When shopping for a foundation, there are always two things we pay the most attention to: the level of coverage it offers and finding the closest shade match. But there's one key element of the foundation selection process to consider that we don't talk about as often: skin type. As someone with combination skin that's also sensitive and acne-prone, I've definitely had to learn this the hard way. Even now as a beauty editor, I try a lot of foundations when we test them as a group (shoutout to Internet Famous), but I'll find that a certain formula will work great for others but not for me.
If you can relate, you're going to want to read ahead. I asked two celebrity makeup artists to provide some insight on this topic. Below, you'll find a bit of advice on how to choose the right foundation for combination skin, a few application tips, and, of course, product recs for every budget.
How to Choose a Foundation for Combination Skin
If you have combination skin, it's best to look for a foundation that's oil-free, noncomedogenic (for those who are acne-prone), and water-based. It also just depends on what kind of combination skin you have. Combination skin can mean a lot of things—dry in certain areas and oily in your T-zone, or dehydrated skin at the deeper layers and oily on the surface. I struggle with the latter and have found it's always best to opt for a foundation that's hydrating, but noncomedogenic at the same time.
Another thing to watch out for if your combination skin is sensitive is fragrance. Most foundations don't really have it, but some do and if your skin tends to get irritated with that in a formula, it's probably best to avoid it. Makeup artists also shared a few application tips for combination skin below.
Foundation Application Tips for Combination Skin
Celebrity makeup artist Judi Gabbay says that the right primer is absolutely key for combination skin. "For skin that tends to get oily through the T-zone, using a mattifying primer beforehand in the sections that tend to shine up can help with the wear of your base," she says. "The common misconception is that you don't need moisturizer if your skin is oily, but with combination skin, I find it's always necessary to prep with skincare beforehand. To better lock in your foundation, opt for a velour puff to set skin versus a brush. By pushing the product into [the] skin versus. brushing over, you'll get a longer wear that truly sets in place. If you tend to break out often, be sure to find a foundation that is fragrance-free and noncomedogenic."
Celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg also stresses the importance of using a primer with another key tip. "Primer is always recommended. With combination skin, I’ve definitely used two different primers to address two different problems (ie. dryness or oiliness). Otherwise, touching up throughout the day is the best option. You can carry around a translucent powder to touch up during the day like Pur's Skin Perfecting Balancing Act ($26).
Best Matte Foundations
"When it comes to combination skin, I always prefer a buildable and long-wear foundation, such as Fenty’s Pro Filt'r Foundation. For skin that tends to get oily through the T-zone, using a mattifying primer beforehand in the sections that tend to shine up can help with the wear of your base."—Gabbay
Best Drugstore Foundations
As far as drugstore formulas go, I fully swear by this classic Maybelline formula for combination skin. I've always found it to be hydrating enough that it doesn't try my skin out but still leaves the skin looking matte all day. It's also really lightweight and won't clog pores for anyone who is acne-prone.
Best Powder Foundations
Sephora Collection offers this creamy, medium-coverage powder foundation that's buildable and creates a natural-looking matte finish. it has FlexMatte technology which creates weightless, hydrating coverage that movies with your skin and won't crack, cake, or clog pores.
Best Full Coverage
I know some prefer a full beat, and this Charlotte Tilbury foundation is just the ticket. It's long-lasting, is a hybrid skincare-foundation formula, and helps minimize the appearance of shine and pores. What the brand calls MossCellTec No. 1 helps hydrate skin throughout the day while still leaving a matte finish.
This Nars formula is a best seller on Sephora with those who have combination skin. Makeup artists also love it. A blend of fruit extracts like raspberry, apple, and watermelon in this formula helps support the skin's elastic fibers to smooth the texture of skin and provide optimal radiance over time.
Best Sheer-Coverage Foundation
This Make Up for Ever formula definitely provides sheerer coverage and is another best seller on Sephora for combination skin. If you're looking for something to be a light, breathable second skin that looks extremely natural, this is the one for you.
Best Luxury Foundations
Luminous Silk is one of my all-time favorite foundations for combination skin. It's completely noncomedogenic, provides a glowing finish without making you look oily, and helps hydrate the skin throughout the day.
Best With SPF
WWW beauty director Erin Jahns wrote an entire ode to this Kosas formula, so you know it's good. It's a good option for combo skin because it has SPF 25 in it and contains hydrating and skin-improving ingredients like niacinamide (which helps with oil control), squalane, peptides, and hyaluronic acid.