We’ve tested 100+ foundations to discover which is the best foundation for your skin type and budget
We recently started a long-running series, over on TikTok, in which we’re testing as many foundations in the UK as we can to finally determine which is the best foundation on the market today.
It’s a huge undertaking and this page is where we’re going to be listing the top 10 as it evolves.
As well as our own personal opinion of each. There are additional scores available on the spreadsheet, should you be interested.
This test is also helping us determine which would be best for oily skin, dry skin, mature skin, and more.
We will be updating the relevant Best Buys as and when a contender emerges. All of these guides can be found on our foundation hub page.
We’ll also be updating this page as new foundations are released, or as we test more of the best foundations in the UK.
FURTHER READING: How we test foundations | How to find your perfect foundation match | MUA explains how to get flawless makeup | Best foundation for oily skin | Best high-street foundation UK | Best full-coverage foundation UK | Best foundation for mature skin
Below we’ve listed the top 10 best foundations as it stands in May 2023. This list is likely to change as we test more foundations. Below that, we’ve handpicked the best foundations for different skin types, coverage needs, and budgets.
See the full list of scores here
WANT TO KNOW MORE? Best concealer | Best makeup brush | Best foundation brush | Best eyeshadow palette | Best foundation | Best foundation for dark skin | Best foundation for oily skin | Best foundation for dry skin | Best foundation for mature skin | Best contour kit | Best lip gloss | Best lip liner | Best mascara| Best primer | Best highlighter | Best brow pomade | Best blusher | Best setting spray| Best makeup sets | Best false eyelashes | Best eyeliner
£4 | Buy now
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In the battle for the best foundation makeup in the UK, Essence has done the seemingly impossible. It has knocked The Ordinary’s Serum foundation off the top spot. The first time since we began compiling the top 10 foundations.
Until the end of August, The Ordinary Serum and The Ordinary Coverage foundations held the number one and number two spots overall, with total scores of 62.4 and 59.8 respectively.
However, following another month of testing, Essence’s Hydro Hero has jumped into number 1, and Collection Lasting Perfection Matte is now in second.
What’s more, The Ordinary Coverage has been pushed down to sixth.
While technically a tinted cream, Essence’s Hydro Hero promises light-to-medium coverage and performed as expected in the orange and strawberry tests. It scored 7/10 on the blotting paper test because it let out just a relatively small amount of liquid. (If you don’t know what we mean regarding oranges and strawberries, we explain here.)
It is one of the few foundations in our group test that has a water base, and unsurprisingly this makes it super hydrating. In our hydration test, we saw an increase of five percentage points (which equates to a very impressive 16.5% increase) in moisture levels.
To put this into perspective, the majority of foundations on our list saw drops of around 7-10% so to see any increase is impressive, let alone an increase of almost a fifth.
This is the highest hydration increase of all the foundations we’ve tested and goes a long way to explaining how it scored so highly.
What’s more, this foundation promises to keep your skin hydrated for 24 hours, offers an SPF of 15 and costs just £4.
The biggest downside (and it’s a big one!) is that it’s only available in three shades – Fair-Light, Light-Medium and Medium-Dark. Given that it’s a tinted cream, it’s less of an issue than with higher coverage and pigmented foundations, but it’s still worth noting. This has been factored into the overall score, too.
£6.49 | Buy now
Collection isn’t just one of the best cheap makeup brands around, it’s one of the best makeup brands. Period.
One of the standout products within this range is the Collection Lasting Perfection foundation.
In our orange and strawberry tests, it performed as well as we’d expect for a full-coverage foundation.
It let out a minimal amount of oil onto the blotting paper – giving it a score of nine out of 10 – and it has 20 shades in its range.
This isn’t a high number, but it’s not bad for such a cheap foundation.
Especially when more expensive foundations have fewer.
In terms of hydration, we had expected the Collection Lasting Perfection foundation to be drying because it’s a matte foundation.
However, it only reduced hydration by 1.3 percentage points, which is 5.3%. This is a relatively small hydration drop.
Elsewhere, the brand is cruelty-free but isn’t fully vegan.
If you’re looking for full-coverage foundations, check out our best full-coverage foundation guide
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£7.49 | Buy now
SheGlam wasn’t a brand we were familiar with until it started blowing up on TikTok and people in our comments section started requesting we put it to the test.
The brand promises premium makeup at affordable prices and, in our best foundation tests, it lived up to this promise. For the most part.
