The 20 Best Lightweight Foundations for Smooth, Even Coverage
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Finding the right foundation for your skin can be tricky. You want to make sure it’s the right shade, it delivers adequate coverage and the product stays on for the rest of the day. The texture and finish are important, too. While we love a full-coverage formula for special occasions, we prefer something light and breathable on most other days. Luckily, lightweight foundations exist. See, not only do they give you the coverage you want, but they also don't feel like anything on your skin. Here's everything you need to know about lightweight foundations, according to the experts.
Meet the Experts:
- Sarah Tanno is a celebrity makeup artist and global artistic director for Haus Labs by Lady Gaga
- Katie Mellinger is a New York and Los Angeles-based makeup artist
What Are the Benefits of a Lightweight Foundation?
Whether you have oily skin, dislike the feeling of makeup on your skin or live in a warmer climate, a lightweight foundation offers light to medium coverage that won't feel too heavy. "I always reach for a lightweight foundation because it doesn't feel like makeup sitting on your skin," explains Tanno. "Your skin feels lighter and breathable. It also looks softer than the full-coverage heavier formulas that just sit on top of the skin."
Plus, if you’re targeting specific concerns (i.e redness, dark spots or blemishes), a lightweight foundation may be a better choice than your go-to regular foundation.
What to Look for in a Lightweight Foundation
Look for keywords like “oil-free,” “buildable formula,” and “weightless," on the packaging. You’ll also want to look for nourishing ingredients that will boost hydration and ensure the product goes on evenly onto your skin and feel almost like a skincare hybrid. "Lightweight foundation will usually have water at the top of the ingredient list, as well as water-soluble actives like hyaluronic acid, peptides and fermented extracts that are highly compatible with the skin. [These formulas] absorb easily and enhance the skin-like feel," adds Tanno.
If you need a push in the right direction, here are the 20 best lightweight foundations you can buy right now, according to the experts, reviewers and editors.
Best Lightweight Foundations At a Glance:
Best Natural Finish
- Why We Love It: 25 shades, vegan ingredients, transfer-proof
Quick question: Is there anything that Fenty Beauty can’t do? When the Eaze Drop launched, it quickly became a favorite among makeup wearers. The buildable formula (aka a HydraBlend complex) has a light-to-medium coverage that promises to leave your skin looking blurred and smooth without creasing throughout the day.
"This skin tint is the perfect light coverage yet breathable; it barely feels like you’re wearing makeup and it definitely doesn’t look cakey or fake at all," says one Sephora reviewer. "And even though it’s light coverage, it will cover most blemishes and blackheads. The concept of the face tint and blur versus a high-coverage foundation is amazing! Thank you, Rihanna!!!!"
- Why We Love It: 12 shades, clean formula, sheer coverage
This skin tint is the ultimate choice for non-makeup wearers who want a little bit of coverage. Its lightweight formula contains diamond powder, which gives a brightening effect while minimizing the appearance of pores. It also features glycerin to keep your skin nice and moisturized.
"It's nice for days when you don't want full coverage, but still want to blur minor imperfections or feel like you have a bit of coverage," says Katherine Gillen, senior food editor at PureWow. "I don't expect it to cover pimples, but it does cancel out redness nicely and I find it helps my concealer blend in more seamlessly with my skin. I also like that it's not oily or greasy, unlike other skin tints I've tried in the past."
Best Buildable Coverage
Pat McGrath Labs
- Why We Love It: 36 shades, Black-owned, vegan formula
Pat McGrath Labs reigns supreme in the makeup space and this foundation offers clear evidence as to why. With over 1,000 5-star reviews, the Sublime Perfection Foundation builds from sheer to medium coverage. Its creamy formula (featuring polymers, amino acid pigments and diamond powder) also makes blending the product a breeze for the most natural finish.
"The makeup artist I worked with used this on my wedding day and I haven't looked back since," says Catrina Yohay, managing editor at PureWow. "It's super lightweight, but easily buildable, and blends effortlessly with bronzer drops or even a touch of moisturizer if my skin is feeling super dry. I can't stand a caked-on foundation, but this one really does spread evenly and melts right in to look like a second skin."
