What to Look for in a Foundation: 7 Factors to Consider When Buying a Foundation

Every year, the cosmetic industry releases innovative new products, distinguished by unique formulas, colors, and ingredients. While experimenting with the latest lip kit or eye palette can be exciting, the number of available options can also be intimidating. This is especially true when it comes to foundations, which are now available in formulas ranging from powder to mousse. However, taking a few factors into consideration can really make selecting the best foundation for one’s skin type and shade easy.

Finding the Perfect Shade

Selecting the right shade is one of the most difficult aspects of foundation shopping. When testing makeup swatches on the skin, it’s important to apply it to an area that matches the skin color of the face. While many people use the arm as a test site, the skin on the arm is often too dark to provide a reliable match. Some makeup artists recommend testing on the chest or neck instead, as this area is a better match for the face.

It’s important to examine potential foundation shades in different lighting environments; a shade that appears to match beneath fluorescent mall lighting might not match in natural lighting. Those struggling to find the perfect shade should not hesitate to ask for help; after all, the employees are there to help! There’s also many cosmetic stores have gadgets that can assess skin tone and match people to an appropriate foundation.

Skin Type

When shopping for a foundation, skin type is something that needs to be considered. People should select a formulation that helps to correct or conceal any complexion imperfections. For those whose skin tends to be dry, for example, it’s ideal to choose a moisturizing liquid foundation infused with hydrating ingredients. For oily skin, it’s better to opt for a powder formula designed to soak up extra oil. People with acne-prone skin may want to choose a foundation that offers a high level of coverage, and people with aging skin should purchase a lightweight, creamy formula that doesn’t settle into wrinkles.


For those who aren’t sure what skin type they have, they should consider what type of effect they want to achieve. Most foundations have a specific “finish,” which range from matte to luminous. For a radiant, natural aesthetic, a foundation labeled “dewy” is best. Those who prefer a porcelain doll look, consider foundations labeled “matte.” Other options include “natural” and “shine.”


When browsing the foundation shelves, people will likely notice that liquid formulas are still the most common. This makeup bag staple has earned its popularity; liquid foundations are blendable, buildable, and easy to apply. They’re a good choice for people with normal skin, oily skin, and for people who don’t usually wear foundation. Those looking for high coverage should consider a cream foundation. They contain filler ingredients and waxes, which effectively adhere to the skin, providing potent, long-lasting coverage. Stick foundations can also provide full coverage. They also boast easy, versatile application, and portability.

Those looking for something lightweight should consider mousse and spray foundations. Mousse foundations have similar ingredient lists as liquid foundations, but the addition of air gives these foundations a featherweight texture. They’re easy to spread and leave the skin with an appealing dewy glow. Spray foundations are similarly undetectable. Unlike most foundations, the product isn’t pushed into the skin via application. Once sprayed, these formulas rest lightly atop the skin, reflecting light in a highly natural way.


Most foundations provide some level of sun protection. SPF ratings often range from 15 to 50+. While it’s always a good idea to choose a foundation with SPF, depending solely on makeup for all sunscreen needs is not ideal. For days spent out in the sun, it’s important to apply sunscreen before foundation.

Added Ingredients

Before purchasing foundation, it’s a good idea to become familiar with some common ingredients. There are some ingredients to steer clear of, depending on several factors. People with acne-prone skin, for example, may want to choose oil-free formulations. It’s also important to be mindful of potential skin allergies. People with sensitive skin can be irritated by acids, synthetic fragrances, emollients, sulfates, and essential oils.

The ingredient list can also affect how a finish is achieved. Certain ingredients are associated with certain finishes; foundations designed for oily skin often contain mica and talc, as they help to control the buildup of oil.

Nowadays, many formulas are designed to optimize skin health. Foundations for acne-prone skin might contain salicylic acid, and cream formulas for dry skin might be infused with hyaluronic acid and aloe. These skin-boosting ingredients keep the complexion healthy when applying foundation.


Foundation prices run the gamut. Foundation from a local drugstore can cost between $10 and $20. Foundations purchased from makeup or department stores, on the other hand, can cost anywhere from $30 to $100. Some makeup experts recommend splurging on high-quality foundation, as it forms the base of the makeup look. While “treat yo’ self” might be tempting, it’s important to remember that the most expensive option isn’t always the best option for every skin type.

Final Thoughts

Armed with information and a willingness to experiment, it’ll be easy to find the right foundation in no time!


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