Why Serum Foundations Will Be Your Skin’s Best Friend This Season

We’re selective about the formulas we use on our hair, skin, and nails. The Spotlyte 7TM highlights recently-released and/or noteworthy products you can add to your makeup bag, one day at a time. Let’s go shopping.

Foundation is funny: It’s arguably the most important element of a makeup routine, yet it’s also meant to be the least-apparent product on our faces. Ideally, foundation creates the illusion of naturally gorgeous skin. But when a formula becomes too heavy, cakey, or dry — and/or if the skin below the makeup isn’t healthy — foundation can have the opposite effect.  

If cakey makeup is frustrating you, consider switching to a serum foundation. As the name implies, serum foundation is a blend of potent skincare ingredients and pigmented face makeup. Together, this combination yields a lightweight fluid that’s perfect for simultaneously nourishing skin and providing natural-looking coverage. Below, we’ve compiled seven serum foundations that will leave your skin looking more luminous — both instantly and over time. (Next, check out serum foundations’ close cousin, tinted face oil.)

Clarins® Skin IllusionTM Serum Foundation SPF 15 ($44) smells vaguely of freshly-chopped cucumbers, and feels just as cool on the skin. We love its barely-there finish, which makes it perfect for “no makeup-makeup” looks. And an infusion of squalane adds a hydrated, lasting glow.

Clean beauty buffs will be pleased to discover Ilia® True SkinTM Serum Foundation ($54). What this formula lacks in chemicals, it makes up for in nourishing plant extracts. Think hydrating aloe, jojoba oil, and mastic — a resin known for its mattifying properties.

Perricone MD® No MakeupTM Foundation Serum Broad Spectrum SPF 20 ($60) delivers skincare ingredients you’d expect from a derm-backed brand, including brightening vitamin C and ginger extracts. Unlike many serum foundations, however, this one is oil-free and imparts a semi-matte finish. Bonus points for the healthy dose of SPF 20 (while it shouldn’t substitute for daily sunscreen application, it beats forgoing the stuff entirely). 

Argan oil is central to celebrity aesthetician Josie Maran’s eponymous skincare brand, so it’s fitting that you’ll find it in her Argan Matchmaker® Serum Foundation ($45). Argan oil’s molecular makeup is similar to that of human sebum, which allows it to balance skin instead of overwhelm it. For this reason, it’s ideal for all skin types, including oily. Perhaps the most notable aspect, though, is this serum foundation’s chameleon-like color. Initially, it’s white — but give it a few rubs and watch as it transforms into your own personalized hue. 

In addition to leaving a silky, lightweight finish, Bobbi Brown® Intensive Skin Serum ($69) is spiked with anti-aging skincare ingredients, including peptides and lentil extract (the latter is rich in B5; consequently, it can help maintain the skin’s moisture levels). Plus, SPF 40 provides ample sun protection to ward off those skin-aging UV rays.

Tarte® Rainforest of the Sea® Foundation ($39) provides higher coverage than most serum foundations, yet it still manages not to cake, dry, or crack. Noteworthy skincare ingredients include nourishing vitamin E and antioxidant-rich algae extracts. The formula is decently watery, so try using a beautyblender® or foundation brush to avoid a drippy application.

The RéviveTM Le TintTM Moisturizing Veil ($105) can transform even the dullest face into one that implies 8 hours of sleep and gallons of water. The oil-spiked formula is relatively runny, but a few gentle pats with a makeup sponge melds it into an even, radiant finish. To avoid smudging, wait a few moments before applying consecutive products.  

Some complimentary products were provided to the author for the purpose of writing this article.

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