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2023 Best Water Based Foundations Guide (Usage Tips, Brands, FAQ)

by Sandy Taylor
Water Based Foundations are most often used on oily skin. However, this does not mean that they are all “oil-free”.  They are usually a thick liquid that pours out and some of them contain oils and other slip agents. They are also great for women with dry skin as they provide excellent moisturization.



Best Water Based Foundations List

So what are the best water based foundations? In my professional makeup career, I have tried and tested many different water based foundations. Here is a list of the ones that are the best:

#1 – Clinique Even Better Makeup

Clinique’s water based foundation is oil-free and has SPF15 to protect your face from harmful sun exposure. This is one of the best full coverage water based foundations. The formula is buildable and works to reduce age spots while combating signs of aging.

Clinique’s even better foundation has a lasting freshness that is weightless while providing reliable coverage that lasts up to 24 hours. This foundation works great for individuals with any skin tone and it works brilliantly to smooth uneven tones.

It uses Clinique’s Stay True pigments to ensure that the color does that change throughout the day. Foundations with richer formulas may look darker when first applied but the color usually become lighter after drying. It is sweat and humidity resistant. There is 56 shades to choose from.

Another Clinique foundation, the Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer is also water based. This foundation comes with an applicator in the bottle and is designed to last at least 24 hours. This foundation comes in 40 shades. To keep the foundation light-weight, Clinique used rich pigments in their formula.

#2 – MAC Studio Fix Fluid

This MAC water based foundation is long-lasting and can last up to 24 hours. It’s a medium to full coverage foundation with a matte finish. It’s great for everyday wear because it’s formulated with sun protection SPF 15.

This foundation is easy to blend, lightweight and non-drying. It does not streak or cake. It is oil-free and provides excellent oil control throughout the day. It helps to reduce the appearance of pores and doesn’t settle into fine lines.

#3 – Too Faced Born This Way Foundation

Too Faced Born this Way foundation is water based and oil-free and works to diffuse lines between the makeup and the skin, creating a smooth, natural, and consistent appearance.

This is one of the best water based foundations for dry skin. It contains alpine rose and hyaluronic acid to help hydrate your skin and improve elasticity to promote a more youthful appearance.

This foundation offers medium to full coverage, which works exceptionally well to cover sun damage, acne, and oily skin. One application creates a flawless and natural-looking complexion. Too Faced foundation is infused with coconut water, which provides additional moisturization for your skin.

#4 – Youngblood Liquid Mineral Foundation

The liquid mineral foundation by Youngblood works to create an all-natural and 100-percent authentic coverage for your skin. This product provides long-lasting coverage, feels super silky to the touch when applying, and goes on smoothly without caking up. This foundation is excellent for sensitive skin and does not contribute to acne, skin rashes, or any other issues. This water based foundation can be applied by finger or with a sponge for an even and consistent finish that feels light and airy all day. Youngblood infuses their liquid foundation with deep-sea water rich in minerals and nutrients that work to hydrate your skin and leave an attractive radiant appearance.

#5 – COVER FX Natural Finish Foundation

The Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation is one of the best water based foundations for combination skin (normal to dry). This is a medium coverage foundation is formulated with powerful anti-oxidants, vitamins C, E and F, to fight against the body’s free radicals. It also contains squalane: a natural antioxidant that helps to lock in skin moisture.

This foundation is oil-free and non-comedogenic. It’s formulated to ensure that your hard blemishes are covered and that your skin can breathe! It provides a 12-Hour coverage and is free from sulfates (SLS and SLES), parabens and phthalates.

#6 – Clinique Stay-Matte Oil-Free Makeup

The Clinique Stay-Matte Oil-Free Makeup is one of the best water based foundations for oily skin. It is formulated with Clinique’s patent-pending formula that works to absorb oil and shine. This allows the foundation to resist sweat and stay matte all day. It has skin nourishing properties that helps to improve your skin conditions over time.

Notable skincare ingredients include:

  • Laminaria Saccharina Extract – Provides antioxidant and soothing properties
  • Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract – Helps reduce excess oil and provides gentle exfoliation.
  • Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract – Helps soothe the skin and act as an anti-inflammatory agent.

This foundation is fragrance-free, oil-free and hypoallergenic.

BTW, I’ve written a detailed guide on some of the best foundations for oily skin. Check it out if you want to discover more foundations like this one.

