The 8 Best Liquid Foundations of 2022

NARS Light Reflecting Foundation went viral for a reason

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Photo: People/Tamara Staples

Regardless of your skin type, application technique, or general makeup knowledge, the right liquid foundation can make your skin look flawless. "For me, I look for payoff and performance on the skin. Meaning, I need it to last over hours of wear without interruption and still look incredible as when I first applied it," celebrity makeup artist Daniel Martin tells PEOPLE. With clients like Elisabeth Moss, Michelle Yeoh, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, "this is especially important around award season," he adds.

While longevity is essential, factors like coverage level and skin type help determine the best foundation too. "Once you know these things, it makes it easier to choose the formula that's best for you," says makeup artist Ashley Rebecca. "For instance, if you have dry skin and you want to wear a sheer foundation that looks natural, you would search for something like a hydrating tint that would give coverage and moisturize the skin without looking heavy."

To determine which liquid foundations create the perfect finish, we tried 27 of the most popular formulas on multiple skin types and tones. Our testers started by applying a dab of foundation on the back of their hand to assess texture, feel, and risk of transfer. All of the tester favorites were smooth and creamy to the touch and didn't transfer when brushed against a white t-shirt. After eight hours of wear, some foundations held up (while alas, others did not). The liquid foundation that came out on top (and recently went viral) — NARS Light Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation — has TikTok beauty star Mikayla Nogeuria as a fan. She and our testers alike are in awe of the results.

Keep reading to discover the liquid foundations considered the best that PEOPLE Tested for a flawless finish.

Best Overall: NARS Light Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation

Sephora

Pros: NARS Light Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation creates a smooth natural finish, leaving your skin feeling light and dewy.

Cons: It comes in a glass bottle with a pump, which noticeably drips after use.

This NARS foundation went viral earlier this year, and we can't say we're surprised. One tester with combination skin that skews dry said it "melted into her skin" and felt "more like lotion than makeup."

Thanks to the foundation's creamy texture, you can count on it to deliver a smooth finish that leaves your skin luminous without drying or caking. In fact, all testers rated it a perfect 5/5 in texture, feel, and finish — a major feat. As far as coverage, the NARS foundation has medium coverage that's buildable, meaning you can apply more (or less) to achieve your desired level. Our testers confirm that even when applied lightly, this foundation hides minor imperfections while letting your skin's natural texture show through.

One minor hiccup with this product is the bottle drips a little after it's pumped, but that can be fixed by wiping the excess on your blender or brush before using it.

Overall, we love this foundation. With 36 different shades, there are pigment options for many skin tones. And as an added bonus, the formula is completely vegan, and free of common irritants.

Price at time of publish: $49

Coverage: Medium, buildable | Size: 30 mL | Shades: 36 | Container: Glass

PEOPLE / TAMARA STAPLES

Best Budget: L'Oréal Infallible Fresh Wear 24HR Foundation

Ulta

Pros: This full coverage foundation provides a smooth finish that lasts all day, a diverse range of shades, and easy application for pros and beginners alike.

Cons: Has mild fragrance and has been known to irritate some sensitive skin.

This crowd-pleasing liquid foundation is almost too good to be true. It applies to the skin beautifully and lasts, so your makeup still looks fresh at the end of the day (a necessity for those of us always on the move). Our tester scored it a 5/5 in texture and feel, describing it as "the perfect combination between thick and thin foundation." She explained the consistency as light, but not runny — it stayed in place once applied, and dried quickly.

The formula delivered as promised creating buildable coverage that the tester said was breathable and smooth, without drying, streaking, or settling into fine lines. Your application will also affect the coverage — light application can give you a more natural finish, and heavier application will give you that full coverage look.

More good news: This foundation passed our transfer test without issue, so your clothing will remain safe from stray makeup stains (a peeve of ours!). Other benefits of this foundation include its SPF formula to protect your skin from the sun, and the high quality packaging. "It feels very expensive for a drugstore foundation," our tester noted.

One gripe some testers noted is with the fragrance, and mild irritation on those with sensitive skin.

Overall, if you're looking for a budget-friendly foundation that will give you a matte finish, this L'Oréal gem is a good bet.

Price at time of publish: $16

Coverage: Medium, buildable | Size: 30 mL | Shades: 43 | Container: Glass

PEOPLE / TAMARA STAPLES

Best Splurge: N°1 DE CHANEL Revitalizing Foundation

Pros: This foundation is top-notch, providing a dewy finish that hydrates and evens out your skin tone. Would you expect anything less from Chanel?

Cons: It's expensive, especially for a product that for many is used daily (and repurchased often).

If you want a luxury foundation, you're going to pay a premium price, but the Chanel Revitalizing Foundation is worth it. The product boasts buildable coverage which was confirmed by our tester, who said, "it's easy to layer this foundation, and it covers imperfections without feeling heavy."

When she spread a dab of foundation on the back of her hand, she said the formula felt smooth, without being too thick or runny. Chanel's foundation earned a perfect score in all of our tests. The texture proved luxurious, and when applied to our tester's face, the foundation blended smoothly and left her skin looking healthy, hydrated, and glowing.