For a medium-coverage foundation, the SheGlam Skinfinite performed as expected in the strawberry test. It fell a little short of these expectations in the orange test, though.
It scored a maximum of 10 points for the blotting paper test, and in what was a huge surprise, it actually increased the hydration of our skin.
For such a natural, bordering on matte, finish, we’d expected a drop. Any increase would have therefore been impressive. Let alone an increase of 1.2 percentage points.
This is equivalent to a 4.4% rise overall.
What’s more, the foundation is vegan and cruelty-free, including being Leaping Bunny approved, and it comes in 30 shades. Not bad for such an affordable foundation.
It feels a little heavy on the skin at first but blends really well with a beauty blender and gives great coverage for our redness.
It helps to even out our complexion without flattening it too much and lasts well all day.
£9 | Buy now
Proving that you don’t need to wear a full-coverage foundation if you have breakouts, blemishes, or pigmentation, the Revolution Conceal and Hydrate foundation provides a lightweight, hydrating, and sheer finish while giving you an even complexion.
It’s one of an increasing number of the best foundations that are adding skincare ingredients to their formulas and the key ingredient in this foundation is hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in the skin and is what’s known as a humectant. This means that it attracts moisture, draws it into the skin, and keeps it in place.
This not only helps relieve any dryness and dehydration, while also being light enough to bring much-needed moisture to oily skin, but it helps to plump up the skin and make it look more youthful and smooth. It even helps add a subtle glow to the skin.
When combined with the coverage of this foundation’s pigment, the finish is close to perfect.
What’s more, there are 50 shades to choose from, including more than 18 dedicated to dark skin tones with a range of undertones, from orange to red and olive.
In our orange and strawberry tests, this foundation more than exceeded our expectations in terms of texture and coverage. It also scored highly for being vegan and cruelty-free.
It did drop points in our hydration tests – reducing the skin’s hydration by 12% – however, this is because it was applied using a beauty blender. We use a sponge for those tests because it’s designed to mimic how the majority of people will apply it.
However, to avoid losing any of the benefits of the hyaluronic acid we recommend applying this foundation with clean fingers and then gently buffing it with a kabuki brush or foundation brush to soften and remove any streaks.
£30 | Buy now
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If you have darker skin tones, check out our best foundation for dark skin guide
In addition to the wide shade range provided by MAC, and other more inclusive brands, there are a number of brands that cater more specifically to shades at the darker end of the spectrum.
This is because, in a disappointingly high number of cases, brands can offer loads of shades but the majority will be at the lighter or mid-range.
One such brand that bucks this trend is Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty.
Designed from the off with inclusivity in mind, the Pro Filt’r foundation line offers 50 shades.
Rihanna was so committed to this, that she personally found women with hard-to-match skin tones and created shades with them in mind.
The brand offers olive, golden, bronze, neutral, cool, peach, yellow, and pink undertones and each one uses custom pigment levels to capture the skin’s truest tones.
We’ve tested both the Soft Matte and the Hydrating versions of this foundation.
The Pro Filt’r Hydrating foundation scored marginally higher, yet both exceeded expectations on the orange and strawberry test.
Ironically, the matte version let out more liquid on the blotting paper, while the hydrating released a minimal amount. Similarly, the hydrating version dropped hydration more than its matte sibling – 2 percentage points, vs the matte’s 0.4 percentage-point drop.
As you can see in the image above, the finish on the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Longwear is even and natural. It doesn’t flatten the complexion, nor does it feel too heavy or too drying given the fact it’s such a long-lasting foundation.
Both blend well on the skin. Particularly when applied using a stippling brush and then softened using a damp beauty blender. The hydrating version feels marginally more comfortable although the matte version – as the name suggests – lasts longer.
£11.99 | Buy now
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L’Oreal Infallible’s Freshwear foundation was one of the first foundations we tested as part of our mega group test – on day 18. Coverage-wise, in both the orange and strawberry tests, L’Oreal Infallible Freshwear performed well above what we expected. The coverage and blend were even and not too thick.
Elsewhere, it released hardly any oil on the blotting paper test – in fact, it’s one of the most matte foundations we’ve tried. If you don’t know what we mean regarding oranges and strawberries, we explain here.
It gained points for having SPF 25, but it lost points for dropping the hydration of our skin by a staggering 41%. It also lost points because it’s not vegan, or cruelty-free.
From our tests, we feel this full-coverage foundation would particularly suit oily skin. Given how much it sucks hydration out of the skin, we don’t recommend this for dry skin or if you have dry patches.
