The 13 Best Drugstore Foundations of 2023

NYX Born to Glow makes our skin feel radiant.

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Best Drugstore Foundations

InStyle / David Hattan

Sometimes the best products are right in front of you at your local drugstore. With options that perform just as well, if not better, than a luxe formula, drugstores impress even makeup snobs, who trade in their first-rate products for some less-expensive picks, especially foundations. Videos of influencers doing full-faced looks with so-called “dupes” for pricier options from Charlotte Tilbury and YSL get thousands of views and leave beauty store aisles bare. But with so much to consider, like coverage, color, and finish, searching for a new foundation can be exhausting. 

To start, Celebrity Hair and Makeup Artist Geo Brian Hennings tells us to look for three things: Texture, blendability, and wear. According to Hennings, “The foundation's texture should match the texture of the skin — it should make skin smoother, not accentuate it. Blendability is when you can put it on your chin, and the color blends into your neck and cheeks.”  

While drugstore prices might allow a little more room in your wallet for trial and error, we wanted to make finding your new foundation as painless as possible, so we consulted two more celebrity makeup artists. When it came down to choosing our favorite, NYX Born to Glow ticks off everything Hennings mentioned and then some. It gives us buildable coverage and our skin a gorgeous, glowy finish. Not to worry if you prefer a matte look or need to address other skin concerns, we have more picks below.

Best Overall

NYX Professional Makeup Born To Glow Naturally Radiant Foundation

nyx-professional-makeup-born-to-glow-naturally-radiant-foundation

Amazon

What We Love: The foundation has a lightweight feel and provides a gorgeous glow without making your skin look oily.

What We Don’t Love: It transfers onto clothes. 

Foundation cycles through a lot of trends (don’t make us pull out pics from our ultra-matte phase in 2016), but a classic glow is a timeless look. This beautiful liquid formula from NYX lets you recreate Hailey Bieber’s glazed-donut glam without spending a celebrity-sized budget. As someone with oily skin, I tend to steer clear of anything described as “dewy,” but I, like other reviewers, think this foundation gives you a radiant finish without increasing shine. Some even found it dried slightly matte after a few hours. Featuring an extensive shade range and buildable, long-lasting coverage, NYX made an affordable option that rivals the likes of brands such as Pat McGrath. Our advice when applying is to top it off with a good setting powder because it can transfer onto fabrics.

Price at time of publish: $10

Coverage: Medium | Finish: Dewy | Shades: 45  | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Matte

Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation

Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation

Maybelline

What We Love: It has a long wear time and diminishes the appearance of pores and blemishes without feeling too heavy.

What We Don’t Love: Application can be messy because the packaging doesn’t include a pump.

All of our experts turn to Maybelline when they want a foundation with an inclusive shade range and excellent coverage. The matte finish that comes in 40 different shades helps blur blemishes without looking cakey or feeling too heavy. It keeps shine down, making it particularly great for anyone who has oily skin — I always reach for this choice during festival season because it keeps my skin looking oil-free, even after pushing through sweaty crowds. I never have to touch it up or spot shine peeking through.

On days you don’t want a full-matte look, Vittorio Masecchia, a celebrity makeup artist and Founder of Vittorio Masecchia Beauty, recommends mixing it with our best overall pick, NYX Born to Glow for a satin finish. The only thing that could make this a better foundation is if Maybelline included a bottle pump. For the easiest, mess-free application, we suggest taking a finger and dotting it on your skin before blending it out with your preferred tool.

Price at time of publish: $9

Coverage: Medium | Finish: Matte  | Shades: 40  | Cruelty Free: No

Best Dewy

Milani Glow Hydrating Skin Tint

Milani Glow Hydrating Skin Tint

Milani

What We Love: The tint provides a dewy, illuminating finish using hydrating ingredients like squalane and coconut water.

What We Don’t Love: It doesn’t offer a very inclusive shade range.

Getting glass skin doesn’t always require a 20-step routine or a pricey foundation — you might find the same results with this hydrating skin tint from Milani. It uses 29 percent squalane, an ingredient found in many anti-aging skin serums for its hydrating properties, and a coconut water/electrolyte blend to promote a natural, dewy glow. TikTok also tells us it’s a dupe for the Adele-approved and much beloved Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Filter foundation. While we wouldn’t reach for it on days we need full coverage, it does tone down redness and dark circles while also concealing acne scars. We hope Milani will extend the limited shade range soon. 

