The 14 Best Water-Based Foundations — and Why You Need OneNovember 17, 2022
Countless brands — including both drugstore (Maybelline New York! L'Oréal Paris!) and high-end brands (Giorgio Armani Beauty! Valentino Beauty!) — have come out with water-based foundation, and many of them are not-so-quietly becoming top sellers and TikTok stars in their own right. They're praised for perfecting one's complexion while also delivering a healthy dose of skincare actives to one's complexion.
If you're still scratching your head about what water-based foundation is, we've got you covered. To answer your biggest questions, we spoke with makeup artist and beauty expert Jenny Patinkin. Ahead, we answer your biggest questions, starting with what is it? before we dive into who it's best for and round up our favorite products from all price points.
What Is a Water-Based Foundation?
Whether or not your foundation is water-based comes down to the ingredient list. "Water-based foundations are formulated without an oil base (aka oil won't be at the top of the ingredient list) and with low on no silicones or dimethicones," says Patinkin. "They tend to feel lighter on the skin and have a natural, sheer finish, but the technology is becoming so advanced that there are some beautiful medium-coverage formulas now, too."
How to tell if your foundation is water-based? The good news: It's easy. Look at your prospective formula's ingredient list; if water (aqua) is listed as the first ingredient, it's water-based. One thing to keep in mind: To ensure your foundation applies seamlessly, be sure to team your water-based foundation with a water-based primer. Otherwise, you run the risk of your foundation pilling or separating. Two of our favorites are the Giorgio Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Hydrating Primer and the Dermablend Insta-Grip Jelly Makeup Primer.
Who Should Use a Water-Based Foundation?
Everyone can benefit from a water-based foundation, especially since many offer skincare benefits — and who doesn't want that? But it's especially great for a few specific skin types, per Patinkin, who notes it's "good for sensitive or acne-prone skin." The reason why it's a great choice is because "oils and '-cones' in an oil-based and silicone-based foundation can be comedogenic or irritating," says the pro. (Editor’s note: A dermatologist can help you determine if ingredients in your foundation are right for your skin type.)
She adds that water-based foundations are also "theoretically good for keeping dry skin hydrated, but some of that depends on the skincare products you use to prep your skin and the climate you live in, too." That being said, be sure your hyaluronic acid-infused water-based foundation isn't the only source of hydration your skin's getting throughout the day. A few products we suggest complementing your foundation with are CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, L'Oréal Paris 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum, and Garnier Green Labs Hyalu-Melon Smoothing Milky Washable Cleanser.
Best Water-Based Foundations
Below, we've rounded up some of our favorite water-based foundations. We've outlined the benefits and differences that make each of them unique so you can decide whether or not to add it to your shopping cart — and daily regimen.
Available in 30 shades, the Lancôme Teint Idôle Ultra Wear & Care Glow Foundation Serum stars hyaluronic acid for a hydration boost and mandelic acid to smooth your skin. It offers buildable medium coverage and has a glowy finish.
As promised by its name, this is a serum — and chances are it's anything but the traditional foundation you're used to. How it works is you apply a few drops directly to your face and then blend in the liquid formula with your fingers or a brush. The result is a radiant, bright finish powered by luminous mineral pigments and hyaluronic acid for hydration.
If you're on TikTok, you're definitely familiar with the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation. It comes in 40 shades and is highly revered for its natural, glowy finish. It's no stranger to the red carpet nor the makeup bags of ordinary people like you and me.
Drugstore aficionados have certainly come across the highly rated Maybelline New York Fit Me! Matte & Poreless Foundation. A fan-favorite in the beauty aisle, especially for oily and combination skin, it features micro-powders to control shine and blur pores, all for a fair price of $9.
IT Cosmetics CC Cream is a highly esteemed complexion perfector. Across the board, the brand is known for its full-coverage formulas, but this one is an exception. It offers medium coverage and boasts a bevy of skincare ingredients: 2% niacinamide to brighten skin and reduce the look of dark spots, pores, and texture, hyaluronic acid for hydration, and green tea extract for environmental protection.
If you're searching for a full-coverage formula, look no further than the Dermablend CC Continuous Correction Cream. It's fade-defying for a whopping 24 hours, per the brand, and ideal for uneven skin tones looking for color correction. Similar to IT Cosmetics, this product doubles as skincare with SPF 50+ and skin-brightening ingredients. It's been clinically tested to improve skin's radiance after just four weeks, according to Dermablend.
Bid adieu to pores and imperfections with the Urban Decay Hydromaniac Tinted Glow Hydrator. This formula has a blurring effect that evens out your skin tone and texture, but above all, it's praised for its ability to keep your skin quenched all day long. It contains marula oil to protect and hydrate your complexion while simultaneously offering buildable, medium coverage with a fresh, glowy finish.
If a super glowy finish isn't your thing, check out the Valentino Beauty Very Valentino 24-Hour Wear Liquid Foundation, which, as the name implies, won't budge or crease for a full day straight. This formula delivers a semi-matte finish and offers buildable, medium coverage and a lightweight texture that you'll barely feel on your skin. Not to mention, it contains SPF26 and comes in 40 shades.
Embrace the dewy skin look with the YSL Nu Bare Look Tint, which we're willing to bet will garner compliments like "You're glowing!" from strangers on the street. Dubbed a "makeup-moisturizer hybrid" by the brand, it's infused with glycerin, hyaluronic acid and brightening mallow that works overtime to hydrate your skin while giving you that effortlessly perfect no-makeup-makeup look.
If you're willing to splurge when it comes to your foundation, keep this unique cream-to-liquid formula from Koh Gen Do on your radar. It's best for those looking for a sheer, your-skin-but-better finish. It contains jojoba oil to help seal in moisture and keep the skin soft and vegetable collagen to improve its elasticity.
Undeniably unique, the Jones Road What the Foundation is a combination of a tinted moisture balm meets traditional foundation. It contains nourishing ingredients, including jojoba oil and sodium hyaluronate, and offers light-to-medium coverage. Plus, it comes with a little spatula, so you don't need to stick your fingers directly into the container.
Check out the Rose Inc Skin Enhance Luminous Tinted Serum for light coverage and a radiant finish. The liquid formula contains pigment spheres suspended within the product's base and burst open when they come in contact with a brush.
Kosas prides itself on including actives in all of its products, including this foundation, which, as seen in the name, contains hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, peptides and squalane. This might be your perfect match if you're looking for a "second skin" formula with medium coverage and SPF.
If you're obsessed with dewy skin, say less: The ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation has you covered (literally). It's a liquid, serum-like formula containing mineral SPF, squalene and hyaluronic acid for hydration and niacinamide to smooth. Just be warned that if you're sensitive to scents, this one has mixed reviews in that department.