How To (Finally) Find Your Perfect Foundation

by Miki Hayes

Sure, picking the perfect lipstick shade involves knowing what kind of colors you like and what works for your skin tone. But picking the perfect foundation is a little more intimate than that. Choosing a foundation requires knowing more about your skin than just its coloring. You need to know its type (dry, normal, combination, oily), how sensitive it is (will certain products/ingredients cause it to break out?), and what concerns you might want to conceal and/or correct (sun spots, acne, large pores, etc.). Once you know exactly what your skin needs in a foundation, it's time to find its soulmate.

Sure, that one you've been using since forever works fine. But is it The One? Skin changes as you age, so it's important to continually assess its needs. The foundation market these days is huge, making it unfortunately more difficult to pinpoint your ideal formula. But the upside to all of this? At least your ideal formula probably does exist somewhere. It's all just a matter of understanding what you need, and tracking it down. So, to get you started, here are the nine most common types of foundation (who they're good for, and how to apply them) to help you come at least one step closer to finding your Holy Grail.

Tinted Moisturizer

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, $45, Sephora

A tinted moisturizer is generally the most straight-forward when it comes to face makeup. The product will be hydrating while also providing sheer-to-light coverage. While tinted moisturizer is good for all skin types, those with normal-to-dry skin will especially appreciate the extra moisture. For best results, apply with fingertips.

BB Cream

Urban Decay Naked Skin Beauty Balm, $20, All Cosmetics

A BB cream, or beauty balm, is similar to a tinted moisturizer but turned up a notch. It generally offers light coverage and has a slew of benefits such as hydration, SPF, and anti-aging properties. It is good for all skin types, and applies best with fingertips.

CC Cream

Smashbox Camera Ready CC Cream, $42, Sephora

CC creams, or color-correcting creams are the next step up from a BB cream. If you struggle with any kind of hyperpigmentation whether it be from the sun or acne, these creams will not only provide light coverage but also work to reverse any spots so as to even skin tone. It works well with all skin types, and usually applies best with fingertips or a buffing brush.

Serum Foundation

bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation, $30, Sephora

Just in case BB and CC creams don't have enough skin benefits for you, that's where serum foundations come in. These types of foundations are thinner in consistency and can provide sheer-to-medium coverage depending on how many layers are applied. They are suited for all skin types, but best for those with specific skin concerns. This is because different types fill certain niches whether it be to even skin tone or minimize pores and wrinkles. The goal with these is to improve the appearance of skin with regular wear. Because of the generally runny consistency, these are best applied with fingertips.

Liquid Foundation

L'Oreal True Match Super-Blendable Makeup, $11, Ulta

Liquid foundations can vary the most. The coverage can be light-to-full depending on the consistency (thinner foundations have sheerer coverage) and number of layers applied (more layers equals more coverage). If you have combination/oily skin, look for formulas that claim to be "oil-free" or have a "matte" finish. If you have normal/dry skin, look for formulas that claim to be "illuminating" or have a "radiant" finish. Liquid foundations with thinner consistencies are best applied with fingertips while those with a higher viscosity are best applied with a foundation or buffing brush.

Mousse Foundation

Revlon Colorstay Whipped Creme Makeup, $12, Walmart

Foundations with a mousse or whipped texture tend to feel lighter on the skin while providing medium-to-full coverage. They generally work well on all skin types, but usually dry to a matte or demi-matte finish. Apply this type of foundation with a damp sponge like the Beauty Blender or a buffing brush.

Cream Foundation

COVER FX Total Cover Cream Foundation, $42, Sephora

Cream foundations are the heaviest and provide medium-to-full coverage. Because they tend to be oil-based, they are generally best for normal-to-dry skin. For the most seamless application, blend in cream foundations with a damp sponge like the Beauty Blender.

Stick Foundation

NYX Cosmetics Mineral Stick Foundation, $10, Ulta

Stick foundations are all about convenience. These are some of the least-messy foundations as all you need to do is draw the product on your face and blend it in for medium coverage. Because they tend to be creamier in consistency, these are usually best for normal-to-dry skin. However, there are certain formulations that also work for combination/oily skin. They will blend into the skin most easily with a buffing brush.

Powder Foundation

Too Faced Cocoa Powder Foundation, $34, Sephora

Powder foundation can be used alone for light-to-medium coverage, or on top of any other foundation formula to take it to full coverage. If used alone though, it is best for normal-to-oily skin as it can absorb some oil, which is not good for those with dry skin. For best results, apply with a buffing brush in circular motions.

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