Best Liquid Foundation

Updated June 2021
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Buying guide for best liquid foundation

Foundation is usually the most important part of your makeup routine – but it’s also the hardest makeup product to get right. Liquid foundation is the best formula for most skin types and concerns since it offers both coverage and the most natural, skin-like finish.

With so many types of liquid foundation on the market, though, sorting through all the options is overwhelming. You have to figure out what ingredients, finish, and coverage work best with your skin, and then you have to find a perfect shade match for a truly flawless base.

At BestReviews, we’re committed to simplifying shopping with our top recommendations and thoroughly researched shopping guides. Looking for a new liquid foundation? Our five favorites are in the product list above. For everything you need to know about choosing the best liquid foundation for your skin, keep reading.

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When you apply liquid foundation, start at the center of your face and blend outward for the most natural, flawless look.

Types of liquid foundation


Oil-based liquid foundation features oils and other moisturizers as the main ingredients. It usually has a fairly thick consistency and a creamy texture. Oil-based liquid foundation hydrates the skin and usually offers a dewy or radiant finish. It is best for those with dry or mature skin. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, do not use an oil-based foundation.


Water-based liquid foundation is oil-free and features water as one of the main ingredients. It usually has a watery consistency that’s thinner than oil-based formulas and blends into the skin much more quickly. Water-based liquid foundation typically offers a matte or natural finish and lighter coverage. It works well with all skin types.


Silicone-based liquid foundation features silicones like dimethicone and cyclomethicone as the main ingredients. Silicone gives the foundation a slightly thicker consistency that glides easily over the skin. Because of the thicker texture, silicone-based foundation can often fill in large pores or fine lines to give your skin a smoother look. It works well with all skin types but is particularly good for oily or acne-prone skin.

Liquid foundation features to consider


Liquid foundation is usually formulated to address specific skin concerns, so you should always look for a formula designed for your skin type.

  • Oily skin: If you have oily skin, look for an oil-free liquid foundation that’s described as oil-absorbing or mattifying. Mattifying foundation keeps the natural oils in your skin from breaking down the foundation throughout the day. It also keeps your skin looking matte rather than oily.

  • Dry skin: If you have dry skin, look for an oil-based liquid foundation that’s described as hydrating or moisturizing. It can deliver moisture throughout the day, so your foundation doesn’t start to look cakey, dry, or flaky.

  • Acne-prone skin: If you have acne-prone skin, look for an oil-free liquid foundation because oil can clog pores and cause breakouts. You may also want a formula that contains salicylic acid, which is an acne-fighting ingredient, so you can treat your acne while covering it up.

  • Sensitive skin: If you have sensitive skin that’s irritated easily, look for a liquid foundation that doesn’t contain any of the most common skin irritants, including fragrance, alcohol, talc, and mineral oil.

  • Mature skin: If you have mature skin, look for an oil-based liquid foundation that will hydrate and moisturize dry, aging skin. You may also prefer a formula that contains anti-aging ingredients like collagen, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, green tea, and sunscreen.

  • Normal skin: If you’re lucky enough to have normal skin without any significant concerns, nearly any liquid foundation should work well.


Once you get the formula right, you want to be sure to choose a liquid foundation that offers the best coverage for your skin concerns.

  • Light coverage works best if you have minor skin issues and discolorations and simply want to even out your skin tone.

  • Medium coverage works best if you have some skin issues and discolorations that you want to hide without using too much concealer.

  • Full coverage works best if you want a completely flawless look. It will hide most skin issues and discolorations.

For the best results, choose the lightest coverage liquid foundation to cover your skin issues. Heavier foundation can look unnatural and mask-like and may actually make acne, fine lines, and other skin issues look worse.

"Whether you use a brush or a sponge, wash the tool that you apply your liquid foundation with regularly to prevent the spread of bacteria. Wash a brush once a week and a sponge after each use."


Liquid foundation is available in a variety of finishes, which determine how much it reflects light when applied to the skin. Certain finishes work better for some skin types than others, so keep your skin type in mind when choosing a finish.

  • Matte: A matte liquid foundation has no shine at all, so it’s an ideal option for oily, combination, and acne-prone skin.