There's no denying that this foundation is pricey, especially for an everyday product. Some may wish to save this foundation for special occasions only for that reason. Either way, our testers agree that it's worth buying if you can swing it in your budget.

Price at time of publish: $70

Coverage: Light, buildable | Size: 30 mL | Shades: 20 | Container: Frosted glass

PEOPLE / TAMARA STAPLES

Best Full Coverage: Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra 24H Long Wear Matte Foundation

Sephora

Pros: This beautiful matte foundation provides full coverage that will leave your skin looking flawless all day long.

Cons: It may not be suitable for dry skin.

If your foundation goal is to create full coverage that hides blemishes, redness, and other skin concerns, this Lancôme matte foundation is it. Our tester found the formula to be lightweight without being too watery or thick. Its matte finish is buildable, has a slight glow to it, and keeps your skin from looking cakey.

Our tester was pleased how easily this foundation could be applied and blended, and that it didn't settle into fine lines or creases on her face. This particular foundation can work for many skin tones, with an extensive range of more than 40 shades.

Though designed for longer wear, the ingredients that make the matte finish lock into place can also cause dryness. This isn't a deal breaker, especially not for oily, combination or normal skin, but if you have drier skin, this might not be the right foundation for you.

Price at time of publish: $47

Coverage: Full | Size: 30 mL | Shades: 43 | Container: Frosted glass

PEOPLE / TAMARA STAPLES

Best Sheer Coverage: Rare Beauty Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation

Sephora

Pros: This radiating foundation offers a sheer natural finish, as well as hydrating botanical ingredients.

Cons: Not quite as buildable as advertised.

Sometimes you want a full coverage face, and other times you might prefer a lighter touch. This "weightless" makeup does live up to that description as a sheer foundation with light coverage. With a blend of lotus, gardenia, and water lily, this foundation helps soothe and calm your skin, while smelling amazing.

Our tester said, "It is lightweight, slightly watery and dries within 30 seconds." She said she likes "how smooth and even the coverage is," while noting she wished it was more buildable. Our tester has dry skin and said this product "settled into lines around [her] mouth and eyes." That being said, Rare Beauty advises those with dry skin to prime with a hydrating moisturizer before applying the foundation. Conversely, those with oily skin should set it with a powder after application, to help mattify their face.

Overall, this foundation did well in our tests. "It transfers a little bit, but for medium coverage, you can't do better," said our tester. She appreciated how well it covered her redness, and how easy the applicator was to use — and said she would recommend this product.

Price at time of publish: $29

Coverage: Medium | Size: 28 mL | Shades: 48 | Container: Plastic

Best for a Dewy Finish: Flower Beauty Light Illusion Foundation

Ulta

Pros: This lightweight and low-cost formula hydrates and provides a soft glow to your skin.

Cons: It might cause too much shine if you have naturally oily skin.

Dewy skin is all over the place, made popular by celebrities like Hailey Bieber — and your skin can glow too. This lightweight and breathable formula by Flower Beauty offers an immediate surge of moisture and light coverage to create a smooth dewy face.

"It's buildable up to medium coverage, and still feels light," noted our tester. The glass bottle provides an easy pump to apply the product, and then you can apply it via your hands or a brush or sponge. With such a hydrating formula, this makeup takes a minute or so to dry, observed our tester, and if you have oily skin, it might cause it to further look "a bit oily on the skin."

As an added bonus, this rich formula is made with SPF 18 for increased sun protection. "Overall, it's a good light coverage foundation, especially if you're looking for something with SPF. It's not drying and feels light on the skin," our tester said.

Price at time of publish: $14.29

Coverage: Medium | Size: 30 mL | Shades: 15 | Container: Glass

Tamara Staples

Best for a Matte Finish: It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare

Ulta

Pros: This medium coverage foundation creates a smooth matte finish in a wide variety of shades.

Cons: It sets into fine lines and wrinkles.

If you want a glowing complexion without the shine, a matte foundation like this one from It Cosmetics can serve all your needs and more. "I like the finish and how smooth it looks on skin, and how it didn't dry out or highlight my dermatitis patches," said our tester.

With ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and vitamin E, this makeup hydrates, smooths out skin, fights free radicals, and creates a brighter complexion. Plus, with 40 available shades, it's ideal for many skin tones. The only word of caution is for those with wrinkles as our tester said, "It took some work to get rid of streaks, even with a great foundation brush."

This buildable formula "covers 90 percent of redness" and creates a medium coverage matte finish. "This was better than expected! The formula is very moisturizing, and coverage is smooth and even," our tester said.

Price at time of publish: $44

Coverage: Medium | Size: 30 mL | Shades: 40 | Container: Plastic

Tamara Staples

Best With SPF: ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation

Pros: This serum-like foundation will coat your skin in a sheer and glowy finish, while protecting it from harmful UV rays.

Cons: The consistency is a little runny, and can cause a mess if not applied carefully.

