If you really think about it (and we’ve really thought about it), foundations, concealers, and face-contouring products have the most thankless job in the beauty world. As our editors tested products for our Base Makeup category in the 2023 Allure Best of Beauty Awards, we couldn’t help but notice our high expectations. We look to these products to disguise every flaw and enhance every angle — while remaining totally invisible. Their job basically involves hiding in the wings so we can glory in the spotlight.

But ask any makeup artist or beauty editor to define the one nonnegotiable element in any beauty look and they’ll tell you it’s clean, glowing, naked-looking skin. Consider this roundup of tone-perfecting, pore-obscuring, self-effacing winners our way of celebrating the cover-ups that no makeup pro (or makeup bag) could possibly do without.

Once you’re done with this category, be sure to check out the rest of our winners for 2023’s Allure Best of Beauty Awards, or head to our fan-favorite Skin Care, Splurges, and Eye Makeup lists for the year’s top products in those categories.

Best of Beauty Awards 2023: Base Makeup

Jump to your favorite category or keep reading to see every primer, foundation, and bronzer:

  • Best Primers
  • Best Foundations
  • Best Concealers
  • Best Blushes
  • Best Highlight, Bronzer, & Contour Products
  • Best Setting Powders
  • Best Setting Sprays

Why it won: Pumped full of peptides and ceramides, one small tube of Beautyblender Boost Firming & Smoothing Peptide Primer does the work of an entire medicine cabinet: It plumps skin, blurs pores, locks in moisture, and holds makeup in place for up to 18 hours.

Why it won: Like putty in your hands, E.L.F. Cosmetics Liquid Poreless Putty Primer melts into skin, disguising pores and smoothing fine lines with a fresh matte finish. “I love that it doesn’t leave any residue behind,” says associate beauty editor Annie Blay. “My makeup blends seamlessly on top.”

Why it won: Maybelline New York Super Stay Up to 24HR Hybrid Powder-Foundation packs the seamless coverage of a liquid and the weightless feel of a powder into one touch-up-friendly compact (not that the long-lasting matte finish requires any upkeep).

Why it won: Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick — from makeup artist Gucci Westman, who taught us all there is to know about luminous skin — is everything we could ask for in a foundation. Infused with camellia seed oil, this silky bullet creates the kind of bare-skin look we used to only find backstage during fashion week.

Why it won: Hourglass Veil Hydrating Skin Tint evens out your tone and texture, while allowing your skin to peek through (meaning it minimizes the look of pores, not freckles).

Why it won: And talk about a happy medium: Makeup by Mario SurrealSkin Foundation delivers the ideal balance of color and moisture, so you can build coverage that’s not too sheer, not too opaque, but is just right.

Why it won: With three molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, light-reflecting pigments, and the thinnest consistency in the game, Tarte Shape Tape Radiant Concealer behaves like an eye cream, brightens like a serum, and feels like nothing at all. Pro tip: Apply it with a dense brush (or your fingers) in the corners of your eyes to really illuminate the area.

Why it won: The eyes might be the window to the soul, but the area directly under them reveals everything else: sluggish circulation, dehydration, tiredness, sun damage. That’s why BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Brightening Concealer SPF 25 acts like an airy curtain. The whipped gel hydrates with hyaluronic acid, while mineral SPF shields transparent skin against future damage.

Why it won: If we had a nickel for every time a concealer claimed to be crease-proof, we’d be writing this from our own private island. But Bobbi Brown Skin Full Cover Concealer really is one in a zillion. The flexible silicones move with facial expressions, then spring right back into place, maintaining a crease-free surface for up to 16 hours. Cha-ching.

Why it won: Light bounces off the prism-like pigments in all nine shades (from orange-y apricot to deep plum) of Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Glow Blush, creating a diffused flush that looks downright ethereal. “I love how easily it blends into my skin without leaving any harsh lines,” says deputy digital director Kara McGrath. “It’s almost like a cream formula, except this one actually lasts for longer than a few hours.”

