The Best Foundation for Textured Skin: Our Top Picks, and How to Choose a Foundation When You’ve Got Textured Skin
If you've got texture or discoloration issues (and let's be real: there are so many of us who do), foundation can be an incredibly powerful tool in your makeup kit. Selecting the right one, however, can be a challenge.
Below, we'll go over our picks for the best foundation for textured skin, and then we’ll answer some questions you may have: what to look if you're looking for a foundation for textured skin, how to select the right coverage and finish, and the most effective ways to use the foundation you’ve selected: application tools, how to prep your skin, other products that can enhance (or ruin!) your look, and how to get it to set properly.
By the way, we realize that many people with skin texture issues may also have concerns about large pores and acne scars, so we've written a post about foundation for large pores, where we discuss some options we like. OK, let's get to it:
Foundations for Textured Skin: Our Picks
Here are the foundations we think are great picks…
…and here’s why we think so!
Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation
The Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation gets our vote for the best drugstore foundation for textured skin, and especially for people with oily skin. This foundation was designed to offer medium coverage that can be built up, as well as to offer some serious oil control.
Maybelline manufactures Fit Me in a range of shades wide enough that nearly anyone can find a match, from “Fair Porcelain” as the lightest to “Espresso” as the darkest with more than 30 colors in between. This makes Fit Me truly a standout—usually only high-end products offer such a wide range of tones, and that’s a big plus.
The most important thing about this foundation for those with textured skin is that Maybelline made it with silicone, an ingredient that’s designed to glide over the texture with ease and to blur any imperfections (and that’s probably why Maybelline named it “Poreless”!). We think this formula could also layer nicely over other types of texture, like scarring and breakouts, but just a heads up—because it is designed to have a matte finish, it may not work over flakiness or dryness.
May be a good fit for: those with textured, oily skin who would like versatile coverage with a matte finish, and anyone who usually struggles to find a shade match in drugstore formulas.
Catrice HD Liquid Coverage Foundation
Our pick for the best foundation for textured skin in the “mattifying” and “high coverage” category is Catrice HD Liquid Coverage Foundation. As the word “HD” in the name implies, this foundation is meant to make the skin look flawless even under high definition circumstances, while the word “Coverage” is about this foundation’s pigmentation, which was designed to hide discolorations in a single layer. Many foundations require you to build coverage, so if you’re in a rush—or you’re not confident you can build the coverage you want—single-layer coverage can be a big deal.
Catrice describes this formula as having 24-hour wear. Once applied to the skin, it’s designed to dry down to control oils and stay in place, which can be wonderful if you have skin that doesn’t usually hold on to foundation because of heavy oil production. However, if you are newer to makeup you might want to practice your fast blending, because this foundation can dry down quickly sometimes.
The only thing that would make this foundation better, in our view, is if it came in a wider range of shades, so Catrice, if you’re listening—expand, please!
Catrice packages this liquid foundation in a glass bottle with a dropper, which we love because it keeps things clean, makes it easy to dispense small amounts, and is usually easy to mix if you’re a professional who likes to combine foundation shades. They also formulated this foundation without animal-derived ingredients, making it totally vegan-friendly. Also very nice.
(OK, one last thing before we move on: Catrice is designed to cover imperfections for 24 hours, and that’s fantastic—and impressive, honestly—but be careful with how long you wear this [or any] cosmetic. For many people, long-term wear of any type of cosmetic can irritate the skin, cause breakouts, etc., so always pay attention to your skin and how it’s reacting to makeup when you wear it for long periods of time. OK—sorry about that; our “mom mode” is now over, and we can return to the reviews).
May be a good fit for: those with textured skin that’s oily, normal, and/or combination, who would like complete coverage with a matte finish (and our vegan friends who want avoid animal products!).
