Types of foundations – An Overview

Aaaah! The world of makeup is full of possibilities. Purchasing possibilities. And foundations are no strangers to the multiplication of formulas. There are so many different types of foundations that it’s sometimes hard to know what the hell you’re supposed to buy for your skin type or the kind of coverage you are looking for. Let’s have a look at what’s available… 

Liquid foundations

This probably one of the most popular types of foundations nowadays and the market is absolutely flooded with them. They can be put into three big categories:

  • oil-based foundations: which have become quite rare because, let’s be honest: who wants oil in their makeup? They might be suitable to very dry skins, but they’ll be hard to find as a lot of brands have discontinued them. One of the only examples of oil-based foundations is Alexandra de Markoff Countess Isserlyn Cream Makeup.
  • water-based foundations: fun fact: the main ingredient is water (also listed as aqua or eau). Take the name water-based foundation with a pinch of salt, though, because most of them do add silicone to their formulas. It’s just that there’s more water than silicone. Example of a true water-based foundation (or so I’m told): MILK Makeup’s Blur Foundation. Water-based foundations are said to be more gentle on the skin and better suited for skins which are prone to breakouts.
  • silicone-based foundations: are usually known for mattifying and controlling shine and tend to be preferred by people who have oily skin. Silicone-based foundations contain water as well, of course, but it isn’t the main ingredient. Popular silicone-based foundations include Maybelline FitMe and Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, Lancome Teint Idole Ultra Wear, Revolution Conceal and Define, Colourpop No Filter
types of foundations

Ingredients for the Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Isododecane, Alcohol, Polyglyceryl-4 Isostearate, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Hexyl Laurate, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Phenoxyethanol, Acetylated Glycol Stearate, Magnesium Sulfate, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Tristearin, Cellulose Gum, Nylon-12, Limonene, Benzyl Salicylate, Linalool, Diphenyl Dimethicone, Acrylates Copolymer, Fragrance, Disodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Methylparaben, Butylparaben, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Aluminum Hydroxide, Hexyl Cinnamal May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Ultramarines, Mica

Tip: silicones are often listed as cyclopentasiloxane, cyclohexasiloxane, dimethicone and phenyl trimethicone and any cone/-methicone, and -siloxane words.

As you can see here, the second ingredient is a silicone, meaning the foundation contains a lot of it (obviously, water is always first, otherwise it would be impossible to spread the product on your face). 

If you are interested in what ingredients are contained in cosmetics, I highly recommend having a look at the Skincarisma website. You can copy/paste ingredients and it will break down what they are and what they do to your skin.

Tip: for better results, make sure to always pair a water-based primer with a water-based foundation. Same for silicone. 

The coverage of liquid foundations range from light to full, can have all sorts of finishes (matte, dewy, semi-matte, etc.) and cater to all skin types. 

Stick foundations

Much like liquid foundations, stick foundations can cater to all sorts of skin types and range from quite heavy to skin-like finishes. Each brand has a way of making them and you need to read or watch reviews to know what to choose. They range from very affordable (Revolution’s Fast Base) to high-end (Hourglass Vanish Stick). 

Personally, the only stick foundation I’ve ever tried was Clinique’s In the Nude Foundation and it didn’t go down well on my oily skin. It felt very heavy and I looked like a huge walking pore. 

types of foundations

Powder foundations

Powder foundations are the OGs of the makeup game. They tend to be preferred for oily and/or acne-prone skins because they don’t clog pores as much as other types of foundations do. They usually give a matte finish.  The coverage ranges from light to full.

Examples of powder foundations: Maybelline Better Skin Powder, Kat Von D Lock-It Powder, NYX Stay Matte Powder, MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus

types of foundations powder

Serum foundations

Are you still alive? Good. Serum foundations are part of the more ‘modern’ types of foundations. They aim to be very lightweight and give a skin-like finish. They give a velvety, no-makeup makeup look and also have skin care benefits.

Examples: Bare Minerals BareSkin Pure Serum Foundation, Maybelline’s Dream Wonder Foundation, The Ordinary Serum Foundation. 

types of foundations

BB Creams

BB creams are supposed to be lighter than foundations and their main job is to even out your skin tone and provide skin care. The letters BB stand for Blemish Balm (some people also say Beauty Balm). BB creams provide moisture, coverage and usually SPF. They should work on any skin type.

Examples: Bobbi Brown BB Cream SPF 35, Maybelline Makeup Dream Fresh. 

types of foundations bb creams

CC creams

They are pretty much the same as BB creams, except that they’re supposed to colour correct on top of the other benefits (hence the letters CC). Again, the coverage, the texture and the skin type they work better on depend on brands. A CC cream is normally lighter than a BB cream, but some CC creams are pretty heavy (e.g. Clinique).

Examples: Clinique’s CC cream, Bourjois 123 Perfect CC cream

Side note: the shade range in BB and CC creams is usually extremely limited.

Tinted Moisturisers

They’re moisturisers that give you a bit of colour without any added skin care benefits. They get a lot of competition from BB and CC creams and aren’t as popular as they used to be. Their coverage is pretty sheer.

Examples: NARS pure radiant tinted moisturizer,  Laura Mercier Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer, The Balm BalmShelter Tinted Moisturizer SPF 18

types of foundations tinted moisturiser

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far. I hope this post has helped you get a good overview of all the types of foundations that can be found on the market.

What are your favourite types of foundations? Which ones do you dislike?

Here’s a pin for your boards:

types of foundations

9 Comments

  1. October 20, 2018 / 4:44 am

    I really want to try out a tinted moisturiser just for normal everyday, because I don’t really wear foundation on normal days but a tinted moisturiser seems like the way to go for basic everyday wear. Silicon based looks good, I’m going to get the Clinique one when I get the chance.

    • Kate
      Author
      October 21, 2018 / 10:37 am

      Can’t wait to find out what you think of it

  2. September 26, 2018 / 5:13 pm

    This is such an excellent resource! Amazing for anyone wanting to find out more about different types of foundation. I switch between using a silicone-y, full coverage foundation for drag nights, and a serum foundation when I need something during the day.

    Cordelia || cordeliamoor.com

    • Kate
      Author
      September 26, 2018 / 7:20 pm

      What serum foundation would you recommend?

      Thanks for your kind comment <3

  3. September 26, 2018 / 2:08 pm

    I love a good liquid foundation, I feel it’s the best type for working with my combination skin. I have only ever used a MAC stick foundation but have heard loads of great things about the hourglass one. The price is a bit out there mind. Thanks Kate for all the information you have included it’s a really resourceful post.
    Kate x
    http://www.katesbeautyhome.com

    • Kate
      Author
      September 26, 2018 / 3:13 pm

      I’ve tried the Hourglass one once, and it feels expensive lol It’s much better than the Clinique stick.

  4. September 26, 2018 / 12:04 am

    I love the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer because foundation is too heavy for me. I’m constantly adding my Aveda Botanical Kinetics lotion into my Make Up Forever Foundation to liquify it a bit as it’s way too thick like most of them.

    • Kate
      Author
      September 26, 2018 / 3:13 pm

      I’ve never tried the Laura Mercier, but adding moisturiser is a good way of thinning foundation and making it look lovely!

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