Cut the cakey make-up – these lightweight foundations deliver a natural look

Cut the cakey make-up – these lightweight foundations deliver a natural look
For dry or oily skin types, these are the best lightweight foundations to create a glowy or matte look, from John Lewis, The Body Shop, Feelunique and more

Trying to find the perfect foundation is often like finding a needle in a haystack: you know it’s out there somewhere, it’s just a question of where. It can be especially hard if you want a does-it-all formula that not only delivers a flawless finish, but which can be dialled up or down depending on the occasion.

Luckily, foundation technology has come a long way in a few short years, so now there’s a vast array of products that provide impeccable coverage without ever feeling heavy or cloying. There’s also a whole range of finishes available – whether you prefer matte, dewy, all-out glow or something that sits slap bang in the middle, along with clever formulations that offer additional skincare benefits.

Of course, with so much choice available, how do you know what’s best for you and what will suit your needs best? Here, we’ve rounded up the very best in class and have taken everything into account – from price point to coverage, to what skin types they’re best for and the all-important staying power. Keep scrolling to discover the best lightweight foundations for 2022.

How we tested

We really put these foundations through their paces: applying them first thing in the morning before going about our day – most often spent travelling to and from central London, having meetings and working.

We tried not to touch them up as we wanted to see what their staying power was like when having to wear a mask on public transport. We paired each of the foundations with the same make-up and sunscreen to ensure each was given a fair chance, and finished with a quick spritz of setting spray too. We also took price point and shade range into consideration.

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The best lightweight foundations for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Dior forever skin glow foundation: £40,
  • Best longwear – L’Oréal Paris infallible foundation 32 hour wear with vitamin C and SPF2: £9,
  • Best for added skincare benefits – Chanel N°1 de Chanel revitalising foundation: £55,
  • Best natural finish – Shiseido synchro skin self-refreshing tint: £35,
  • Best for glow – Charlotte Tilbury beautiful skin foundation: £34,
  • Best shade range – Dcypher Cosmetics custom foundation: £28,
  • Best buildable formula – Nars light reflecting foundation: £37.50,
  • Best sheer coverage – Saie slip tint dewy tinted moisturizer: £27,
  • Best matte finish – Estée Lauder double wear sheer long-wear makeup: £35,
  • Best for sustainability – The Body Shop fresh nude foundation: £18,

Dior forever skin glow foundation

Best: Overall

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Volume: 30ml

Dior never, ever fails on the foundation front and if you’re willing to invest in an exceptional formula that feels lightweight, blends beautifully and really goes the distance, you won’t be disappointed here. The brand’s forever skin glow offers medium coverage that’s entirely buildable if you need a bit more in certain areas, and the finish is natural and radiant without being too OTT. It also comes in a non-glowy formula in the form of the Dior forever matte foundation (£40, if that’s what you prefer. We found that skin glow lasted really well on the skin, requiring minimal touch-ups. Our shade match was pretty seamless – although in terms of the 42-strong range, we’d like to see a wider spectrum of darker hues.

L’Oréal Paris infallible foundation 32 hour wear with vitamin C and SPF25

Best: Longwear

Rating: 8/10

  • Volume: 30ml

Promising an impressive 32 hours of wear (our tester didn’t wear it for that long), L’Oreal’s foundation offering has always been excellent considering the price – if you’re looking to pick up an affordable option on the high street, you can’t ever go far wrong with this brand. This particular product has recently been reformulated and now includes added vitamin C, which is said to boost radiance with continued wear. We can’t vouch for that, but we can vouch for the quality of this foundation. It provides fairly heavy coverage but it doesn’t look flat on the skin, and we still didn’t feel like we were wearing make-up. It lasted really well throughout the day, even in the face of a just-like-the-old-days rush-hour commute, plus we liked the addition of SPF25 (but we still recommend wearing a separate sunscreen underneath) and the fact it’s available in 30 shades.

Chanel N°1 de Chanel revitalising foundation

Best: For added skincare benefits

Rating: 8/10

  • Volume: 30ml

It’s no secret that Chanel creates excellent foundation formulas – and this new one, which forms part of its No1 de Chanel range, is no exception. Lightweight and seamless on the skin, it blends like a dream and offers lightweight coverage that can easily be built up without looking or feeling cakey. The colour match was exceptional and the added skincare benefits are what set it apart from the rest: it’s infused with red camellia extract, which the brand says works to target fine lines and wrinkles while refining pores and giving skin a glow. The packaging is chic, too, and it looks excellent on our dressing table (important!). However the price point seems a little bit too high (other Chanel foundations tend to be around £10-15 cheaper) and the 20-shade range feels disappointing, especially when there isn’t an even split between darker and lighter tones.

Read our review of the new Chanel No1 de Chanel range

Shiseido synchro skin self-refreshing tint

Best: Natural finish

Rating: 8/10

  • Volume: 30ml

We are already big fans of Sheideo’s synchro skin range, and this newest addition to the collection is as lovely as expected. It has a true skin-like finish and is infused with so-called “ActiveForce” technology, which essentially means that it works to resist heat, oil and humidity – so it should go the distance in terms of longevity. And it does. The coverage is light (if you prefer something with medium coverage, we suggest trying the foundation version instead: £27.80, but it evens out, perfecting skin quickly and drying down to a soft matte finish. There are only 12 shades, but because it’s so sheer the colours are flexible and should work on a much wider range of skintones.

