The Charlotte Tilbury Guide to Foundation Finishes: How To Choose the Best Foundation for You

Perfect the look of your complexion with my tips and tricks on choosing the best foundation finish and formula for you.

Darlings, foundation is a fundamental step in every makeup look that helps to create a smooth, seamless-looking base. Everyone’s skin has different needs and so we all want our foundation to perform in certain ways, whether that’s to help mattify shine, to last all day, to cover redness, or to hydrate dry skin. The wrong foundation can lead to foundation faux pas like separating, caking, and balling up, so choosing the right foundation finish for your skin is the key to making your complexion look its best.

In my career as a makeup artist to the stars, I’ve applied foundation to every skin tone, type and texture, and I’m here to help you find the perfect foundation for you. In this foundation guide, discover everything you need to know about the different types of foundation finish and formula, and learn tips and tricks on how to choose the best foundation for you.

How To Choose the right Foundation Finish

7 Tips for Choosing the Best Foundation for You

Unreal Skin group shot

1. Are you looking for full, medium, or light coverage from your foundation?

When choosing the best foundation for you, deciding on the coverage you want is a good place to start. The coverage of a foundation refers to how pigmented the formula is; foundation can have sheer, light, medium, or full coverage, and different types of coverage will look significantly different on the skin. So, which foundation coverage appeals to you?

Sheer coverage: Barely there appearance that’s perfect for a ‘no makeup’ look.

Light coverage: Subtly perfected appearance that lets freckles and blemishes remain visible.

Medium coverage: Evens the appearance of skin tone while letting some redness peek through.

Buildable coverage: Foundation that can be layered to build up higher coverage without looking caked on or over-the-top.

Full coverage: Opaque pigment that covers all of skin’s natural features for a perfected look.

The coverage you’re looking for can change depending on the day, darlings. If you’re having a minimal makeup day, you might reach for a light-coverage foundation like Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint for a subtle beauty boost, and if you’re going somewhere glamorous, you may choose a full-coverage foundation like AIRbrush Flawless Foundation for the occasion. If you’re experiencing a breakout, you may appreciate the medium-buildable coverage of Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Foundation, or if you’re filled with skin confidence, you might reach for the sheer coverage of Hollywood Flawless Filter to enhance your natural glow.

There’s space for all of these foundation formulas in your makeup collection, darlings, and they will give you the tools to customise looks for every makeup mood and moment!

2. Which foundation finish do you prefer?

Foundations come in a variety of finishes such as dewy, matte, and satin. The finish of a foundation determines how it will look on your skin and can also influence how it will wear throughout the day. Discover some key differences between foundation finishes:

Dewy finish:

How does it look? - Moisturising, natural-looking foundation with a fresh-faced sheen.

What’s the coverage? - Light-to-medium coverage that feels hydrating.

How does it wear? - Wears naturally and fades gracefully.

Charlotte recommends: Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint

Meg Unreal Skin

Discover how to get a dewy, glass skin makeup look

Glowy finish:

How does it look? - Luminous foundation with a radiant skin glow.

What’s the coverage? - Light-to-medium illuminating coverage.

How does it wear? - Brightens the look of skin and wears evenly.

Charlotte recommends: Hollywood Flawless Filter

Bella Flawless Filter

Discover how to get a Hollywood makeup look

Matte finish:

How does it look? - Velvety, blurring foundation without shine.

What’s the coverage? - Medium-to-full coverage that mattifies the appearance of skin.

How does it wear? - Sets down and has great longevity.

Charlotte recommends: AIRbrush Flawless Foundation

Airbrush Foundation model shot

Discover how to create an all matte makeup look

Natural finish:

How does it look? - Soft-focused foundation with a satin, skin-like finish.

What’s the coverage? – Medium-buildable coverage that looks like skin.

How does it wear? - Wears beautifully and meshes with powder products.

Charlotte recommends: Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Foundation

Beautiful Skin Foundation model shot

Discover natural makeup must-haves

3. Do you reach for liquid, cream, or powder foundations?

The best foundation for you should synergise with your makeup style; for example, if you reach for mostly cream products then a cream foundation stick like Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint may work wonders for you!

Discover the main differences between cream vs liquid vs powder foundation

Cream foundation:

Finish: Hydrated, natural-looking finish with a flattering glow.

Texture: Smooth, emollient consistency that’s malleable and easy to blend.

Application: Swipes on effortlessly – it’s so quick and easy you could probably apply it in the dark!

Charlotte recommends: Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint

Cream foundation

Liquid Foundation:

Finish: Natural appearance with matte and glowy options to suit your preference.

Texture: Fluid consistency that’s easy to work with and skims seamlessly across the face.

Application: Use stippling motions using a domed brush like my Magic Complexion Brush.

Charlotte recommends: Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Foundation for a natural glow or AIRbrush Flawless Foundation for a natural matte look.

Beautiful Skin Foundation + Airbrush Flawless Foundation

Powder Foundation:

Finish: Velvety, matte finish for an airbrush effect.

