The Best Alternatives To Foundation

Old-school foundations have nothing on these skin care/makeup hybrids.

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When you need a full-coverage base, foundation is typically the go-to product. But if you're looking for something that gives you a fresh-faced glow, that same, thick, opaque foundation isn't the answer. (Not to mention, many of the heavier foundations can lead to clogged pores and feel suffocating on your skin on hot, humid days.) That's where the best alternatives to foundation come in, which are lightweight formulas that offer sheer to medium coverage. Typically, they come in the form of tinted moisturizers, BB creams, and CC creams, with tinted serums being the newest product to enter the category.

When narrowing down the right foundation alternative for you, consider what type of finish you prefer (typically, your options are going to be matte or dewy). Also, consider your skin type and any skin concerns you have, since many of these products contain active ingredients like hydrating hyaluronic acid, inflammation-fighting niacinamide, and antioxidant-rich vitamin C. Most of the foundation alternatives on this list come in a wide range of shades to match most skin tones, and many of them include some form of SPF, as well (though you’ll still want to apply your usual sunscreen first.)

From water-light tinted serums to glow-boosting CC creams, these are the best alternatives to foundation.

Shop The Best Alternatives To Foundation

In a hurry? Here are the best alternatives to foundation:

  1. Best Drugstore Tinted Moisturizer: Wet N Wild Bare Focus Tinted Hydrator
  2. Best Prestige Tinted Moisturizer: PÜR 4-in-1 Tinted Moisturizer
  3. Best Drugstore Tinted Serum: L'Oréal Paris True Match Hyaluronic Tinted Serum
  4. Best Prestige Tinted Serum: ILIA Beauty Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
  5. Best BB Cream: Pūrlisse Perfect Glow BB Cream SPF 30
  6. Best CC Cream: IT Cosmetics CC+ Nude Glow Lightweight Foundation + Glow Serum SPF 40

1. Best Drugstore Tinted Moisturizer

For a drugstore alternative to foundation, this Wet N Wild Bare Focus Tinted Hydrator has more than 7,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. Despite its semi-matte finish, the tinted moisturizer helps to hydrate skin as it provides light to medium coverage, thanks to ingredients like hyaluronic acid and squalane. It's also a fragrance-free formula that's cruelty-free and vegan, and the coverage, which starts out fairly sheer, is nice and buildable.

SPF Level: None Available Shades: 8 Finish: Semi-Matte Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Squalane Size: 0.9 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

Relevant Review: “Who knew that this under $5.00 tinted moisturizer would replace my foundation. Talk about skin but better! After being in lockdown so long I was accustomed to my skin without makeup to the point that when I applied foundation I found It looked so unnatural. I tried several more costly brands and landed on this one because of the price and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to foundation again. I have a natural flawless coverage now. Love it.”

2. Best Prestige Tinted Moisturizer

Similar to the product above, PÜR’s 4-in-1 Tinted Moisturizer is a tinted hydrator that offers lots of skin care benefits and buildable coverage. The difference? This one has the added benefit of SPF 20. A great alternative to foundation that’s been slowly garnering a cult following online, this tinted moisturizer is formulated with retinol and retinyl palmitate to promote a more even complexion over time, but be warned that these ingredients may not work for those with particularly sensitive skin. That said, the formula is balanced out by plenty of hydrating and moisturizing ingredients, like aloe, shea butter, and sodium hyaluronate (aka hyaluronic acid).

SPF Level: 20 Available Shades: 15 Finish: Dewy Key Ingredients: Sodium Hyaluronate, Aloe, Chamomile, Shea Butter, Vitamin E Size: 1.7 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

3. Best Drugstore Tinted Serum

L'Oréal’s True Match Hyaluronic Tinted Serum will be your new MVP if you’re looking for a water-light alternative to foundation that feels like nothing on your skin. The lightweight but buildable coverage creates an even looking skin tone, while hyaluronic acid — which offers immediate skin-plumping benefits — prevents the tinted color from looking cakey throughout the day. To better help you find your color match, the brand breaks down its shade range into cool, warm, and neutral undertones.

SPF Level: None Available Shades: 14 Finish: Natural Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: No

Relevant Review: “Typically avoid foundation makeup- this is lightweight, easy to apply, stays fresh but doesn't rub off onto ANYTHING.”

4. Best Prestige Tinted Serum

Nearly 2,000 Amazon reviewers gave this tinted serum a five-star rating for its lightweight, multi-tasking formula. ILIA Beauty’s Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 uses mineral sun blockers to protect skin from the sun, blue light, and pollution. Most impressive of all, the sheer skin tint is infused with ingredients like squalane, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and aloe vera to immediately hydrate and soothe skin while helping to fade unwanted hyperpigmentation with continued use. A great option for sensitive and acne-prone skin types, the skin tint is noncomedogenic and free from silicones, fragrances, and oils.

SPF Level: 40 Available Shades: 29 Finish: Dewy Key Ingredients: Squalane, Shea Butter, Niacinamide, Aloe Vera, Bisabolol, Hyaluronic Acid, Allantoin Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

Relevant Review: "This is everything I hoped it would be. I've already bought my second bottle. It's not a full-coverage foundation, BB, or CC cream; but what it is is pure magic. It is moisturizing but not greasy, the sun protection is fantastic, and the light skin tint and sun-kissed look is everything. I would recommend to anyone and everyone, and I will be buying this again and again."

5. Best BB Cream

BB creams (also known as blemish balms or beauty balms) are a go-to substitute for foundation as they were initially created to care for the skin while also offering lightweight coverage. In keeping with that goal, Pūrlisse’s Perfect Glow BB Cream SPF 30 developed a medium-coverage formula that's suitable for oily, sensitive, and combination skin types. With a semi-matte finish, the BB cream includes a mix of antioxidant ingredients, like chamomile flower extract and goji berry extract, that moisturize and brighten as they provide skin with additional protection from sun damage and environmental stressors.

SPF Level: 30 Available Shades: 11 Finish: Semi-Matte Key Ingredients: Chamomile Flower Extract, Goji Berry Extract, Hawthorn Berry Extract Size: 1.4 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

Relevant Review: I swear by this stuff. I’m not a big fan of full coverage base/foundation. This is the perfect amount of coverage for a natural look, plus it doubles as a moisturizer. A little goes a long way and a bottle lasts me about 2-3 months. I’ve tried a few cheaper cc and bb creams from other brands, but they just don’t compare since finding this brand. 10/10 totally recommend. It is worth the price.”

6. Best CC Cream

IT Cosmetics changed the game with their line of CC creams, which offer more coverage than your average foundation alternative without skimping on the skin care benefits. Their CC+ Nude Glow Lightweight Foundation + Glow Serum SPF 40 gives you medium coverage to rival any foundation in your arsenal, as well as sun protection and hydration (just a handful of the good-for-skin ingredients in here include snail mucin, green tea, and hyaluronic acid). And then there's niacinamide, which works to soothe and brighten skin both immediately and over time.

SPF Level: 40 Available Shades: 22 Finish: Dewy Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Snail Mucin, Hyaluronic Acid, Green Tea Extract, Vitamin E Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes

Relevant Review: “I like the Natural look. I don't look overmade. In fact, most people don't know I'm even wearing makeup. It just evens out the complexion in the most natural way.”

About The Author:

Marissa DeSantis has worked as a beauty writer and editor for nearly 10 years. Her pieces can be found across print and digital publications like Bustle, Evening Standard, Teen Vogue, and InStyle.