This may also be more of a summer foundation than a winter one, given the fact cold weather dries the skin out further.
People with mature skin could get away with wearing L’Oreal Infallible because it has a medium consistency and doesn’t settle in wrinkles or fine lines.
Just make sure your skin is hydrated and prepped beforehand to make sure you’re getting the most out of this foundation.Buy now
£35 | Buy now
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Read our full Estee Lauder Double Wear review here
Estée Lauder’s Double Wear foundation is considered to be the Holy Grail, appearing on many best foundation lists. When we recently posted our top 10, as it stood at the end of month one, dozens of people asked for it to be reviewed.
It didn’t disappoint.
Double Wear offers one of the highest numbers of shades of any foundation we’ve tested – at 61 – and it creates a matte finish with medium-to-full coverage. The only brand that offers more shades is the MAC Studio Fix foundation.
What’s even better is that Estee Lauder Double Wear contains SPF. Albeit, a low SPF at SPF 10 (again, lower than MAC’s foundation), but it’s better than nothing. You can read more in our guide to the best SPF makeup and skincare.
The foundation exceeded expectations in our orange and strawberry tests and released hardly any oil at all.
Estee Lauder promises a matte finish, but we think it delivers closer to a natural-matte finish. It reduces shine and oiliness, but it doesn’t dehydrate the skin like other matte foundations, resulting in a more natural and youthful finish.
This lack of oil, while positive for staying power and for creating a flat, matte base, means it may not be suitable for people with dry or mature skin. It can settle in the cracks and cause a small amount of flakiness.
That said, if you’ve got a normal, combination, or oily skin type, Double Wear is worth the investment. If you’re not sure what skin type you are, check out our What skin type do I have? guide.
The photo below shows how the coverage looked on our oily skin. As you can see, we suffer from redness and the Double Wear covered it well, without being too cakey or heavy.
Even without the use of setting spray, our skin looked almost as good as we headed up to bed as it did when it was first applied. We’ve also worn it to the gym before and while it doesn’t quite survive a full workout, it holds out a lot longer than many other foundations we’ve tried. It’s also transfer-proof.
The downside is that there’s no pump. You have to pour the foundation out and this can result in wastage, which – at this price – can be painful. If this is a dealbreaker for you, it is possible to buy a pump separately, from Lookfantastic, for an extra £5.50.
Whichever method you use, this foundation does have a tendency to settle so make sure you give it a shake before use.
Read our full Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin foundation review
£15 | Buy now
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If you have oily, shiny skin, check out our best foundation for oily skin guide
In our huge foundation group test, the XX Revolution Liquid Skin held the top spot for a really long time, with a total score of 64 points. However, when the hydration test results were factored in, it dropped down to 23rd place overall.
That said, because of the fact this foundation dries out the skin so much without leaving the skin heavy (and it gives a lovely finish), it instead wins our best foundation for oily skin title.
In our orange test, it performed well above what we expected. It met our expectations in the strawberry test but released a lot of oil – in fact, it’s one of the oiliest foundations in our entire test.
Similarly, in our hydration tests, this foundation dropped 6.7 percentage points (from 35.8% to 29.1%) which equates to a drop of 32.4%. That is, this foundation dried out the skin by a third!
The amount of oil it produces, and this lack of hydration isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you have oily or oily-mature skin, this is one of the best foundations for full coverage and for such a cheap price. It creates a silk finish, rather than a matte finish, and this creates a youthful glow without too much shine, or without making your skin look cakey and flat.
It’s also a great way to get a more natural-looking, full coverage. It doesn’t go on heavy and it dries down nicely.
Granted this foundation doesn’t last as long as others we’ve reviewed – namely the Estée Lauder Double Wear – but this can be remedied with a good primer and setting spray. You can read more in our science of oily skin guide and our how to master makeup for oily skin article.
£5 | Buy now
If you have dry, flaky skin, check out our best foundation for dry skin guide
Although this entry from 17. is our contender for the best foundation for dry skin, don’t let that put you off if you don’t have dry skin.
It’s a superb foundation which ticks so many boxes that we almost can’t believe it costs just a fiver!
Firstly, it offers 20 shades which all things considered is poor, but when you factor in the price it’s a pleasant surprise.
It performed better than expected on the orange and strawberry. It let out a huge amount of oil and humectants, but this is what makes it so suitable for dry skin.