Sun protection is crucial for your skin's overall health, so if you can build it into your makeup routine, why wouldn't you? An easy way to accomplish that is using a foundation with built-in SPF like the ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation. Our testers loved how lightweight and thin this serum foundation felt on their skin, with one saying it left her face with a "your skin, but better" glow.

This serum foundation promises a dewy finish, and our reviewer said it delivers without looking oily or greasy. She also noticed it didn't crease or settle into fine lines when applied. ILIA's foundation scored high marks in all of our tests with a smooth light texture, and minimal transfer when brushed against a white t-shirt.

As a serum foundation, the coverage is sheer and not buildable, but it blends beautifully. Between the thin consistency and dropper applicator, things can get a little messy, so be mindful of runaway drips. Overall though, our testers loved this formula, and your skin will thank you for the extra sun protection.

Price at time of publish: $48

Coverage: Light | Size: 30 mL | Shades: 30 | Container: Plastic

PEOPLE / TAMARA STAPLES

Things to Consider Before Buying a Liquid Foundation

Skin Type

Your skin type will play a role in the type of foundation finish you should use. "If you're oily and prone to breakouts, you'll want to find a formula that will help mattify shine and conceal breakouts without adding to them," says Rebecca. A matte finish might work well for oily skin, while dry skin could benefit from a dewier finish. Normal and combination skin can play around with different finishes to see what suits best. If you have sensitive skin, be sure to check ingredients thoroughly to avoid potential irritants and flare ups.

Skin Tone

For liquid foundation to look natural, it has to match your skin tone — that's a given. "This will be noticeable and not compliment you in the best way if it doesn't match," Rebecca says. But fear not! Many sites offer shade finder tools to help you assess your shade range and undertones (varying from neutral to yellow to pink). Your shade range is also likely to change with the seasons, so when selecting a foundation, you may wish to go one shade darker in the summer to account for a sun-kissed glow.

Coverage

"Coverage all depends on the wearer," says Martin. "The only real need for fuller coverage is if you do your makeup in the morning and don't want to fuss with it later." Or if you're looking to hide imperfections like acne, dark circles, or uneven coloring. However, if you just want slight color correction or a no makeup makeup look, reach for a light coverage foundation.

It's good to have a few foundation formulas in your arsenal for different seasons or events," says Rebecca. "For instance, I have lighter, more sheer foundations I wear in the summer versus fall and winter. Variety is good when it comes to makeup, yet it's not necessary if you're someone who wants to wear the same foundation formula all year round. As long as it's working for you and giving you the results you want." And in the case of everyday use, "a great buildable foundation is best," says Martin.

Price

Foundation is an everyday makeup product for many, so it's likely you'll run through it faster than say, a blush or eyeliner. That's why price becomes an important consideration depending on your allotted makeup budget.

People/Tamara Staples

How We Tested Liquid Foundations

Twelve testers came to our lab to play with foundation for the day. They all ranged in skin type and tone, and together tried out 27 highly-rated liquid foundations in an effort to find the best ones.

As part of the testing, each person tried one foundation, smoothing it over the back of their hands to test for consistency, texture, and overall feel. After letting it dry, they brushed it against a plain white t-shirt to test the real life scenario we all fear — when makeup stains your clothing (or worse, someone else's). Each tester also applied the foundation to their face to see how well it blended, what the coverage was like, and of course, how long it held up over the course of the eight-hour work day.

FAQs

What is the best way to apply liquid foundation?

There are several good ways to apply liquid foundation. You may want to try more than one to find which works best for you. "For fuller coverage, brushes help speed up the process of application," says Martin. He suggests "[using] your fingers and then blend[ing] with a sponge," for a more polished look. "This application makes your makeup more buildable and you can control the coverage easier." Rebecca confirms that a brush is better for "sanitary and blending purposes," followed by a "something like the BeautyBlender sponge," and then your fingers "as long as they are clean."

Can you mix liquid foundation with moisturizer?

Yes, you can mix liquid foundation with moisturizer. The combination will give you a lighter, more sheer, natural look. Just make sure the two products are compatible. Mix a water-based foundation with a water-based moisturizer. If your liquid foundation is silicone-based, be sure to mix it with a moisturizer that is also silicone-based. You can also consider tinted moisturizers which offer lighter coverage while hydrating your skin.

How do you find the right liquid foundation for your skin?

The first consideration when choosing a liquid foundation is your skin tone. Knowing whether your undertones are cool, warm, or neutral will lead you to the right liquid foundation shade. Ideally, you'll want to test the liquid foundation by applying a small amount on your face at the jawline to make sure the shade blends in seamlessly with your skin.

Is it OK to apply liquid foundation every day?

"It's good to give your skin a break from makeup at least one day out of the week, but if you're someone who wants to wear foundation every day, that's okay," says Rebecca. So yes, using liquid foundation on your face daily is fine as long as you're using a good product with high-quality ingredients. "As long as you properly wash your face before bed to rid the makeup you've sworn that entire day, you can wear it as much as you like," says Martin.

What Is People Tested?

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