The Best Drugstore Foundations

Drugstore Foundations
Almay Smart Shade & Smart Shade Anti-Aging
Covergirl truBLEND Liquid Makeup
Revlon Nearly Naked Makeup

I once read that one should always invest in good foundations. Thinking more carefully on this, it was an interview with a French woman, and it was about clothing, not makeup. Foundation pieces. Coats and boots and wool dresses and let's throw bras in there, too. Nevertheless, the misremembered advice stuck with me as one of those understood, ‘just because’ types of wisdom bits.

I began researching fuller-coverage foundations, after my $62 bottle of slap-on sheer Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ceased to be able to perfect the ever-evolving Martian landscape on my face. (My sensitive skin isn’t vibing with NYC tap water—nor the NYC takeout, the NYC subway bacteria, the NYC roommates who’ll forcefully drain your cortisol reserves…) Which, by the way, isn’t hard at ITG, where you have dozens of foundation options in your immediate vicinity at any given moment. That’s when I started to consider the drugstore foundations—a subset that I’d ignored due to advice I’d never actually received.

I began to play around, testing thickness, coverage, shades, tones, undertones, and blendability. Over the course of a month I had amassed a sampling of almost every single drugstore foundation available at any given CVS across the country. I dabbled in stick and powder foundations, but figured I’d focus on liquids for the sake of time, internet-article length restrictions (some of you guys have already stopped reading this), and my pores. After finding the best matches for my manila-folder skin tone—no small task, as most drugstore foundations are far too pink, orange, or dark—I road-tested the 12 that went on the nicest, each for a full workday. The ones that lasted the best, I tested again. Yep, I run a watertight operation over here. I remember the Scientific Method, as taught to seventh graders. Question: Make me look pretty… ? Hypothesis: At least one of these will work. Testing: Refer to the beginning of this paragraph. Trifold Foam Board: The lime green one. Conclusion:

Almay Smart Shade & Smart Shade Anti-Aging

So these are fun because they have the novelty color-changing action going on straight out of the tube, which I’m always a bit suspicious of. But they sponge on easily with a rosewater-dampened Beauty Blender, impressive compared to many of the drugstore options I tried, which took way too much blending to smooth over the skin. And the coverage was light to medium, but buildable. They evened out all the spots leftover from NYC-style zits on the sides of my face, so no need for concealer.

I’m reviewing these in unison because I found that mixing them together worked best. The Anti-Aging formula has tiny specs of mica that reflect for a brightening look, which I liked, but liked better when diluted with the other, non-reflective formula. They have SPF 15 and SPF 20, respectively.

Covergirl truBLEND Liquid Makeup

Shout out to Covergirl for their color range; the revamped selection of truBLEND comes in 21 shades, mine being Creamy Natural. This gives solid medium coverage with one layer, which I again applied with a damp sponge because any other way would pill over the layers of serums and embalming fluids I smear onto my face every morning.

Revlon Nearly Naked Makeup

This made the list because it’s creamy, but quite thin for a drugstore formula. (A big differentiating factor between drugstore and prestige liquid foundations is viscosity.) It gives light, buildable coverage, living up to its name, and is also SPF 20. I was Vanilla, the more yellow-toned of the fairest shades.

—Annie Kreighbaum

Photos by Elizabeth Brockway.

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