Charlotte Tilbury beautiful skin foundation

Best: For glow

Rating: 8/10

  • Volume: 30ml

Consider this the foundation that’s had the most hype this year – Charlotte Tilbury knows what its doing, and this product is proof of that. Plumping and seriously smoothing, this buildable, medium-weight formula delivers a fresh-looking, healthy glow. It’s dewy but not overly illuminating, so it always looks and feels like your skin but better. The formula has hydrating hyaluronic acid in it along with a brightening rose complex – plus it has added skincare benefits that work over time. It’s available in 30 shades with a range of undertones, but it’s worth noting that we found it difficult to find an exact match (Tilbury’s foundation shade matcher told us to try shade 4N, which was too dark, but 2N was much better). But the range of options is impressive, and the tube is recyclable.

Dcypher Cosmetics custom foundation

Best: Shade range

Rating: 9/10

  • Volume: 30ml

The whole world deserves to know about Dcypher for many reasons, but the main one is that it’s entirely customisable – from the shade right through to the level of coverage and finish. It sounds too good to be true, but it really does deliver on every one of its promises. A quick skin analysis, complete with pictures of the front, left and right sides of your face (best taken in natural light) will conjure up your ideal product in minutes, which is then sent to you. But before committing, you’ll receive a sample size of your chosen formula to check it’s suitable for you, and if it’s not then it can be tweaked before you receive a full-size bottle. It’s an excellent, seamless service and the foundation itself is incredible. A little goes a long way, it’s easy to blend and the longevity is impressive – plus, £28 feels like excellent value to us.

Nars light reflecting foundation

Best: Buildable formula

Rating: 9/10

  • Volume: 30ml

A stunning, lightweight formula, this foundation offers medium coverage that’s the most builable out of all the products we tried. It really does blur imperfections and instantly smooth skin without it looking like you’re wearing foundation. We liked the added skincare benefits too, which include blue-light and antioxidant protection alongside the ability to strengthen the skin’s barrier – something that’s especially important in the cold winter months. We were impressed by the longevity of this foundation, and the fact it’s available in 36 shades, with the best range of light to dark colours in our round-up. While this formula didn’t need touching up throughout the day, we did add to it in the evening before dinner and the extra layer glided on seamlessly. It didn’t feel or look cakey and, actually, it was almost as if we’d freshly applied it onto bare skin.

Saie slip tint dewy tinted moisturizer

Best: Sheer coverage

Rating: 8/10

  • Volume: 40ml

Saie is billed as a “super clean” beauty brand and it’s recently made its way to the UK. In addition to its cool-girl branding and aesthetically pleasing packaging, its products deliver – and this skin tint is no exception. We were initially disappointed that there were only 13 shades available, however there is a fair range of colours that span a number of skintones. Plus, the formula is sheer enough to flex. Confusingly, this product is enriched with SPF35, but it doesn’t actually say that anywhere on the packaging or box (that we could see), but that’s a huge selling point – and it’s 100 per cent mineral-based sunscreen too, making it suitable for a wider range of skin types. It feels moisturising on the skin and, although sheer, it does have more coverage than traditional tinted moisturisers so it was able to blur imperfections well – perfect for those no make-up make-up days.

Estée Lauder double wear sheer long-wear makeup

Best: Matte finish

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Volume: 30ml

A truly iconic foundation brand, Estée Lauder’s double wear collection really has stood the test of time – and we were happy to see this new addition to the range. Potentially the sheerest of the bunch, it still works to even out skin and delivers a natural-looking matte finish, but, importantly, still adds dimension. Promising 12-hour wear – which we can very nearly attest to – it really did feel virtually undetectable on the skin, plus it’s free from oil. We liked that it was easy to apply with our fingers, and it’s not at all drying on the skin thanks to the addition of hyaluronic acid and a so-called “red-fruit infusion” of watermelon, apple and litchi seed extract.

The Body Shop fresh nude foundation

Best: For sustainability

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Volume: 30ml

The Body Shop is a brand you wouldn’t necessarily go to for make-up, but its range is actually really good, and this foundation definitely has a solid fan base – if you know, you know. However, you might not recognise it because it’s recently been repackaged and is now housed in a 100 per cent recyclable glass bottle. The original pump has also been replaced with an easy-to-use spatula, and the shade range has been expanded to 40. The formula itself is natural-looking, it feels moisturising once applied onto the skin and it’s enriched with vitamin E and aloe vera for a comfortable finish.

Read our full review of The Body Shop fresh nude foundation

The verdict: Lightweight foundations

Overall, we’re very spoilt for choice when it comes to foundation. The Dior was definitely our favourite of the bunch, but it only just came out on top. We also loved the Estée Lauder for its barely-there, skin-perfecting matte coverage, the Saie for its high SPF levels and The Body Shop’s offer for its sustainability efforts.

If it’s a heavier, seriously longwear product you’re after, try L’Oréal Paris’s affordable formula, but if you prefer more of a glowy, natural finish, Nars is worth a try. Really what we’re trying to say is that if you choose any of these 10 foundations you won’t be disappointed – we enjoyed using them all.

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For more barely-there make-up, try our edit of the best BB creams that give glowy, lightweight coverage

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.