Are you hunting around for a drugstore foundation to perk up and even out your everyday look? Through tantrums, mountains of unfolded laundry, and forever conflicting schedules, you’re the foundation of your family, Mama. But most days your perfectly coiffed look’s a damn wreck by 9 a.m., and the joke is on you if you even think about wearing white around a toddler. Because spills and sh*t… literally.
But if there’s one aspect of your completed look that can’t be compromised, and that’s your makeup. For example, a good drugstore foundation can hold your complexion down, from the first application at dawn up until the minute you wipe it all away before bed. The best ones won’t even smudge or run at the sight of tears (because, yeah, parenting comes with some of those, too).
What is drugstore foundation?
Contrary to what its name suggests, drugstore foundation isn’t the base of your makeup (that would be primer). Foundation comes second on the complexion, and it’s typically a liquid, sometimes a powder or cream. The purpose of foundation is to level out the complexion. Some formulas are specifically designed to color-correct, conceal “flaws” (such as acne, scarring, age lines and wrinkles), hydrate the skin, and so on.
Keep in mind that foundation, like any other beauty product, isn’t necessary. You don’t have to wear foundation to look gorgeous. You’re a hot mama whether you doll up, or go au naturale. That being said, foundation can give your natural beauty a little boost. You just need to shop the right formula for your unique skin tone and type.
How do you apply drugstore foundation?
All you’ll need to apply your drugstore foundation evenly is clean fingers. Sure, you can use sponges, blenders, brushes, and beyond, but we won’t tell if you use your paws. And if you don’t have time for at least 30 seconds with soap and water before heading to daycare, just stash some Purell in your glove compartment or use a wet nap from your baby bag. Wash off, dot a few drops of the product onto your face, and gently dab for even application.
Unfortunately foundation, like all of life’s greatest joys (i.e., dark chocolate, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, becoming a freakin’ mom), can be a major hit to your wallet. Luckily, there are a handful of drugstore foundations that measure up to department store bottles. Below we give memorable mentions to the ones you should be shopping. Get glowing and check out our top picks.
Maybelline New York’s foundation was meant to fit you and your needs. (Don’t believe me? It literally says so right on the bottle.) Normally, you’d be hard-pressed to find a drugstore foundation that matches more than a handful of skin tones, but this bottle comes in 40 — yes, 40 — shades. Translation: You can match your skin tone precisely on the first try. Plus, not only will you never have to play scientist with tinctures and tubes, but the Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation also adheres to all skin types with an oil-free base both oily and dry complexions love to soak up. There are over 14,000 Amazon reviews, including one from this fan: “I love it. I recommend this foundation to every one of my friends and they have loved it too. Doesn’t matter if your skin is oily or dry – mine is extremely dry and sensitive. You need to make it part of your makeup collection.”
Maybe your skin’s naturally oily and yields a shine you wish would dim down a notch. Or, maybe mommy mayhem has you working up a sweat before nap-time. In any case, L’Oreal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Liquid Longwear Foundation is made with an exclusive anti-shine technology, making it the perfect formula for T-zones that have a tint before noon. Rumor has it that blotting the formula onto skin with a damp beauty sponge is ideal for flawless application, but if tools (and time) are sparse, clean fingers work just as well (just make sure you blend thoroughly). The formula is lightweight but provides medium coverage, so you can enjoy a smooth complexion without feeling like your makeup is caked on your face. The foundation also comes in 22 oil-free shades that will last through sweat, heat, and humidity to keep you looking fresh for 24 hours.
If you thought the kids were giving you wrinkles (sorry, they are), add environmental stressors into the mix. Sun exposure, air pollution, dust, a dry atmosphere, even the freaking air conditioning can do a number on your complexion. So, you can’t just pluck any drugstore foundation off the shelf. You need a heavy-duty formula that provides short-term coverage and long-term protection against skin traumas. Enter CoverGirl + Olay’s Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Liquid Foundation, an anti-aging product that minimizes the visible wrinkles you may already have, while warding off any fine lines you could develop later on. It also contains hyaluronic complex and vitamin C to keep your skin hydrated and healthy-looking, and, dare we say, ageless.