Bourjois Fond de Teint Healthy Mix Extension Serum
Those with textured skin looking for a light- to medium-coverage foundation may want to check out the Bourjois Fond de Teint Healthy Mix Extension Serum. Bourjois designed it to offer the skin a radiant, healthy finish, but for those who may not want very high coverage or mattification. With multiple layers, you might be able to build the coverage up to medium, but on good skin days, this can give the skin a healthy, dewy finish that is moist but not sparkly.
The Bourjois is made with a serum texture, designed to glide over the skin. Bourjois fortified the formula with a range of antioxidants like litchi, goji, and pomegranate extracts, which may keep the skin strong against external aggressors. The addition of pomegranate is a nice touch—studies into the skincare benefits of pomegranate are very promising, and it’s kind of surprising we don’t see it included in more cosmetics.
Bourjois crafted Healthy Mix for 16-hour wear, which can be a great thing if you lead a life that keeps you on the go. While we would like to see Healthy Mix come in more shades (the coverage is pretty light), one color may work for multiple skin tones.
May be a good fit for: those with textured dry or normal skin looking for a radiant finish and light, natural-looking coverage.
Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick
Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick is one of our “luxury picks” for the best foundation for textured skin. It’s a high-coverage formula designed to look undetectable on the skin, which is 1) exactly what we want out of a high-end foundation, but 2) especially what we want for textured skin that cannot handle visible foundation.
Stick foundations like the Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick are typically considered cream foundations, and they have a reputation for getting cakey (that is, heavy and visible on the skin—not usually what you want if you have textured skin), but Hourglass formulated the Vanish stick to be as lightweight as a powder, to avoid some of that “lumpy”/cakey look. It also contains a high concentration of pigment, designed to keep it from settling into the textured parts of the face and provide extensive coverage—another nice feature if you’ve got textured skin.
So all of that is very nice, but there’s a really neat design element to the Hourglass Vanish we really love: it’s molded into a triangle shape, so that you can apply it to the nooks and crevices of the face much easier. It’s shaped so that the pointed ends can fit easily around the nose or below the eyes, and we. love. that. Why are all stick foundations not shaped like triangles? Seriously—why? We demand answers.
Lastly, Hourglass made the foundation surprisingly portable—a feature you don’t always see in high-end cosmetics. It’s designed to be waterproof, even without powder, which means it’s composed for gym wear / beach wear / etc. and because it’s a stick foundation, you can toss it in your purse and get going. We really appreciate when a cosmetic tries to get so many things right, and this is an easy pick in our “best luxury” category.
May be a good fit for: those with textured skin no matter their skin type, looking for high coverage with a natural finish and in a luxurious container that is easy-to-use on the go.
Makeup For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation
Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation is our other vote in the “best foundation for textured skin” in the high-end, medium-coverage category. More and more cosmetics are realizing that people today take a lot of photos, and Make Up For Ever designed this foundation with modern filming techniques in mind. It’s designed to remain totally invisible and skin-like even when filmed with a powerful HD camera, and that’s why we think this is a good option if you’ve got textured skin.
Make Up For Ever manufactured this liquid foundation to offer medium coverage, and because Ultra HD is made with a satin finish that’s neither dewy nor matte, we think it can work with all skin types—you can powder it if you have oily skin, or leave it bare if you’re drier.
The versatile coverage which this foundation was crafted to have and the fact that it was made with camera equipment in mind has made it extra popular with professional makeup artists! This is one of those products we remember already generating a lot of hype back when we were just starting out in the industry.
May be a good fit for: all skin types who would like medium coverage with a natural finish that looks amazing on camera and up-close.
Types of Textured Skin and Tips on Working with It
All skin has texture, but for some, that texture might be more visible. For most people, skin texture comes from one of the following reasons:
The most common type of skin texture comes from large pores, which are more frequently an issue for those with oily skin (though they can impact other skin types as well). Pores are openings in the skin through which hair grows (pores and hair follicles are interchangeable terms), and attached to them below the outer layer of the skin are sebaceous glands, which excrete the facial oils that keep the skin lubricated and protect it from becoming compromised by bacteria and viruses and a host of other nasty things.
