Liquid, Cream or Powder? How to Pick the Right Foundation Formula for You


Foundation is the basis of your entire makeup look. If your base isn’t a good match for you (be it the coverage, color or formulation), the rest of your makeup won’t look as beautiful as it should either. The goal of foundation is to provide flawless, even coverage without looking ‘cakey’ or like you are wearing tons of product. The hunt for your perfect foundation can be overwhelming – there are so many options out there, and it can take plenty of trial and error – so we wanted to make the process a bit easier for you. Keep reading for a breakdown of the three most popular types – liquid, cream and powder – and discover which one is the right foundation formula for you!


Liquid foundation is probably the most common and versatile type of foundation. Depending on the finish, it can work with every skin type. Liquid foundations range from sheer to full coverage, and dewy to matte finishes. One major perk of using a liquid is that you can apply it in a multitude of ways – with a brush, sponge or even your fingers. The right liquid foundation will melt into your skin, creating a seamless finish that looks natural, yet flawless. The only thing to keep in mind with liquid is that if you have oily skin, you should stay far away from a ‘dewy’ formula. Go with something matte, and top it off with a dusting of powder to keep your complexion oil-free.

A general guideline with liquid formulas: use a sheer coverage product for a very natural look or if you just want to even out your skin tone. If your objective is to conceal redness, acne or any imperfections, go with a buildable or full coverage formula. For that ‘I Woke Up Like This,’ glowing look, go dewy. For a shine-free finish (tends to go beautifully with evening or more dramatic looks), pick a matte formula.


SHEER: NARS Sheer Glow Foundation: Sheer Glow enhances your skin, rather than mask it. It’s ideal for those who don’t have many blemishes or skin imperfections, and are just looking for something to even out their skin tone. The satin finish will brighten your complexion, leaving you with a radiant and natural glow. Since it has hydrating properties, this is a fantastic foundation if you have dry skin, though it’s suitable for every skin type. ($45)


MEDIUM: Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation: You can find some phenomenal foundations at the drugstore, and Maybelline’s Matte + Poreless is one of them. This medium coverage foundation is particularly amazing for those with oily skin. The formula contains ‘blurring micro-powders’ that minimize the appearance of pores and absorb excess oil. Definitely worth a try. If you prefer something with a dewier finish, try Maybelline’s Dewy + Smooth. ($7.99)

too faced

FULL: Too Faced Born This Way Foundation: This foundation has been receiving rave reviews ever since it debuted last year, and all of the praise is well-deserved. This foundation is phenomenal. The oil-free, full coverage formula covers any imperfections flawlessly, but it never looks cakey or feels heavy. Infused with hydrating coconut water, skin looks naturally radiant – it’s important to remember that the objective of a great foundation is to go unnoticed. You want it to look like you really have luminous, beautiful skin – Born This Way gives you that undetectable perfection. ($39)


Cream foundation is a go-to for many makeup artists. Most cream formulas are full coverage (or can easily be built up to full coverage), extremely long-lasting and give off a flawless, professional finish. They are usually found in pots, palettes or sticks, so they’re extremely portable and good for traveling – you’ll never have to worry about the bottle spilling in your suitcase! If you have dry skin, cream foundation will be your new best friend – it’s moisturizing properties are unparalleled. Since creams tend to be thick, always apply it with a light hand – you can blend it in with a synthetic brush (like this one by Sonia Kashuk), a sponge or even your fingers in a pinch. One thing to keep in mind: since the formula is heavy, don’t use it on the fine lines around your eyes – it can emphasize them. Stick with just a little concealer in that area instead.

edward bess

SHEER: Edward Bess Sheer Satin Cream Compact Foundation: Cream foundations tend to be on the heavier side…most people grab a cream formula when they want that more dramatic, flawless finish. Leave it to beauty innovator Edward Bess to create a sheer cream that gives you that polished look with a more natural finish. As long-wearing as any other cream, this satin foundation will transform into a powder once it’s applied to your skin, giving you breathable coverage that will last all day. ($60)

dolce gabbana

MEDIUM: Dolce & Gabbana The Foundation Perfect Finish Creamy Foundation: This buildable foundation offers you a lot of options: apply it lightly with a damp makeup sponge for more sheer coverage or get a more flawless finish by applying it with a brush. Extremely lightweight and creamy, this luxurious formula will feel light as a feather on your skin and leave you with a luminous, beautiful glow. ($60)

cover fx

FULL: Cover FX Total Cover Cream Foundation: If you want something that will give you full coverage (without appearing cakey), look no further than Cover FX’s unbelievable Total Cover Cream Foundation. The 2-in-1 foundation and concealer (you can dot a little more on dark spots and blemishes for extra coverage) lasts all day, nourishes skin and is packed with anti-aging properties that will protect your skin. If you suffer from acne, try this product – it really covers like a dream. ($42)


Powder formulas offer you plenty of control – you can apply a sheer dusting for a natural finish, or really build it up to a  full coverage look. It’s also perfect for midday touch-ups – keep a little powder compact in your bag for on-the-go coverage. Powder foundations are a savior for those with oily skin – since it’s lightweight and doesn’t clog pores, you feel like your skin is actually breathing while wearing it – but it’s not the best choice for those with dry skin. Powders can settle into dry skin, making skin appear older or exaggerating the dryness. As for the coverage and finish, it depends on the look you’re going for. Choose a full coverage formula for a big night out where you want skin to look flawless, and a sheer one for natural, daytime use. Use a buffer brush, like Tarte’s Airbrush Finish Bamboo Foundation Brush, in circular motions to build up to apply powder foundation…or go with the cute, little puff that usually comes with the compact!


SHEER: Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Powder Foundation: This affordable powder foundation from Neutrogena offers sheer to medium coverage that leaves you with a glowing complexion. It’s ideal for popping into your for touch-ups throughout the day – especially if you find that your skin begins to get oilier as the day progresses. Infused with minerals, this powder won’t clog your pores or leave you with a cakey finish. You can also dust it on top of your liquid foundation to set it and add a bit more coverage. ($12.99)


MEDIUM: bareMinerals Matte Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15: bareMinerals’ loose foundations are a holy grail product for many. This lightweight mineral foundation provides you with a beautiful, natural finish that minimizes the look of pores, covers imperfections and provides matte coverage. Some people shy away from loose foundations because they think it’s messy, but I would recommend giving this a try. While it’s obviously not portable like pressed formulas, it’s so easy to use: just swirl a bit of product in the lid with your brush and apply to your skin!

kat von d Right Foundation Formula for You

FULL: Kat Von D Lock-It Powder Foundation: If you’re looking for ultimate coverage from a powder formula, go for Kat Von D’s Lock-It. This will not budge – your skin will look fresh and flawless from morning ’til night. This will not smudge or sweat, even in the highest of heat…plus, the velvety matte finish prevents skin from ever looking cakey. ($35)


Want an even more in-depth idea of what foundation is right for you? Check out our Foundations by Skin Type guide! Discover what works for dry/oily/sensitive skin and more, HERE.

There are other foundation types on the market – tinted moisturizer, mousse, spray – but the three mentioned in this post tend to be the most popular and work for the widest range of people. To find your ultimate, flawless foundation, head into your local Sephora or drugstore and try different products out – everything works differently for different people. Good luck on your foundation quest and let us know what’s your holy grail in the comments below!

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