Beauty & Skincare

I’ve Tried Tons of Serum Foundations—Here Are the 6 I’d Buy Again


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tinted serum foundations"
tinted serum foundations
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider
Graphics by: Caitlin Schneider

Now is my moment to confess: I am a skincare junkie. While everyone else in my high school class obsessed over the latest eyeliner or flat iron (I am a millennial, after all), I was trying out different serums, face creams, and exfoliating products. Now, as I’ve grown up, my knowledge (and budget) have certainly grown past my teen years, but my focus on skincare still remains. In fact, it’s a passion that’s bled over into my makeup products, which is how I became obsessed with skincare-makeup hybrid products. Enter the best serum foundations…

A serum foundation typically is a lightweight, runnier formula that will blend into your skin-like skincare. More often than not, the formulas are light-to-medium (but buildable) coverage that comes with skincare benefits, so you are getting makeup with the benefit of skincare-level ingredients. Now, let me be the first to say that makeup shouldn’t replace skincare—what you put on underneath matters quite a bit. But having quality ingredients in your makeup certainly doesn’t hurt, either! 

After trying out quite a few serum foundations over the years, I’ve had my fair share of loves (and fails). Read on to discover the six best serum foundations based on all that I’ve tried.

What is Serum Foundation?

I’d like to consider serum foundation as the perfect hybrid of glowy skincare meets tinted coverage. As mentioned above, a serum foundation consists of key ingredients that work overtime to help your skin’s natural barrier. So not only are you looking dewy and glowy from your makeup, but your skin is also benefiting from it. Whether you opt for anti-aging, brightening, or SPF properties, these beauty products aim to target your specific skin needs—all while providing a skin-like finish to your makeup look. Plus, these formulas are typically lightweight, buildable, and are ideal for everyday wear. In other words, if you prefer a more minimal look for every day but still want a bit of coverage—a serum foundation will be your best bet.

The Best Serum Foundations

Ciele Tint & PROTECT SPF 50+ 

ciele tiny & protect spf 50+

Price: $44
Coverage: Natural, medium coverage
Shade Options: 13
Hero Ingredients: Mineral sunscreen, niacinamide, allantoin
Pros: SPF 50+, incredibly flattering and buildable coverage
Cons: Shade range on the more limited side 
Overall Rating: 5/5

Where to Buy:

My algorithm wanted me to find this foundation. While I’m a sucker for a tinted SPF (always worn over another sunscreen, of course), I typically opt for a very low coverage option on days when I plan to be out in the sun all day. But when I saw people I love in the beauty community raving about this medium coverage option, I knew I had to try it. And boy, I was not disappointed!

Using a brush, I’ve found the coverage builds up to medium almost immediately but never looks anything but natural. It’s never too dewy or too drying, but instead, seems to meld with my skin throughout the day, so it only looks better as the day goes on. The brand has SPF 50+ in all of its products, and I’ve loved the look of wearing this with their liquid blush (the two work wonderfully together).

best serum foundations
Tint & PROTECT SPF 50+
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Gressa Skin Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation

gressa skin minimalist corrective serum foundation

Price: $70
Coverage: Natural, medium to full coverage
Shade Options: 21
Hero Ingredients: Broccoli seed oil, GRESSA Healing Complex™, sea buckthorn seed extract
Pros: Great skincare benefits, can easily be built to full coverage
Cons: Can cling to dry patches throughout the day
Overall Rating: 5/5

Where to Buy:

Gressa is a brand I first discovered when I was a teenager, far before serum foundations became buzzy. This product comes with some great skincare ingredients as well as the most pigmented formula on this list. With just a few drops, I can buff this in and easily get up to full coverage.

More than any other entry on this list, my skin just drinks in the skincare in this formula and always looks better at the end of the day when I take off my makeup than it did before. It’s why I’ve come back to this as my higher coverage option time and time again over the years—typically, a full-coverage foundation makes me itch to get my makeup remover out, but this one just improves my complexion throughout the day.

