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The 12 Very Best Foundations for Mature Skin

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Just as the moisturizer you used in your 20s and 30s likely needs an upgrade once you hit your 40s and beyond, the same is true of foundation. “As we age, our skin becomes drier and thinner while also losing collagen and elasticity,” explains makeup artist Gita Bass (her clients include Toni Collette, Laura Dern, and Debra Messing). “That, combined with the long-term effects of gravity and sun exposure, causes sagging, fine lines, as well as hyperpigmentation.” Makeup artist Sandy Linter adds that in light skin colors, the complexion may become sallow due to changing undertones and loss of color.

Luckily, though, a plethora of foundation options exists to accommodate these mature-skin needs, as is evidenced by the following recommendations from nine makeup artists, which include a charmeuse-like liquid, a cushion compact, and a creamy stick. (Most of these run above $50, it should be noted, but our experts emphasized the quality ingredients in their picks, which they say are more important to invest in as we age.) While how you apply your chosen one — whether with fingers, brush, Beautyblender, or what have you — really comes down to personal preference (and, frankly, time), there are, according to makeup artist Tamah Krinsky (whose clients include Gillian Anderson and Keri Russell), a few cardinal foundation rules to keep in mind. First: “No matter how you apply it, keep the product sheer and blend, blend, blend, making sure you get into the folds around the nose, under your eyes, and between the brows,” she says. And start small: “A dime-size amount is usually more than enough for the whole face … you’re not trying to cover your face in makeup; you’re evening out your skin tone.” Finally, every expert we consulted here stressed that it’s key to start with a well-moisturized face: “If your skin is dry underneath,” says makeup artist Fulvia Farolfi, “there is no foundation that will work.”

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What we’re looking for

Finish: The finish of a foundation refers to the way it looks when it dries down and how it appears on the skin. This ranges from matte to dewy to natural. What you choose comes down to personal preference and how you’d like your skin to look. Skin type can factor into this too. Drier skin types may opt for a foundation with a dewy, glowy finish, while someone with oily skin might opt for something more mattifying.

Coverage: Coverage is also a personal choice, and depends on what you’re going for. Coverage levels vary, ranging from a tinted moisturizer, which evens out the skin tone without covering anything up, to a full-coverage foundation that creates one color all over. Some foundations are buildable. Regardless of which coverage level you choose, our experts recommend starting sheer and building up coverage a little at a time. This avoids cakey-ness and helps to create a skinlike finish.

Shade range: Finding the perfect shade match can be difficult because it depends on a few factors. Firstly — your general skin tone. Then, your undertones, which can vary from warm to cool to neutral. The name of the game here is trial and error, but the more inclusive a shade range is, the more likely you are to find one that works for you.

Price: Foundations clock in at just about every price point. Pricier options tend to have more high-quality ingredients or added skin-care technology, but there are plenty of drugstore options included here that offer comparable results. We’ve noted how much you’re getting along with the cost per ounce, so you can decide what works best for your budget.

Best overall foundation for mature skin

Dewy | Medium to full | 42 shades | 1 ounce (Approx. $44/ounce)

Designed to mimic the feel of silk charmeuse, Bass says this is the “holy grail of foundations for all skin types, but particularly for mature skin.” That’s because it hits all the foundation marks: “It has a gorgeous lightweight feel, it’s easily buildable where you need more coverage, and it creates a radiant glow without a greasy finish,” she explains. Makeup artist Lucky Bromhead (the personal makeup artist to Catherine O’Hara) calls out its weightless texture and ability to never settle into fine lines, and makeup artist Fiona Stiles (her clients include Gabrielle Union and Elizabeth Banks) loves that the luminosity draws attention away from any wrinkles or imperfections.

Best drugstore foundation for mature skin

Natural | Medium | 45 shades | 1 ounce (Approx. $5/ounce)

Another affordable formula — this drugstore foundation is a favorite of makeup artist Oseremi Egure (Lynn Whitfield is a client). In addition to being super-hydrating, it also comes in 45 true-to-skin shades. Oseremi likes the buildable, blendable coverage. “It’s really smooth,” she says.

Best foundation stick for mature skin

Natural | Medium | 39 shades | 0.5 ounces (Approx. $176/ounce)

For those who prefer the ease of application that comes with a nonliquid formula, both makeup artist Sarah Uslan (her clients include Olivia Colman and Michelle Monaghan) and makeup artist Lucy Halperin are fans of Tom Ford’s Traceless Foundation Stick. “It’s so creamy, easy to apply, and has a great shade range,” says Halperin. Uslan loves the way it “glides” on and that you can use it sparingly (which is generally good advice for mature skin). “You can just spot-treat areas with redness or discoloration if you don’t want to wear foundation over your entire face.”

Best less-expensive foundation stick for mature skin

Natural | Medium to full | 19 shades | 0.5 ounces (Approx. $24/ounce)

This richly pigmented foundation stick from BLK/OPL is also good for spot-treating and has a great shade range for those with olive undertones or deeper skin. It’s beloved for its ability to fully cover dark marks and hyperpigmentation, and if you’d like to highlight or contour, you can use a few different shades to do just that. The stick also contains shade-shifting technology that adjusts to match your skin tone.

Best full-coverage foundation for mature skin

Matte | Full | 56 shades | 1 ounce (Approx. $32/ounce)

For a daily foundation that gives skin a lightweight, natural finish, Egure recommends Estée Lauder’s iconic Double Wear. The classic formula has an expansive shade range (56 and counting), is oil free, and dries down to a skinlike, matte finish. “I would use this for an everyday look,” says Egure.

Best less-expensive full-coverage foundation for mature skin

Matte | Full | 40 shades | 1 ounce (Approx. $6/ounce)

This classic, long-lasting foundation works well at any age (it was my very first foundation), but has benefits that make it well-suited for mature skin. For starters, it’s a pore-minimizing formula. As skin ages, it loses elasticity, so pores can appear larger. This foundation — along with a good skin-care routine and proper prep — will help minimize the appearance of large pores as well as soak up any extra oil. And if you’d prefer something a bit more luminous, it’s available in a dewy finish too.

Best hydrating foundation for mature skin

From $72

Dewy | Sheer to light | 6 shades | 0.7 ounces (Approx. $110/ounce)

A longtime under-the-radar favorite among beauty-world insiders, Krinsky loves Koh Gen Do’s creamy formula — especially for mature skin that can often skew drier. “If your foundation dries you out even more, it will just bring out lines and wrinkles,” explains Nick Barose, a makeup artist whose clients include Kim Cattrall, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Lupita Nyong’o. “The hydration and moisture of this formula keep skin looking fresh.” To help foundation look even better, Krinsky suggests spending extra time on your skin-care prep: “Give yourself a little facial massage. It feels great, wakes your skin up, and gives your products time to absorb before you start your makeup.” If you want to go a step further still, invest in a great primer like Tatcha’s Silk Canvas Protective Primer — according to Bromhead, it “blurs fine lines, fills any large pores, and gives the foundation something to hang on to.”