#7 – Neutrogena Skinclearing Makeup

The Neutrogena Skinclearing Makeup is the best water based foundation for acne prone skin. This is an oil-free formula created with salicylic acid, a strong acne bacteria fighting ingredient. This foundation helps to cover and treat blemishes and prevent future acne breakouts. It uses Neutrogena’s Microclear technology to help breakthrough oil, unclog pores and delver acne medication deep into the skin.

The formula is excellent for oil and shine control. It is non-comedogenic, lightweight and non-cakey. There are 12 shades to choose from. It’s medium coverage buildable to full. There are 12 shades to choose from.

#8 – EVXO Organic Liquid Mineral Foundation

The EVXO Organic Liquid Mineral Foundation is one of the best water based foundations for sensitive skin. This natural water based foundation is formulated with certified organic ingredients. It’s great for sensitive skin because it contains chamomile, which is an ingredient that is anti-inflammatory.

Other notable organic ingredients include:

  • Thyme – Helps to treat blemishes caused by acne bacteria
  • Gluten-Free Vitamin E – Strong anti-oxidant that blocks free radicals from the body and helps to slow the aging process. Gluten-Free Vitamin E means that the vitamins are not taken from wheat ingredients.

This foundation provides an all-day wear and a dewy finish. It’s is a medium coverage foundation that is buildable to full coverage. It’s also a great water based foundation for rosacea.

The formula is free of plastics, fillers, alcohol, silicone, perfume, synthetic toxins. parabens, sulfates, and Nano-particles.

It is vegan, organic, cruelty-free, gluten-free and made proudly in the USA. It comes with push button droppers so to make it easy for you to control the amount of product you use. There are 11 shades to choose from.

BTW, the EVXO Organic Liquid Mineral Foundation is also a great water-based foundation for rosacea because of its natural anti-inflammatory ingredients. I’ve written a detailed guide on the best foundations for rosacea if you want to find out more.

#9 – Bodyography Natural Finish Foundation

The Bodyography Natural Finish Foundation is one of the best water based foundations for mature skin. This is a medium to full-coverage foundation with powerful anti-aging vitamins like:

  • Vitamin A – Helps to stimulate the production of new skin cells.
  • Vitamin E – Helps to provide protection against sun damage. It’s an anti-oxidant that can reduce the effects of aging skin by protecting it against free radicals.

This is an oil-free water based foundation with a natural finish. It’s formulated with micro-pigments which allows each drop of makeup to hold more pigment particles. This allows the makeup to be absorbed into the skin effectively and prevents fading.

The formula uses Bodyography’s Photo Control Technology, a high reflective index system, that helps to soften wrinkles and make the skin appear smoother in photos.

It is formulated without parabens, gluten, fragrance, or talc. It is cruelty-free and made proudly in the USA.

Best Water Based Foundations For Airbush

Aeroblend Airbrush Makeup

I’m surprised not many people know about Aeroblend and its foundations. I recommend this foundation because it is long lasting and works for pretty much all skin types. Like the other airbrush foundations that I recommend, this Aeroblend foundation doesn’t require an airbrush for application (But it’s good to have). This foundation works well to cover dark spots and acne! If you’re looking for a high-quality water based foundation that can be used with an airbrush, you may want to give this one a try.

Belloccio Airbrush Makeup Foundation

Like Glam Air, Belloccio’s foundations works great with airbrush kits. This foundation is oil free and fragrance free. It works fast to conceal even the toughest of blemishes. Its non-comedogenic properties ensure that your pores won’t get blocked.  When used with an airbrush kit, this foundation creates a thin and lightweight barrier on your skin. You don’t need an airbrush in order to apply this foundation. However, I highly recommend using one because it makes it easier to apply.

BTW, if you’re interested to know more about oil free foundations, check out my detailed guide on oil free foundations.

Glam Air Airbrush Water-based Foundation

My personal favorites are the airbrush water based foundations from Glam Air. There are a number of reasons for this:

1) It is very easy to apply. It simply glides on your skin. You apply it with an airbrush which is better, faster and gives you better coverage than traditional ways of applying foundation

2)It is very light and compact. It gives you a great look without it feeling heavy on your face

3)It is CHEAP! This is one of the most affordable brands out there and you can stock up on different shades without breaking the bank.

