Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans sought to even out their complexions with a poisonous white chalk. Queen Elizabeth I covered up her smallpox scars with a similarly toxic combination of lead and vinegar that caused irreversible skin discoloration, hair loss, and, yes, death. Actors in the 19th and early 20th centuries relied on a mixture of powdered mineral pigments and grease to form the skin darkening agent they used to counteract the ghostly effects of stage lighting.
By the 1930s, makeup maestro Max Factor developed the first loose powder foundation (aptly named Pan-Cake) using a blend of water, oil, and pigments. Modernized liquid foundation soon followed. After longwearing formulas were created to be worn on the legs in place of stockings after World War II, Coty debuted its "Instant Beauty" tinted fluid for face in 1952 — and the rest of the industry followed suit.
All of this is to say that people have long sought complexion perfection, and today's formulas have, fortunately, come a long way. In fact, the latest crop of foundation promises to do far more than even skin tone and conceal blemishes. The makeup-skincare hybrids combine active ingredients (think: soothing chamomile, brightening grapefruit extract, and moisture-boosting grape seed oil to name a few) with high-tech pigment for both immediate and long-term benefits.
From hydrating tinted moisturizers to smoothing powders, keep scrolling to see our favorite foundations for fall 2019!
RMS Un Cover-Up Cream Foundation Think of this coconut oil-based pot as skincare first, makeup second. Inspired by the cult-status of the brand’s Un Cover-Up Concealer, this 16-shade tinted formula combines organic cold centrifuged coconut oil with nourishing jojoba and meadowfoam seed oils, detoxifying sarsaparilla, and anti-inflammatory turmeric (among others!) for a dewy — but not greasy — finish. $52, rmsbeauty.com
Pat McGrath Labs Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Foundation The makeup artist's cult-favorite line (finally!) expands into complexion — and it's worth the wait. The 36-shade range offers buildable, radiant coverage (sheer to medium) with a serum-like weightlessness. A proprietary blend dubbed the "Vita-Serum Complex" improves the skin's barrier function and hydration levels by activating the body's own hyaluronic acid and ceramide production. $68, sephora.com
Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick This on-the-go stick covers and calms. The medium to full coverage formula comes in 36 shades and promises not to crease or cake due to the elasticity of marshmallow root powder. A cocktail of blue lotus, chamomile, and lavender, meanwhile, works to reduce redness by hydrating and soothing skin. $36, sephora.com
Fenty Pro Filt’r Hydrating Longwear Foundation After changing the complexion market with her OG 40-shade foundation launch in 2017, Rihanna is back with a lightweight, stay-all-day medium to full coverage formula that boasts a natural finish — and 50 shades. Moisture-boosting grape seed oil and sodium hyaluronate ensure the sweat- and humidity-resistant fluid won't settle into fine lines. $35, sephora.com
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Inspired by the ease of French-girl beauty, the makeup-skincare hybrid — which has been a staple since it first launched in 1996 — just got an update. In addition to upping the SPF quotient from 20 to 30, the new version removes parabens and certain kinds of silicone, expands the shade range, and improves the hydration claims (up to 24 hours thanks to macadamia and kukui seed oils), all while maintaining the beloved veil-like finish. $47, sephora.com
Benefit Cosmetics Hello Happy Velvet Powder Foundation Not your grandmother's powder, shea butter extract gives this super smooth matte formula a creamy (read: not cakey) quality. Available in 12 shades, the compact comes with both a brush and sponge applicator for a customizable finish — and easy touch-ups! $30, ulta.com
Nudestix Tinted Cover Foundation The travel-friendly brand expands beyond its namesake sticks with this K-beauty-inspired, 14-shade fluid that provides light, natural coverage. Aromatic lavender oil helps to relieve stress, while tea tree fights environmental stressors and a blend of 18 natural extracts (think: peppermint, grapefruit, and rosemary) offers long-term brightening benefits. $35, sephora.com
Flesh Pure Flesh Liquid Foundation After first hitting the market with its portable sticks in 2018, Flesh is back with a your-skin-but-better fluid in 40 shades, divided among seven undertones. Formulated without parabens, mineral oil, and talc (to name a few), the medium-coverage foundation features soothing and hydrating aloe vera, glycerin, squalene, and sodium hyaluronate for a natural finish. $32, ulta.com
Stila Hide & Chic Fluid Foundation This lightweight liquid comes in 30 budge-proof and buildable shades that impart a stain finish. Give the bottle a shake (007 style!) to activate the complexion-perfecting ingredient mix of firming vegetable extracts, pollution-fighting baobab seed extract, and hydrating Irish sea moss. $39, ulta.com
Dose of Colors Meet Your Hue Foundation The Instagram-famous brand is here with — you guessed it — a filter-like, highly pigmented matte foundation that has a blurring effect to reduce the appearance of fine lines and imperfections. The 42 shades are divided into six categories (fair, light, light medium, medium tan, dark, and deep), and, to eliminate the trials and tribulations of shade matching online, swatch cards of the tones within each category are available for testing. $36, ulta.com
Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Liquid Foundation You need just half a pump (yes, you read that correctly) of this vegan, 24-hour wear formula for a full-coverage, matte finish — no primer required. In fact, the highly concentrated coated pigments (which come in 32 shades) actually work best when applied to freshly moisturized skin that is otherwise bare. How's that for tightening up your makeup routine? $56, sephora.com
Becca Ultimate Coverage 24 Hour Foundation A delicate balance of water and richly coated pigments gives this long-wearing formula a natural finish that hydrates while it covers. Ideal for concealing skin concerns like acne, redness, and hyperpigmentation, the buildable liquid is now available in 42 shades (up from the original 24). $44, ulta.com
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