The Best Makeup Foundation (from the drugstore!)

Drugstore makeup foundation

There was a time when I would’t have considered putting a drugstore brand foundation on my face. It didn’t matter how broke I was, I never, ever, skimped on foundation. In fact I would have much rather gone without that layer of flaw-softening color rather than put on something that might look fake, orange or ugly. Oh my how times have changed. I can afford department store makeup again, but why pay those prices when the stuff at the drugstore is so lovely? These formulas are outstanding. Each one is slightly different and I use them all for different moments and reasons. One has a light texture but provides medium-weight coverage, one is very sheer, one is just right for travel, and one is perfect for any occasion.

For the record I have combination skin but I’m not really prone to breakouts and so far the wrinkles are not very substantial. I don’t really need a lot of coverage unless I’m posing for photos. (Then I bring out the heavy-duty, super matte finish, foundation.)  All these foundations offer between medium to light coverage and a dewy or softly matte finish.

Disclosure: I purchased all of these products with my own money and was not compensated for the post by the brands I recommend, however there are affiliate links embedded in some of the links. If you click on them I will receive a small commission. Thank you for your support!

My Favorite Makeup Foundation

The best drugstore foundation

Maybelline Dream Smooth Mousse comes in a flat round compact with two sections; One side holds a sponge and the other a pan of color. The name is somewhat misleading as it is not a mousse at all. It’s a solid cream makeup but don’t let the heavy-looking consistency fool you. This isn’t pancake makeup. It glides on effortlessly and blends flawlessly. Smear a bit on your skin with a foundation brush or the sponge for a creamy-looking complexion with a soft, dewy shine. I find it delivers medium coverage but it can be built up in specific areas if more camouflage is needed.

Obviously, this one is great for travel. If it does break nothing much will happen to the content. But I don’t just use it for vacations. It’s a great foundation for the days when I want a little more coverage.  Of all the products in this article I’ve used this foundation the longest and have gone back and repurchased it several times.

Revlon Colorstay Whipped Creme Makeup received rave reviews on the internet almost as soon as it hit the market in the fall of 2012. Intrigued, I waited until I found a jar on sale to try it out. This one is a little pricier than most, but worth every penny. The texture is thick and creamy, almost like sour cream. The coverage is fairly substantial but it looks natural and softly matte once on the skin. I usually wear this foundation in the evening when I want a flawless look and I always apply it with a brush. Fingers in a pot of liquid makeup is a no-no!

Revlon Foundation

Another new product to receive rave reviews is Maybelline Dream Liquid Foundation. This sheer foundation is the one I grab when I want something light and natural. The pump bottle dispenses what feels like a regular liquid foundation but it glides on the skin like a dream and quickly blends in until you hardly even notice anything is there. It’s quickly become my favorite daytime foundation.

Tinted moisturizer isn’t really makeup foundation, but I am so in love with e.l.f. Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 that I think it would be neglectful of me not to mention it. For years and years I searched for an inexpensive tinted moisturizer at the drugstore. Even though I found some by Neutrogena that I liked, nothing was quite as good as my favorite $30 tube from the department store. When I read a rave review online of this product I was skeptical. This little tube costs $3! How could anything that retails for less than a cup of coffee compete with a tube that costs nearly three times as much? Well, it does. It really is just a moisturizer with some color and offers very little coverage, but often its all I need to look a bit more polished.

Finding the right color

One of the challenges with drugstore makeup is that it’s not always easy to find the perfect color. The color charts can be confusing and often one can’t tell by looking at the container what will and will not work. I’ve had the best results when I bring a department store foundation with me to the drugstore. I have a glass jar of makeup that matches my skin exactly. The last time I went foundation shopping I held it up against the drugstore bottles and it made it much easier to find the right color. If worse comes to worse, buy a couple different shades to take home and try out. Keep the receipt and return the ones that don’t work.

Shop the Makeup!

Click on an image below to buy the makeup online.

Have you tried any of these foundations? What do you think of makeup foundation? Do you wear it?

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19 Responses to The Best Makeup Foundation (from the drugstore!)

  1. Pam
    January 9, 2013 at 5:04 am #

    Excellent review…I am currently using Aveeno Tinted Moisturizer and really like it…but it is not $3!! What a great price!
    Pam recently posted..Six Ways to Handle Your Worst CriticMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca January 9, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

      You can find ELF at Target. I’m really impressed with it. It’s just as good as the expensive brands I used to use.