4)Works great even on oily skin! We all know oil and water don’t mix well. However, the airbrush breaks the foundation microdroplets which allows your skin to easily absorb the water. This leaves your skin hydrated!Airbrush Kit

You have to use this product with an airbrush. The one that I would highly recommend is the Multipurpose Airbrush Kit from Master Airbrush. The kit comes with everything you need which includes a ⅛” air hose and air compressor.

This airbrush kit is suitable for users of all levels and is made of high-quality materials. You can easily adjust the pressure which is very handy when applying foundation. If you want to try something other than the old traditional way of applying makeup, this one is truly worth a shot.

If you don’t know how to apply airbrush makeup, check out this step-by-step airbrush application tutorial video below:

Best Drugstore Water Based Foundations

Here are the best drugstore water based foundations that I recommend:

1) NYX Stay Matte But Not Flat Liquid Foundation– This foundation is full coverage and is oil free. It works great even on pale skin! More on this subject: Check out my guide on the best foundations that work well on pale skin.

2) Maybelline New York Fit Me! Foundation – This Maybelline foundation is water based, fragrance-free and doesn’t clog pores. It’s lightweight. It simply works and is cheap too!

3) COVERGIRL Clean Makeup FoundationGot a budget? Try this Covergirl foundation. This drugstore water based foundation is budget-friendly. It’s a medium coverage foundation that can provide up to 4 hours of coverage. However, I’ve found that it was pretty easy to add touch-ups during the day.

This is a  lightweight water based foundation and works on all skin types including dry skin and very oily skin. If you’re interested in more drugstore water based foundations, I’ve discussed this in the sections below.

When comparing drugstore water based foundations with high-end designer brands, you will notice that ingredients are not the determining factor for the price. In fact, most drugstore foundations and department store foundations will have the same ingredients.

Water Based Foundations: What You Need To Know

How to Tell if a Foundation is Water Based?

Water based foundations are mostly made of water. and usually has the ingredient “aqua” as the first item written on the ingredients list of the label. So why are water based makeup so popular? Here are two main reasons:

1) Great Hydration – Seriously, what provides better hydration than water itself?

2) They are lightweight – High water content makes this type of foundation lightweight and easy to blend. This is especially important during the summer when your face is subject to heat and humidity.

3) Good for Oily Skin – People with oily skin knows how hard it is to find a foundation that doesn’t add weight. Water based foundations are good for oily skin because they provide enough hydration so that the production of sebum is controlled. It is also lightweight enough so that if your face produces a lot of oil throughout the day, the foundation won’t add to the weight.

Some people say that water based foundations are only good for light coverage or if you are looking for something that doesn’t clog your pores. However, this simply isn’t true. You can find full coverage and non-comedogenic foundations that are water based and will serve your needs.

If you hate to spend the extra time to slap on moisturizers, then you should consider using a foundation that is water based. This type of foundation does an excellent job of hydrating your skin. They have superior blending capabilities and is perfect for anyone looking to blend their blushes. The oil ingredients allow the foundations to be applied evenly over on your face. If you make a mistake, it is usually easy to correct it with a sponge. The emollient of the foundation is what gives most people the nice “glow”.

You Should Stay Away From Your Water Based Foundation If…

If your skin is of the combination type, you should probably stay away from water based foundations. Why? the oil emollients mix with the oil that is already on your skin. This creates an unnatural glow that is simply not pleasing to look at. Even if you wash your face ahead of time, the oil will eventually build up. If you dampen the amount of shine caused by water based foundations, you can try to add a bit of loose powder. The powder soaks up the oil temporarily and this reduces the shine.

A word of caution, draining your skin oil with loose powder is just a temporary solution. I do not recommend doing this often. There are 2 reasons. First, the build-up of powder on your skin clogs pores which make it very hard for your skin to breathe. Second, your skin will sense that there isn’t enough oil on the surface and will try to compensate by producing even more oil. You should never condition your skin this way.

If you have oily skin and want to consider using a water based foundation, check out my guide on oil free foundations.

Water Based Foundations vs Silicone Based Foundations vs Oil Free Foundations

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between silicone based foundations, oil free foundations and water based foundations. Hopefully, this section of the post can help some people clear up their knowledge of the difference between the two.

