Shopping InStyle Picks The 11 Best Full Coverage Foundations of 2023, Tested and Reviewed Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Longwear Foundation is in a class all of its own. By Rebecca Norris Rebecca Norris Rebecca R. Norris is a full-time freelance writer living in the DC metro area. She writes for a variety of publications, covering everything from beauty and wellness to style and celebrity news. When she's not writing, she can be found out and about with her Jack-Chi, Cash, sweating her way through an Orangetheory class, or taking it easy with family and friends. InStyle's editorial guidelines Published on November 2, 2022 @ 11:51AM Pin Share Tweet Email In This Article Expand Jump to a Section Our top picks Reviews Our Testing Process What to Keep in Mind Your Questions, Answered Why Shop With Us What Is InStyle Picks? We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more. InStyle / Jessica Juliao Whether you have an upcoming photo shoot months in the making, are looking forward to a special date, or simply prefer a more opaque makeup finish, a full-coverage foundation can help you achieve your beauty goals. Of course, not all full coverage foundations are created the same, and many can lead to more caking than coverage. With that in mind, we took it upon ourselves to suss out the best full coverage foundations. To determine the top contenders for the category, we scoured the web for the highest-rated full-coverage foundations, which we then ran by professional makeup artists, as well as our team of testers. We ended up narrowing down that over-saturated market to 32 finalists for the best full-coverage foundations. To further narrow down the selection, we tested each foundation over 16 hours to determine how well it stays put, the level of coverage it offers, and more. In doing so, we came up with the 11 best full-coverage foundations, with the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Longwear Foundation coming out on top. Our Top Picks Best Overall: Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Foundation at Nordstrom Jump to Review Best Natural Finish: Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Foundation at Sephora Jump to Review Best Budget: NYX Total Control Pro Drop Foundation at Amazon Jump to Review Best Splurge: Chantecaille Future Skin Cushion Skincare Foundation at Bluemercury.com Jump to Review Best Stick: Nudestix Nudies Tinted Blur Stick at Nordstrom Jump to Review Best for Dry Skin: KVD Beauty Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Hydrating Foundation Balm at Sephora Jump to Review Best for Oily Skin: ILIA True Skin Serum Foundation at Sephora Jump to Review Best With SPF: Kosas Revealer Skin-Improving Foundation SPF 25 at Nordstrom Jump to Review Best Matte Finish: Estée Lauder Double Wear Powder Foundation at Amazon Jump to Review Best Satin Finish: Sisley Paris Phyto-Teint Ultra Éclat Oil-Free Foundation at Nordstrom Jump to Review Best Overall Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Foundation 4.8 Sephora View On Nordstrom View On Sephora View On Bloomingdales Our Ratings Coverage 4/5 Feel 5/5 Wear 5/5 Finish 5/5 Transfer Resistance 5/5 What We Love It goes on smoothly and stays put. What We Don’t Love It could be a bit more hydrating. Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Longwear Foundation is beloved by over 253,000 Sephora shoppers — and it’s clear to see why! For starters, it’s sold in an impressive 44 shades (in warm, cool, and neutral undertones). What’s more, the formula features special AirCool technology, which makes it feel fresh and airy on the skin, despite being a full coverage formula. In that way, it stays incredibly comfortable throughout the day. Comfort and colors aside, it’s also designed to blur fine lines and wrinkles. “With two pumps, it covered almost all imperfections and looked very even,” says one of our testers. “The texture was smooth, it went on easily, and it did not move around or bunch during the application. Even after 15 minutes, there were no signs of wear; it looked smooth, with no creasing into lines.” While this foundation is advertised as a matte formula, our tester says that it could more accurately be described as semi-matte. While the application and coverage certainly stand out, it’s the staying power of this foundation that made our testers devoted fans. “The foundation didn’t move after application, nor did it transfer onto the blotting paper,” one marvels. “If I had to improve anything, I would make it a tiny bit more moisturizing. However, given the great transfer resistance of the product, I would sacrifice additional moisture for staying power.” Price at time of publish: $46 Shades: 44 | Finish: Matte | Size: 30 mL InStyle / Jessica Juliao InStyle / Jessica Juliao InStyle / Jessica Juliao InStyle / Jessica Juliao Best