It also smashed it out of the park in our hydration tests, increasing skin hydration by a staggering 1.4 percentage points, or 5%. The joint highest most-hydrating foundation in our test, alongside Max Factor Facefinity.
The downside to its water base and cheap price is that it doesn’t last very long.
You’ll need to make sure you’re either using a decent water-based primer, or setting spray, or you’re refreshing your dry skin throughout the day to avoid it gathering.
We recently discovered the Oui Cherie hydrating spray from The Beauty Crop and we can’t recommend it enough.Buy now from Boots
£36 | Buy now
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If you have mature skin, check out our best foundation for mature skin guide
Firstly, it’s one of the only foundations on test to be water-based. Its most abundant ingredient is Pyrus Malus fruit water, which comes from apples.
This ingredient is moisturising and smoothing, as well as being a mild exfoliant with antibacterial properties and this makes it perfect for mature skin. It particularly helps with breakouts and acne, which can become common during menopause.
Secondly, in the oil-paper test, Beautiful Skin released one of the lowest amounts of oil across the entire group test. This will largely be because of its water base but is worth noting because it shows just how little oil it contains.
And thirdly, it provides great, long-lasting coverage meaning it doesn’t easily melt off when your skin becomes overly oily, and it doesn’t settle into the creases left by your wrinkles and fine lines.
There have been complaints about the foundation causing texture on the skin but we’ve not had this issue on our oily-mature skin. Plus, if you moisturise and well-hydrate the skin before applying, this will help.
We should note that because this foundation is water-based, it’s vital that you use a water-based primer.
This may even explain why some people have experienced texture because they used a primer that wasn’t compatible. We explain more about this in our What does primer do? guide and we recommend Milk Makeup’s Hydro Grip.
The reason this foundation dropped points is that it’s expensive. The brand is also owned by a company that isn’t vegan or cruelty-free – however, the brand itself is.
£29 | Buy now
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For a long time, the MAC Studio Fix Fluid either took the top spot or sat in or around the top three in our hunt for the best foundation, largely because of its huge shade range.
MAC offers a very impressive 67 shades across the undertone spectrum. That’s six shades more than Estee Lauder’s Double Wear, and more than double the average of all the foundations we’ve tested so far. For reference, the average shade range is 29.
It has an SPF rating of 15 and in our various orange, strawberry, and skin tests, it performed as expected if not better than we had hoped for a foundation that promises a medium-full coverage. It even let out the bare minimum amount of oil on the blotting paper and dropped 6.7 percentage points in the hydration test.
As you can read in our full MAC Studio Fix review, this foundation blends effortlessly and leaves a matte finish on the skin. Yet, unlike many matte foundations, it doesn’t leave your skin looking flat; the MAC Studio Fix Fluid manages to remove oil but leave your skin looking like skin.
Our writer Lucy explains: “Overall, the Studio Fix Fluid Foundation performs extremely well, gives an impressive finish and definitely offers the coverage and longevity it promises. This is our go-to foundation and we’ve converted a number of friends to switch to it as well.”
What’s more, this foundation lasts for hours. Even in the recent humid weather we’ve been having – and that’s without setting spray. Add one of the best setting sprays to the mix and you can get a flawless base almost all day. This does make it a little hard to remove at the end of the day, but it’s nothing a good cleansing balm can’t handle.
Our only real complaints are that the brand can’t be classified as entirely cruelty-free because it sells products in countries that test on animals. While MAC itself doesn’t partake in animal testing, it enables authorities to. This also prevents it from being classed as 100% vegan in our eyes, even though many of the formulas are vegan.
It also doesn’t come with a pump applicator. You either need to pour the liquid out – and this can lead to wastage, which is galling when you consider the price of this foundation – or you have to pay extra for the pump. Again, given the already premium price for this foundation, it’s a tad disappointing.]
Read our full MAC Studio Fix foundation review
£13.99 | Buy now
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MaxFactor’s FaceFinity isn’t cheap enough to make our best cheap foundation list, it’s not expensive enough to make the best luxury foundation list and as a 3-in-1 product, it didn’t fit naturally into many of the other categories.
However, one area where it absolutely excelled was hydration and this score was high enough to make it the best matte foundation of the 100+ foundations we’ve tested.
At £13.99, it’s on the affordable side, and for that price you effectively get three products in one – a primer, a concealer, and a foundation.
We’re always a little skeptical of products promising multiple benefits, especially at such a cheap price, but in the case of the MaxFactor FaceFinity, we were pleasantly surprised.