Price at time of publish: $13

Coverage: Light | Finish: Dewy | Shades: 8 | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Powder

L'Oréal Paris True Match Powder

L'Oréal Paris True Match Powder

Ulta

What We Love: It blurs pores and evenly covers skin for a smooth finish. 

What We Don’t Love: It oxidizes after a few hours to a darker shade.

As tempting as it is to reach for a full-coverage foundation when you wake up with an angry red bump, Masecchia says you could be making a mistake trying to cover pimples with a liquid formula. Instead, he recommends using a matte powder because it stays in place and won’t reflect our blemishes. He tells us this pick from L’Oreal “hides texture and pores, absorbs oils, sets liquids and creams, and is super versatile with coverage depending on the application.” One thing to keep in mind: Many found it oxidizes after a few hours, which, as Masecchia explains, is “when the color becomes darker and/or more orange once applied.” He tells us there’s no specific ingredient that causes this, and instead, it’s a “reaction of your skin’s natural oil and acids mixing with the product and the air.” He suggests using a really good primer to help counteract this effect. 

Price at time of publish: $12

Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Natural | Shades: 34 | Cruelty Free: No

Best Budget

e.l.f. Cosmetics Flawless Satin Foundation

Elf Cosmetics Flawless Satin Finish Foundation

Ulta

What We Love: It has a good shade match and applies evenly for a slightly-dewy finish.

What We Don’t Love: Some users with dry skin found it settled into fine lines.

When you're stranded on a trip without your makeup essentials, e.l.f. tends to be a brand you pick up at the drugstore to help you get by — but trust us, you'll keep coming back to this affordable foundation. The liquid foundation gives you a subtle, dewy glow, and even though it's lightweight, you can still build the product to be full coverage. Aside from its finish, another shining quality many users rave about is how well the shades match their skin tones — a big feat since you can’t try before you buy with drugstore brands. However, those with dry skin weren’t fans of how it settled into fine lines and dry patches, but they suggested applying a moisturizing primer eliminated this issue.

Price at time of publish: $6

Coverage: Buildable | Finish: Semi-Matte | Shades: 34 | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best for Dry Skin

L'Oréal True Match Nude Hyaluronic Tinted Serum

L'Oréal True Match Nude Hyaluronic Tinted Serum

Ulta

What We Love: The serum uses hyaluronic acid to retain skin moisture.

What We Don’t Love: The coverage is pretty sheer.

I already use L’Oreal’s Glotion to feel sun-kissed during winter, but when I need something hydrating during these dry months, Celebrity Makeup Artist Courtney Hart suggested adding L'Oreal's brightening skin serum foundation to my arsenal. It uses one percent hyaluronic acid, a super hydrating ingredient that locks moisture into the skin, to give you a radiant, smooth finish (could we call it the J.Lo effect?) while also helping repair dryness. It is sheer and not as buildable as other options on the list, but even with how light it is, it evens out skin tones and reduces the appearance of pores, making this the perfect choice for no makeup, makeup days

Price at time of publish: $20

Coverage: Light | Finish: Radiant | Shades: 14 | Cruelty Free: No

Best for Oily Skin

COVERGIRL Clean Matte BB Cream

Covergirl Clean Matte BB Cream

Ulta

What We Love: The BB Cream gives those with oily or combination skin a matte finish without over-drying. 

What We Don’t Love: It only comes in six shades.

Anyone with oily skin knows the struggle of finding a foundation that doesn’t make your skin look like you just trekked through the Amazon rainforest. The solution? Try a mattifying BB Cream like this one from Covergirl. Especially on days with high humidity, this oil-free matte formula conceals blemishes without clogging pores or giving your skin that greasy, weighed-down feeling. It never cakes, either, which is typically a downside to mattifying foundations. Our one strife is it only comes in six shades, which isn’t as extensive as other foundations the brand carries.

Price at time of publish: $11

Coverage: Light | Finish: Matte | Shades: 6 | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Stick

BLK/OPL True Color Skin Perfecting Stick Foundation SPF 15

BLK/OPL True Color Skin Perfecting Tint

Ulta

What We Love: The stick foundation provides full coverage and is an easy tool that also works as a contour and concealer. 

What We Don’t Love: Some users found it made their skin a little oily.

A contour, concealer, and foundation triple threat, it’s no wonder Hennings calls this foundation his secret weapon. Comparable to the much more expensive Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Foundation, this more affordable option is a staple in his makeup kit because he tells us it “blends beautifully, the tones are amazing, and you can use the deeper warmer tones for contouring.” Possibly the only thing it can’t do is tone down the sheen for our friends with oily skin, so you may want to keep a power compact on hand if you plan on wearing it for longer than a few hours. 

