I have a complicated relationship with foundation—a tugging back-and-forth, love-hate kind of thing. On one hand, I love the way it can disguise my rosacea, even out my skin tone, and give my complexion a certain luminosity. On the other hand, I hate the way it can feel tacky, look powdery, and exacerbate my pores and fine lines. It's for these reasons that I often remove a fresh coat of foundation halfway through the day. If I decide it looks too apparent or the focus falls on the makeup rather than my skin, I wipe it away. The only way it stays is if it looks almost undetectable and gives a my-skin-but-better effect.
That's why, as you can imagine, I'm absolutely loving the rise of "skin-finish" face makeup. The products that fall into this category do all the things they're supposed to do without screaming "foundation." They provide a flexible, natural-looking finish, and they're perfect for daily wear. Keep scrolling to see 10 skin-finish foundations that meet my strict and unbendable standards (hint: the best one is at the very bottom).
Il Makiage Woke Up Like This Flawless Base Foundation
The first foundation I tried on my quest to find the best skin-finish formula was the Il Makiage Woke Up Like This Flawless Base Foundation. This was the first time I ever tried this foundation, but I had tried the brand's F*ck I'm Flawless Multi-Use Perfecting Concealer ($31) before, and I'm obsessed with it. I still use the concealer to this day, and it provides just enough coverage without looking heavy or cakey.
The foundation has a similar formula. It offers medium coverage that's just enough to disguise my rosacea while still letting my skin breathe and my freckles show through. It has a "natural matte finish," and even though I normally avoid matte foundations since they tend to look powdery on my skin, this one looks incredible.
I also want to talk about the shade range of this foundation. There are 50 shades in total, and they all account for specific undertones. I used the website's shade-match quiz to find mine. When it was delivered, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it matched my skin tone perfectly.
Kosas Revealer Skin-Improving Foundation
Kosas, which is known for its breezy aesthetic and modern makeup essentials, recently launched this foundation. I knew I'd like it before I even tried it since it contains good-for-skin ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and squalane. It even offers SPF 25 to help protect against UV damage. Plus, Who What Wear Beauty Director Erin Jahns is a big fan, and I trust her with my life when it comes to product recommendations. Anyway, I love when a product can multitask as a skincare-makeup hybrid.
As for the way it looks on my skin, I have absolutely zero complaints. It looks bright and uniform, and it's easy to apply with a sponge, a brush, or just your fingers. It lasts all day and doesn't look too shiny in my T-zone, which is something that happens often thanks to my incredibly unbalanced combination skin. All in all, it's just as easy and unfussy as the other Kosas products I've tried, which is why I'll keep coming back for it.
Ilia True Skin Serum Foundation
This is, by far, the glowiest formula I tried as part of this skin-finish-foundation journey. So if super-dewy and radiant skin is your thing, this one is for you. (It was difficult to show the sheen of this foundation in a still image, but trust me—it has a very radiant finish.)
It's also a skincare-makeup hybrid, as it contains a blend of niacinamide, allantoin, and aloe to smooth uneven texture, soothe irritation and redness, and calm and hydrate the skin.
While I love the natural-looking medium coverage I get from this product as well as the instant glow and skin benefits, this one didn't last as long as the others and required a touch-up in the middle of the day. I also patted a small amount of powder on top to dial back the shine in my T-zone. Even though I love a radiant finish, I don't want to look too shiny.
Covergirl Clean Fresh Skin Milk Foundation
Here's another super-dewy foundation. Only this time, it's a light-coverage option. In fact, it offered the lightest coverage of any skin-finish foundation I tried, which is why you can see some redness peeking through on my cheeks and nose. I don't mind that, though. As I said, I'm all about a natural result, and for me, redness is natural. As long as it's toned down, I'm happy to roll with it.
They're not kidding when they call this "Skin Milk." It's super lightweight and runny. I initially tried to apply it with a sponge but figured out halfway through that using my fingers was best. This method allowed me to evenly spread the liquid across my skin and work it into the contours of my face. It took me about two minutes, and I was left with a classic "no-makeup makeup" complexion. Overall, it gave a nice luminosity to my skin along with a minor blurring effect.
Rare Beauty Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation
I have to be honest. I was very intrigued by this foundation. Not only have I heard so many good things about it and Rare Beauty in general, but the description also appealed to me. It's all about breathability, weightlessness, and layerable coverage, and in case it's not totally obvious by now, that's exactly what I'm looking for.