It provides a smooth, relatively long-lasting base that blurs the pores. It has enough coverage to minimise the appearance of dark circles and redness, and the foundation element evens out skin tone while mattifying shine. In fact, it manages to mattify the skin without making it appear flat or dull.
In our orange test, this foundation performed as expected for a medium-coverage product. It underperformed on the larger “pores” on the strawberry and it produced an above-average amount of liquid on the blotting paper.
It does have buildable coverage, so while we didn’t apply more than one layer on the fruit in our tests, when we used it on our skin we applied more of this foundation in areas where more coverage was needed.
It’s not perfect. MaxFactor claims it gives “24-hour wear” and says it’s touch- and shine-proof. Yet in our experience, this isn’t quite accurate. We managed to get to around lunchtime before our shiny T-Zone began making a slight appearance and by the end of the day, areas of redness started to peek through.
On the plus side, it is incredibly hydrating. This is rare for foundations generally, but certainly those which offer such an effective matte finish. In our hydration test, it was one of only a handful of foundations to increase the hydration of the skin; raising hydrating by 1.3 percentage points, or 5% overall. This means it’s a great foundation for dry and mature skin generally but is particularly great for people with those skin types looking for a matte finish.
Elsewhere, as an added bonus, the foundation has SPF 20 and is non-comedogenic.
£18 | Buy now
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Morphe was a huge influencer favourite a few years back but more recently it seems to have fallen out of favour for the likes of The Beauty Crop. Yet it still makes a great range of products and one of its best (in our opinion) is its Filter Effect Foundation.
Designed to give a smooth and flawless complexion, the foundation gets its name from the fact it creates a filter-like effect on the skin. This means it can help to blur imperfections and make your skin glow but it does so in a natural way.
Despite this natural finish, it provides lasting coverage and is easy to blend. It also comes in a great range of shades. Especially for a mid-price foundation.
In our orange and strawberry tests, the Filter Effect didn’t quite live up to the medium-full coverage claims. We’d say it was closer to sheer medium.
This may be due to the fact it’s a relatively lightweight, thin foundation that goes hand-in-hand with the large amount of oil that came out of the foundation in our blotting paper test.
The plus side is that this foundation is hydrating – it increased the hydration levels of our skin by 0.1 points (0.3%).
This may seem insignificant but the majority of foundations drop hydration so any increase is good.
In addition to being the best foundation for natural coverage, we think the Morphe Filter Effect will really suit dry skin. This also makes it one of the best foundations for mature skin because it’s natural but hydrating for older, menopausal skin.Buy now from Boots
1. Prep: Foundation sits better on hydrated, moisturised skin so make sure you’re applying serums, moisturiser and SPF before applying foundation. Ideally, you should wait until the skincare is absorbed before applying foundation. Check out our best moisturiser, and best sunscreen for face recommendations for products that work well under makeup.
2. Warm: Put the foundation on the back of your hand and wait for it to warm up. This means it goes on more easily, and gives you more control about how much you use.
3. Apply: Put a small amount of foundation in the centre of your face, on your nose and cheeks using a brush or damp beauty blender. You can also use your fingers (just make sure they’re clean!) Making the blender damp stops it from soaking up the liquid foundation.
4. Blend: Using a foundation brush, damp beauty blender, or your fingers, start to spread the foundation from the middle of your face towards the edges. You don’t need to press hard, in fact, a lighter touch will help create a softer, blended base.
5. Soften: Using a large fluffy brush, gently buff your face to soften and blend the foundation into the skin.
6. Set: Once the foundation has dried down, apply a powder all over your face to set it in and place and finish with a setting spray.
The key to knowing how to apply foundation is to use it sparingly. If you need to apply a thick layer all over your face to get an even colour, chances are you’ve got the wrong foundation shade.
Yes, there are no rules to makeup, and foundation can be used as concealer but you need to bear in mind their differences, so you know how to use them in the best way possible.
Foundations are typically thinner than concealers and are designed to even out your overall skin tone, cover minor imperfections, and provide a smooth canvas. Concealers are thicker and more pigmented meaning they provide higher coverage.
As a result, if you want to use foundation as concealer, you may either need to apply more of it or it should be saved for blemishes or imperfections that require less coverage.
Victoria is founder and editor-in-chief of mamabella, freelance journalist and Mum. She has a passion for empowering people to feel beautiful whatever their age, size, skin type and budget