Foundation Finder: How to choose the right foundation for your skin

We’ll help you choose the best foundation to create that perfect look.

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Best Foundation

Best Rated Foundation Brand: bareMinerals

If you want a foundation that has it all then bareMinerals is for you. With top ratings for coverage, shade options, ease of application and value for money, the brand took out this year's foundation award.

Finding the right foundation is an important task, but it's also a difficult one. There are hundreds of products to choose from, so how do you find one that's a perfect match for your skin?

The key factors to consider when choosing foundation are your skin undertone, skin type and how much coverage you want. Your budget will also influence your decision, with prices ranging from less than $10 to more than $150.

In this guide, we'll show you how to compare your options and find the best foundation for your needs.

What are my main options?

Shopping for foundation can be a confusing and sometimes overwhelming experience. Not only is there a huge range of products to choose from, but they also come in different styles, shades and to suit different types of skin.

One key factor to consider is that foundations feature different shades designed to suit one of the following skin undertones:

  • Cool. If you fall into the cool category, your skin has pink, red or bluish undertones.
  • Warm. Yellow, peachy and golden undertones are classed as warm.
  • Neutral. As the name suggests, this classification applies to people with a combination of cool and warm undertones.

These tones are often represented with a letter on the product label – C for cool, W for warm and N for neutral – but that's not the case with all brands. For example, Clinique uses N for neutral, P for pink (suitable for cool undertones) and G for golden (suitable for warm undertones) on its foundation shade names.

You'll also want to consider the foundation formula you prefer. There are several options to choose from, including:

  • Liquid. A popular and versatile choice, liquid foundation offers a smooth finish and can suit a wide range of coverage needs and skin types.
  • Cream. Cream foundations are often a convenient choice, they hydrate your skin and don't sink into wrinkles like some other options.
  • Powder. Easy to apply and touch up when you're in a hurry, powder foundations are well suited to oily skin.
  • BB/CC cream. BB (beauty balm or blemish balm) and CC (colour correcting) creams are a relatively new option. These hybrid options combine light coverage with moisturising ingredients to help protect your skin. Tinted moisturisers are also available.

Whether you opt for a liquid, cream, powder or some other option may also be influenced by your personal preference in terms of texture. For example, you may decide that a liquid foundation simply feels softer and smoother on your skin, or that a powder is easier to apply evenly.

Need help finding the right foundation for your skin? Check out our guide to the best foundations, or our guide to the best foundations for people with pale skin.

How to compare foundations

Need help finding the best foundation to use on your face? There are a few important factors you need to consider when comparing your options:

Skin undertone

One of the key factors you need to consider when choosing a foundation is your skin undertone. Once you know what it is, you can choose the right colour of foundation, lipstick, clothes and more. Your undertone could be cool, warm or neutral, and the most common way to tell your tone is to check the colour of your veins under your skin. Check out our how to tell your undertone guide for more information.

Skin type

Foundation formulas are developed to suit different skin types, including oily, dry, normal, sensitive and mature skin. For example, if you have dry skin, look for a hydrating foundation. If your skin is oily, look for a product that's oil-free, mattifying and offers a long-lasting finish.

Coverage

You'll also need to consider whether you want light, medium or heavy coverage. For example, you may opt for full coverage if you want to conceal acne scars or light coverage if you just want a general touchup. It's also worth keeping in mind that the amount of coverage you require may vary throughout the year as the seasons change.

Finish

Next, consider the type of finish you want the foundation to have on your skin. There are four main options – sheer, dewy, satin and matte – plus a handful of other options.

Sheer will be your go-to if you want a light and natural look, while a dewy look gives you younger, glowing skin. Matte finishes are shine-free and long-lasting, while satin is the most common option and sits halfway between a dewy and a matte finish.

SPF rating

If you'll be spending any time outdoors, you may want to look for a foundation that offers some sort of protection against UV rays. Check the SPF rating before you buy – the higher the rating, the more protection you'll enjoy.

Price

The price of foundation varies based on factors such as size, type and brand name. Prices at the more affordable end of the spectrum start at less than $5, while some high-end products push well past the $150 mark. Be sure to compare the price per ml for an accurate idea of how much a foundation truly costs.

As always, it's a good idea to shop around to find the best value for money. Check out our guide to the best sites to buy foundation online for more information.

Foundation and sun protection

If you'll be spending any time in the Aussie sun, it makes sense to look for a foundation that offers some level of sun protection. However, there are a couple of factors you should be aware of before you buy.

The Cancer Council also points out that:

  • Just like any other sunscreen, cosmetic sunscreen will need to be reapplied regularly to provide sufficient protection.
  • Most cosmetics don't provide any protection in water.

As a result, instead of using cosmetics that feature an SPF, the Cancer Council recommends using SPF30 or higher sunscreen that has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) if you're going to be sweating, swimming or spending a long time outside. Check out our sunscreen buying guide for more details.

3 things to consider

There are a few other factors you should also consider before buying foundation. These include:

  • Try before you buy. With colour charts and detailed online quizzes to help you find your perfect foundation, it's easier to buy online than ever before. But the best way to work out whether a foundation is the right choice for your skin is to head in-store and try before you buy by testing them on your jawline. If possible, check how the foundation looks in natural light – this will help you determine what works and what doesn't.
  • Don't rely on shade names. If you're switching foundation brands, don't trust that the shade one brand calls "beige" will be exactly the same as another brand's "beige". Shade names aren't universal, so sample any new product before you buy.
  • Makeup goes off. Thinking of splashing out on a high-end foundation to use only on those rare special occasions? Keep in mind that foundation goes off, so it's a good idea to check the use-by date on the label. Generally, many foundations last for around 12 months.

Best Rated Foundation Award breakdown

Total Score Overall rating Value for Money Ease of application Coverage Shade options
Bareminerals 8.35 4.45 4.64 4.77 4.55 4.68
Maybelline 8.29 4.49 4.41 4.53 4.45 4.51
Other 8.17 4.44 4.38 4.42 4.46 4.24
Estee Lauder 8.13 4.46 4.08 4.34 4.5 4.4
Revlon 8.11 4.39 4.12 4.39 4.39 4.49
MAC 8.1 4.47 3.96 4.35 4.35 4.37
L'Oreal 8.05 4.34 4.28 4.4 4.34 4.24
Clinique 7.96 4.32 4.18 4.48 4.24 4.32
NARS 7.73 4.35 3.65 4.12 4.12 4.29
Elizabeth Arden 7.36 4 3.85 4.15 4.05 3.85
Lancome 7.3 3.97 3.64 4.03 4.06 3.88
Data: Finder Retail Brand Survey, 2020, Kantar. Metric out of 5 stars unless indicated. Methodology and more info. Kantar logo

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