Because it is so skincare-rich, I do sometimes find that by the end of the day, the pigment is showing up on any dry patches I may have. I’ve found that exfoliating well before applying greatly helps!

best serum foundations
MINIMALIST Corrective Serum Foundation
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Rituel de Fille 3-Drop Weightless Serum Foundation

rituel de fille 3-drop weightless serum foundation

Price: $42
Coverage: Natural, buildable coverage
Shade Options: 24 (Ranging from very fair to very deep)
Hero Ingredients: Organic jojoba oil, MCT oil, organic marula oil, phytoene
Pros: Ingredients work with your skin so that it actually looks better the longer you wear it
Cons: Formula can cling onto dry spots
Overall Rating: 4/5

Where to Buy:

Rituel de Fille has been one of my favorite brands for quite some time, so I was thrilled when they released their serum foundation. The foundation comes with a unique bottle that dispenses the perfect amount of product (something I far prefer over the dropper applicator in most serum foundations). As the name suggests, three drops are how much you’re supposed to apply for ideal coverage, but I’ve actually found that my ideal amount is just two drops.

The formula is particularly liquid-y, so a brush or your fingers is definitely the best way to apply it (over using a sponge). With so much pigment, there is a ton of coverage right off the bat, so I’d recommend starting small and working your way up to get where you want. Because there are so many great skincare ingredients, it really works with your skin and looks better and more natural the longer you wear it throughout the day.

Rituel de Fille
3-Drop Weightless Serum Foundation
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Saie Glowy Super Skin Serum Foundation

saie glowy super skin serum foundation

Price: $40
Coverage: Luminous, medium coverage
Shade Options: 36
Hero Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, rice bran peptides, polyglutamic acid, glycerin
Pros: Great shade range in a super lightweight formula
Cons: Definitely dewy, may work better for normal-to-dry skin types
Overall Rating: 4/5

Where to Buy:

Saie is a brand that is all about glow. With an impressive lineup of liquid formulas, everything about the brand will give you a luminous finish for when you want the lit-from-within look (which we all want at one point or another).

With that in mind, know that this is one of the more glowy additions on the list, making it ideal for normal-to-dry skin types. I have skin that lands in the latter category, especially during the winter, and I found this to be an excellent formula for when my complexion was looking dull and in need of some life. 

best serum foundations
Glowy Super Skin Tint Foundation
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ILIA True Skin Serum Foundation

ilia true skin serum foundation

Price: $54
Coverage: Natural, buildable coverage
Shade Options: 30
Hero Ingredients: Niacinamide, allantoin, aloe leaf juice
Pros: Very natural finish, far less dewy than the brand’s skin tint option
Cons: Shades run a little dark—I was “Very Light” in this brand and am typically light or light-medium in most other brands
Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Where to Buy:

Going back to my love of tinted sunscreen, I should say that Ilia has one of my favorites out there with its Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40. But, as much as I love it, the formula can feel a little too dewy during the warmer months. This is why I was excited to try out the brand’s serum foundation (which does not have SPF). 

The formula skews a lot more natural and luminous than dewy, making it ideal for more skin types. While many of these options are best blended with a brush, I actually enjoyed blending this one in with a damp sponge for light-to-medium coverage. 

Typically, I wear light to light-medium shades with a neutral undertone, so I was surprised to be wearing “Very Light” in this formula. There are a decent amount of shade options, but just be aware that, for me, it ran a little darker than expected from the description. Ilia does have a great shade-matching service on their website, so you can start there before placing an order.

best serum foundations
True Skin Serum Foundation
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Typology Tinted Serum

typology tinted serum

Price: $42.90
Coverage: Dewy, light coverage
Shade Options: 7
Hero Ingredients: Vitamin C, squalene, aloe vera
Pros: Light coverage makes this perfect for a no-makeup makeup look
Cons: Very limited shade range
Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Where to Buy:

If you’ve ever wanted to achieve that French girl, no-makeup makeup look, all you need is this tinted serum and a fabulous red lip. Typology is a French brand, and this foundation certainly exudes the coveted French girl aesthetic. The formula applies just like a serum, with tons of skincare and fairly light coverage.

While the shade range is incredibly limited, I’ve found that the coverage is light enough that I can personally get away with wearing a shade too light or a shade too dark without it looking too obvious. It provides just enough coverage to even out your complexion, but you’ll need to go in with some concealer for any dark circles or blemishes you may want to cover. 

best serum foundations
Tinted Serum
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