Texture: Smooth, finely milled powder that lightly veils skin.

Application: Best applied with a brush to slowly build coverage.

Tilbury Tip: My AIRbrush Flawless Finish pressed powder has the skin-perfecting properties of a lightly-pigmented powder foundation and is perfect for softly mattifying the look of your favourite foundation.

Airbrush Flawless Finish powders

4. What skin type do you have?

Understanding your skin type will empower you to choose a foundation formula that works with your complexion. Each skin type has its own set of obstacles when it comes to foundation application; for example, a hydrating foundation that’s like a dream for dry and dehydrated skin may slip and slide around on an oily complexion, whereas a longwearing matte foundation that endures on oily skin can accentuate the appearance of dry patches and dehydration lines. Learn about your skin type and its needs to find the best foundation for the job.

What is my skin type? Find out, here!

Foundation for Dry and Dehydrated Skin: Dry skin types require hydrating foundation formulas that are infused with hydrators like hyaluronic acid that will lay gorgeously on the skin while helping to quell skin dryness.

Discover the difference between dry and dehydrated skin

Foundation for Oily and Combination Skin: Applying foundation to oily skin can be problematic as oils can accelerate the breakdown of your foundation. Reach for matte formulas over dewy and glowy finishes that can appear greasy on oily skin and be sure to set your foundation with powder and setting spray.

Learn more about foundation for oily and combination skin

Darlings, each of my foundations are expertly formulated to wear beautifully on every skin type. Foundations that typically wouldn’t work for your skin can perform well when paired with an effective skincare routine and makeup products that counteract any problem qualities. Discover my skin analysis tool and my Pro Beauty Tech will match you with your perfect skincare routine for prepping skin for foundation.

Find your skincare routine

5. How long will you be wearing foundation for?

If you want your foundation to last all day, it’s important to reach for a long-lasting formula that won’t budge or smear. Generally, matte foundations are more longwearing than glowy formulas, and a self-setting formula like AIRbrush Flawless Foundation will go the extra mile to lock in your foundation look with stay-all-day confidence.

Tilbury Tip: Darlings, whichever foundation you choose, always set it into place with my AIRbrush Flawless Setting Spray – it’s the ultimate AIRbrush fix that locks makeup into place for up to 16 hours!

Discover more long-lasting makeup must-haves

6. Choose a foundation infused with skincare ingredients

Darlings, when I’m creating a new foundation, I blend colour and science to create formulas that help skin to look and feel its most beautiful. Each of my foundations is infused with supercharged skincare ingredients to provide colour and care. I wear foundation almost every day, so it’s important for me to know that what I’m applying to my skin is moisturising, nourishing, and helps to keep my skin healthy. Discover the kind-to-skin ingredients that power my famous foundations:

Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint

Hyaluronic acid, Daikon radish seed oil and vitamin E for skin barrier defence.

Collageneer™ for firmer-feeling and plumper-looking skin.

Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Foundation

Hyaluronic acid to boost skin hydration.

Rose complex to brighten the appearance of skin tone.

Hyalurosmooth™ to even the look of skin texture.

Coconut extract to improve skin’s water retention.

Bix’Activ™ helps to lessen the appearance of pores, shine, and oiliness.

CT Defence™ to help protect skin from urban pollution.

AIRbrush Flawless Foundation

REPLEXIUM™ to visibly reduce the appearance of wrinkles and signs of ageing.

MossCellTec™ to deeply hydrate skin.

CT Defence™ to help protect skin from urban pollution.

AirCool™ to help combat sweat and humidity.

Discover my skincare ingredients glossary

7. Choose your perfect foundation shade with my Foundation Shade Finder

Darlings, the best foundation for you should be a close match to your natural skin tone and look seamless! Use my Foundation Shade Finder to find your perfect foundation shade match – click through to answer some quick questions about your skin tone, undertone, and preferred foundation coverage, then upload a photo of yourself. My Pro Beauty Tech will find your flawless shade match in seconds!

Choose Foundation Shade

Tilbury Tip: Login or create an account on or the Charlotte Tilbury App to save your results, then receive customised shade matches based on your foundation shade when shopping my makeup collection!

Discover my Foundation Shade Finder

Discover the Best Foundation for You from Charlotte’s Collection of Foundation Makeup

  1. Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint dewy finish foundation in 4 shades

    Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint

    Finish: Super-natural dewy finish

    Coverage: Sheer-to-light coverage

    Shade Range: 20 stretchable shades

    The Look: ‘No makeup’ makeup with a ring light effect

    Wear with: AIRbrush Flawless Finish to set and perfect the appearance of your complexion.

