Skin Feeling Thirsty? Try One of These Hydrating Foundations for Dry Skin

Your foundation woes solved.

By Hannah Zahner
best hydrating foundation, skincare

‘Tis the season of cozy soups, warm drinks, and chill time at home, but for many of us, that also means dry patches and parched skin begging for hydration. The cold air outside combined with the dry heat indoors can really take its toll on our skin, especially for those with already dry or sensitive skin. So when it comes time to put on makeup over said dry skin, things get a little, well, tricky. To help, we sourced the best foundations for dry skin aka the perfect remedy for a thirsty dermis.

As a makeup artist, there’s nothing that messes with a seamless foundation application more than dry and flaky skin in major need of exfoliation. It doesn’t matter what foundation you use or how skilled you are, you won’t achieve the desired finish if your base isn’t moisturized. The product settles, fine lines and pores become more pronounced, and you’re left with a look that highlights any dryness rather than disappearing into your skin for a flawless finish. Thankfully you can still 100% achieve a beautiful finish from your foundation with the proper prep and products.

If you’re looking for coverage, radiance, and longevity in your formula, we’ve got the foundation picks for you. Read on for the 15 best foundations for dry skin that won’t crack, settle, or slip, plus application tips and tricks for your glowiest, most radiant skin ever.

But first things first, we chatted with board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, for the scoop on all things dry skin and how to make sure we’re creating a great base for our makeup.

What causes dry skin?

“Dry skin is caused by dehydration of the outermost layer of the skin,” explains Dr. Bruce-Geddes. “Normally, in this layer, there are lipids between the cells that help create a barrier to water loss.” It’s not just the winter wind we have to thank for our chapped skin, increasing age, genetics, as well as changes in the weather, can all affect these lipids and cause dry skin.

How can we treat dry skin and what should we avoid?

Dr. Geddes-Bruce says that the main way to treat dry skin is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

  • Moisturize multiple times a day and definitely every time you wash your face, hands or body.
  • Aim to avoid long, hot showers or baths (opt for a quick, warm rinse instead).
  • Switch to an unscented, gentle cream cleanser. Other cleansers can overdry or irritate.
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What ingredients are good to avoid if we have dry skin?

A good rule of thumb is to treat your skin like you might treat sensitive skin. Dr. Geddes-Bruce suggests avoiding anything with ingredients to aggressively exfoliate, treat active acne, or improve wrinkles/signs of aging. “This includes things like retinoids and acids like glycolic, benzoyl peroxide, or salicylic acids,” she explains. “It’s also a good idea to avoid unnecessary ingredients like fragrance and surfactants like sodium lauryl sulfate (surfactants work as detergents and help to create foam, they strip natural oils!)”

What ingredients should we look out for if we have dry skin?

  • Ceramides
  • Natural Moisturizing Factors
  • Squalene
  • Glycerin dimethicone
  • Petrolatum
  • Beeswax
  • Lactic acid
  • Urea
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Aloe vera
  • Safflower
  • Jojoba oil

When should we see a professional to treat dry skin?

Thankfully it’s pretty easy to spot when your skin needs some help from professionals. Dr. Geddes-Bruce says, “Anytime your skin doesn’t seem to recover as expected while using gentle care and over-the-counter products.”

Beyond doubling down on our face masks, and ceramide-packed moisturizers, picking the right foundation is essential. Scroll on for our makeup-artist-approved tips and tricks, as well as our list of 15 tried-and-true best foundations for dry skin.

How can you prime/prep dry skin for makeup application?

Skincare is key prior to any makeup application, but it’s especially important if your skin tends toward the drier side. Celebrity makeup artist, Kelly Anne explains, “It doesn’t matter if you have all of the best makeup… if your skin isn’t prepped with high quality, good skin prep you’re wasting your money.” Having a proper routine and finishing it all off with a hydrating foundation is key to wearable and luminous finish.

  • Be sure skin is exfoliated.
    Start by exfoliating once or twice a week. Don’t overdo it, but makeup will not lay well on clogged and flaking skin. Try a gentle exfoliating cleanser like the iSClinical Cleansing Complex, an exfoliant that combines manual and chemical like Goop Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator, or even just try a gentle buffing with a washcloth during cleansing.
  • Cleanse your skin.
    Dr. Geddes-Bruce recommends a cream cleanser that wont strip your skin of it’s already limited moisture.
  • Spritz on a toner. Most moisturizers need hydration to properly work and a spray of an alcohol-free or hydrating toner will work wonders. A very light splash of water even works!
  • Apply moisturizer!
    Spend a bit of extra time really working your product into your skin to give it some extra love. A little face massage before makeup application, helps your moisturizer sink in, while boosting bloodflow and draining puffiness for a glowy natural flush.
  • Dab on eye cream.
    An often skipped step, this one is actually super important when you have dry skin. What people often think is a concealer problem (creasing, trouble blending, etc) is actually a moisture problem. Check out our fave eye creams if you’re in need of a good one!

