When I was younger and struggled with severe cystic acne, I used layers and layers of makeup to cover up the spots that coated my neck, chin, and cheeks. Unfortunately, little could be done to mask my cysts; I could eliminate pigmentation and redness, but no amount of makeup could smooth the bumpy texture. I had no idea how to fake a great complexion.
I always thought that once my cystic acne was gone, I would become the kind of person who didn’t need as much makeup—but the leftover scarring was enough to keep me applying foundations, concealers, powders, and more each day.
Fortunately, the dark marks and pigmentation left behind by my acne are now mostly flat, so covering the surface is significantly easier. I’ve also adopted a skincare routine featuring products to lighten my scarring, and I’ve seen a ton of progress (thank you, vitamin C serum!) but as someone who prefers a flawless face, I still like to cover up what’s left.
Where I once used layers of heavy products to hide my skin, my success over acne has motivated me to start showing my skin off—now, I want formulas that cover my imperfections, but don’t leave me feeling like I’m wearing a mask. Finding high-coverage products that still leave my skin looking like skin has become a personal mission of mine, and there are only a few formulas that really master the balance of coverage and natural finish. After lots of trial and error, I’ve finally found three foundations that do the trick.
Marc Jacobs Shameless Youthful-Look 24H Foundation ($46; sephora.com)
This foundation is fairly new to the market, but it’s quickly become one of my go-to picks. The coverage is described as medium, but the product dries down quickly and can easily be layered for an opaque, full-coverage finish. I definitely prefer buildable coverage foundations when avoiding the mask-like look; I can use a tiny amount on my forehead, nose, and other clear areas, and then go back in and build up coverage on my cheeks and jawline to mask pigmentation without caking up my entire face. To do this, I usually enlist a Beauty Blender ($20; sephora.com) to really press the product into my skin and prevent it from feeling too heavy. This is one of the only—dare I say, the only—foundations that doesn’t settle into my deep-set smile lines, which is an added bonus. It’s oil-free with SPF 25, and the quick-dry finish and long-lasting formula mean I don’t feel the need to set with a powder, knocking one more thing off my list. This is also my number-one product for those times I’m doing a complete makeup look for a big night out and want to look covered, not cakey.
Too Faced Peach Perfect Comfort Matte Foundation ($36; sephora.com)
After multiple friends recommended this foundation, I finally gave it a shot—and immediately wondered why I hadn’t started using it sooner. I usually apply about two pumps to my entire face using the Artis Elite Smoke Oval 8 Brush ($67; nordstrom.com), then go in with extra product if needed on particularly dark spots. The finish of this foundation is described as matte, and it definitely keeps my oily T-zone at bay. But as someone who normally associates a matte finish with a dry, dull look, I can’t believe how natural and fresh my skin looks when I’m wearing this. The product moves with my skin and feels super comfortable—unlike most full-coverage products, which often dry down to a stiffer finish. This is my daily pick for a foundation that gives me enough coverage to be confident, but looks and feels natural on skin.
Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat All-In-One Glow Tinted Moisturizer ($48; sephora.com)
If you told me a year ago that I could love how my skin looked using a tinted moisturizer in lieu of foundation, I probably would have laughed in your face. This product proved me wrong, though—and I’ve since recommended it to others seeking the perfect your-skin-but-better finish. First, a disclaimer: This will not cover every little scar. What it will do is even out pigmentation and add a glow that scarring can often dull, and as far as coverage goes, the amount it provides while feeling weightless on skin is impressive. Plus, you can easily add a full-coverage concealer to areas you think need a little extra love—Kat Von D Lock-It Concealer Crème ($26; sephora.com) is my opaque go-to. I hate to leave the house without feeling put-together, and this is the most lightweight product I’ve found that still makes me feel comfortable in my skin. I used this foundation on days where I want that carefree, no-makeup look, but not without some coverage.