Water Based FoundationLook for the ingredient “Aqua” in your makeup and if it is the first item that is listed then it means that the product is made mostly of water. It tends to not stay on your skin as long as silicone ones do but one of the main advantages of using this type of foundation is that it wouldn’t clog your pores. It is great for people who have sensitive skin. My general advice is to pair this type of foundation with water based primers. If you’re interested, check out my extensive guide on water based primers .

Don’t confuse water based foundations with waterproof foundations. They are completely different things. If you are looking for waterproof foundations, check out my post here where I provide extensive information on everything you need to know about waterproof foundations.

Silicone Foundation – As the name suggests, these foundations use silicone as one of their primary ingredients. Most makeup products have some kind of silicone in them. This is because the silicone helps to fill in fine lines and wrinkles in your face. It also helps your skin breathe. Silicone allows makeup to be applied to your face easily.

Next time you are at a makeup store, look for products that have ingredients such as silica and dimethicone and you can be sure that the product has some kind of silicone in it.

I would generally recommend anyone who has sensitive skin to avoid the use of silicone foundations. As I had pointed out above, silicone helps to fill in the fine lines and wrinkles on your skin. However, when it is removed from the skin, silicone foundations have a tendency to cause breakouts for people with sensitive skin. Although some good name brands like Clinique have a reputation of allergically testing their products, if you are skeptical about the use of silicone based foundations, you should definitely consider using another type of foundation.

One awesome and low-cost foundation that is gaining popularity is the Milani Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation + Concealer. This Milani silicone based foundation contains dimethicone and has great water-resistant properties. There are 29 different shades to choose from. The Foundation + Concealer combination means that you can get the best coverage without applying 2 different products, which saves you time. It’s very easy to blend and it doesn’t feel heavy or cakey. Best of all, it’s a drug store foundation which means it’s super affordable.

If you’re interested in more silicone based foundations, I’ve written an extensive guide on this, you can check out my silicone based foundations guide here.

Oil Free Foundation – We have all learned from experience that water and oil do not mix well together. Therefore, if you have decided to use oil free foundations, you should also choose a primer that is oil free. This ensures that your makeup will last on your skin all day. Generally, oil-free foundations are used for those who have very oily skin. I have written another post on this subject. Check out my oil-free foundation guide.

Popular Water Based Foundation Brands

With the enormous amount of foundation brands out there, you might get quite overwhelmed by what to select. In my 15 years of experience as a professional makeup artist, I have used many different brands of water based foundations on my clients. What I have learned over the years is that selecting top brands may not necessarily be the best choice. What is important is that you must pay attention to what these brands put into their makeup. Learn the ingredients that work for your skin, not the brand.

Below is a list of water based foundation brands that are popular amongst my clients:

Belloccio – My clients absolutely love this brand. It works out for me as well because the foundation applies easily and evenly when used with an airbrush. Foundations from this brand are usually free of paraben, oil, and fragrance. The brand uses Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin as one of its main ingredients.

Glam Air – One thing that I truly love about Glam Air is that it seems to work nicely with all skin types. Foundations from Glam Air are usually oil free. It very easy to apply using an airbrush. It’s the brand I choose when I work with new clients because I know it works. Glam Air has had a great reputation for customer service. Products feel light on the face and I have had much positive feedback from my clients. Try this brand if you are looking for a brand that simply works!

CoverGirl Ok let’s face it, not all of us have huge budgets for foundations. My younger clients usually ask me what is the water based foundation that doesn’t need an airbrush to apply, is cheap and easy to get. My answer has always been CoverGirl. Why? If you have been to a drug store in your life, you would know that this brand exists in every corner of every store. It is popular and usually under $10 for a 1 oz bottle. My clients would sometimes say that it does feel heavier than other brands. But for $10 it’s a bargain. I would suggest that you pay attention to the ingredients before going after this brand. One popular ingredient, Proplylene Glyol, is known to absorb water which may not work for some people with really dry skin.

Aeroblend – This is a great brand for people who have medium to light complexion. Like most airbrush foundation, it works with just about any brand of airbrush. What I like about them is that they offer mini sets which include different shades. Very handy when I work with multiple clients as I don’t need to carry huge bottles. Choose this brand if you like to experiment with different color options.

Should You Use Water Based Foundation on Acne Prone Skin?

