8 best lightweight foundations
Prefer a natural look? We tested a range of products for blendability, sheer coverage, and whether they gave us a healthy glow for this roundup
If you're lucky enough not to need a full coverage foundation but simply want to give your skin a little barely-there boost, we've got the best lightweight foundations that provide a natural glow and light, buildable coverage without caking, drying or feeling noticeable on the skin.
There's something for every skin type here: those with dry, more mature skin will benefit from one of the creamier, glossier finishes, while oily skin benefits from a thinner, demi-matte formula.
They tend to come in fewer shades than high-coverage foundations as their slightly sheer texture means they blend easily into a range of skintones.
For quick and light application, we prefer a liquid formula applied with our fingers; we recommend dispensing the thinner formulas on to the back of your hand rather than straight on to your fingertips, to stop them running in between your digits.
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Perricone MD no foundation foundation: £45, Amazon
We were suckers for the product name before we’d even tried this foundation, and it doesn’t disappoint. It provides a dewy, glowing and moisturising finish that smoothes out imperfections in texture (more than tone) and doesn’t settle into dry patches. Brilliant for dehydrated skin. We found we got more coverage applying it with our fingers than with a brush.
Charlotte Tilbury light wonder: £32, Charlotte Tilbury
This is what we like to describe as a weekend foundation: it’s totally low-maintenance, being easily (perhaps best) applied with your fingertips and giving glowy, “natural” coverage. Our tester found that it didn't settle into dry patches and that it was hardly noticeable on the skin.
Mac Studio waterweight foundation: £37, Amazon
We wear a lot of different foundations for testing but come back to this one again and again. It offers decent, buildable coverage with a good, oil-controlling semi-matte finish and doesn't look at all cakey on lines or dry patches. We've yet to find anyone this doesn't suit. It also has the best ranges of shades we've found.
Chantecaille future skin foundation: £63, Harvey Nichols
This is a beautifully shiny foundation that looks quite delicious in the pot and feels even more so on skin. It initially feels thick on the fingers but melts into a light, moisturising, satin layer on the face. A pot isn’t our favourite form of packaging for foundation but this one is plastic rather than glass, so it's travel-friendly, and there’s no fiddling round with a pump or pipette.
Estee Lauder double wear nude: £28.47, John Lewis & Partners
The higher coverage "double wear" is one of those foundations that everyone seems to love. Thank goodness, then, that Estee Lauder has created "nude", a lighter version that feels like nothing on the skin. The coverage is sheer, but buildable, and it comes in a brilliant 61 shades. It’s a frosted glass bottle with no pump, which you can buy separately – a gripe of ours – for around £5.
Nars sheer glow foundation: £33, Cult Beauty
This gives a satin textured, semi-matte finish that is very natural and easily buildable coverage. It is very thin on the fingers and settles quite fast so we found we had to work quickly; as a result, we liked it best applied with a damp Beauty Blender. "Sheer glow" comes in a very respectable 40 shades.
Suqqu nude wear liquid: £46, Selfridges
We’re not sure how the Japanese brand managed it, but this is a decent coverage foundation that feels completely lightweight on the skin. You only need a tiny amount to cover your face and it leaves a light-reflecting – but not wet – dewy finish. Our only quibble is the pipette.
Clarins skin illusion: £30, Clarins
The original and, sadly, discontinued Clarins "skin illusion" was one of our favourites, so this had a lot to live up to. While we don’t like it quite as much, this serum inspired foundation is sheer, light and radiant. While we’re not keen on the glass bottle and pipette packaging, we particularly love that the coverage doesn’t hide freckles.
The verdict: Lightweight foundations
We can’t claim that Perricone MD’s offering is budget, but it is totally brilliant. If it’s too steep for you, opt for Mac "waterweight", while Chantecaille "future skin" will reward you beautifully if you can stretch to it.
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