Best Stick Foundation Makeup

Updated August 2021
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

56 Models Considered
26 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best stick foundation makeup

If you don’t have much time to put on makeup in the morning, changing the foundation you use can help you shave precious minutes off your routine. With stick foundation makeup, you can apply your makeup quickly and easily without any mess.

Stick foundation is a cream-based formula that comes in a tube similar to lipstick. You twist the end to expose the product and apply the foundation directly from the tube to your skin. That limits the mess and allows for quick, easy application. It’s also extremely travel-friendly because you don’t have to worry about the makeup spilling in your bag. Most stick foundations also offer buildable coverage and can do double duty as a concealer or contour product.

If you’re looking for a high-quality stick foundation for your makeup bag, our buying guide can help you figure out the best formula, finish, and ingredients based on your skin type, and we point out other features that provide the most flawless complexion. We’ve also included some specific product recommendations to help take all guesswork out of shopping.

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stick makeup foundation
Stick foundation is extremely travel-friendly, so it’s an excellent option for when you’re away from home. It’s also ideal to carry with you to touch up your makeup during the day.

Key considerations

Skin type

Stick foundation makeup usually has a creamy texture and contains emollient ingredients like oils and butters to help it glide easily over the skin. Despite the thicker consistency, it blends well into the skin too.

Normal or dry: Most stick foundations are an excellent match for normal or dry skin because the skin can handle the high oil content in the makeup. In fact, a creamy stick foundation hydrates the skin and applies evenly over dry patches to leave your skin looking healthy and smooth. If you have dry skin, be sure to choose a formula that features ingredients and a finish that flatters that type of skin.

Oily: If you have oily skin, you can still use stick foundation makeup, but you have to be a little more selective when shopping. Opt for an oil-free formula that won’t make your skin look greasy or shiny. Some stick foundations for oily skin contain ingredients that absorb excess oil to help mattify the skin.

Combination: For normal or combination skin, look for a stick foundation that falls somewhere between a hydrating formula and an oil-absorbing formula.

Finish

Dewy: Most stick foundations have a dewy finish. That means they add a glow to the skin that’s especially flattering for dry skin.

Matte: Some formulas dry to a matte powder finish with no shine or glow, which works well for oily or combination skin.

Satin: You can also find some stick foundations with a satin finish, which provides a slight sheen that resembles natural skin. These are a good option for normal or combination skin.

Ingredients

Depending on your skin type, you’ll want to keep an eye out for certain ingredients in your stick foundation to make sure that it offers the most flawless look. Some common ingredients found in stick foundations include the following:

Natural oils like coconut or jojoba are often used as hydrating ingredients in stick foundations. These natural moisturizers are easily absorbed by the skin, so they moisturize without leaving behind a greasy residue. If you have oily skin, you don’t want to add any more oil to your skin, so look for oil-free stick foundations.

Natural butters like shea or cocoa are another common ingredient in stick foundations because they help provide a creamy texture that glides easily over the skin. The butters can also add hydration and make the skin appear smooth and healthy. They’re ideal for dry and normal skin but might be too heavy for oily skin.

Kaolin clay is a natural oil absorber, so it’s an ideal ingredient in stick foundation for oily skin. It’s a particularly good option for acne-prone skin. People with dry and normal skin should avoid formulas with clay, however, because it can dehydrate the skin.

Silicones are used in stick foundations to help the formula spread easily across the skin. They can provide some hydration and help fill in pores, fine lines, and wrinkles.

If you’re using a makeup brush to blend in your stick foundation, choose one with densely packed bristles. A dense brush is better able to buff the thicker formula into your skin.

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Features

Shade

When choosing a shade in a stick foundation makeup, your primary concern should be the depth of the shade, so you can be sure that it’s as light or dark as necessary to match your skin tone. Stick foundations with a larger shade range provide the best chance of finding a perfect match. Some stick foundations only offer a few shades, but others have as many as 40.

Undertone

You also need to consider the undertone of your skin and the makeup shade to make sure they match as well. Undertones can be either warm, cool, or neutral. To determine your undertone, check the color of your veins. You can also consider whether you look better in white or off-white clothing or gold or silver jewelry.

Warm undertones are typically golden, yellow, or peachy.  If your veins appear green, you probably have a warm undertone.  Warm undertones look best with white and gold.

Cool undertones are generally blue, red, or pink. If your veins are blue or purple, you likely have cool skin. Cool undertones are flattered by off-white and silver.

Neutral undertones are a mix of the two or the absence of those tones. If your veins don’t lean too far toward blue or green, you have a neutral undertone. If you look good in all colors, you probably have a neutral undertone.

Makeup brands usually describe their stick foundation shades in terms of the depth of the shade and the undertone. For example, shade X might be described as suitable for the fairest skin with cool undertones, while shade Y may be described as suitable for medium-deep skin with warm undertones.