Natural Finish Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Foundation 4.7 Sephora View On Sephora View On Bergdorfgoodman.com View On Patmcgrath.com Our Ratings Coverage 4.8/5 Feel 5/5 Wear 4.8/5 Finish 5/5 Transfer Resistance 4/5 What We Love A single layer is enough to create a gorgeous, airbrushed finish. What We Don’t Love It can settle into fine lines. Many consider Pat McGrath to be the queen of luxurious makeup — just look at Taylor Swift’s “Bejeweled” music video, where she’s literally cast as Queen Pat. On the subject of full coverage foundations, Pat McGrath Sublime Perfection Foundation is among the most highly-rated formulas at Sephora, with over 114,000 likes. What makes the foundation so likable, according to our tester, is that it’s incredibly comfortable while offering just enough coverage. "One layer is enough to make my skin more even and airbrushed, and it left a gorgeous, skin-like (but still better than my natural skin) finish,” she shares. The reason it applies so beautifully (and comfortably) is because its water-based, which prompts it to sink into skin to quench any dehydration. “It feels like I'm wearing a tinted serum — After re-reading my moisture levels, my skin was almost just as moisturized after using the foundation as using just moisturizer,” our tester adds. Her one complaint about the cult-favorite foundation is that, due to the airy, water-based formula, it does melt into lines a bit throughout wear. “I'm noticing slight creasing around my mouth in my smile lines, but nothing drastic,” she admits. “I think powder (a staple in my makeup routine) would have set this and prevented that from happening. Other than that, the foundation stayed put and doesn't feel like it's going anywhere.” Price at time of publish: $68 Shades: 36 | Finish: Natural | Size: 35 mL InStyle / Jessica Juliao InStyle / Jessica Juliao InStyle / Jessica Juliao InStyle / Jessica Juliao Best Budget NYX Total Control Pro Drop Foundation 4.6 Amazon View On Amazon View On Ulta View On Nyxcosmetics.com What We Love It’s very affordable, extremely lightweight, and doesn’t crease, smudge, or pill. What We Don’t Love While it doesn’t settle into lines, it's not transfer-resistant. Compared to the other contenders, NYX Total Control Pro Drop Foundation is not only a superb pick from a budget stance, but a value one, too, given it’s the largest bottle of liquid full coverage foundation on this list. While you might think that a more affordable foundation wouldn’t perform as well as a luxe formula, our tester assures us that it’s a standout. “The texture feels very smooth, and it has a shine to it but doesn't look oily — it looks healthy,” she shares. Part of what makes it look so fabulous is the fact that it’s sold in so many colors, so it’s easy to find the perfect shade match, too. Our tester’s one complaint is that, unfortunately, this full coverage foundation isn’t transfer-resistant. While she found that it didn’t settle into pores, fine lines, or wrinkles, when tended to with blotting paper, it transferred substantially. “It was all over the table and my phone,” she shares. “It still looked great on my face, though. It just transfers a lot.” Price at time of publish: $8 Shades: 27 | Finish: Natural | Size: 58.56 mL InStyle / Jessica Juliao InStyle / Jessica Juliao InStyle / Jessica Juliao InStyle / Jessica Juliao Best Splurge Chantecaille Future Skin Cushion Skincare Foundation 4.8 Bluemercury View On Bluemercury.com View On Chantecaille.com View On Saks Fifth Avenue Our Ratings Coverage 5/5 Feel 5/5 Wear 5/5 Finish 5/5 Transfer Resistance 4/5 What We Love It provides a natural, radiant finish that effortlessly masks redness. What We Don’t Love It only comes in seven shades. Chantecaille Future Skin Cushion Skincare Foundation might offer full coverage, but according to our tester, it applies like a weightless skincare product. “It’s very refreshing,” she exclaims. “It's a water-based formula that glides right on.” Once applied, our reviewer was surprised to see just how well the product stayed put. “The staying power is amazing,” she says. “It didn’t settle into my wrinkles, and there was no pilling or smudging — it provided a smooth, impeccable finish. I have never felt a foundation this light that actually provided coverage without feeling like I’m wearing makeup.” Another highlight? She says that the foundation creates a radiant, natural glow that masks redness entirely. “It looked like my skin,” she explains, again swooning over how it never looked caked on the way some full coverage foundations do. Our one strife is the shade range — with only seven colors available, there are a lot of people who won’t be able to enjoy this foundation. Price at time of publish: $130 Shades: 7 | Finish: Natural | Size: 0.42 oz. Best Stick Nudestix Nudies Tinted Blur Stick 4.6 Sephora View