- Why We Love It: 30 shades, SPF 40, clean ingredients
Keep your pores clear and your skin glowing with this clean beauty pick. Made with plant-based squalane—a lipid that moisturizes your skin—this paraben- and formaldehyde-free tint will keep your skin looking supple, while also covering any pesky blemishes. Not convinced? See how our editors rated the product here.
"This one isn't a foundation so much as it's a skin tint. That said, it's not gonna cover up all of your acne or dark circles, but if you're looking for a little polish, this is a great pick for making your skin look ever-so-much-more glowy. It's also packed with SPF and hyaluronic acid if you're not someone who regularly slathers it on," adds Nicole Brise, commerce director at PureWow.
Best Shade Range
- Why We Love It: 48 shades, natural finish, great for all skin types
If you've ever had a tough time finding a foundation match, Rare Beauty can help. With a whopping 48 shades to choose from and a serum-like consistency that has a forgiving application and finish, you're bound to find one that suits your skin. Plus, the nourishing formula includes lotus, gardenia and water lily to smooth and blur your skin without clogging your pores.
"This is one of the best foundations I’ve ever used! I’ve never had a foundation that matched my skin shade so perfectly! Even though it feels lightweight, it still gives you full coverage! Highly recommend!," says one Sephora commenter.
The Celebrity Favorite
- Why We Love It: 16 shades, clean ingredients, satin finish
Made with six nourishing botanical oils (including avocado oil, meadowfoam oil, red raspberry oil, jojoba oil, camellia seed oil and rosehip seed oil), this skin tint balances, moisturizes and plumps your skin for a youthful glow.
Plus, it's become a go-to for makeup artists, stylists, editors and celebrities alike. If you've ever looked at Nick Jonas and thought, “Wow, that hunk of a man has skin that's just as perfect as his abs," (just us?), you can get your hands on his foundation (though sadly not his majestic six-pack). Celebrity men’s groomer, Marissa Machado revealed that she used this on all three Jonas Brothers when they attended the 2020 Grammy Awards.
Best Waterproof Formula
- Why We Love It: 40 shades, natural finish, great for oily skin
If you have plans to attend a wedding, baby shower or any bash where you might be shedding tears, opt for Dior’s Face and Body Foundation. Not only will it give you the lightweight coverage you want, but it’s also waterproof and sweat resistant, so you can bawl your eyes out knowing there won’t be any distracting streaks left on your face.
"It withstands the Texas heat!! At 55, it’s very hard to find a foundation that wears well but this one is beautiful! I can have dry patches on my jaw and oily in T-zone and this one doesn’t mind," explains a Sephora reviewer. "It goes on easily, has a satin finish, doesn’t set in creases and does not oxidize on my skin. I’m in outside Sales and it hasn’t broken down in the heat (it’s over 100 degrees and very humid here)."
- Why We Love It: 36 shades, natural finish, great for dullness
If you're dealing with redness or dark spots, this NARS pick should be on your radar. Its ingredients list features biomimetic oat to reduce redness, Japanese lilyturf to maintain moisture and peptides to protect the skin against blue light and environmental stressors. Bottom line: This beauty hybrid delivers medium coverage and a natural finish for any occasion in your calendar.
"It sits on my skin perfectly and has undertones that match and don’t make me look dull or yellow. As someone who has oily and acne-prone skin, it doesn’t break me out or separate, and it doesn’t dry it out either! 10/10 def worth the money," says one Sephora reviewer.
Best Full Coverage
- Why We Love It: 12 shades, SPF 50, cream-based texture
For fuller coverage, go with this fan favorite from IT Cosmetics. Not only does it have SPF 50 to combat damaging UV Rays, and a mix of collagen and peptides to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but it also promises a natural-looking finish, so forget about looking pasty. And let's not forget the hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture for the rest of the day.
"I am NOT someone who writes reviews often. Around the time I turned 40, I started getting fine lines. My makeup either sinks into those lines and makes them more noticeable, or it slides off my face in a few hours regardless of primers. I was on a mission to find something good for aging and this one is PERFECT," says one Sephora commenter.