Coverage

Stick foundations are available in several different coverage levels. However, because they’re cream-based formulas, most offer medium to full coverage, but you can find some with sheer or light coverage.

Medium-coverage stick foundations are usually the best option because they’re not as thick and are less likely to crease. If you have many spots or extremely dark areas to cover, you might prefer a full-coverage stick foundation. Some stick foundations offer buildable coverage, so you can add another layer if you need more.

Wear time

Stick foundations differ in how long they last on the skin without creasing or fading. Because they’re cream-based and usually highly emollient, they don’t always have the longest wear times. You’ll get the longest wear from oil-free formulas that dry to a matte powder finish, which can sometimes last for 12 hours or more.

Some stick foundations are waterproof, so they hold up well even when exposed to moisture. These are the best options for humid days or situations when you might sweat.

stick makeup foundation 2
DID YOU KNOW?
To apply stick foundation to small areas like around the nose or under the eyes, use a small concealer brush for more precise application.
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Accessories

Foundation primer: Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer: Perfecting
You can help a stick foundation last longer by applying it over a high-quality foundation primer. We love this one from Laura Mercier because it’s a water-based formula that’s gentle on the skin. It also contains antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E to help protect the skin from pollutants.

Makeup brushes: Sephora Collection PRO Brush Set
It helps to have top-notch makeup brushes to blend your stick foundation. This six-piece set from Sephora is a favorite because it features vegan bristles that are dense enough for firm control. The brushes are also easy to grip and have a comfortable weight in hand.

Makeup sponges: Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponges
Some users prefer to blend their stick foundation with makeup sponges. We’re big fans of these sponges from Real Techniques because each set contains four reusable sponges. They’re also latex-free and don’t absorb too much makeup.

Stick foundation makeup prices

Stick foundation varies in price based on the quality of the ingredients, coverage, wear time, and other features. Most formulas cost between $6 and $88.

Inexpensive: The most affordable stick foundations are those from drugstore brands. They typically have lower-quality ingredients and offer an incredibly creamy, emollient texture. However, they don’t last that long on the skin, particularly if you have oily skin. These stick foundations generally cost between $6 and $14.

Mid-range: These stick foundations come from high-end brands. They usually have average- to high-quality ingredients and a highly blendable texture. They last fairly long on the skin too. Some are available in a matte, cream-to-powder finish that works well for oily skin. These stick foundations typically cost between $15 and $39.

Expensive: The most expensive stick foundations come from luxury brands. They feature the highest-quality ingredients and a smooth, blendable texture. They’re usually extremely hydrating, but they can still last for up to 12 hours on the skin. These stick foundations generally cost between $40 and $88.

Because stick foundation is usually thicker than other formulas, it’s best to start with a small amount. If you need additional coverage in some areas, apply more just in those spots.

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Tips

  • Dot the makeup on. When using stick foundation makeup, it’s best to apply it in dots to your skin directly from the tube. Three dots on your forehead, two on your nose, two on each cheek, and one on the chin are usually enough to cover your entire face. You can then use a makeup brush, sponge, or clean fingers to blend it outward.
  • Build coverage. Most stick foundations offer buildable coverage, so if you have particularly dark spots in certain areas, you can add another dot and blend it in.
  • Use it as a concealer. Stick foundation can also be used as a concealer if you don’t want to apply it all over your face. Dot a small amount just on blemishes or dark spots and carefully blend it in.
  • Use it as a contour cream. You can also use stick foundation makeup to contour your face. Choose a foundation that’s a couple of shades darker than your skin tone and apply it to your hairline, beneath your cheekbones, along your jaw, and even down the sides of your nose. Use a brush to blend the makeup in to give your face a more sculpted look.
stick makeup foundation 3
A makeup sponge can be a lifesaver if you apply too much stick foundation. Gently tap a clean sponge over your skin to lift away the excess makeup so your foundation doesn’t look cakey.

FAQ

Q. Is it hygienic to apply stick foundation makeup directly from the tube?

A. Some people are concerned about spreading bacteria from their skin to the makeup, which can be an issue if you’re prone to acne or have oily skin. If you’re worried about causing breakouts, run a brush over the end of the stick to load some makeup on the bristles and then blend it into the skin to avoid contaminating the foundation.

Q. How can I make stick foundation last longer on the skin?

A. As with any type of foundation, you should start with a good foundation primer before applying the stick foundation. It creates a smooth canvas for the makeup and grabs onto it to help it last longer. If you have oily skin, you may want to lightly dust the foundation with a translucent powder to help set it in place. For normal or dry skin, a setting spray is a better option.

Q. Does stick foundation expire?

A. Like other foundations, a stick foundation can expire pretty quickly because it’s more prone to growing bacteria than powder products. Most stick foundations last for 6 to 12 months before they go bad. Pay attention to your foundation. If you notice any changes in the color, smell, or texture, it’s time to throw it away.

 

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