  2. nofearoffashion January 9, 2013 at 5:47 am #

    Sorry, I never use this stuff, so I have no opinions on the subject.
    nofearoffashion recently posted..Orange safari jacketMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca January 9, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      It’s OK Greetje. A lot of women don’t use foundation. (:

  3. Oh to Be a Muse
    January 9, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Yeah, it’s always tough trying to find the right color and coverage, but thanks for this list. I would try the ELF for light coverage and the liquid dream mousse for medium coverage.
    Oh to Be a Muse recently posted..What I’m Loving in JanuaryMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca January 9, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

      Both formulas are light, with the elf being really light. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! please let me know if you try one and what you think if you do.

    January 9, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    I feel the need to own foundation for “just in case” but almost never wear it because I dislike it, preferring the look of fresh, well-maintained skin.
    Instead, when I need a finished look, I use Chanel Poudre Universelle Compact natural pressed powder.
    Your query about Rick Owens: Easy answer! Try department stores such as Saks, Barneys, Neiman Marcus; and specialty online boutiques like,…many others, just google. You’ll find diverse price points so it pays to have several sources for buying his designs.

    • Heather Fonseca January 9, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

      I know a lot of women who don’t like foundation. I think I might be a bit weird in this department because I love how my skin looks with it on, but I have a fairly blotchy complexion, so that might be the reason.
      I’ll see if I can’t find Rick Owens. I don’t go to the stores you mentioned often, but sometimes I meet friends at Barneys for fun. I’ll check his work out then. Thanks!

  5. Alexis Grace January 9, 2013 at 5:13 pm #

    I actually don’t wear foundation… but I think you give some great advice here! It is hard to find the right color, coverage and weight. Thanks for sharing your advice!!
    Alexis Grace recently posted..Emerald Green JewelryMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca January 10, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post Alexis. I know a lot of women don’t wear foundation. I think it depends upon your skin, which I seem to remember was beautiful and flawless. With that kind of skin you don’t need foundation!

  6. SACRAMENTO January 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    I use a very light one by Lóreal.
    You are not only beautiful, but also so professional, my dear Heather.

    • Heather Fonseca January 12, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      Which one? I like a lot of L’oreal’s products. Glad you like the post!

  7. A Brit Greek
    January 12, 2013 at 3:45 am #

    I loved reading this post and many of your reviews on beauty products, even though I have a different skin type/colour to you, the info is priceless. I like the sound of the Revlon one for more complete coverage. I don’t really wear foundation, but have been using a BB cream in the day instead.
    I also have issues finding the right shade as I tan so easily in summer, resorting to buying a different foundation for both seasons.
    A Brit Greek recently posted..FABULOUS FRIDAYS: PRABAL GURUNG FOR TARGET 2013My Profile

    • Heather Fonseca January 12, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

      One of the nice things about buying less expensive makeup is that you can buy more than one and use them for different purposes and times of year. Like you I love BB creams, but so far the only one I’ve tried that I love is by too faced. I’m sure eventually I’ll come across a drugstore one that’s good too and I’m sure I’ll talk about it here!

  8. Sammantha January 14, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    I usually shy away from elf, but recently have discovered a love for their makeup used in unconventional ways, like highlighter as a concealer and tinted moisturizer used as a subtle highlighter.

    Loving your blog!


    • Heather Fonseca January 15, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      Hi Sammantha and thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! I’ll have to try the moisturizer as a highlighter. Sounds like a good idea. I like their gel eye liner too.

  9. Sammy June 17, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    I really liked your post! The tips are good, just the specific products I have a problem with (especially Maybelline, none of their foundations is light enough for me to use 🙁 ). For choosing the right foundation I really like Ps Beauty, their blog and website are full of useful resources, I particularly rate this article: . Btw, I agree with Heather, I haven’t tried any of the foundation or face tints from elf but I love their studio highlighter (there is four shades in a pan, the beige one is very natural and gives a lot of radiance but isn’t too frosty – at the same time it’s there because some highlighters I find to be so subtle they barely show up.. Sammy xx

    • Heather Fonseca June 17, 2013 at 8:50 am #

      HI Sammy. Thanks so much for stopping by and letting me know what you thought of my post. I’m sorry Maybelline doesn’t offer a shade light enough for your skin tone! I know that colors on both the light and the dark range of skin colors are more difficult to find. If your skin is very light you might need to find a more expensive line of cosmetics to blend in with your skin tone. My own skin is sort of medium-light, and I have no problem finding colors that match.

  10. Sara December 18, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    Would you consider the revlon colorstay as a drugstore product? I though it’s more than that as revlon is a big brand.

    I have this foundation, the thing that bothers me most is I don’t have a pump, and to get one would out cost the product price. I understand this foundation is cheap but a pump would make it more superior. If you know where I can get a cheap second hand pump let me know.

    For me personally, a drugstore brand is some chinese manufacturer who’s trying to sell his products under other names, otherwise everything else is equally the same and can come up as a good buying experience or a bad one.

    Have a great weekend,