Liquid Foundations That Feel Like Your Skin, But Better

Expert and editor-approved picks for everyday wear.

woman with glowy skin
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best foundations come in many forms, from powder foundations to full-coverage foundations to foundations made for acne-prone skin. As a beauty writer, I've tried scores of options, all of which promise to make skin appear more even, but one facet of the foundation world will always have my heart: liquid foundation. It's a natural-looking, easy-to-apply formulation that makes layering makeup a breeze.

"A liquid foundation has more versatility," agrees celebrity makeup artist Brandy Allen. "It is suitable for all skin types, depending on its formula. Liquid foundation tends to mimic skin texture very well with its blendability." She adds that liquid foundations come in a range of formulations and thickness levels, so they're great for dry, normal, and combination skin. Liquid formulas, she concludes, "cater to each skin type, including oily skin"—great news for those who struggle with acne.

Thus, I've worked with Allen and my fellow editors to round up our favorite liquid foundations of all time, each withstood sun, sweat, and hours upon hours of wear. 

What to Look For In a Liquid Foundation

As with all face makeup, the best liquid foundation for you depends on your skin needs and personal preferences, according to Allen.

Skin Type: Allen says, "Water-based or silicone-based foundations are perfect for those with oily skin. Silicone helps blur and smooth imperfections to create a smoother surface. I also prefer a water-based foundation on oily skin because it's gentle and can dry down to a matte finish. It isn't packed with oils, so it dries and sets then can be paired with a setting powder. Niacinamide regulates oil while retaining moisture."

She advises consumers with combination skin to look for similar ingredients but pay attention to the "dominating skin texture (oily or dry)" when looking for the best formula for the moment.

Meanwhile, for dry skin, she says, "Water-, oil-, or serum-based foundations are ideal for their hydrating benefits. These foundations often contain minerals and natural oils for a healthy glow and dewy finish." When it comes to specific ingredients, she says, "hyaluronic acid offers tons of hydration with a smoother appearance."

Megan markle

Meghan Markle is known to wear liquid foundation to achieve a velvety natural skin-like finish.

(Image credit: Archives)

Coverage: Coverage level refers to the overall opacity of your foundation. For instance, a full-coverage foundation will be thicker and more pigmented and will, therefore, effectively cover up acne, hyperpigmentation, redness, and freckles. On the other hand, lightweight coverage is much thinner and will make skin appear more even while allowing its natural details to shine through. Medium coverage falls somewhere in between, masking subtle flaws but failing to hide darker spots like acne marks. The best coverage for you is, of course, a matter of personal preference and needs, but bear in mind that the more full-coverage the formula, the heavier it will feel on your skin.

Finish: The finish of your liquid foundation dictates your overall makeup vibe. A glowy finish, for instance, lends itself to the "clean girl aesthetic," while a matte finish "has a powder-like finish with no shine," according to Allen. This might be best if you're planning on taking lots of pictures. Finally, she says, "a satin finish is the most natural, skin-like texture."

The Best Way to Apply Liquid Foundation

I've been applying foundation for years during clear-skin eras and decidedly less-than-clear skin. Based on that experience, I recommend starting with thin dots of foundation around the face, with extra attention to areas with flaws or pigmentation you'd like to cover up. Many people like spreading the foundation with their fingers or a brush, but I prefer a makeup sponge (Beautyblenders are my favorite). To avoid cakiness, start with a thin layer and add more if needed. 

The Best Liquid Foundations

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Meet the Expert

Brandy Allen
Brandy Allen

Brandy Allen is a celebrity makeup artist who specializes in making skin look flawless, no matter the client's concerns. She has worked with Keke Palmer, Janelle Monae, Yara Shahidi, and others. She is currently bicoastal, splitting time between New York City and her native Los Angeles.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, fashion, culture, and politics both at Marie Claire and for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.