Any tips for applying foundation to dry skin?

Thankfully, foundation is usually pretty forgiving as long as you blend. Flat foundation brushes or your fingers work okay, but I’ve found dense brushes work best at applying and buffing. “I love to use a sort of dense, kabuki type brush… you can even use it for all things foundation, concealer, contour, powder, and cream blush,” says Anne. “They’re round, dense and so soft.” Her favorite budget option is the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush and her favorite splurge is the It Cosmetics Heavenly Skin 702.

To take your application to the next level, follow it up with a dampened beauty blender. This allows the makeup to really buff and blend in, giving the most smooth hydrated finish.

What should you look for in foundation when you have dry skin?

While there are some great full coverage foundations options out there for dry skin (we’ll share some below!), sheer to medium coverage options tend to be best. Especially look for liquid and lightweight formulas. These tend to prevent cakey finishes and keep your skin looking hydrated throughout the day, whereas powder formulas can soak up any moisture you might have and settle into fine lines and pores.

You generally should plan on having a summer shade and winter shade to match your level of skin tone, so just pick one of the more hydrating formulas below for your winter shade.

The Best Foundations for Dry Skin

This foundation is not cheap but is a favorite of makeup artists for good reason (it’s my go-to makeup in my kit for everything from shoots to bridal makeup). With an incredibly smooth texture, this lightweight foundation blends seamlessly into skin leaving a medium coverage finish that doesn’t look like you’re even wearing makeup. Plus, we love that it comes in 40 shades.

This foundation consistently tops the charts for mature, dry, and sensitive skin. The dispenser perfectly dispenses the right amount of product every time. With a radiant natural finish, it’s also a two-for-one with its blendable coverage meets solid SPF.

Another one of my makeup kit favorites, this foundation goes on seamlessly while also providing beautiful coverage. I love using it on brides for light and glowy coverage, that lasts all day long, through sweat, tears, and dance parties without fading or settling. The formula is packed with hyaluronic acid to hydrate, while their impressive 50 shade range will help you find your perfect match.

While a stick foundation isn’t something usually that comes to mind when thinking of foundations for dry skin, this clean formula is seriously creamy and nourishing for all-day wear.

Truly one of the top-performing clean foundations out there! Packed with skin-loving ingredients like marula oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera, and squalane to moisturize and soothe dry and sensitive skin, it offers the perfect medium coverage.

With built-in polymers that hug the skin, this foundation keeps skin looking luminous and moisturizer all day long. Thanks to the polymers, it won’t settle into the skin and will give a soft diffused look to the skin.

Offering major glow and light breathable coverage, this tinted moisturizer needs to find it’s way into your online cart. It’s easy to apply and easy to carry around thanks to it’s functional tube design. With a great shade range and mineral UV protection, this formula seamlessly dissapears into skin for a hydrated dewy finish.

If you’re looking for a great budget option, this foundation is it. Creamy and illuminating, it rivals its luxury counterparts thanks to the lightweight and ultra-blendable formula. It’s great for most sensitive skin too, since it’s a completely fragrance-free and non-comedogenic product.

This foundation comes in 50 shades to make finding the perfect match easy. It offers medium coverage, that keeps skin hydrated and replenished thanks to the grapeseed oil and hyaluronate. With an easy-to-use tube that perfectly dispenses the right amount every time, you can throw this foundation in your bag for on-the-go touchups.

Clinically proven to increase firmness and elasticity over time, this sheer-coverage tinted moisturizer uses a blend of black currant seed oil, peony root extract, and vitamin C to help brighten and leave skin looking fresh and glowing. It’s quite dewy upon initial application, but wears perfectly on drier skin for all day radiance.

With coverage that truly lasts all day long, this foundation’s satiny natural finish gives you a glow that doesn’t look too oily or shiny.

This best-seller offers buildable, medium-full coverage while still delivering a dewy, natural finish. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, coconut water, and alpine rose, to replenish skin’s moisture and hydrate while it blurs imperfections without settling into pores.

I first was introduced to these foundations assisting Lauren Andersen on set. They truly looked beautiful on all types of skin, and are beautifully emollient while still having a more matte finish, leaving skin moist, plump, and dewy.

Another winner from ILIA, I’m obsessed with this clean, tinted serum for everyday wear. With a great shade range, it provides light, dewy coverage plus mineral SPF and active levels of skincare ingredients in a serum-like formula.

With built in UVA and UVB protection, this seriously luxurious beauty balm cream gives your complexion some serious glow. Not only is it easy to use and blend in with the skin, but it also moisturizes and hydrates with medical-grade ingredients that keep skin glowing throughout the day.