10 Under $20: The Best Drugstore Foundations For Your Budget

Best-Drugstore-Foundation-Reviews-Collage

Finding the right foundation can be dubiously hard, particularly when you can’t try the products on in-store. But department stores and expensive makeup counters can be…well, expensive. And who really has the money to consistently pay for $55 foundation that will last just a few months? There are so many amazing brands from the drugstore that you can try (as well as 1 from a pretty unexpected place)!

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Whether you are looking for a mousse, airbrush makeup, liquid or a tinted moisturizer, this list has got you covered. From sheer to full, soft to thick, we tell you what works (and what doesn’t) from popular, inexpensive brands starting at just $5. Plus, because there are so many more skin tones than just mine — and because I do not want everyone to get as sick of my face as I am certain you all already are — I utilized my lovely coworkers’ faces, including folks from Crushable and Gurl, to review these foundations and let me know what they thought of each product.

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As always, if you have any questions you would like me to answer, product reviews you want to read, or tutorials you are interested in seeing in the future, email me or drop a comment. And be sure to tell us what your favorite inexpensive foundation is!

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no makeup photos

Here is Sam (me!, top left), Olivia (top right), Ashley (bottom left), and Meg (bottom right) without makeup.

1. CoverGirl & Olay Tone Rehab 2-in-1 Foundation

Olivia CoverGirl & Olay Tone RehabThis formula is ultra-creamy which makes it really blendable. A little goes a long way, so you don’t need a whole lot to get your desired effect, so it does offer buildable coverage and that is always a nice timesaver for base products. It also comes in a large variety of shades, which is great considering so do humans.

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 2. Revlon Photoready Airbrush Mousse MakeupRevlon Photo Airbrush Ready SamRather than spraying this product directly to your face, as many airbrush makeups are applied, spray a bit onto the back of your hand and then apply using a sponge or fingertips (I chose the latter, as I typically do).

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I personally really liked the foundation’s appearance and texture on my skin. It’s light and airy, but it can look heavy very quickly if you layer it on more than a little bit, so just make sure to only apply as much as you need.

Pros: Buildable, silky
Cons: Comes out of bottle quickly, can look overdone
Texture: Light, airy
Coverage: Medium – Full
Overall: 4/5
Buy it here! $10.99, Revlon.

3. Almay TLC Truly Lasting Color 16 Hour Makeup
Almay TLC Sam

I’m not a fan of this foundation. While it looks plenty natural, its coverage isn’t buildable, so my skin practically looks the same all over with redness, spots and uneven patches showing through. Plus, it feels a little sticky, which I am not a fan of.

Pros: Looks natural (really, really natural)
Cons: Not buildable, sticky
Texture: Slightly sticky, watery
Coverage: Light
Overall: 2/5
Buy it here! $9.29-$10.79, Almay.

4. Neutrogena Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup SPF 20
neutrogena foundation sam

The texture of this is so fantastic. It’s soft, if that makes sense, and makes my skin feel really lovely. While this isn’t the absolute perfect shade for me (it’s a teensy bit too dark, which I probably could’ve predicted giving that I am freakishly pale), I would recommend this foundation to just about anybody if they can find their shade. The coverage was nicely buildable without looking cake-y.

Pros: Buildable, smooth, silky, SPF
Cons: Not in my freakishly pale skintone
Texture: Smooth, silky
Coverage: Medium
Overall: 5/5
Buy it here! $9.99, Neutrogena.

5. New York Color Smooth Skin Liquid Makeup
nyc foundation sam

NYC is always a great brand if you’re looking for a good deal for your money. This foundation is nicely blendable and easy to apply, but it is so difficult to get out of the bottle. I had to use my finger, which was a little annoying; it just feels more like a thin cream rather than an actual liquid foundation, so its packaging should reflect that.

Pros: Easy to apply, blendable, non-greasy
Cons: Not particularly buildable, f’ing impossible to get out of bottle
Texture: Creamy liquid, smooth
Overall: 3/5
Buy it here! $4, NYC.

6. Black Radiance Color Perfect Oil Free Liquid Make-Up
blackradiance ashley

I had never tried this brand before (which makes sense, given that it’s primarily made for women of color and I am approximately as pale as cream cheese. It has a fantastic applicator and a smooth liquid formula that doesn’t feel sticky or unpleasant on your fingers after you apply it to your face. Plus, it comes in tons of shades that are often neglected by major brands.

Pros: Excellent packaging and applicator, blendable
Cons: Not very buildable
Coverage: Medium
Texture: Silky
Overall: 4/5
Buy it here! $5, Black Radiance.

7. Physician’s Formula Organicwear Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15
physicians formula meg

Physician’s Formula is a fantastic brand (remember their amazing mascara?) for anybody who likes natural products. This particular tinted moisturizer is great if you want a base makeup that is 100% free of parabens and synthetic preservatives.

Pros: Natural, SPF, hydrating
Cons: Flows out of packaging too quickly
Coverage: Sheer
Texture: Slick, soft
Overall: 4/5
Buy it here! $12, Physician’s Formula.

8. L’Oreal True Match Super-Blendable Makeup SPF 17
loreal true match sam

Another product I used to use in high school! This one is great because L’Oreal makes it in a large variety of undertones and hues, so it can be even more well-matched to your skintone (always a good thing when it comes to a product that is supposed to look totally natural).