- Why We Love It: 14 shades, dewy finish, budget-friendly
This drugstore pick offers light coverage and a dewy glow. It's infused with nourishing ingredients like coconut milk and aloe extract to maintain moisture and plump your skin. Its vegan blend also promises a smoother, even complexion. If you're looking for a daily foundation, this one can't be beat. Just ask one editor, who put the budget-friendly pick to the test.
"Aside from how it blended well with my complexion, it felt fresh on my skin. There were times throughout the day when I forgot I was even wearing foundation in the first place. The Skin Milk was hydrating and nourishing (which is all thanks to the coconut milk and aloe extract). I have sensitive skin, so finding calming ingredients in my makeup is a major bonus," says Chelsea Candelario, associate editor at PureWow.
- Why We Love It: 12 shades, SPF, great for dry skin
If you want a long-lasting glow on a budget, this one’s for you. With over 9,000+ 5-star reviews, this foundation is lightweight and creamy, so it'll go on smoothly. It also offers medium coverage and leaves behind a subtle sheen.
"I have super dry skin and finding a foundation that 1) matches my skin color, 2) has moisturizing properties, 3) is buildable in certain areas of hyperpigmentation, 4) doesn’t oxidize while wearing and lastly 5) doesn’t settle into all the creases, has proven to be so difficult to find," explains one Amazon commenter. "But after spending lots of money on foundations that didn’t live up to the hype: I decided to try some basic drugstore brands. Surprisingly, L’Oréal Paris Infallible ProGlow Foundation has all the magic ingredients that I require in a foundation. I would highly recommend this foundation for anyone!"
- Why We Love It: 44 shades, vegan formula, full coverage
This Charlotte Tilbury foundation checks all of the boxes. Not only does it feel like nothing on, but it also illuminates, smooths, hydrates and visibly minimizes pores and wrinkles thanks to ceramides and mica in the formula. Oh, and it’s vegan, cruelty-free and gluten-free, too.
"This is literally the holy grail of foundation (IMO). I am prone to dry skin and I’ve tried SO many expensive foundations and this is my absolute favorite. It goes on super smooth, blends like an angel and stays put ALL day," says one Sephora fan.
- Why We Love It: 30 shades, waterproof, sheer coverage
This tried-and-true pick has been a staple for celebrities (and regular folks) for many years. Formulated for all skin types—yes, even sensitive skin—the Studio Face and Body Foundation is waterproof and long-wearing (up to 8 hours) without ever feeling too heavy or sticky.
"It's definitely my favorite skin tint that I've ever used. Once I tried this I couldn't go back to full coverage foundations, as this still has coverage—however it isn't cakey and you can barely feel it on your skin. It has such a nice skin dewy skin finish and wears beautifully throughout the day. I can 1oo percent wear this on natural AND full glam days! Highly recommend it," adds one Ulta customer.
Best for Oily Skin
- Why We Love It: 41 shades, SPF 15, great for oily skin
This water-based and oil-free formula works wonders for oily and acne-prone skin (because we don’t do clogged pores around here). It aims to provide a natural matte finish that won't leave your T-zone shiny. Lightweight as it feels, it still offers foolproof coverage for up to 16 hours, so your skin looks more even without feeling like you're wearing a ton of makeup.
"[This is the] best foundation I’ve ever used. I have super, super oily skin. Been using Accutane, so I now have super oily skin with some dry patches. It goes on like a dream with a wet sponge. I’m so shocked to see that I still have makeup on at the end of the day. My shine comes through, but the foundation stays," explains one Sephora reviewer.
- Why We Love It: 44 shades, oil-free formula, matte finish
They say a true glow comes from within, but you can still enhance yours with this oil-free foundation that claims to cover dark spots and blemishes and give you the most flawless finish. The key ingredient—eternal soft polymers—promises full coverage finish that lasts up to 24 hours without fading or transferring.
"This is such a great foundation. It really is long-lasting. My skin is very oily and most foundations break up about four hours into my workday. This one lasted all day and into the evening, a total of about twelve hours, before starting to break up and slide around. "I even wore it on a sweaty flight and landed with decent skin, which is quite a feat," says one Sephora customer.