Price at time of publish: $12

Coverage: Full | Finish: Velvety | Shades: 24 | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Lightweight

Uoma Beauty by Sharon C Flawless IRL Skin Perfecting Foundation

Uoma Beauty by Sharon C Flawless IRL Skin Perfecting Foundation

Walmart

What We Love: It’s a foundation that feels lightweight but still provides more coverage than a skin tint. 

What We Don’t Love: Some reviewers were sensitive to the foundation’s scent.

I’m not ashamed to admit I apply a full-face before every pilates class (so many mirrors), but lightweight doesn’t always mean minimal coverage. This foundation from Uoma Beauty uses plant-derived ingredients like dandelion and watermelon extract to hydrate, moisturize and brighten your skin for a finish between glowy and matte. Despite being buildable to medium or full coverage, the foundation feels weightless on your skin, making it perfect for long days in the office or during warmer seasons. Although, if you are sensitive to fragrances, you may want to skip this one because some reviewers weren’t too fond of its scent.

Price at time of publish: $11

Coverage: Medium | Finish: Natural | Shades: 30 | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Full Coverage

Catrice True Skin Hydrating Foundation

Catrice True Skin Hydrating Foundation

Amazon

What We Love: It’s a long-wearing foundation that provides full coverage while still looking like your natural skin.

What We Don’t Love: It can feel a bit drying.

Whether you want a Kardashian-style full-beat or just prefer something more opaque, finding a full-coverage foundation that doesn’t end up looking cakey or textured isn’t easy. Working from home and makeup trends, like the Clean Girl Aesthetic, have led brands to adapt their full-coverage formulas to give a more skin-like finish. Think of this foundation from Catrice as an elevated “no makeup, makeup” glam — it still looks like your natural skin but covers and conceals so well. It won’t fade or break apart even after long hours of wear, so don't be afraid to keep it on all day. Since it can be a bit drying, prep your skin ahead of time with a moisturizing primer if you’re prone to dry skin.

Price at time of publish: $10

Coverage: Full | Finish: Natural  | Shades: 20 | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best for Acne-Prone Skin

Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup

4.7
Neutrogena SkinClearing Liquid Makeup

Amazon

What We Love: The formula includes salicylic acid to help prevent and treat acne while providing breathable coverage. 

What We Don’t Love: Some users found it hard to get their shade match right. 

We’ve all been in the endless acne cycle before: as soon as you break out, you cover it with makeup until it heals, then break out again because of makeup — does this loop sound familiar? Neutrogena cuts the cycle short by creating a foundation that allows your skin to breathe while simultaneously treating and preventing acne using salicylic acid. Since it isn’t oil-based, this is a lifesaver for warding off greasy skin spurred on by hot, humid days. Finding your shade could be tricky, so you may want to consider buying a couple of options.

Price at time of publish: $15

Coverage: Medium | Finish: Natural | Shades: 14 | Cruelty Free: No

Best Tinted Moisturizer

ColourPop Pretty Fresh Hyaluronic Tinted Moisturizer

4.2
ColourPop Pretty Fresh Hyaluronic Tinted Moisturizer

Ulta

What We Love: It’s a lightweight, hydrating moisturizer that uses hyaluronic acid to smooth skin.

What We Don’t Love: Some reviewers found it left their skin sticky.

Knowing that tinted moisturizers are sometimes shunned for how little coverage they provide, ColourPop made theirs formulated to reduce redness, even out skin tone, and give buildable to medium coverage. The foundation gets the liquid formula just right by using hyaluronic acid and coconut water, similar to the L’Oreal True Match Hyaluronic Tinted Serum, to keep your skin feeling fresh throughout the day. Since many brands limit the shades they offer for this type of product, we’re excited to see a tinted moisturizer with a larger shade range than others. The one downside to hyaluronic acid is it can sometimes leave skin feeling slightly sticky, so consider avoiding this by prepping with the Hyaluronic Hydrating Primer or sunscreen. 

Price at time of publish: $15

Coverage: Light | Finish: Natural | Shades: 24 | Cruelty Free: Yes

Best Long-Lasting

Revlon ColorStay Liquid Foundation

Revlon ColorStay Longwear Makeup

Amazon

What We Love: It’s a long-lasting foundation that won't break or show signs of texture.

What We Don’t Love: Some reviewers say it can feel too heavy and that it settles into fine lines.

