lot *eye roll*). But quite possibly the best part of this product is that although it has quite a lot of coverage for a tinted moisturizer, it’s incredibly lightweight and natural on your skin. Very “your skin, but better” vibes.

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Laura Mercier
Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF 20

If your skin is on the more combo/oily side, the oil-free version of Laura Mercier’s famed tinted moisturizer recently got a face lift and is high on our editors’ list. It has a satin, skinlike finish that blurs imperfections without looking cakey or feeling heavy like a full-coverage foundation. It’s basically the tinted moisturizer for those who crave all the best parts about a lightweight skin tint and a foundation.

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Dewy Tinted Moisturizer SPF 35 Sunscreen

Having a little extra SPF in your foundation is never a bad idea, especially in a light coverage product like this where you don’t have to worry about flashback. Our team’s current favorite is this tinted moisturizer from Saie. It has a sheer, dewy coverage that is just a step up from a skin tint but has lots of skin-loving ingredients, like jojoba esthers for moisturization, hyaluronic acid, aloe leaf extract, pansy flower to retain moisture, and more. Because it’s so moisturizing, you can even use this instead of your morning moisturizer without worrying your skin will be a parched desert by the end of the day. Saie recommends applying this with your fingers, but you could use a brush or sponge for a little more coverage. If you have dry skin and want something really light and natural, add to cart ASAP.

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Lightweight Foundations

And lastly, we have the light foundations. These have a good amount of coverage (some more than others—will explain below!) without all the heaviness and transfer of a typical foundation. Again, you might notice a little transfer, but nothing you can’t get out in the wash. These are great for Zoom meetings, more “special” occasions, and basically, anywhere you want a little extra coverage. 

Tinted Oil Foundation

This is one of my favorite skin purchases of the last year. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried. It’s a mix between a face oil and a foundation; it basically applies like a skincare oil but with coverage. And it’s phenomenal. My best skin days come when I’m wearing this all over my face. It’s everything I could ever want in a foundation: light, glowy, light-to-medium-coverage, and natural. I will never be without this.

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Plain Jane Beauty
Get Loose Powder Foundation

Light coverage doesn’t have to come from a liquid! This is obviously oily-skin-friendly, but reviews say it’s light enough that it looks gorgeous on dry skin as well. A powder is a great way to add a little coverage to your face without going overboard. This can be built up to a more full-coverage depending on the brush you use, which makes the product a pretty good bang for its buck—it’s almost like getting a couple different foundations in one! Use a fluffy brush for something light, or buff it on with a dense duo-fiber brush.

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Huda Beauty
GloWish Multidew Vegan Skin Tint Foundation

Although this is called a skin tint, it definitely has more coverage (no surprise coming from Huda Beauty!) and should be considered a lightweight foundation. But don’t let that fool you—this product feels like nothing when you blend it into your skin, and the dewy finish is perfect: not too sticky or shiny, but definitely very glowy. You can apply it with your fingers, a brush, or a sponge, and a little bit definitely goes a long way. Try this if you want a dewy look with a little extra coverage.

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The Lip Bar
3-in-1 Tinted Skin Conditioner

TLB’s skin tint is a budget-friendly option with the makings of your ideal foundation. It’s a smoothing, cream-based product that doesn’t feel heavy at all. Reviewers say they threw out every other foundation in their collection in favor of this because it’s everything you could ever ask for: lightweight, medium coverage, dewy, and good for your skin.

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Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation

The drugstore is slowly building out its options for lightweight coverage, and our editors swear by this. Our editor replaced all of her high-end foundations the second she tried this because it’s an extremely glowy finish without looking too cakey or shiny, giving her very-dry skin the extra oomph she wants out of a foundation. If you have dry skin but feel like products marketed as “dewy” or “luminous” make you look like a disco ball, look no further than this one. Read our editor’s full review here.

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