When someone asks me what my favorite foundation is, I panic at the thought of trying to come up with an answer. Not because I don’t have one, but because I have so many that picking a single winner would be like asking me to choose a favorite Taylor Swift song or episode of The Bold Type. I love them all equally (we can talk about my taste in pop culture later, ok?).
Each foundation I own fits a different need, which is why I’m a major proponent of the idea of putting together a “foundation wardrobe,” the same way you would with your clothes—and beauty pros agree. “I think we all love options, and that’s no different for the type of foundations,” says celebrity makeup artist Aliana Lopez. “Just like our moods, and the weather, things change, and it’s always great to have a foundation that meets your needs from lighter or more sheer coverage to something that makes you feel very glam.”
My own foundation wardrobe consists of an undetectable foundation that I wear on dates, one that I want to make my skin look like I’ve just returned from a five-day vacation in St. Barths, one that I wear when I want people to know I’m intentionally glamming up, an everyday BB cream with SPF , a tinted facial oil, and an old-faithful CC cream. As you can tell, I take this type of thing very seriously.
But of course, my foundation needs aren’t necessarily going to be the same as yours. So, I asked Lopez how to choose a foundation for some of the most common situations so that you can get down to developing a wardrobe of your own. One pro tip to keep in mind as you start your collection? “You can never go wrong with one lighter shade and one warmer shade, because you’ll always fall in between,” says Lopez. “Plus you just customized your own foundation color.” Scroll through for the formulas you need.
For everyday wear: CC+ Cream Oil-Free Matte with SPF 40, $39
“I think a BB cream is wonderful during the day, and top it off with a sheer coverage powder that has SPF in it, to keep you protected and control any shine throughout the day,” says Lopez. While this pick is technically a CC (“color correcting”) instead of a BB (“beauty balm”) cream, it functions just like a foundation and offers full coverage with a matte finish and 40-plus sun protection.
For easy-going full coverage: Il Makiage Woke Up Like This Flawless Base Foundation, $44
To up your liven up at night, opt for something with medium coverage in the finish of your choice. The trick here, though, is all in the application. “To go from day to night, you can just swipe on your medium coverage foundation, focusing on your T-zone,” says Lopez. “It will instantly brighten your skin up, and it’s great to layer your base for more staying power throughout the night.”
When you want SPF (but make it foundation): Laura Mericer Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector SPF 30, $47
“When it’s hot or humid outside, I like to stick to good skin care with SPF protection, and a just using a matte concealer in places you need it,” says Lopez, suggesting that you focus your coverage under your eyes and around any breakouts that might need a little extra product. Tinted moisturizers with SPF, like this pick from Laura Mercier, will give you protection and coverage all at the same time. To keep your look in place no matter how hot it gets, dust it with an SPF-infused translucent powder, like derm-fave Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50 ($65), which will also help control shine.
In cold weather: Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer, $45
Just as you need to use different skin-care products as soon as temperatures drop, you should also consider switching up your foundation. “When it’s cold outside, use a foundation that is dewier with medium coverage, because your skin tends to be dry when the weather is cold,” says Lopez. To keep your complexion looking its most hydrated, skip out on the setting powder.
On light coverage days: NARS Sheer Glow Foundation, $47
“If you want just a little coverage, I like to use a sheer foundation just in the T-zone, blend into your skin with your hands, the heat from your hands warms up the product so it melts into your skin,” says Lopez. Opt for something that goes on sheer and smoothly, like this glow-inducing option, which will make your skin look lit from the inside out. Or, to make any foundation you already own look sheer, apply it exactly like this.
On full-coverage days: Maybelline New York Super Stay Full Coverage Foundation, $12
On days when you need a little something more, your best bet is to use a few different types of products together. “For a poreless look, apply a medium to heavy coverage foundation all over your face, and cover any imperfections that show through with a medium coverage skin toned concealer,” says Lopez. This one will give you coverage without getting cakey, which is a win-win all around.
If your foundation suddenly doesn’t match your skin, try this. And these are the three surprising places where you should always go light with the stuff to avoid looking like a cake-y clown.