For Luminous Skin, These 9 Foundations Deliver

Is foundation dead? It seems that foundation as we used to know it—the non-negotiable, full-coverage end all, be all of makeup looks—might be. Gen Z favors beauty trends like no-makeup makeup or the #CleanLook, which feature skin tints and dabs of concealer in lieu of a full face of foundation. And as more people embrace skin neutrality (accepting your skin for all its blemishes, age spots, and fine lines), there’s less of a need to cover up all of our imperfections.

Thankfully, beauty brands are experimenting with new, better foundation options. Enter: stick foundation. Like a bronzer or any favored multi-stick, this tube application is smooth and satisfying. The best stick foundations in the beauty aisles are inspiring more shoppers to try these convenient, cake-free coverage options.

Intrigued? Thought so. Read on to discover what to look for in a stick foundation and where to find the best ones.

Featured image from our interview with Alicia Yoon by Winnie Au.

Image by Michelle Nash

The Best Stick Foundations in 2023

There’s much to consider when choosing a foundation. First: how it looks. Think shade range, texture, coverage, and buildability. You might also consider ingredients. Is the product clean and nontoxic? Does it include hydrating ingredients or SPF?

To discover the best stick foundations, I polled some of our editors who are already believers themselves. And of course, I scoured through reviews and store aisles to try some myself.

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Image by Michelle Nash

I use this foundation stick in “Buff.” It has buildable coverage, non-toxic ingredients, and it’s super lightweight. I love it—hands down, it’s my favorite. — Brandy, Motherhood Contributor

What We Love:

  • Buildable, long-lasting coverage
  • Non-toxic formulation
  • Lightweight coverage
  • Hydrating

What We Don’t:

  • Honestly? It’s hard to find fault with a multi-stick that comes in a range of shades, is formulated with skin-loving ingredients, and doesn’t irritate even acne-prone skin. It’s an easy yes!

I’ll admit, I was influenced to buy this product from an Instagram ad that touted effortless, summer makeup. But here’s the kicker: it actually delivered. I’ve been packing this in my toiletries bag for travel and it’s so easy to swipe on and use a makeup brush to blend for sheer color that reduces pores and adds a little glow. My one caveat is that skin needs to be very well moisturized before applying to avoid a cakey or patchy texture. — Camille, Editor-in-Chief

What We Love:

  • Easy for on-the-go application
  • Provides sheer glow and color

What We Don’t:

  • Can wear cakey if skin isn’t properly moisturized
  • Limited shade range

Best Hydrating: Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick

Milk Makeup is known for its skincare-focused approach to makeup, and the brand’s best stick foundation is further proof that it delivers on its mission. This ultra-hydrating formula has an easy-to-apply texture and flexible finish. Though it doesn’t shine in its buildability, this stick foundation still provided a ton of coverage in just a few swipes without feeling heavy.

What We Love:

  • Hydrating
  • Easy to apply
  • Offers plenty of coverage with minimal application

What We Don’t:

  • Not as buildable as other picks

While I have the Merit pick in my medicine cabinet, I keep Thread’s affordable option with me at all times. As in, I have three of the sticks for my purse, toiletries bag, and yes—even in my car. But no, my obsession doesn’t end there. I also have it in two shades—one to match my skin color for coverage, another two shades darker for contouring, and another one shade lighter as a highlighter. I love that it wears with a soft matte texture, giving me both the dewy, hydrated look I crave while also covering up any pores. At this price point, it’s a solid pick that truly does it all. My only gripe is that, compared to the Merit stick, I have to reapply a couple of times throughout the day.

What We Love:

  • Comes in a range of shades
  • Soft matte application
  • Affordable price point

What We Don’t:

  • Has to be touched up or reapplied every few hours

The hype is real for this stick foundation. From the first swipe, I loved the texture. It goes on like silk, and only needed a few swipes to give me a light but effective coverage. I was impressed by how seamlessly it blended into my skin. Plus, as a lover of clean beauty, the thoughtful formula impressed me with its combination of nourishing ingredients and lightweight oils.

What We Love:

  • Silky texture
  • Light but effective coverage
  • Blends seamlessly into skin

What We Don’t:

  • Our priciest pick, but worth the splurge

Fenty Beauty is known for changing the game with its shade range, pushing the beauty industry at large to match its expansive and inclusive collection since its launch. And it’s famed for the compliment-garnering efficacy of its products. This stick foundation provides smooth, seamless coverage that lasts all day.

What We Love:

  • Inclusive shade range
  • Smooth, seamless coverage
  • Long-lasting

What We Don’t:

You get a ton of bang for your buck with this drugstore stick foundation. It delivers long-lasting, all-day coverage with a smooth texture and a multi-dimensional finish.

What We Love:

  • Long-lasting coverage
  • Affordable price point
  • Flawless semi-matte finish

What We Don’t:

  • It can wear a little sticky and we don’t love it for warm (re: sweaty) days

While you’ll still want to layer a higher SPF under this, having sun protection in your foundation makes it convenient to throw in your bag and touch up throughout the day. Its blurring finish gives you a more even complexion while also shrinking the look of pores and uneven texture.

What We Love:

  • Provides a seamless, poreless finish
  • Perfect color match for a range of shades
  • Built-in SPF and antioxidant protection

What We Don’t:

  • Product can smear after a couple of hours

For a filter-like finish, this blur stick is like slapping on Instagram’s Paris filter. It gives you a smoother texture and a more even complexion without caking or creasing.

What We Love:

  • No caking or creasing
  • Smooth finish

What We Don’t:

  • Only available in three shades


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