Anyone who doesn’t like to reapply makeup or plans to be out all day (or night) should pick up this foundation from Revlon. Even 12 hours later, we found zero breakage or signs of texture and oily skin (you might even consider ditching your primer). As avid sunscreen advocates, we love it provides 15 SPF protection as a bonus — but don’t skip out on applying sunscreen beforehand because, as Hennings tells us, you can’t control how long the coverage will last when it’s in the foundation. Our one strife is that it can feel a little heavy on your skin, so start with light layers and build up to your desired coverage. 

Price at time of publish: $14

Coverage: Medium to Full | Finish: Matte | Shades: 43 | Cruelty Free: No

What to Keep in Mind

Coverage

You generally have three coverage options: sheer, medium, and full. Sheer, like the Milani Glow Hydrating Skin Tint, will subtly even and balance skin tone, add luminosity, and help cover redness or light acne scars. It’s similar to medium coverage, which you get from foundations like Uoma’s Flawless IRL Skin Perfecting Foundation, except this kind will give you additional camouflage for skin irregularities. Full-coverage foundation helps hide everything else, like age spots and acne, but it often feels heavy on the skin unless you look for lightweight choices like the Catrice True Skin Foundation.

Finish

Your foundation’s finish is how it should appear on the skin once it's dried. Matte finishes, which are typically found in medium to full-coverage foundations, like the Maybelline Fit Me Matte Poreless Liquid Foundation, hide shine. On the opposite end, something like NYX Born to Glow with a dewy finish gives you a radiant glow, and satin finishes, like the e.l.f Flawless Satin Foundation, fall between the two. You might also notice some foundations, like the L’Oreal True Match Super-Blendable Powder, say they have a natural finish, which means it’s a more lightweight, breathable formula that, hence the name, should look most similar to your natural skin. 

Skin Type

If you’re left disappointed after trying a viral foundation dupe, the culprit could be your skin type. For example, Masecchia explains that oily skin tends to break down foundation faster or oxidize, causing the foundation’s color to change. According to Hennings, to get longer wear out of your makeup, follow the simple rule of avoiding dewy foundations, like the Milani Glow Hydrating Skin Tint, if you have oily skin, and matte ones, like the Revlon ColorStay Longwear Makeup if it’s drier.

Your Questions, Answered

How do you choose the right shade for your skin tone?

Since you can’t typically test out a drugstore foundation in-store, finding the right shade is tricky. Luckily, technology takes much of the guesswork out of the equation by offering online tools and quizzes you can consult ahead of buying to help find your perfect match. 

If you’re already in the aisle, one of the easiest tips, Hart suggests, is bringing a foundation from home and holding it up to the bottles at the store. You can also start by knowing your undertone — is it warm, cool, or neutral? To find out, Masecchia tells us to reference the color of our veins. Blue veins equal a cool undertone, green signals warm, and neutral will be a mixture. 

Another tip from Masecchia is to buy two colors — something drugstore prices give you more leverage to do. You’ll have one for paler days and another for when your skin is tanner, and you can mix the two for all the days in between. 

How do you apply drugstore foundation? 

Skincare is a primary factor in making your foundation look luxurious, high-end, and non-textured. “Cleansed, hydrated, and balanced skin holds makeup more evenly,” says Hart. Like applying perfume, she adds the key is using less product than you think you need, and building in thin layers will help give a flawless finish. 

Also, everyone has their preference for tools, but Hennings prefers using a wet makeup sponge, like a Beautyblender, because it helps “bounce the foundation and moisture from the water onto the face making a beautiful blend,” he says. Consider topping off the look by using a moisturizing or setting spray to prevent the grainy appearance of some powder foundations.  

When it comes to how you apply, Masecchia recommends starting at the center of your face and working outward, being sure not to forget the ears and below the jawline. You can also try using a stippling brush to get a texture and streak-free finish. 

How will a good foundation feel and look on your skin?

It should look similar to your favorite moisturizer, according to Masecchia. He adds, “When applied, it should look like your own skin but better, and create an even canvas for the makeup that follows — concealer, blush, bronzer, highlighter, setting powder, etc.”

Hart also tells us a good quality foundation should “blend seamlessly into the skin, give you the finish it markets itself for (matte, dewy, etc.), and should last through the day with proper skin prep.” On that last point, for Masecchia, that means four hours with minimal touch-up, or eight if you’ve really nailed the selection.

Why Shop with Us 

Irene Richardson is a writer with over five years of experience covering fashion and beauty trends. For this story, she researched dozens of drugstore foundations, read reviews, and consulted expert celebrity makeup artists Courtney Hart, Vittorio Masecchia, and Geo Brian Hennings.

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