Best foundation 2022: 20 formulas for perfect coverage on every skin type

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  • Everything starts with a good base, so we've rounded up the best foundation buys to help you find your perfect match

    Finding the best foundation is the first step to perfecting your make-up routine. It’s a simple enough principle, but boy, can it be tricky.

    Applying it should be a pleasure and wearing it should be a joy. It should enhance the way your skin looks and feels, and it should disguise any bits that you want hidden, smooth out any imperfections and create the perfect canvas for the rest of your look.

    How to choose the best foundation for you

    There are so many things to consider when looking for a new foundation. Firstly, the finish – do you want one that’s glowy or matte, or somewhere in between? And then there’s the coverage. Do you prefer a full-coverage formula or something that’s on the sheer side?

    And that’s before we’ve even got on to your skin type. The best foundation for dry skin will be nourishing and dewy, and be a hydrating water-based liquid formula. While targeted non-comedogenic formulas, with matte or demi-matte finishes, make the best foundation for oily skin. If you’re slightly greasy on the t-zone, but dry on your cheeks, you’ll want the best foundation for combination skin. Or, if skin pigmentation is your biggest worry, then a buildable, full coverage foundation is essential.

    We also recommend looking beyond just one foundation. Our skin changes throughout the year, as do our individual priorities, so consider buying two base products to keep in your kit. A richer formula in a lighter shade would probably suit you better in winter. Then come summer, when it’s warmer and your skin tone has also got a little deeper, have a darker shade with a more lightweight texture on standby.

    ‘Ultimately, the key things are the shade, undertone and the coverage you are looking for as well as the longevity, blendability and the way the texture feels and performs on the skin,’ says pro make-up artist Cher Webb. ‘Aim to find a base that enhances the skin and looks like it’s not really there.’

    ‘When trying on bases I always recommend checking your shade across your lower cheek and jawline rather than swatching your wrists or hands,’ Webb adds. ‘Also always check your foundation swatches in natural daylight to identify the truest match.’

    How to buy foundation online

    The best thing to do when buying a new foundation is to pop into store and test the shades out, but as our life shifts to be more and more digital, there are several smart and techy ways that you can now buy your base online.

    1. Findation.com

    Findation.com is a website that compares hundreds of different shades from all of your favourite brands to help you find the best colour for you. For example, if you know your which shade you use in Estée Lauder Double-Wear, £35 and Nars Sheer Glow Foundation, £35, then it will recommend which shade of bareMinerals Original Foundation, £29, you should go for.

    2. Il Makiage

    The Il Makiage Power Match foundation quiz is remarkably accurate. It asks you 20 questions – everything from what jewellery you wear to what your skin worries are – and at the end it emails you their recommendation. Marie Claire’s Senior Beauty Editor Katie took the test and was amazed by how perfect the formulation and shade was. If for any reason your quiz match isn’t accurate, however (it claims to be 96% accurate, so someone has to fall into that 4%), you have 60 days to return your foundation for an exchange or refund, or 30 if you skipped the quiz.

    3. Dcypher

    The people behind Dcypher don’t think that any of the shades on the beauty shelves are good enough. They want to help you find your *exact* match. They’ve developed technology that creates your perfect formula – one that’s the ideal coverage, texture, finish and shade that matches your skin tone. Pop onto their website, take three pictures of your face, answer a few questions about your personal preferences and they’ll come up with a code that’s completely unique to you. They’ll send you a sample first to check that they’ve got everything right (and if not you can make changes) and once you’re happy, you can order your foundation as and when you need it.

    Should you apply foundation or concealer first?

    It’s the age-old beauty debate: to pre-conceal, or not to pre-conceal? Although there’s actually no right answer and it’s all down to your personal preference, many make-up artists advocate for applying your concealer after foundation.

    Why? Because once you’ve given applied a gorgeous base, it’s much easier to determine which areas need the additional coverage that comes from your best concealer, and how much product is needed on said areas.

    It’s also possible that, by applying foundation over concealer, you’re wiping off lots of the good work you’ve just done, not to mention wasting product. Plus your foundation should be doing most of the leg work anyway – think of concealer as an added flourish.

    How to make your foundation last all-day

    For a foundation that really goes the distance, we recommend applying some of the best primer before your base. Alternatively, there are some really brilliant make-up setting sprays out there that you would use as your very last step to really lock things in.

    But if we can offer one piece of good advice it’s that the key to really good make-up lies in having a brilliant skincare routine in place. If you want your foundation to look its best and last as long as possible, then applying it to a well-hydrated, healthy and smooth complexion is the way to do it. You wouldn’t build a house without a good foundation, so the same rule applies here.

    Regularly exfoliating your skin and getting rid of the build-up of dead cells will help stop your foundation from gathering around any flaky patches. Using the best face serums and toners for your skin type will ensure that your skin is in the best possible condition, and the foundation will glide on perfectly and stay there.

    Foundation and SPF

    Just because your foundation says it contains SPF, that doesn’t mean you should be skipping your best facial sunscreen step. The amount in the foundation formula isn’t enough and we definitely don’t apply enough foundation to provide adequate protection. The recommended amount of sun cream for your face and neck is half a teaspoon, and you probably aren’t trowelling that amount of foundation every single day. Plus, SPF only protects from UVB rays and not UVA – which is why your sun protection products should be ‘broad spectrum’. (Just to recap, UVB rays burn the skin, UVA rays cause skin ageing, and both can cause skin cancer.)

    Best foundation 2022:

    We asked founder of VIEVE and Expert Make-up Artist, Jamie Genevieve, what she believes makes the best foundation and she had this to say: ‘Shade range, staying power and buildability. Dependent on what kind of finish you want, a good foundation will be different for everyone – a person who likes a full coverage look will not be happy with a light coverage foundation. The finish and coverage of a foundation is dependent on the individual. However overall, everyone wants a good shade range so that they can find their right colour match, they want it to stay in place and last as long as possible and they want to have the control in building up the coverage where they want it without it separating.’

    Pro make-up artist Cher Webb thinks that it’s also all about versatility. ‘I love foundations that work for every occasion from everyday wear, right through to full glam looks for an evening. I also select foundations that mimic real skin texture and amplify the skin’s natural glow and radiance, rather than covering and masking everything.’

    As a beauty team, we have tested hundreds of foundations over the years. As soon as a new one drops we give it a trial. So how do we test? What are we looking for in the best foundation? First of all we want to know which skin type it’s going to suit best. Next, we look at the formula, is it full-coverage, medium or more of a wash of colour? What finish does it have Then, how does it last on the skin? Can it make it to the end of the day? We also look at the shade ranges, are all skin tones going to be able to find their match? And finally, we look at the price.

    With all that in mind, let us help you find your next best foundation…

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