On Nordstrom View On Sephora View On Ulta Our Ratings Coverage 5/5 Feel 5/5 Wear 5/5 Finish 5/5 Transfer Resistance 3/5 What We Love It applies so smoothly. What We Don’t Love It requires layers to achieve a true full coverage finish. Let us begin by saying that Nudestix Tinted Blur Foundation Stick is not a full coverage foundation. That said, due to the way it applies, it has successfully wiggled its way into the category. The reason? The hydrating vitamin E and green tea-infused formula expertly blurs skin for a silky, airbrushed finish and can be layered on to create a true full coverage result. “It looks natural and works well to cover discoloration,” says one tester. “It feels light and looks beautiful on the skin. It’s a great product to use for a light to medium coverage, but it is creamy and buildable.” Her tip for achieving your ideal coverage? Start with a hydratingg primer for the foundation to perform well. Price at time of publish: $32 Shades: 11 | Finish: Natural Matte | Size: 0.2 oz. Best for Dry Skin KVD Beauty Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Hydrating Foundation Balm 4.8 Sephora View On Sephora View On Ulta View On Kohls.com Our Ratings Coverage 5/5 Feel 4/5 Wear 4/5 Finish 4/5 Transfer Resistance 5/5 What We Love A little goes a very long way, and it feels comfortable on the skin. What We Don’t Love The shades can be difficult to decipher. It’s rare that a full coverage foundation can be applied flawlessly with fingers and brushes alike, but KVD Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Hydrating Foundation Balm is the exception. “I absolutely love this foundation,” our tester reveals. “I only used my fingers to apply it, and I used very little, but it provided full coverage in one go. I appreciate how it did a great job of hiding my sun blemishes and hyperpigmentation while feeling light on my face — never cakey, chalky, or dense.” Our tester isn’t the only superfan of the full coverage foundation, though. Thousands of Ulta shoppers are, as well. And it makes sense: The product is infused with antioxidant-rich apple extract and plumping and hydrating sodium hyaluronate, both of which help to nourish skin for a bouncy, healthy-looking visage. “My skin actually was more hydrated after I put it on which is nice because I have been looking for a foundation that I can use in the wintertime,” our tester shares. Two things to keep in mind: 1) A little goes a very long way, so start with less and build up if you see fit (though, we found that one layer is more than enough). 2) The shades aren’t entirely accurate in the compact. Instead, the brand suggests relying on the model photos associated with each shade as opposed to the compact imagery itself. Price at time of publish: $41 Shades: 40 | Finish: Matte | Size: 0.35 oz. Best for Oily Skin ILIA True Skin Serum Foundation 4.4 Nordstrom View On Sephora View On Dermstore View On Iliabeauty.com Our Ratings Coverage 4/5 Feel 5/5 Wear 4/5 Finish 5/5 Transfer Resistance 4/5 What We Love It’s lightweight and acts like a skincare serum while providing ample coverage. What We Don’t Love It transfers slightly. With 30 shades to choose from and a formula that feels more like skincare than full coverage makeup, it’s no wonder Ilia True Skin Serum Foundation is adored by over 102,000 Sephora shoppers. What sets this foundation apart is just how nourishing the ingredients list is: Infused with smoothing niacinamide, soothing allantoin, and calming and hydrating aloe, this is one of the (if not the) gentlest full coverage foundations on the market. “It covered my redness,” one tester shares, admitting that it took a few layers but that she was impressed nonetheless. “Alone it gives a soft blurred finish to the skin, perfect for those days you want to look natural or want to do a lot of contouring and layers.” Price at time of publish: $54 Shades: 30 | Finish: Natural | Size: 30 mL Best With SPF Kosas Revealer Skin-Improving Foundation SPF 25 4.7 Sephora View On Nordstrom View On Sephora View On Howl.me Our Ratings Coverage 4.5/5 Feel 5/5 Wear 5/5 Finish 5/5 Transfer Resistance 3.8/5 What We Love It works incredibly well to even out skin tone. What We Don’t Love It doesn’t fully cover darker, more noticeable “imperfections.” KOSAS Revealer Skin Improving SPF 25 Foundation is another full coverage foundation that makes skincare benefits a top priority. In addition to being infused with SPF 25 sun protection, the foundation is formulated with niacinamide, caffeine, squalane, arnica, and pro vitamin B5 to brighten, smooth, and soothe skin for a natural-looking finish. “With two pumps, I was able to cover about 85 percent of my face,” our tester shares. “I had to go in with a little more (less than a pump) to fully cover my entire face using a damp Beauty Blender. After that, woo! Watch out! My face was