Water based foundations are ok to be used on acne prone skin. Make sure that it isn’t oil based, because oil based foundations may are formulated with oils that might clog your pores.  Some people might suggest to not use any makeup at all during breakouts. However, that is simply not possible in most cases.

Keep in mind that all makeup products will block pores to some extent. During breakouts, it’s important to allow your skin to breathe. If you choose to use a water based foundation during breakouts, make sure you select one that is non-comedogenic (doesn’t block pores) and is oil free.

Does Water Based Foundations Cause Acne?

Water based foundations do not cause acne. Acne is caused by excess oil production of your skin, dead skin cells that accumulate in your pores, and bacteria build up in your pores. Choose a water based foundation that is non-comedogenic to ensure that it won’t clog your pores. Water based foundations that contain salicylic acid can help fight off acne-causing bacteria on your skin and prevent new breakouts.

Best Way To Remove Water Based Foundations

The best way to remove water based foundations is to use a water based makeup remover. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. Oil-Free – Water based makeup removers are usually oil free. This means they won’t change the environment created on your skin by your foundation and can help to control oil on your face after the foundation is removed.
  2. Get Hydration – You’re going to need to keep your skin hydrated even after removing your foundation. Water based makeup removers are great for this and help to protect your skin until your next foundation application.

The best water based makeup remover that I have used is the Bioderma Sebium H2O Micellar Water. This product is great because it feels gentle on the skin and provides good hydration. It works great for people with oily and combination skin. 

This product biologically regulates the sebum on your skin so that your pores won’t clog up. After using it, I’ve noticed that my pores became less prominent and my face feels fresh. I highly recommend this water based makeup remover!

I’m Considering Using a Water Based Foundation. Does That Mean I Must Give Up My Favorite Oil Based Primer?

I’m sorry to let you know but you are better off switching to a water based primer. Different based products simply do not mix well together and in the case of an oil based primer mixing a water based foundation, the foundation won’t stick to your primer and you end up with a messy / melted look.

Instead, consider why you are using an oil based primer in the first place. Most people opt for an oil based product because they have dry skin. The oil helps to lock moisturizing into your skin. If your skin is not particularly dry, consider using a new water based primer. Otherwise, stick with your oil based products until you feel more comfortable with the moisture level of your skin. Side note: If you have dry skin, consider fixing that problem first by improving your facial routine and taking better care of your skin.

Why Do I Feel So Uncomfortable After Applying My Water Based Foundation?

There could be many reasons for this but here are the common issues:

a) You’re using way too much – This is a mistake that many people make when they first started off with doing makeup. They blindly apply the product on their skin, without thinking how much they are putting on. Too much foundation makes your face feel cakey, heavy and not breathable. The best approach is to apply in thin layers each time. Most people are applying too much because there are trouble areas on their skin that they want covered. However, foundations shouldn’t be used to cover hard to cover areas. The primary job of the foundation is to provide your skin with a uniform complex. With that in mind, always use primer for hard to cover areas first and then add thin layers of foundations on top. This trick works well it should make you feel more comfortable.

b) You’re mixing the wrong products – Are you mixing a silicone based primer with a water based foundation? (or any other combination). If you are doing this, please stop because different based products simply do not mix well. Try using a water based foundation with a water based primer and you will feel the difference.

c) Your product doesn’t work well with your skin – So you have found the foundation that you love. It’s a big-name brand foundation that everyone is using. You go home and put it on your skin and then noticed that your skin feels itchy and uncomfortable. What’s going on? They have done all the testing before putting the product on the shelves, right? Why is it working for your neighbor and not you?

The hard truth is that although makeup products are regulated by the FDA, nothing is “approved” before it gets to the market. The FDA regulates certain color additives in products but products that make it on store shelves do not need approval. This puts you, the buyer, responsible for testing products before purchasing them. Always remember that just because a product works for your neighbor, it doesn’t always mean it will work for you. I’ve had clients using expensive, department store makeup and still have issues with acne and breakouts.

Always test and test again before commitment.

Is it Normal to Switch Between Water Based Foundations and Oil Based Foundations?

Yes! our skin changes with the seasons and so should your foundation. During the winter months when your skin is dry and brittle, consider protecting it with an oil based foundation. In the summer when your skin is humid and oily, use a water based foundations and pad down the oil throughout the day.

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