Pores range in size from extremely small to easily visible, and while many makeup wearers would like to cover them, it’s worth remembering that they are very important, and regardless of their size, they keep skin healthy and elastic and safe. Makeup wearers with large pores tend to use foundations that cover the appearance of pores, and while many foundations do a great job of minimizing (or even totally concealing) their appearance, some foundations actually sink into the pores and end up emphasizing them, which is… not what people usually want. Below, we’ll talk about how to select a foundation that can adequately cover pores.
Dryness and Dead Skin Buildup
It’s commonly assumed that people with textured skin have to deal with oily skin, but that’s not always the case. People with dry skin can also experience texture issues, and their skin may have trouble desquamating (which is the process through which the skin sheds dead skin cells).
When skin has difficulty desquamating, it can in dry patches that feel rough to the touch and make the skin look uneven—especially when a foundation is applied. Overly matte or poorly-formulated foundations will often catch on those dry patches, making them appear even worse than they really are, while emollient (i.e. smoothing) foundations can actually help smooth down the skin cells to make the skin look even and flawless.
If you’re having desquamating issues, exfoliating away those dead skin patches and then moisturizing the skin can make a big difference, and we’ve written a number of posts on how to do so.
Inflammatory Skin Ailments
Various skin conditions can result in textured skin, and the most common issues include (but of course, are not limited to):
- Acne, rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis, which can lead to skin texture issues in the form of bumps, flaky patches, or both; and
- Allergic reactions to certain compounds that results in contact dermatitis, which is a bumpy, red, itchy rash that appears on your skin when your skin comes into contact with something that irritates it. These texture problems are often accompanied by inflammation in the form of redness, swelling, itchiness, or even a burning or painful sensation.
When the texture is caused by a sudden allergic flareup, it’s usually better to skip foundation altogether (and we, as always, would urge you to consult your doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible). However, when texture issues are caused by persistent conditions like acne or rosacea, then a good foundation can help hide the issue without highlighting the flakiness or bumps and irregular landscape of the skin.
If the issue manifests predominantly as flakiness, then a more creamy and dewy foundation is usually the better choice, whereas if the textured skin comes with bumps and oiliness, then a slightly more matte formula might be preferred.
Scarring is another common source of skin texture irregularity. There are a number of skin traumas that can result in scars, ranging from acne breakouts, to diseases like chickenpox, to the removal of moles, or simply getting cut or scratched. We are—again—not doctors, but in our experience as makeup artists, scars seem to come in three different textures: elevated scars that rise above the surface of the skin (common with cuts), concave scars / indentations that dip below the surface of the skin (common after chicken pox or acne), and flat scars (common with scars that have healed). There’s a strategy for putting cosmetics on each type of scar (and we talk about application below).
Scarring can get better with time, and in general, it’s better to avoid heavy makeup when the scarring is still fresh and the skin is still partially injured (and again—go to the doctor!), but if your skin has healed then covering a scar with a good foundation can help minimize its appearance. Deep, indented, or pitted scars may also require a pore-filling primer, while raised scars can be covered by any kind of foundation for textured skin.
Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Finally, signs of aging like the fine lines and wrinkles which form as the skin begins to slow down its collagen production also count as skin texture. Foundation can settle into lines and wrinkles, which ends up emphasizing their appearance—something you probably want to avoid. This is an instance were more emollient foundations will usually do a better job of minimizing fine lines rather than highlighting them.
It’s worth noting that aging skin can also be more prone to dryness and dead skin buildup, so fine lines often come hand in hand with flaky patches, so they are usually best covered with an emollient, dewy foundation.
Lastly, humectant-laden moisturizers can also help by plumping up the skin a bit to momentarily soften those fine lines.
How to Choose the Best Foundation for Textured Skin
Foundation is never “one-size-fits-all” scenario—especially if you’ve got textured skin—so here are a few things you should look for in a product:
It Glides Over Skin and Doesn’t Sinks In
A quality foundation should make your skin look smoother by not settling into pores or other divots in the skin. That's sounds like the opposite of what many people expect, but we’ve found it to be true. Silicone-based foundations are usually best for this sort of thing, because they have a dry, slippery texture that glides over the skin nicely, as well as a blurring effect that helps to diffuse the look of texture issues.
