When shopping for a foundation, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Most importantly, you want to find one that matches your skin tone just so, right? The goal is to choose a shade that looks like a second skin but better and that blends in with both your skin tones and undertones. And while you're searching, you'll also want to consider the type of coverage you need. Do you need something full? Or do you want to go with a sheer option?
But there's one factor that I had never really given much thought to when shopping for a foundation: my skin type. It turns out choosing a product with your specific skin type in mind can make a difference when it comes to application and the finished look. Maybe you've been in the same boat as me. Don't worry, though. We're about to get a foundation 101 session courtesy of the experts.
How to Choose a Foundation Based on Your Skin Type
If you want to choose a foundation for your specific skin type, where do you even start? The experts gave me these tips for each type:
Normal: "Normal skin types are usually the easiest to use with foundation," says Robert Sesnek, makeup artist for Catrice Cosmetics. "You can buff foundation with a damp natural hair foundation brush for an overall easy and even finish." So you can pretty much choose any foundation here, and Sesnek recommends a liquid foundation for all skin types because he says they look the most real on skin and can look "invisible" when applied properly.
Combination: You'll want to look for oil-free and/or water-based foundations, according to our experts.
Oily/Acne-Prone: "You should look for an oil-free foundation if you have oily or combination-oily skin," recommends board-certified dermatologist Elyse Love, MD, who practices at GlamDerm in New York City. "Foundations can clog pores, which may cause bumps on the forehead and worsen dilated pores on the nose. Powders are great for all-over oily skin but can sometimes come off as drying on drier skin."
Dry: Board-certified dermatologist Karen Chinonso Kagha, MD suggests looking for a foundation with a hydrating finish.
Sensitive: "For more sensitive skin, avoid products with fragrance, which is commonly used in makeup but can cause allergies in those with more sensitive skin," Kagha says.
Now that we're up to speed on foundations and skin types, we're going to focus on how to choose and apply products for people with combination skin, which is probably the most common skin type. "Combination skin is used to describe those who have significantly different oil production on different areas of the face—typically oilier skin in the t-zone and normal or dry skin on the cheeks and chin," Love explains.
When you have combination skin, the biggest concern there is managing the oil production of your t-zone without irritating or drying out your cheeks and chin.
How to Prep Your Skin and Apply Foundation
Before applying foundation, you're going to want to prep your skin so the product goes on smoothly and looks flawless. But how you prep can depend on... you guessed it, your skin type. Across the board, you should make sure your skin is clean, no matter your type, says makeup artist Georgie Eisdell, whose clients include Gwyneth Paltrow and Sophie Turner. She particularly loves IS Clinical's Cleansing Complex for combination skin.
After cleansing, you'll have to work on controlling some of the oil-prone areas if you have combination skin. "My secret is to double up! In addition to a moisturizer best for combination skin, use a textured cotton pad with micellar water to scrub off any buildup on the skin's surface. This is key to preventing congestion from oil buildup under the skin," says Christine Cherbonnier, who is Yoko Ono's personal makeup artist.
When it comes to applying foundation, formulation choices are important to keep in mind. "If you use a foundation that is too moisturizing when you have combination skin, you may find you get shiny very quickly," Eisdell explains. "It's also not ideal to use a foundation that is all about moisture, as it will be too much for the combination skin and could cause breakouts."
Makeup artist Tamah Krinsky suggests going with a matte formula and a little bit of powder. "You don't want your skin to look heavy, so a sheer-matte formula with a touch to no powder should do the trick. You want to keep the powder light to let the natural oil in your skin keep the matte formula from looking too heavy," she says.
Best Foundations for Combination Skin
And now that you know what to keep in mind when shopping, you might be ready to add to your cart. Below, we've got foundation recommendations for combination skin from the experts and our editors.
"You are less likely to break out from it, and it leaves a nice glow to the skin but isn't greasy," Eisdell says. "I like to conceal using Laura Mercier's Secret Camouflage cream. [It's] excellent directly on spots—covering any issues one might have like sun damage, brown spots, melasma—and mixed with an eye cream. It is great as an under-eye concealer or brightener, too."
This liquid foundation is perfect if your combination skin is on the oilier side of the spectrum. It's formulated with salicylic acid to fight acne and blemishes and control shine.
"It gives a flawless finish, [has an] amazing shade range, and it's matte, so it looks natural and not shiny!" Eisdell says. And she's right about the shade range. There are 50 to choose from. The oil-free formula won't clog pores and reduces shine.
"Combination oily-dry skin may prefer an oil-free liquid formula as a compromise," Love says. "Dermablend's Flawless Creator foundation is my favorite foundation for that reason."
"I really love the Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation," Krinsky says. "While they aren't 'matte,' they control oil, and they don't sit on the skin in a way that is dewy. They look realistic without adding shine." The formula is sweat- and oil-resistant and leaves a glowy finish.
Maybelline's medium-coverage foundation is buildable and leaves a matte finish. It's formulated for normal to oily skin types.
This is one of Cherbonnier's picks. The medium-coverage foundation is lightweight, stays on for up to 24 hours, and blurs any imperfections. There are 50 shades to choose from to get an exact match.
"When I have a client with combination skin, I personally like a foundation that has a sheer, liquid-like texture and is incredibly lightweight," Sesnek says. "Look for a foundation like Catrice’s HD Liquid Coverage Foundation. It’s ultra-light and has great coverage, and it’s alcohol-, oil- and gluten-free."
Ilia Beauty's serum foundation is a favorite with Who What Wear editors. The clean product offers light coverage and SPF protection. It leaves a dewy, natural finish.
Both Eisdell and Cherbonnier vouched for this water-based foundation. "This is an oil-free foundation, so it will naturally be less shiny," Eisdell adds. "[It has] buildable coverage, and it is fantastic for irritated skin, too, as it has chamomile and aloe in it."
"I also really love the Armani Beauty Maestro and Face Fabric foundations," Krinsky says. "They leave a beautiful powdery finish. The key to all of the matte foundations is to really use your powder sparingly so that the texture of your skin isn't completely gone."
"it is a water-based foundation with light to medium coverage," Eisdell says. "It lasts really well throughout the day but isn't chalky on the skin. I love this and use it often on myself and my clients."
Another recommendation from Cherbonnier, this foundation from Charlotte Tilbury not only provides long-lasting coverage, but it also has ingredients that reduce the appearance of wrinkles and hydrate the skin.
This drugstore find has an oil-free and water-based formula that leaves a matte finish.
This is a personal pick from Kagha: "I prefer loose mineral-based powders such as the BareMinerals Loose Powder Foundation, especially during the summer when I am more oily." It has SPF protection, too.