- Why We Love It: 16 shades, budget-friendly, sheer coverage
If you have dry skin, look no further than this hydrating foundation. Its formula includes prickly pear oil to add moisture and leave a natural glow. It also features vitamin E to protect your skin against pollution, blue light and more. The creamy yet buildable texture allows you to apply it like a moisturizer for a luminous finish.
"This is the most lightweight foundation I have tried. It feels really hydrating like a high-quality moisturizer but also absorbs and goes on so easily without settling in lines or pores. I would also say it’s a medium coverage foundation. I felt like my skin still looked good at the end of the day," explains one Amazon fan.
Best Foundation With SPF
- Why We Love It: 14 shades, SPF 30, great for sensitive skin
This hybrid offers lightweight coverage and sun protection. It's formulated with prickly pear and white sage extract to reduce redness, restore moisture and protect against blue light. You'll also find zinc oxide, which protects the skin from UVA/UVB damage.
"As someone with eczema, I love everything from Tower28 as everything is specifically formulated for sensitive skin. SunnyDays contains mineral sunscreen, which is not only better for sensitive skin for everyday use, but better for everyday use in general," says Mellinger.
Best Foundation Stick
- Why We Love It: 12 shades, clean ingredients, great for medium coverage
This ultra-light foundation glides on like a dream, according to die-hard fans. Though it goes on creamy (thanks to the hyaluronic acid and Vitis vita actives), it sets to a soft matte finish, so you don’t have to worry about your face appearing too dewy. Plus, it comes with a built-in sponge applicator for easy blending (and you have one less thing to clean up afterwards).
"Okay, I love this foundation!! I was super impressed when I first wore it. It goes on smoothly, it's easy to blend, does not cake, and has coverage, but feels light. The finish is beautiful as well. I usually wear a finishing powder to reduce shine but I don't need to with this foundation!" says one Trestique reviewer.
- Why We Love It: 35 shades, lasts up to 12 hours, great buildable coverage
This one is a splurge, but according to the hoards of rave reviews, it’s well worth the price tag. Made with light-reflecting pigments, you'll look extra radiant when you snap those selfies. It also contains antioxidants to protect your skin from pollution, free radicals and blue light.
"I have used this same foundation for at least 15 years. Now that [I've] gotten older, [and my] skin is dryer and needs little more coverage, this foundation fits the bill. I put it on once in the early am and never have to worry about reapplying during the day!" adds one Chanel customer.
Haus Labs by Lady Gaga
- Why We Love It: 51 shades, clean ingredients, hypoallergenic
The newest foundation on the block has already made its rounds on the internet and for good reasons. It's formulated with fermented arnica to reduce redness, medicinal herbs to calm your skin and antioxidants to protect against environmental stressors. Choose between the 51 shades (yes, 51) for medium coverage and a luminous finish.
"Everyone is looking for more modern formulas and this one is weightless, clean, and offers medium coverage," says Tanno. "It's almost undetectable and feels like you're wearing your favorite skincare serum. My skin has never felt so good."
Before You Go
Can All Skin Types Use Lightweight Foundation?
Short answer: Yes. However, you want to keep your skin type in mind. If you have oily skin, look for oil-free or matte foundations that will help control oil and a greasy T-zone. On the flip side, people with dry skin should look for hydrating formulas to maintain moisture.
How To Apply Lightweight Foundation
When it comes to applying lightweight foundation, there are a few factors to consider including your skin type, texture and desired coverage. Here are a few helpful tips from our experts:
- Apply primer before your foundation. Regardless of which foundation you choose, applying a primer first can increase its wear time. If you have dry skin, Tanno recommends using a cream-based primer, whereas oiler skin type should opt for a mattifying formula.
- Apply a quarter-sized amount of foundation. For many foundations, a little goes a long way. Mellinger suggests using no more than 1/2 to one tablespoon of foundation for your entire face.
- Use your fingers to apply the product. This method is especially great for skin tints and moisturizers. Tanno suggests using your fingertips and gently applying the foundation, starting at the center of your face and blending outwards, for a sheer to light coverage.
- Or use a damp beauty sponge or brush. If you're looking for medium to full coverage, consider using a beauty sponge or makeup brush to blend the product onto your skin. "A damp sponge will sheer out the product even more and can make any foundation appear more lightweight," adds Mellinger.