Here’s a trick you can use, if you’re looking at a foundation, and you want to get an idea of how it’ll perform: apply it over your knuckles and then close and shut your hand a few times to see how the foundation settles over your knuckle creases. If the foundation makes the skin look smoother, that’s a very good sign. Keep in mind, this detail is not only relevant when you first apply your foundation, because your skin should still look smooth even after the foundation has been worn for a few hours.
It’s Got the Right Coverage for Your Personal Texture Issues
Coverage is the term makeup artists use to describe how well a foundation can cover discoloration, with coverages ranging from…
- Light coverage, which means sheer or transparent, to
- Full coverage, which means opaque / totally impossible to see through.
Medium coverage refers to a foundation that is somewhere in the middle.
“Buildable” is the term cosmetics companies and makeup artists use when more layers of foundation will add to the coverage without making the skin look cakey (and “cakey” is the term people use for a foundation that makes the skin look overly made-up or mask-like, an effect that is particularly unflattering on textured skin because it emphasizes unevenness).
When choosing the foundations for textured skin, we always to try suggest a variety of coverage levels, because different people have different requirements and preferences and needs. In general, though, people with textured skin should usually choose the foundation that has the lowest coverage that their skin can tolerate. This is because the level of coverage a foundation has comes from mineral pigment powders, which are solid and therefore more likely to sit on top of raised skin textures and emphasize it. The high coverage foundations we recommended are finely milled and lightweight so they are less likely to do so, but when you’re out on your own you will want to be careful and err on the side of lighter coverage.
In the same vein, it usually makes sense to choose a buildable foundation, especially if you are a beginner to makeup. This is because buildable foundations tend to blend more nicely in general, and they’re usually much more forgiving of skin texture, even with multiple layers.
The Right Finish for Your Skin Type
There are four main finishes a foundation can have: matte, demi-matte, natural/satin, and dewy. Normally, figuring out the right finish has to do with preferences and skin types, and here’s how it breaks down:
For skin without texture issues, a matte foundation is usually best for oily skin, because it can control oils and make the skin look drier (although someone with oily skin who wants a dewy look might prefer a natural-finish foundation, because once applied to their oily skin, it can mix with their natural facial oils to look dewy). On the other end of the spectrum, those with dry skin will usually do well with a foundation that will make their skin look hydrated or moist… but if they like the matte look, they will probably achieve that with a foundation that has a natural or demi-matte finish. Make sense?
For those dealing with skin texture, however, it can be a little more complicated. Both very matte and very glowy foundations may emphasize skin texture, so it is important to be a little more careful. Matte foundations can emphasize texture because their formula is drier and more solid, so it is more likely to cake up over areas where the skin is textured (especially if the texture includes a bit of flakey dead skin), and this is especially true when multiple layers are applied or if the product wasn’t blended quickly enough. If your skin is very oily or your texture has nothing to do with dryness, a matte foundation might still be the best choice for providing oil control, as long as you apply it in small amounts and blend quickly.
As for glowy foundations, it’s mostly a question of how the glow effect is achieved. Some “dewy” foundations are actually just infused with reflective minerals that make them a little shiny—an effect that unfortunately tends to emphasize texture. On the other hand, dewy foundations that are very moist and emollient usually don’t cause any problems, because they leave the skin looking hydrated rather than shimmery. In fact, these extra moisturizing foundations can actually be phenomenal over skin texture related to dryness, so that may be worth checking out.
(Related: we've written a post about freckle removers—what they can (and can't) do, and how to use them—and if you have textured skin, you may want to check that out.
