In our cultural lexicon, “foundation” isn’t exactly synonymous with “lightweight.” But this is a false narrative! Today, let's reframe our idea of foundations as heavy/cakey/greasy/the cosmetic equivalent of grout, and turn our attention toward the best lightweight foundations featured below. All of these foundations provide decent coverage, but they’re easily buildable, so you can go as light or as not-exactly-light as you want, while retaining a lovely, natural finish. And they feel comfortable and breathable on skin, no matter how many layers deep you go with them.
Counter to what you may infer, “lightweight” doesn’t necessarily mean “low performing.” These foundations — some of which offer light coverage, and some which offer full — last for hours on end, in all manner of conditions that threaten to melt them off. Some are formulated to control oil, minimize the appearance of pores, and provide a little bit of sun protection, too, but they never compromise comfort in pursuit of all those other jobs.
Open your mind, your makeup bag, and your wallet, and consider seven of the best lightweight foundations you can get on Amazon listed ahead. And if you're confused about how to find your perfect foundation shade, check out these tips from celebrity makeup artists Mario Dedivanovic.
1. The Best Drugstore Shade Range
Drugstore foundations don’t get the best rap for their shade ranges (i.e., they’re paltry), nor are they typically known for their fluid feel (i.e., they can be kind of claustrophobic). Happily, L'Oreal True Match defies both those expectations. The range boasts 45 shades — the widest shade range I’ve come across on Amazon, regardless of price point — and they’re handily labelled according to undertone, so you can technically buy without swatching first. This blends beautifully, though the oil-free formula won’t clog up your pores or feel tacky on your skin. Even though this provides a solid light-to-medium coverage, it imparts a natural-looking finish. Bonus points for SPF 17. (But you should still be wearing sunscreen underneath.)
- Available shades: 45
2. The Best Premium Shade Range
Smith & Cult is best known for their cult-favorite nail polishes, but their weightless foundation gets rave reviews all over the internet and beyond. This under-the-radar favorite features 42 shades, also labelled according to undertones for a slightly less stressful online shopping experience. This has a mousse-y consistency that melts into your skin, rather than sits on top of it, so your skin will look like actual, well, skin. Still, this blurring-and-illuminating foundation thoroughly smooths over inconsistencies in your complexion, including enlarged pores — the Great White Whale of foundations, for many of us. Also cool: The formula is spiked with aloe vera and chlorophyll, which can both help reduce redness.
- Available shades: 42
3. The Best Mattifying Foundation
This Maybelline foundation is the rare matte foundation that doesn’t make your skin feel tight, itchy, or anything like Jim Carrey in The Mask. And with literally thousands of glowing five-star reviews on Amazon and over 20,000 ratings, it may very well be one of the most-loved foundations on the site, miraculously lightweight or not. In here, micropowders and clay absorb excess oil and impart a velvety-soft finish, though reviewers say it feels light, gentle, and non-irritating, even on sensitive skin. Most shades comes packaged in these handy pouches, too, which make it easy to squeeze out every last drop.
- Available shades: 37
4. The Best Powder Foundation
Mineral foundations, like this one from CLOVE + HALLOW, are generally lighter and more breathable than liquids. Plus, this one contain fewer additives than liquids, so it's an especially good choice for people with sensitive or reactive skin (or if you’re trying to make the switch to cruelty-free and vegan products — this one is both!). You’ll find several good-for-skin ingredients in here, too, like rice bran extract for brightening and salicylic acid for unclogging pores. Despite its feathery-light feel, reviewers say this pressed powder provides ample coverage. It can even work for dry skin, too — thanks to jojoba and coconut oils, this creamy-ish formula glides right over dry patches.
- Available shades: 11
5. The Best Tinted Moisturizer
An extra-pigmented tinted moisturizer can provide comparable coverage to a foundation, but these hydrating formulas are almost guaranteed to feel lighter on your skin. This one from NYX provides plenty of coverage on its own with a fresh, satiny finish, though you can amp things up by spot-treating with concealer. It’s a little more long-lasting than most tinted moisturizers, too, according to lots of Amazon reviewers who’ve happily worn this for hours through sweat, rain, and humidity (happens to the best of us). Plus, it’s available in 12 shades — a lot for a tinted moisturizer, which tend to be way more limited than foundations.
- Available shades: 12
6. Most Versatile
These Dermablend pigments are really fun to play around with. Straight-up, you can blend a couple drops with your fingers for light-to-medium coverage, or press it into your skin with a brush for more pigmentation. Or go rogue and mix a few drops into your moisturizer, primer, sunscreen, or body lotion. (Pairs well with another drop or two of liquid highlighter.) Even though this foundation is deeply pigmented, it feels lightweight and breathable on skin. At $40, it’s a bit of a splurge; but since you only need to use a bit at a time, you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.
- Available shades: 20
7. Editor's Pick
This best-selling COVER FX foundation is a go-to for Bustle editor Amy Biggart. She says, "This liquid foundation goes on so smooth and light, and blends easily! It's easy to build and feels weightless — definitely worth the price." The formula features ultra-fine, plant-derived powders for a slightly matte effect and fairly full coverage, but people with dry skin say it leaves their skin feeling soft, supple, and hydrated. Fermented algae extract, which is rich in antioxidants, adds a dose of protective and brightening benefits, too.
- Available shades: 36