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)!
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.
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!
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
This 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.
2. Revlon Photoready Airbrush Mousse MakeupRather 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).
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
Buy it here! $10.99, Revlon.
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
Buy it here! $9.29-$10.79, Almay.
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
Buy it here! $9.99, Neutrogena.
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
Buy it here! $4, NYC.
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
Buy it here! $5, Black Radiance.
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
Texture: Slick, soft
Buy it here! $12, Physician’s Formula.
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
Buy it here! $6.99-8.99, L’Oreal Paris.
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
Buy it here! $7.99, Maybelline.
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
Texture: Very liquid-y, blendable
Buy it here! $4.99, Rimmel London.
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
Buy it here! $17, Lush.