If you’re seeking the perfect make-up base, it can be all too easy to feel overwhelmed by the vast array of foundations offered up by beauty brands. From powders and full-coverage sticks to the barely-there hydrating tints which come courtesy of game-changing industry disruptors like Glossier and The Ordinary, each month sees a clutch of brand-new formulas jostling for space in our make-up collections. And yet, whether it’s down to the sheer ease (simply arm yourself with a buffing brush and blend) or plain nostalgia (raise your hand if you’re still nursing a soft spot for the Rimmel and Natural Collection tubes you’d eke out as a teenager), we still seem to find ourselves gravitating towards a liquid foundation for day-to-day use.
Liquid foundations are among the most popular bases for good reason. The beauty industry has come on leaps and bounds since you picked up your first bottle at Boots: these days, it’s not difficult to find a formula that’s targeted to your particular complexion type or skincare concerns, that will stick around all day and that will impart a much-needed radiance boost to tired skin (without leaving behind any Twilight-esque sparkle).
Below, we’ve compiled our indispensable edit of the best liquid foundations: the ones that won’t fall off your face by lunchtime, acquire a tell-tale tangerine glow within an hour of application or feel tight and uncomfortable on your complexion. We know, because we’ve tried them all…
The best liquid foundations for dry skin
If your complexion is prone to dryness, particularly in the winter months, seek out a formula boasting the added skincare benefits of hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid. Look out for Chanel's Vitalumiere Satin Fluid Make-Up, £37.00, a medium coverage option with a photo-friendly satin finish, and By Terry's Terrybly Densiliss Foundation. With a £78 price tag, it's an investment buy, but one you won't regret: the super-light hydrating serum formula makes it a favourite of beauty editors and make-up artists alike. Here are more of the best foundations for dry skin.
The best liquid foundations for dehydrated skin
Repeat after us: skin can be dehydrated without being dry. If you find your make-up falls into fine lines and creases as the day wears on (particularly in the delicate areas around the eyes and lips), you’re most likely dealing with the latter. After extensive trial and error, we've found Nars' Sheer Glow Foundation, £33.00, to be one of the best around, balancing long-lasting coverage with a lighter texture - meaning that product doesn't settle into creases or leave skin feeling tight and uncomfortable. Plus, it certainly lives up to its name in the glow stakes. Another favourite is Burberry's Cashmere Foundation, £35: the soft-matte finish was inspired by the brand's signature scarves.
Prep is also important: be sure to layer your skincare, starting with a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum (we like The Ordinary’s budget-friendly option, priced at just £5.90) and finishing off with a hydrating primer. Hourglass’s Mineral Veil is priced at £55, but is certainly worth the investment.
The best long-lasting liquid foundations
It's not as easy as it should be to find a foundation that comes good on the promise of long-lasting coverage, but it is possible (we promise). MAC's Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15, £23.50, is a favourite backstage at fashion week; we've found it will survive the longest of working days (ie. from desk to drinks) without feeling flat, cakey or overly heavy. When it comes to long-lasting make-up of any kind, Urban Decay are a safe choice. Their aptly named All Nighter Foundation, £29, boasts a highly pigmented formula, meaning that you won't need to bother with top-ups.
The best liquid foundations for buildable coverage
Ahead of its launch earlier this year, The Ordinary's foundations (the brand's first foray into make-up after the success of their affordable skincare) acquired a waiting list of 25,000 people - and for good reason. The Serum Foundation, £5.70, has a lightweight texture that offers natural-looking buildable coverage, all thanks to the brand's unique 'spreadability system.'
If buildable formulas are your thing, we'd also recommend Giorgio Armani's Luminous Silk Foundation, £40.00, a dewy, natural-looking base with a smooth and, yes, silky texture.
The best liquid foundations for oily skin
Liquid formulas are arguably your best bet when it comes to finding a foundation for oily skin: opt for one that's oil-free, with a semi-matte finish if you're worried about shine appearing as the day wears on (thank you, forever unflattering office lighting). Estée Lauder's classic Double Wear Stay-in-Place Make-Up, £32.50, is a beauty legend for good reason: it's smudge and shine-proof, with unbeatable staying power, and wears particularly well on oily complexions.
Boasting ingredients like sebum-absorbing red clay and acacia gum micro pearls (which soothe enlarged pores and absorb water present on the skin), Clarins' Pore Perfecting Mattifying Foundation, £28.00, also deserves a spot in your make-up bag.