L’Oreal Paris’ True Match Super-Blendable Liquid Foundation wins most inclusive with a mind-blowing 46 skin tones bottled up and ready to apply. There’s no doubt in our minds: You’ll be able to find your one true match in this stunning collection. Whether you’re fair ivory or dark chocolate, each shade has been formulated to not only match your skin tone, but also your skin’s undertones. The liquid contains notes of pro-vitamin B5 and vitamin E, and it’s free of oils and fragrances to ensure a flawless finish with zero chance of clogging your pores. It also has SPF 17 to provide some sun protection. One five-star review says, “I absolutely LOVE this foundation. Honestly, I would have to say that this is the best kind I’ve ever used. I have sensitive skin with a combination between dry and oily. This foundation is very lightweight, and IMO, it is perfect for us women who love a more natural appearance instead of cakey.”
In case you were wondering, the K-Beauty phenomenon you know and love isn’t all face masks and darling packaging. Korean beauty culture centers around the philosophy that for skin to look good, it needs to be pampered. (And no, using Pampers wipes as makeup remover doesn’t count.) Enter JOAH Beauty: makeup that’s jaw-droppingly affordable, and comprised of impressive ingredients. This drugstore foundation, in particular, lays over your complexion for a buildable, your-skin-but-better finish. The lightweight formula comes in 12 shades and is designed to enhance the beauty that is yours alone through brightening, smoothing, and hydrating your skin. One happy customer says, “I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on drug store makeup only to be disappointed by greasiness and poor coverage. FINALLY a foundation that lives up to this word. Just a small amount provides GREAT coverage without being cakey. Dries to a beautiful soft powdery finish. buildable. I won’t buy anything else!”
Makeup and pimples can end up being frenemies: You use makeup to cover up blemishes, it irritates your skin and creates more blemishes that you need to cover with even more makeup, and so on and so on. Neutrogena’s SkinClearing Foundation can help break that vicious cycle. The oil-free formula contains MicroClear technology and salicylic acid, so while you’re controlling extra shine, you’re also treating current and, more importantly, helping prevent future breakouts. It’s great for anyone with oily, acne-prone, or even sensitive skin looking for some natural coverage that won’t clog their pores. Take it from one satisfied customer, who says, “I’ve always had problems with acne and all the other make up products would make my acne so much worse and feel so heavy and gross… it has reduced the acne problems other products have created. It feels and looks great on your skin.”
If you’re a bit of a control freak, this NYX Total Control Drop foundation is for you — like the name suggests, it gives you total control of adjusting your foundation shade. The included dropper will remind you of science class in school, only way more fun. Use one or two drops of foundation for something light and easy, and add more if you want fuller coverage. The cruelty-free, vegan formula will leave your face looking matte and smooth, across a variety of skin tones. One reviewer says, “Hands down, this is the most awesome foundation ever- after 20+ years of struggles with acne, on top of my newly acquired aged details and dark circles from missing out on normal sleep with 3 little ones 4 and under, this stuff covers it all! I have actually had less breakouts since starting to use this (of course I wash it off before bed), and I feel natural with all the coverage I need in all the right spots.”
Always be camera ready with the Wet n Wild Photo Focus Foundation. This foundation was tested under seven light conditions, including clear blue sunlit sky and bathroom light, with and without flash and using smartphones. The resulting formula has a light-diffusing complex to help your face look flawless and matte and prevent any photo flashback. If you didn’t like taking selfies before, this may change your mind. One reviewer says “It looks so good on you will not be able to stop looking in the mirror” and “This makeup is soooo good, soooo affordable I had to buy 2 more. The bottle is nice, the spatula is a nice surprise. It doesn’t seem to oxidise like most and feels really good on the skin. My first wear was alone with no primer and it wore nicely. Matte but not to the point of being dry but not oily either.”
For other products to help give you that fresh-faced look, check our other Beauty Must-Haves.