Pros: SPF, comes in variety of shades and undertones, blendable
Cons: Not very buildable
Coverage: Medium
Texture: Smooth
Overall: 4/5
Buy it here! $6.99-8.99, L’Oreal Paris.

9. Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse
maybelline foundation dream matte mousse meg

I used to use this foundation in high school. It’s nice, and I think they have improved the formula since then, but I’m not particularly fond of the texture. I know a lot of people who absolutely love the whipped aspect, though, so if you’re keen on products with that type of formula, check this one out for sure. It’s infinitely less expensive than most brands’ whipped options.

Pros: Light, airy, whipped foundation, easily blendable
Cons: Isn’t light enough, feels grainy on fingertips
Texture: Whipped, airy, grainy
Coverage: Medium
Overall: 3/5
Buy it here! $7.99, Maybelline.

 10. Rimmel Match Perfection SPF 18rimmel foundation sam

This is an inexpensive option with a smooth finish. If you want sheer to light coverage in a liquid foundation, this one could definitely work for you.

Pros: Smooth finish, easy to apply, SPF
Cons: Not buildable
Coverage: Light
Texture: Very liquid-y, blendable
Overall: 3/5
Buy it here! $4.99, Rimmel London.

BONUS: Lush Jackie Oates Colour Supplement
lush jackie outes sam

When I heard that Lush had a foundation-like cream, I was genuinely surprised. They’ve been such a staple of my skincare, haircare and vacation routines (bubble baths 4evr) for so long, I was thrilled to see that they were making base makeup.

To be fair, this isn’t a drugstore brand, but it is fantastic and it’s under $20, so I thought I would add it in as a bonus!

I really like how it feels, as well as its smell, which is a light but soothing scent. Plus, it’s one of the few base makeups that actually runs light enough for my skin tone.

Pros: Fresh scent, good color, natural
Cons: Drying on undereye area
Coverage: Sheer
Texture: Creamy
Overall: 4/5
Buy it here! $17, Lush.

Share This Post:
    • Emily

      Ya’ll have such pretty skin before the makeup I hardly notice a difference! Definitely think I’ll try out the Covergirl/Olay one though…

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Dawww thank you! :D I will be sure to pass on the compliment to my wonderful coworkers/test subjects! I really love the texture of the CoverGirl one, so I strongly recommend it :)

    • Kristen

      That’s a bummer Almay didn’t win you over. I use their clear complexion foundation and love it. I always get compliments on my skin when I wear it…{whispering voice} and I don’t actually have a great complexion either.

    • Jenni

      Love Meg’s pre-make-up face, it’s exactly how I feel when I don’t wear make-up.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Can we all chip in to buy Meg some make-up? She’s all but disconsolate when she’s not wearing any.

    • LynnKell

      I found my dream foundation in Maybelline’s Fit Me foundation. Finally a drug store that matches my yellow undertones… most foundations sold in Mexico have an inexplicable pink undertone. Also, my not so pale but hard to match MAC’s WN30. Only thing I hate about the Fit Me line: every fucking product has its number unrelated to the rest. I wear foundation 270, powder 210 and concealer 25.

    • Amanda

      Can I just say that Olivia is one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen? Also, I love using Wet’n'Wild’s tinted moisturizer. It works great, gives me a good amount of light coverage that helps smooth out my skin tone but still looks natural. And it’s only $3-4 at Walgreens!

      • Olivia Wilson

        Hey Amanda! Thank you so much for saying that, you’re actually incredible.

        (Now I’m just trying to figure out which type of muffin basket to send you.)

    • Tania

      I thought the Loreal true match and the Black Radiance foundations provided the best coverage while looking glowy.

    • Roxanne Marie Zoltan

      Ahhh I’ve been anticipating the foundation edition of this series and I’m so pleased! Also, that lipstick in the L’oreal True Match photo makes your lovely eyes explode in the most beautiful way.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        Cargo lipstick in Bordeaux!!! Oh my god, I’m obsessed with it. I’ve always been so nervous about dark reds and purples because I’m so pale, so I stuck to bright and true reds, but I think I may be going through a bit of a dark phase with my makeup…I also just got one from Manic Panic that is so dark, it’s almost black-purple, you have to try it when I see you! <3

      • Roxanne Marie Zoltan

        I LOVE dark purple-red/almost black lipsticks. They make me feel like a glorious and sad silent movie star. I’ll even wear black lipstick if I feel like dealing with the hassle of it. I’ve been using Kat Von D’s lipstick in Homegirl, which I got because it’s such a nice shade but I do not recommend – it’s gritty and drying – soooo I need to try the Manic Panic one.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      This is so helpful, I’m always hesitant to try new products, especially drugstore brands. Still, you will pry my Dr. Jort tinted BB cream from my cold, dead hands.

    • Rosh

      Maybelline fit me liquid foundation 340 blends perfectly well on my face. I’m an Indian with probably a mix of olive warm tone…Finallly a colour that just matches my skin tone… I’m so happy with this product… For some people it makes them look too greasy. I think its perfect during winter time. I absolutely have no issues with this product. It is a dream foundation.. absolutely looove!!

    • natalie

      I use the neutragena skin clearing stuff because I have/had pretty bad acne and anything esle makes me break out like crazy. It’s not the best best texture, but it doesn’t GIVE me pimples, so it’s a win. It’s not bad coverage too. It’s like 13 bucks or something.

    • Raquel

      Love Samantha’s lipstick in the L’Oreal photo! I think we have similar coloring so I may try that one out (I’ve been on a dark lipstick kick lately).