  • Natural: A natural liquid foundation, also often called semi-matte, demi-matte, or satin, isn’t completely shine-free but doesn’t offer the same glow as dewy foundations. It has a skin-like finish, so it works well for all skin types.

  • Dewy: A dewy, radiant, or luminous liquid foundation has a healthy glow, so it’s ideal for dry or mature skin.


Getting the right shade for your liquid foundation is often the most difficult step. The first part of the process is determining your skin tone. Most foundation formulas are categorized into fair, light, medium, tan, deep, and dark shades. You then have to determine your skin’s undertone to get a perfect match.

  • Warm: You have a warm undertone if your skin has mostly golden or yellow tones. Turn over your wrist and look at the veins. If they appear green, you have warm skin.

  • Cool: You have a cool undertone if your skin has mostly rosy or pink tones. If the veins in your wrist appear blue, you have cool skin.

  • Neutral: If you have both pink and yellow tones in your skin, you have a neutral undertone. If you can’t tell if your veins appear blue or green, you have neutral skin.


A liquid foundation’s packaging can affect how easy or messy the foundation is to apply. Most liquid foundation comes in a bottle. Those with a pump dispenser are the easiest and most hygienic to use because you don’t have to use your fingers to get the product out. They’re much less likely to spill, too. Pour bottles can be pretty messy, and you can wind up wasting product if you accidentally pour out too much.

Some particularly thin or watery liquid foundation formulas come in a bottle with a dropper dispenser, which allows you to dispense a precise amount. Thicker liquid foundation sometimes comes in a squeeze tube that also helps control how much you dispense each time.

Liquid foundation prices

Liquid foundation prices vary based on the quality of the ingredients and the brand. In most cases, though, you can expect to pay between $5 and $120.

  • Drugstore

Liquid foundation formulas that contain lower-quality ingredients typically range in price from $5 to $20.

  • High-end

Liquid foundation brands that contain high-quality ingredients typically range in price from $20 to $60.

  • Luxury

Liquid foundation from designer brands that contains high-quality ingredients typically ranges in price from $60 to $120.

Applying liquid foundation

Liquid foundation is pretty easy to apply, but you can choose from three main application methods: your fingers, a sponge, or a brush. All three methods work well, but the option you choose affects how much coverage the foundation provides.


If you prefer light or medium coverage for a more natural look, use your fingers to apply your liquid foundation. Add a small amount of the foundation to the back of your hand, and use a finger to dot the product all over your face. Once you’ve distributed the foundation evenly across your face, use your fingers to gently pat and massage it into your skin until it is fully blended.


A beauty sponge can help you achieve medium to full coverage with a liquid foundation. Always wet the sponge first and squeeze out the excess moisture – this will prevent the sponge from soaking up too much of the foundation. Dot the liquid foundation over your face until it’s evenly distributed, and then bounce the sponge over your skin to blend in the makeup.


Using a brush to apply your liquid foundation typically offers the most coverage. You can use either a flat brush that resembles a paintbrush or a denser brush that allows you to buff the product into the skin. Dot the foundation over your face, and then use the brush to blend it in. With a flat brush, use downward strokes for the most flawless look. With a dense foundation brush, work in circular motions to really work the foundation into your skin.

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Never go to sleep without taking off your liquid foundation. Leaving it on overnight can clog your pores and irritate your skin.


Q. How do I make liquid foundation last all day?

A. If you want to make sure that your liquid foundation goes the distance, apply a primer first. Primer gives the foundation a base to stick to and helps prevent your skin’s natural oils from breaking through and breaking up the foundation. If you have oily skin, it’s also a good idea to set the foundation with a setting or finishing powder to lock it in place. Both oily and dry skin can also benefit from a setting spray, which you apply after you’ve finished your makeup to set your look.

Q. Does liquid foundation go bad?

A. Like all liquid and cream makeup products, liquid foundation has a shelf life. Most liquid foundation formulas are good for six months to a year. If you notice that your foundation is starting to separate or has developed a strange odor, throw it away.

Q. Should I apply concealer before or after liquid foundation?

A. Most makeup artists recommend applying liquid foundation first and then adding concealer where necessary. That’s because you may find that your foundation covers enough of your problem areas and discolorations that you only need a little concealer. Too much concealer can often cause a cakey look.

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