Why it won: The velvety texture of Danessa Myricks Beauty Yummy Skin Blurring Balm Powder Flushed is made for blending. And sculpting. And TikToking.

Why it won: Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk Matte Beauty Blush Wand delivers the blush of your dreams. The spongey-tipped applicator blends like butter and blurs the saturated pigments to give you an airbrushed yet natural-looking flush.

Why it won: Housed in a small glass bulb with a gold stopper, EM Cosmetics Color Drops Serum Blush is almost too pretty to use. Almost. Infused with hydrating primrose oil and ceramides, the tinted elixir drapes your skin in a dewy sheen (after you work up the nerve to use it).

Why it won: Unlike some warm hues that vanish on melanin-rich skin, Ami Colé Desert Date Cream Multistick is a standout formula with real staying power. Each multitasking tint — ranging from deep plum to vibrant berry — gives lips and cheeks buildable, palpable color.

Why it won: We can’t decide if Jones Road Shimmer Face Oil is a hydrator or a highlighter. We’ll call it both. The glimmery cocktail of nine nourishing oils (including sunflower, sweet almond, and avocado) bathes your skin in ultralight moisture and ultralight… light.

Why it won: Rare Beauty Positive Light Silky Touch Highlighter is an iridescent pillow in the compact, a silky powder on your fingertips, and a pearly sheen on your cheekbones. Most of our testers skipped the brush — fingers only! — when applying to apples, Cupid’s bows, and even eyelids.

Why it won: Using cocoa powder to reproduce a realistic bronze (all warmth, no sparkle), Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Natural Chocolate Cocoa-Infused Healthy Glow Bronzer is a delicious-smelling treat for skin. “The packaging is so cute; it looks like a vintage makeup compact,” says art director Ingrid Fowler. “I feel like I should be wearing a polka-dot dress with Hollywood curls every time I use it.”

Why it won: Supremely creamy with a semimatte finish, Nars Laguna Bronzing Cream warms skin with rich color while sculpting the high points of your face. Apply it with an angled brush or a sponge, like shopping market editor Angela Trakoshis does, for added dewy depth.

Why it won: Infused with nourishing sunflower oil, Milk Makeup Sculpt Cream Contour Stick smoothly glides over your face and subtly plays up bone structure with cool undertones. Draw it on straight from the bullet, down the nose, across cheekbones, and along the jawline.

Why it won: With its spongey applicator, E.L.F. Cosmetics Halo Glow Contour Beauty Wand navigates easily over curves and along your hairline, delivering instant definition. The cushy, screw-cap tip makes for a mess-free makeup bag.

Why it won: If a palette is more your speed, the Patrick Ta Major Sculpt Crème Contour & Powder Bronzer Duo is so well edited, we might offer it a job at Allure. The elegant compact houses a luminous cream for sculpting and a shimmery powder for highlighting. Done.

Why it won: For the most polished and portable finish, Lawless Beauty Perfecting Powder Talc-Free, Skin-Smoothing Powder skims on like velvet and minimizes shine. Senior copy manager Dawn Rebecky found a favorite in this non-caking, no-creasing powder — even in the heat: “It held up really well in the dog days of summer.”

Why it won: The chiffon texture and amino acids in Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder Ultra-Blur work like a soft-focus lens, providing a veil of coverage that obscures whatever you want it to (blemishes, dark spots, redness). Better yet? You won’t find a trace of talc in all that gossamer fineness.

Why it won: We would never fall asleep without first removing our makeup (cough, cough). But if we did, the airbrushed finish of Milk Makeup Pore Eclipse Matte Setting Spray would stay immaculate well into the wee hours.

Why it won: If you’re a member of Team Dewy, the hyaluronic acid in Urban Decay All Nighter Extra Glow Setting Spray will keep makeup looking brand new and skin looking… well, brand new. Says associate beauty director Sarah Kinonen, “This is one of the only setting sprays that keeps my makeup in place, without sapping away the subtle, shiny look I love so much.”

By Hà Phương

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