The Best Light-Coverage Foundations

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I hate the feel of thick, heavy foundations, but sometimes, I still want to even out my complexion with a light wash of color. In my quest over the years to find a foundation that doesn’t suffocate my skin, I quickly realized that the best light-coverage foundations aren’t usually foundations at all. Instead, BB (or CC) creams, tinted moisturizers, or, my personal favorite, tinted serums, are much better alternatives when you’re looking for a lightweight form of base makeup — and ahead, you’ll find a selection of the very best.

You can also achieve lighter coverage by mixing a few drops of your foundation in with your favorite moisturizer — this will thin out the consistency a bit so it doesn’t look as thick or “cakey.” Be sure to prep your skin properly, too: Foundation that’s applied on freshly moisturized skin will both look and feel a lot better. (I like to use a plumping or smoothing serum, followed by moisturizer, to get my skin foundation-ready.) For the lightest coverage, try diffusing your foundation over your skin with a densely-packed brush or makeup sponge, and always start with just a few drops of product. You can always add more!

To find your perfect foundation match, keep scrolling — all of these products are lightweight on skin, easy to blend, and available in a wide range of shades. The best part, though? They start at just $9 on Amazon.

1. Editor’s Pick

I absolutely adore ILIA’s Super Serum Skin Tint — it’s such a unique product, being both a tinted serum and mineral sunscreen in one. The super-light formula (which is free of fragrance, silicones, and oil) glides over my skin smoothly and dries down into a dewy, natural-looking finish, so my face never looks patchy or dry. It also contains two of my favorite ingredients — squalane (great for moisturizing) and niacinamide (a skin-soothing antioxidant) — in addition to hyaluronic acid, which contributes to its hydrating, plumping effect. Best of all, it offers SPF 40 protection, so it’s the perfect one-and-done product for rushed mornings when you don’t have the time (or energy) to do a multi-step routine. Just dab a few drops of cream blush on top, swipe on some mascara and tinted lip balm, and you’re ready for the day.

  • Available shades: 28

2. Best Drugstore Serum Foundation

Another great serum/foundation hybrid is the L'Oreal Paris Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation — but this one won’t cost you a cent more than $12. Made with antioxidants and hydrating ingredients, this, too, offers ample sun protection, though its SPF 50 comes from chemical sun blockers, rather than the zinc oxide found in the ILIA skin tint (to be clear, though, there’s nothing wrong with that — whether you prefer mineral or chemical sunscreen is a simple matter of personal preference). This lightweight foundation gives your skin a “radiant” finish, and stays that way throughout the day. It’s another amazing product for people who prefer to keep their a.m. routines streamlined.

  • Available shades: 30

3. Best BB Cream

If you prefer a less fluid consistency, a BB cream may be the better option for you. Purlisse’s insider-favorite BB cream (remember, BB cream, which was popularized in Korea, stands for “beauty balm”) offers all sorts of skin care benefits, as it moisturizes, soothes, and protects (both from the sun, with its SPF of 30, and from other environmental aggressors, as it’s rich in antioxidants). It provides very light coverage, and simply evens out your complexion rather than covers it up — so your skin will still look like skin.

  • Available shades: 11

4. Best Tinted Moisturizer

Honest Beauty’s take on the classic CC cream combines the brightening benefits of vitamin C with SPF 30 — all in one, tinted product that promotes an even-looking skin tone with its sheer, blurred, radiant finish. Enriched with soothing allantoin, smoothing dimethicone (a silicone), and nourishing ingredients like glycerin, jojoba esters, and tocopherol, this tinted moisturizer even claims to help protect your skin from potentially damaging blue light. It comes at a pretty reasonable price, too.

  • Available shades: 9

5. Best Lightweight Drugstore Foundation

If you’re intent on buying a traditional foundation, Maybelline’s Dream Radiant Liquid Hydrating Foundation is one of the best options you can get for less than $10. Though it provides medium coverage, according to the brand, it’s still extremely smooth and lightweight — that’s thanks to its water base and the hyaluronic acid in the formula. This foundation is easy to build up on the days when you do want more coverage, or you can diffuse it by mixing it in with your moisturizer or applying it with a damp Beautyblender.

  • Available shades: 20

6. Best Powder Foundation

For those who prefer powder foundations, there’s even an option for you. COVER FX’s Pressed Mineral Foundation allows you to customize the amount of coverage you get, thanks to its super-buildable, pressed-powder formula. Offered in an impressive 40-shade range, it contains kaolin clay to help soak up excess oil, while phytosphingosine helps calm and strengthen skin. This powder has a matte finish, and can be used either on its own or together with any of the other foundations on this list.

  • Available shades: 40

7. Honorable Mention

ZAAs its name suggests, PÜR’s “4-in-1” tinted moisturizer does the job of four products: moisturizer, primer, foundation, and sunscreen — though note that it only has an SPF of 20, which doesn’t quite reach the daily derm-recommended amount of SPF 30. Still, if you’re wearing it over another sunscreen or indoors in an area that’s not very sunny, this is a solid option to consider. Made with nourishing shea butter, hydrating aloe juice, and vitamin B3 (aka niacinamide), it has a smooth, creamy feel and provides just the right amount of color without looking cakey or unnatural.

  • Available shades: 15