How to Apply Foundation on Textured Skin
Your methodology for applying foundation to textured skin is just as important as the foundation itself, so here’s our technique for smooth, even-looking skin. First thing first, decide which tool you would like to use to apply:
- Flat-topped foundation brushes (which are sometimes referred to as kabuki brushes) will usually give the highest coverage and they can also offer a very seamless blend, though unless the brush is very soft it might be irritating to those with texture caused by inflammatory skin conditions;
- Damp sponges can give a very seamless blend as well, which is great for camouflaging texture, and their coverage is a step or two lighter and more natural than that of a brush. They tend to be cooling on the skin and give a more hydrated finish to the foundation, so we usually recommend them for texture caused by inflammatory skin conditions or dryness; and finally…
- Other popular tools include flat foundation brushes (we’re not big fans of them, but they work in combination with a sponge), fingers (can warm up a thicker foundation, but messier to use), as well as any combination of brushes or fingers to apply and a sponge to blend.
Once you’ve selected your applicator of choice you can get started. Here’s how:
Always start with clean, well-moisturized skin. If your skin has also been feeling a little dry, you can also do a quick physical exfoliation first;
To prep your skin, if you like, apply a pore filling primer that will help fill in some of the texture and allow the foundation to adhere to your skin better without sinking into pores, fine lines, or indented scars;
If necessary, apply a thin layer of color correcting or under-eye concealer first, making sure to apply thin layers. You can also use any cream contour products and do your eye makeup (except for mascara) before your foundation if you prefer;
Now it’s time for foundation! You can apply dots of foundation directly on your skin, or apply it to your applicator first, and then to your skin. Concentrate your coverage over the areas that need it the most (i.e. the parts of the skin that are the most discolored or uneven in tone), or just start from the center and work your way outwards;
To dispense foundation and build up the coverage, use a bouncing motion over the skin, once again focusing on the areas that need more coverage. If your foundation doesn’t self-set quickly, you can do rough bounces over the forehead, cheeks, and chin and then blend them out later;
If your foundation does set quickly, you might want to work on the face in sections, with a combination of bouncing and blending motions. With a sponge, use a dragging motion to blend, while if you’re using a brush, use a downward circular motion instead;
Once your whole face is covered in a thin layer of foundation, examine it in the mirror to see if you need to build up the coverage anywhere or if you need to blend more. When it comes to blending, pay special attention to the areas where your skin is most textured, as well as the oft-forgotten jawline;
If any foundation settled over your skin texture in a way that emphasizes it, you can bounce a clean side of your damp sponge in order to diffuse the finish and remove excess product, or you can wipe off your foundation brush and then go over the area with circular motions;
Once you’re happy with how the foundation looks, add more concealer if necessary wherever you need more coverage, or under the eyes if you haven’t done so yet;
Finally, if necessary, set your foundation with your setting powder of choice. Use a fluffy brush for a softer setting effect, or use your damp makeup sponge if you would like a more intense, long-lasting setting effect;
To apply the powder, use tapping motions as to not disturb the foundation underneath. You can apply to the whole face, or just to the areas where your skin is more oily or your foundation tends to wear away;
If necessary, use a clean, fluffy brush to wipe away or buff any excess powder;
Finish off your complexion makeup with your choice of blush, bronzer, highlighter, or contour shade. If your cheeks are textured, avoid super glowy highlighters and blushes since the glitter can emphasize the texture; and finally...
Use a hydrating or setting spray to marry the layers of foundation, concealer, and powder together and to further lock your makeup into place.
Textured Skin and Cosmetics: A Wrap-Up
It’s odd: there are so many women who have textured skin, and yet there’s so little online about it. Taking care of our skin—and using makeup, for sure—isn’t always intuitive, and it’s weird that the bigger fashion sites haven’t written more about how to use cosmetics when you’ve got textured skin.
With that said, hopefully there’s something here that helped you. We’ve tried to discuss some of the issues that we’ve encountered both as makeup artists and as people with textured skin, but we probably didn’t address everything—so, if there are any other issues related to textured skin you’d like us to discuss, please let us know. In the meantime, have fun, be well, and happy makeup!