Apr 29, 2023

9 Best Lightweight Foundations for Breathable Coverage and a Natural Glow

By Kiana Murden

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Is 2023 the year we ditch the heavy, cakey formulas and finally embrace the best lightweight foundation? If we keep in mind the weightless iterations that brands like Gucci, Saie, and Ilia have launched recently, it's safe to say that the answer is yes.

In the past, medium-to-full-coverage makeup almost certainly meant a heavier-than-desired texture, but the trend for second-skin "I woke up like this" makeup has resulted in formulations that are barely there but also efficacious—veiling fine lines, dark spots, and acne.

"We’re all craving skin care as makeup—products that perform, feel good on, and enhance our skin instead of covering it," notes Saie founder and CEO Laney Crowell. That said, her own troubles finding a foundation suitable for her sensitive, acne-prone skin type informed the brand's latest complexion drop—the Saie Glowy Super Skin Foundation. Similarly Gucci's Éternité De Beauté Luminous Matte Finish Foundation, which made its runway debut during Fashion Week, offers a one-of-a-kind full-coverage, matte-finish formula that manages to still remain breathable. "When shooting backstage for the show, I was like, Oh, my God, it actually works," admits Gucci global makeup artist Thomas de Kluyver. "When [the product] really works, you don't need to fake it." Nowadays everyone from beauty-industry vets to the everyday consumer can tell when natural, comfortable wear is at the heart of any formula. It's all about the way it sits on the skin hours past application, the featured ingredients, and of course, an inclusive shade range. Read on to learn more about the aforementioned lightweight foundations—plus a handful of makeup-artist- and editor-approved elixirs—that have a magical way of mimicking real skin.

Why We Love It: Certainly one of our favorite Chanel foundations, we’ve found this formula excellent for daily wear thanks to its weightless feel and natural-looking radiance. Key Ingredients: Designed for long-lasting hydration, the Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow is made of more than 40% water, with moisturizing agents, antioxidants, and light-reflecting pigments to improve the look and feel of skin. More to Know: Available in 35 shades, this silky-texture foundation offers light-to-medium coverage for a radiant finish.

Why We Love It: Gucci Éternité De Beauté is an excellent choice for someone partial to matte-finish makeup. What makes it special is its breathable wear yet luminous full-coverage finish suitable for oily to slightly dry skin types, according to Kluyver. Key Ingredients: This is enriched with hyaluronic acid and black rose oil to optimize skin's moisture levels, plus bamboo powder to quell excess shine. More to Know: Take your pick of 40 shades across four undertones (warm, cool, neutral, and olive). A little goes a long way; De Kluyver recommends applying your favorite primer first and then blending with a brush for 24-hour wear—perfect for day-to-night glam.

Why We Love It: The first test of this new arrival felt more like a serum than a makeup product. (In fact, I was so excited to wear it daily that I waited weeks for my shade to be available.) Key Ingredients: Saie Glowy Super Skin boasts a nourishing, plumping blend of 85% skin care ingredients and 15% weightless pigment. "The star of the foundation is Hydrobounce Complex, a proprietary active blend that's composed of cross-linked and nonequilibrium [hyaluronic acid], polyglutamic acid, and rice-bran peptides," Crowell explains. Squalane is also featured for a hydration boost and skin-barrier support. More to Know: With 36 shades to choose from, this reveals a buildable medium coverage and glowing finish.

Why We Love It: Dior Forever Skin Glow is celebrity makeup artist Sabrina Bedrani's pick for best lightweight foundation. "It gives a nice dewiness and is very buildable," she details. "When applied with a wet sponge or Beautyblender, it's literally like a second skin." Key Ingredients: Alongside SPF 15, this offers 86% skin care ingredients, including iris, hibiscus, and wild-pansy extracts to revitalize and protect skin during your wear. More to Know: Expect medium-to-full coverage with 24-hour wear and a radiant glow.

Why We Love It: Westman Atelier's foundation stick first goes on as a rich cream but manages to blend like a dream. It's so good that Gwyneth Paltrow, Elle Macpherson, and Gracie Abrams have been cited as fans. Not to mention pro makeup artist Wendy Rowe revealed the foundation as a staple in creating Sienna Miller's enviable glow. Key Ingredients: Backed by Westman Atelier's clean-beauty ethos, this foundation stick is enriched with many good-for-you ingredients. In any case, squalane, berryflux vita extract, camellia seed, and coconut oil are the stars, providing protective, soothing, and hydrating benefits. More to Know: Able to be used as a foundation or concealer, this versatile pick is available in 21 shades for a natural finish and buildable, medium coverage.

Why We Love It: "The cream just melts into the skin and disappears—you can wear as little or as much as you want depending on the application," says Bedrani of this foundation-concealer hybrid. Key Ingredients: One could say this is a thoughtful final step in a skin care routine, thanks to a nourishing blend of botanical extracts (arnica flower, edelweiss, and rosemary), sunflower-seed oil, aloe vera, and chamomile that come together to soothe redness, calm sensitivities, and boost moisture. More to Know: Pro tip: "For a lighter touch, use a wet sponge or wet Beautyblender, and for more coverage, use a brush." A good application will reveal a sheer, natural-looking finish across its 20 shades.

Why We Love It: Bedrani also shares her penchant for this Glossier tint, particularly for those who don't want coverage. "It's very sheer but still evens out the skin," she says. "Sometimes I use one shade darker just to warm up the skin and give it a sun-kissed look." Key Ingredients: Vegan, cruelty-free, and noncomedogenic, this is infused with diamond powder to blur and brighten the skin alongside glycerin for hydration. More to Know: Described as a sheer skin enhancer by Glossier, this is a thin, dewy-finish formula, available in 12 shades.

Why We Love It: Looking for a touch more coverage than Ilia's beloved Super Skin Tint? Meet the True Skin Serum Foundation that melts right in to enhance skin on first application. (For what it's worth, this has been my go-to foundation for the last few months.) Key Ingredients: Formulated with sensitive skin types in mind, this is infused with niacinamide, allantoin, and aloe to deliver a host of soothing, smoothing, and hydrating benefits similar to your favorite face moisturizer. More to Know: Imparting a radiant (but never shiny) finish, this looks like second skin across its 30 shades.

Why We Love It: "It's a tinted moisture balm, but it adds coverage in the places where you most need it," Bobbi Brown, the acclaimed makeup artist, previously told Vogue of her viral formula. Because of its easy application and seamless blend, this is known to deliver a pro-grade glow to mature skin. Key Ingredients: Sodium hyaluronate and jojoba oil, ginger root, and castor-seed oil are the stars of this Jones Road formula. More to Know: Available in 12 shades, this delivers buildable light-to-medium coverage for a natural, skinlike finish.

-Sabrina Bedrani is a brand ambassador for Dior and pro makeup artist whose clients include Gal Gadot, Margot Robbie, and Heidi Klum. -Laney Crowell is the founder and CEO of Saie Beauty. -Thomas de Kluyver is Gucci's global makeup artist, who is known for his transformative beauty looks and fashion collaborations.

Best Long-Wear Hydration Best Matte Finish Best Sheer Finish Best Skin Care–Makeup Hybrid Best Foundation Stick Why We Love It Key Ingredients More to Know Why We Love It Key Ingredients More to Know Why We Love It Key Ingredients More to Know Why We Love It Key Ingredients More to Know Why We Love It Key Ingredients More to Know Why We Love It Key Ingredients More to Know Why We Love It Key Ingredients More to Know Why We Love It Key Ingredients More to Know Why We Love It Key Ingredients More to Know