glowing, even-toned — dare I say, stunning?” As much as she adored the radiant finish, she admits that her more prominent beauty marks required a bit more coverage. “Mild redness and blemishes were covered but for things like scars and a blue veins, I would want to follow up with a concealer,” she shares. Price at time of publish: $42 Shades: 26 | Finish: Natural | Size: 30 mL Best Matte Finish Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay In Place Matte Powder Foundation 4.4 Sephora View On Amazon View On Sephora View On Esteelauder.com Our Ratings Coverage 4/5 Feel 5/5 Wear 5/5 Finish 5/5 Transfer Resistance 3/5 What We Love It evens out skin tone and feels lightweight. What We Don’t Love It’s not the best at hiding complexion discolorations. Powder foundations are a bit trickier from a coverage stance, as they’re not always as easy to build as their cream and liquid counterparts. Still, our tester enjoyed the coverage this powder foundation provided, even if it didn’t completely cover her complexion discoloration. “It looked natural and I was able to control the coverage based on my application,” she says. Since it’s more buildable than immediately opaque, our tester says that this matte powder could also work well as a finishing powder of sorts. “It sets in quickly and doesn’t feel heavy,” she says. Since it’s a powder, though, she points out that transfer is rather unavoidable. Price at time of publish: $48 Shades: 31 | Finish: Matte | Size: 0.42 oz. Best Satin Finish Sisley Paris Phyto-Teint Ultra Éclat Oil-Free Foundation Nordstrom View On Nordstrom What We Love It’s buildable, dries down quickly, and looks natural. What We Don’t Love It’s not a true full coverage foundation. If you’re willing to rely on multiple layers, Sisley Paris Phyto-Teint Ultra Éclat Oil-Free Foundation is a great option. It applies smoothly, dries down quickly, and feels amazing on the skin, our tester says. While it’s not a true full coverage foundation (as it applies more sheerly) with multiple layers, you can tailor the coverage without worrying about it becoming too heavy on the skin. “It held well and did not smudge, crease or cake up,” our reviewer explains, noting that it blends seamlessly. “It’s a great, light, comfortable product to wear every day,” she concludes. Price at time of publish: $100 Shades: 25 | Finish: Natural | Size: 30 mL Best Long Wear Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Long Wear Foundation 4.7 Nordstrom View On Nordstrom View On Sephora View On Lancome-usa.com What We Love A little bit goes a long way — and it has SPF 15. What We Don’t Love Some shoppers report that it settles into lines — but we didn’t experience that. If you have a big event coming up or you simply want to look and feel your best from dawn til dusk, stocking your makeup bag with Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H Long Wear Matte Foundation is a must. Sold in a whopping 50 shades, the lightweight liquid foundation is designed to stay put for up to 24 hours, all while feeling airy and comfortable on the skin. “I was happy with the texture and feel of the product,” our tester says. “It set nicely and quickly on the skin, there wasn't any smudging, and it didn't crease or become cakey. I would wear this foundation often.” Price at time of publish: $52 Shades: 50 | Finish: Matte | Size: 30 mL Our Testing Process In order to uncover the best full coverage foundations we first had to determine which products were even worth testing. We spent a week researching best-selling, highly-rated formulas to select our initial pool of 32 full-coverage foundations. From there, we spent 16 hours putting each and every product on the list to the test. To do so, we had each of our testers wear the full coverage foundations for a full 16-hour day, at the end of which they evaluated each formula by its performance in five key categories: Coverage, texture, wear, finish, and transfer resistance. Once all the data was collected, we were able to whittle down the 32 contenders to the 11 best full-coverage foundations. What to Keep in Mind Shades The more shades a full coverage foundation is sold in, the more likely you are to find a perfectly-suited match for your complexion. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H Long Wear Matte Foundation is sold in a whopping 50 shades (the greatest selection of hues on our list). Remember, when it comes to full face makeup, you want to shop with your undertones in mind. Thankfully, wide ranges of full coverage foundations makes it easy to find warm, cool, and neutral formulas across the spectrum. Formula Finish Despite the common assumption, not all full coverage foundations are matte. As such, you’ll want to keep your complexion and end look goals in mind when selecting a full coverage foundation. If you have oily skin, a matte formula (like Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Matte Powder Foundation) may be best. If you have combination or dry skin, a natural or radiant finish may better suit your complexion. We like KVD Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Hydrating Foundation Balm. Wear Just because a foundation is full coverage doesn’t mean that it will automatically last all night long. With that in mind, when shopping for a full coverage foundation, think about where you’re planning to wear it. If your goal is to apply it in the morning before work and not take it off until after dinner, a longwear formula of 12 to 24 hours is ideal. If you’re only hoping to rock a flawless face beat for a special night out, shorter wear times are acceptable. Your Questions, Answered What is full coverage foundation? As the name implies, full coverage foundation is designed to fully mask whatever is beneath it. “It's typically opaque, meaning that when applied to the face, you will see the finish of the foundation without any sheerness or translucency that may allow your natural skin to peek through,” says makeup artist Hannah Metz, who is the founder of Hannah Elisabeth Beauty, the country’s fastest growing on-site hair & make-up artistry brand. “Full coverage foundation is usually made to be long-lasting, with a more matte to satin finish.” That said, it’s also available in natural finishes that give it a radiant, born-with-it appeal while still adequately covering skin texture and tones beneath. “Full coverage foundation is best used for those with normal to oily skin types, or those who wish to cover imperfections such as blemishes and dark spots,” Metz adds. How do you apply full coverage foundation? Like most foundations, full coverage foundation is best applied with a brush or sponge. “I like to apply foundation with a large, round fluffy brush, buffing the foundation onto the skin,” says celebrity makeup artist Adam Burrell. “I love that this gives the smoothest, most natural looking finish, enabling you to work in layers.” When applying full coverage foundation, Metz suggests starting in the center of the face and pressing and buffing the formula outwards. “It’s typically best applied with a dense, flat brush, such as the Morphe M6 Flat Buffer Brush,” she admits. “You can also apply full coverage foundation with a wet beauty sponge, such as the beautyblender, slightly dampened (with either regular water or setting spray).” Once applied, MAC Senior National Artist, Fatima Thomas, says that the trick to maintaining optimal coverage is to finish with powder to provide that “picture perfect, flawless finish.” Can you layer foundation to get full coverage? Whether you use a full coverage foundation or one with less coverage, Metz and Burrell agree that working in layers is best. “I always start with a thin layer of product all over, then build up in areas that need more coverage,” Burrell says. “Layering is a great technique when applying foundation as you can customize the coverage depending on the area, as opposed to creating a mask of product over the whole face.” When applying your full coverage foundation and building it up as needed, Burrell says to not neglect your neck and chest in the process. And whatever you do, don’t forget to blend. If you don’t own a full coverage foundation and aren’t planning to purchase one after all, Metz says that it’s possible to build coverage with light-to-medium-coverage foundations, as well. “One of my favorite techniques as a professional makeup artist is using a lighter- to medium-coverage foundation with a beautiful radiance and glow, but applying one to two well-blended layers to get a full coverage appearance,” she says. “This is a great technique for those with dry or more mature skin, where using a full coverage matte foundation may not be ideal, but where a full coverage finished look is still desired.” Why Shop With Us Rebecca Norris has covered beauty for over eight years. For this story, she spoke with a group of testers, as well as makeup artists Hannah Metz, Adam Burrell, and Fatima Thomas) to determine what makes a high-quality, performance-driven formula. With testing insights and expert input in mind, she presents the best full coverage foundations. What Is InStyle Picks? Did you notice the InStyle Picks seal of approval at the top of this story? That means our team of testers has reviewed every product on this list using a unique methodology to ensure it's really worth your time, money, and attention. We may get samples for free to try but we never promise positive (or any!) coverage in exchange. Put simply: InStyle picks are products we love, and we've put them to the test to be sure you will too. Want more product recommendations? From best-in-class concealer to the black pants you need for work, check out all of our InStyle Picks content.