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12 best foundations for combination skin

Oily T-zone but dry cheeks? We've found the liquids and powders to hide (and help) it all

Olivia Blair,Clare Vooght
Tuesday 08 November 2016 16:04 GMT

Finding a foundation that strikes the right balance for tricky combination skin can be tough. Oily T-zones and dry patches on cheeks require a careful blend of ingredients. We tested various foundations that profess to provide the answer – in powder and liquid forms – both in an air-conditioned office and out and about.

A good foundation looks natural, not cakey, and also provides an uplifting glow that lasts all day. You may want to vary your foundation depending on whether you’re going to work or on a night out, or having a good skin day or suffering from a breakout; this can be achieved by using a foundation that will give you the right coverage. Full coverage foundations hide all redness and blemishes, whereas medium to light coverage will only hide small imperfections or unevenness.

Foundation is best applied on top of a primer to ensure the dryer areas of your face are moisturized and the foundation stays in place for most of the day. Lastly, set with a mattifying powder, focusing on the T-zone, to give you that professional finish.

1. Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Make-up: £31 for 30ml, Look Fantastic

This foundation from skincare expert Estée Lauder lived up to its 15-hour promise, lasting all day in an air-conditioned office, without us needing to reapply before heading out for the evening. It gives flawless yet natural coverage, that’s still thick enough to cover blemishes. It’s oil-free and non-acnegenic, so it doesn’t clog pores, but it doesn’t dry out skin either. We also like the fact that it adds a little sun-protection (SPF10) and comes in 44 different shades, so it’s easy to find a good match for your skin tone.

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2. Bare Minerals Bare Pro Performance Wear Powder Foundation: £27 for 10g, Bare Minerals

For those who regularly use liquid foundations, it may be hard to get your head around using just powder, but bear with us, this new compact from Bare Minerals is a winner. It doesn’t cake, blends well and the breathable micro-mesh mineral formula feels light and silky. It’s natural-looking but buildable, giving you enough coverage to last all day. It’s a good one for travellers too - the foundation stood up to a two hour flight without drying our skin out. Available in 20 shades.

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3. Revlon ColorStay Make-up for Combination/Oily Skin: £12.99 for 30ml, Boots

This was the most impressive in terms of value. It gave decent matte coverage for blemishes and redness that lasted all day and evening. It was a little drying, so it’s probably best for skin that’s on the oilier side of combination, but it’s great for controlling midday shine - it provides decent coverage without the need to touch up a shiny forehead by lunchtime.

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4. Clinique Superbalanced Silk Make-up: £23 for 30ml, Clinique

This oil-free foundation mattified and moisturised in all the right places, and held its own under unforgiving air-con, without leaving dry patches. It includes SPF15, goes on smoothly and provides sheer, natural coverage that hides imperfections well. Those with skin on the drier side of combination should try the straight-up Superbalanced (not Silk) version, though this doesn’t include SPF.

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5. Oxygenetix Oxygenating Foundation: £45 for 15ml, Cult Beauty

Containing aloe vera, which matches the skin's natural pH, and a breathable 'ceravitae' formula that's designed to increase your skin's oxygen intake, this is a super-healthy choice for combination skin. It feels pretty smooth going on, but offers decent, buildable coverage, and the antioxidant ingredient vitamin E stimulates collagen and new skin cell growth, helping to heal blemishes. It’s oil-free, hypoallergenic, long-lasting and doesn’t leave you with dry patches by the end of the day. It’s at the more expensive end of our list, but we think it’s worth investing in, especially if your skin’s on the sensitive side.

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6. Trish McEvoy Even Skin Water Foundation: £55 for 30ml, Liberty

This oil-free, water-based foundation is super-light, but very buildable, so coverage can be as natural or as seamless as you want. It’s great for covering blemishes, brightens the complexion and lasts all day (even on a short European flight) thanks to the built-in primer. But because of the primer, we wouldn’t recommend this for anyone with acne-prone skin - it’s great on combination skin that’s on the slightly drier side, due to the antioxidants and hydration from vitamin C and hyaluronic acid.

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7. Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation: £29.50 for 30ml, Charlotte Tilbury

This long-awaited make-up range from famed artist to the stars, including the likes of Kate Moss and Kim Kardashian, Charlotte Tilbury came out in 2013. The brand boasts that its Magic foundation took five years of specialist and scientific work to develop. We found the product lasts all day and evening, sustaining that bright, illuminating dewy look the product gives on first application. Complete with SPF 15, which is not only a crucial element for summer, and available in 15 shades, this foundation will leave you feeling like one of Charlotte’s celebrity clients.

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8. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation: £37 for 30ml, Feel Unique

Using Silk in the name gives away how this product feels as you apply, leaving you with a natural glow. This foundation has that perfect buildable coverage, so depending on what kind of day you’re having, or what season you’re in, you can chose how light or heavy to go. It’s also oil- free, making it a great choice for days when the skin might be suffering from excessive oiliness. It comes in 21 shades.

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9. Yves Saint Laurent Touche Ḗclat: £25, Feel Unique

From the brand’s signature Touche Ḗclat range, this is one of the thicker foundations on the list, so it’s especially good if you’re having a bad skin, or tired, day and need something with a bit more coverage to give your skin a lift. It gives a matte finish and is full coverage, lasting for a full day at work. However, we found there is no need to use powder to set, as it runs the risk of drying your skin out.

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10. Laura Mercier Silk Crème Foundation: £35, Space NK

This foundation feels light and airy when applied to the skin yet still produces that fully rounded, even glow. The liquid blends easily and there is no need to use that much. The product is long-wearing and lasts all day which is good given its pledge to last for 12 hours. The skin feels soft under this foundation, which is perhaps thanks to the tea extract included. Overall, it’s great for achieving that natural, yet fully covered look.

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11. L’Oréal True Match Foundation: £9.99, Boots

This foundation from the popular high street brand gives a matte look, creating the illusion it has already been finished off with powder. This professional look is often something that gets lost with high street options, so this is a welcome change. The product also comes in a whopping 23 shades, and the brand claims to match 98 per cent of UK skin tones, so everyone can find the right colour for them.

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12. Nars Sheer Glow Foundation: £31, Nars Cosmetics

Nars is one of the lighter foundations we tried and is easily applied over a primer. The finished look is a radiant, highlighted one and the buildable coverage means you can vary up your look on a day-to-day basis. We found the lighter shades we tested are very natural, with yellow undertones, so it’s worth applying a nude powder and bronzer on top to make sure your skin doesn’t look washed out.

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The Verdict: Foundations for combination skin

Our favourite is Estée Lauder, as it gives the most even, balanced and flawless coverage, without any dryness or oiliness. It also lasted the longest amount of time. Charlotte Tilbury's Magic foundation is another good option, especially if you’re looking for an illuminating product which will lift up the skin, even on those oily and dry days, and last all day.

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