As it turns out, the formula is pretty true to the description. It's silky and lightweight, and it's easy to place strategically on my skin thanks to a giant and super-soft doe-foot applicator. Once applied, it dries down to an almost powdery finish, which makes me think this would work really well for people who have oily skin or veer on the oilier side of combination skin.
I was a little concerned about how it would look after a few hours of wear. I didn't want it to do that dreaded thing where it settles into the texture of my skin, and in my experience, powdery foundations tend to do that. Not this one, though! There was no caking effect, and my skin looked fresh and natural all day.
Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin Liquid Foundation
First things first: Yes, I chose the wrong shade. Even someone who's been testing foundation for as long as I have still makes mistakes when shade-matching themselves. Beyond that, this is a lovely foundation. It gave my skin flawless coverage that was radiant and buildable, and honestly, it kind of worked like an IRL filter for my skin.
It was also super easy to apply other makeup—both cream and powder formulas—over it. I dabbed concealer on my dark circles, and it melted into the foundation seamlessly. Then, I dusted a terra-cotta powder blush over my cheekbones, and even that blended like a dream. I can totally see why this foundation is TikTok famous.
Nars Light Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation
This is one I've been dying to try ever since it launched, as I had seen some glowing reviews from beauty experts and influencers. And let me tell you. This foundation is legit. The moment I got my hands on a bottle, I opened it and smoothed a tiny drop on the back of one of my hands as a preliminary test. I ended up walking around with my hands side by side for the next hour, admiring the blurred quality and healthy glow on one of them.
When I applied it to my face, I had a similar reaction. My skin looked bright and seamless. It had a light-reflective quality to it that made my skin look calm and hydrated even though, underneath, I was dealing with a rosacea flare-up. That's probably due to the skincare ingredients found inside. There's biomimetic oat to reduce redness, Japanese lilyturf to support the skin barrier, and peptides and milk thistle to minimize the effects of environmental stressors.
Make Up For Ever HD Skin Undetectable Longwear Foundation
I know I've described multiple foundations as being "flexible," but this one takes the cake. Instead of cracking, smudging, or settling into pores and fine lines, this formula sits atop my skin like a breathable fabric, moving with my face and remaining undetectable throughout the day (which only makes sense seeing as the word "undetectable" is literally in the name).
I applied this before a long day of work and errands, and I swear it looked just as good at the end of the day as it did when I first dabbed it on in the morning. I didn't even have to apply powder or touch it up. It's a no-fuss foundation—just how I like it.
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation
Fun fact: Before undertaking this experiment, this was my favorite foundation. I loved its silky, fluid texture, its medium coverage, and its natural finish. I still do, but I have a new favorite. (More on that in a second.)
This foundation is formulated with light-reflecting pigments for an instant glow along with antioxidants to help defend against damaging free radicals. It's also made up of over 40% water and enriched with moisturizing ingredients that can boost the skin's hydration levels. It's no wonder my skin looks and feels bright and comfortable when I wear this foundation.
Chanel N°1 de Chanel Revitalizing Foundation
I inadvertently ended my experiment with my favorite foundation of them all—the N°1 de Chanel Revitalizing Foundation. It's everything I want from a skin-finish foundation. It's lightweight, breathable, flexible, long-wearing, and, above all, incredibly natural looking. When I wore this out, I had three different people compliment my skin. Is that not the dream? It's proof that this product puts the focus on my skin, not the makeup.
Honestly, I feel like this picture doesn't do the foundation justice, because IRL, it's pretty much flawless and doesn't highlight lines or wrinkles like it might appear to in the picture (blame it on bad lighting, I guess). Just know that it's been months since the experiment, and I haven't stopped wearing this foundation. It's my daily go-to, and I'm experiencing very real and visceral anxiety now that I'm getting to the bottom of the bottle. Trust me—this stuff is so good.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Kaitlyn McLintock is an Associate Beauty Editor at Who What Wear. Although she covers a wide range of topics across a variety of categories, she specializes in celebrity interviews and skincare and wellness content. Having lived in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, she recently relocated back to her home state of Michigan where she works remotely. Prior to Who What Wear, she freelanced for a variety of industry-leading digital publications, including InStyle, The Zoe Report, Bustle, Hello Giggles, and Coveteur. Before that, she held a long-term internship and subsequent contributor position at Byrdie. When she's not writing, researching, or testing the latest and greatest beauty products, she's working her way through an ever-growing book collection, swimming in the Great Lakes, or spending time with family.
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