  2. Jourdan wearing Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint dewy foundation stick

    Charlotte’s Best Light-Coverage Foundation Stick

    Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint hydrating foundation stick is my super-natural skin tint with an unbelievable your skin finish that every makeup minimalist will adore. Swiping on this hydrating stick foundation brings life back to dull and tired-looking skin, amplifying its natural glow and creating an ultra-flattering, smoothing, blurring effect. It’s also clinically proven to strengthen your skin barrier thanks to a powerful skin barrier defence matrix of hyaluronic acid, Daikon radish seed oil, and vitamin E. If you don’t want to wear a foundation that feels ‘too much’, Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint is your secret for creating a light-coverage look that enhances your natural beauty.

    Shop Unreal Skin Sheer Glow Tint Hydrating Foundation Stick

  3. Beautiful Skin Foundation medium-coverage foundation with texture swatch

    Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Foundation

    Finish: Healthy-looking natural finish

    Coverage: Medium-buildable coverage

    Shade Range: 30 shades

    The Look: Healthy, hydrated, naturally radiant-looking skin

    Wear with: Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Radiant Concealer and Beautiful Skin Sun-Kissed Glow Bronzer – perfect, conceal, and bronze to get the Beautiful Skin effect!

  4. Model wearing Beautiful Skin Foundation with a natural finish

    Charlotte’s Best Medium-Coverage Foundation

    Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Foundation has been worn by celebrities and stars on runways around the world! I wanted to bottle your ‘best skin day’ in a hydrating liquid foundation with a beautiful, radiant finish that makes skin glow! Wearing Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Foundation unlocks beautiful skin results both instantly and over time; it smooths onto the face to deliver effortless, even-looking coverage while offering skincare benefits like hydrating hyaluronic acid and brightening-effect rose complex to improve the look of skin with every wear.

    Shop Charlotte’s Beautiful Skin Foundation

  5. 3 shades of Charlotte's Airbrush Flawless Foundation with swatches

    AIRbrush Flawless Foundation

    Finish: Natural-matte finish

    Coverage: Instant full coverage

    Shade Range: 44 shades

    The Look: Full glam makeup that stays all day

    Wear with: AIRbrush Flawless Finish, AIRbrush Bronzer, and AIRbrush Flawless Setting Spray to set makeup and sculpt the look of your face.

  6. Bella Tilbury wearing Airbrush Flawless Foundation full-coverage foundation

    Charlotte’s Best Full-Coverage Foundation

    AIRbrush Flawless Foundation is the foundation I reach for when I want skin to look absolutely flawless and poreless. It’s a full-coverage foundation that delivers instant, even-looking coverage with a super-flattering, natural-matte finish that never feels heavy or drying. The formula is infused with skincare powerhouses including REPLEXIUM™ to reduce the appearance of wrinkles by up to 22%, and MossCellTec™ No. 1 for boosted skin hydration levels by 216%! It’s science meets colour for your most flawless-looking complexion yet!

    Shop Airbrush Flawless Foundation

  7. 12 shades of Hollywood Flawless Filter illuminator

    Hollywood Flawless Filter

    Finish: Hollywood glow finish

    Coverage: Sheer coverage

    Shade Range: 12 shades

    The Look: Red carpet glow inspired by the flash of Hollywood lights

    Wear with: Hollywood Contour Wands and Beauty Light Wands to sculpt and glow. 

    Tilbury Tip: Beautify your eyes and lips with Hollywood Exagger-Eyes Liner Duo and Hollywood Beauty Icon Lipstick for the ultimate Hollywood makeup look.

  8. Meg wearing Hollywood Flawless Filter sheer-coverage illuminator

    Charlotte’s Best Illuminator

    Hollywood Flawless Filter is the secret to getting an effortless Hollywood glow! My legendary glow elixir gives skin the most magical, luminous finish that looks like a real-life beauty filter. I’ve always been fascinated by the ways photographers can manipulate light, and I wanted to bottle the perfecting powers of Hollywood lights and retouch filters to create a glow-enhancing beauty booster. Glow lovers can’t get enough of the original Hollywood Flawless Filter – it’s a luminous primer, a sheer skin-perfector, and a liquid highlighter all in one, giving your complexion a one-way ticket to Hollywood.

    Shop Hollywood Flawless Filter

  9. Unisex Healthy Glow tinted moisturiser with sand backdrop

    Unisex Healthy Glow

    Finish: Natural, sun-kissed finish

    Coverage: Light-to-medium coverage

    The Look: Naturally bronzed, back-from-the-beach look

    Wear with: Pillow Talk Lip + Cheek Glow for a dewy, summertime pop of colour on the lips and cheeks.

  10. Model wearing Unisex Healthy Glow tinted moisturiser

    Charlotte’s Best Tinted Moisturiser

    Unisex Healthy Glow is a tinted moisturiser that morphs and flexes to complement your skin tone. It’s packed with bronzing tan pigments that give the complexion a warm, sun-kissed look, making it a must-have for anyone that’s searching for the secret to a year-round summer glow! The moisturising formula applies as a hydrating, white cream, and as the pigments burst, it transforms into a bronzed hue that gives skin a healthy-looking, holiday glow with natural-looking, skin-perfecting coverage.

    Shop Unisex Healthy Glow