These lightweight serum foundations are like glowing skin in a bottle

Promising skin-kind ingredients and light-as-air textures, these fluid foundations make for the perfect natural bases. 

Are you team foundation or team tinted moisturiser? We all used to side with one or the other. But thanks to a new generation of cutting-edge formulas, there’s a plethora of textures in between. If you’re bang in the middle of the two base camps, a serum foundation might be just what you’ve been looking for. 

Think a featherweight fluid texture that feels like water but lends a flaw-blurring veil of coverage – with complexion-loving add-ons to boot.

Like skincare serums, they tend to be loaded with a high concentration of ingredients designed to treat everything from dark spots to dryness, dehydration and fine lines.

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Their consistency is fluid and super-runny meaning they’re best applied with a different technique to your usual liquid, powder or cream foundations.

First, always shake the bottle thoroughly. Then pop a couple of drops onto the palm of your hand. The amount required varies by product but it’s much easier to build up coverage than it is to take it away. Most will only require three or four dots and they’ll often come in a handy dropper format with a pipette.

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To apply with your fingers, simply use a pressing or patting motion – rather than rubbing – to blend it in seamlessly. Prefer a tool? Buff it on with a fluffy brush and your coverage will be even sheerer or dial up the density for slightly fuller cover.

While some offer a demi-matte oil-controlling tint, others leave skin dewy and luminous. Whichever you plump for, expect a natural, second-skin effect that’s just the ticket for the lead up to spring.

Here’s our pick of the very best with something to suit every skin type and price point. Ready, set, glow…

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Best lightweight serum foundations

  • Cheapest serum foundation: The Ordinary Serum Foundation

    Best lightweight serum foundations: The Ordinary Serum Foundation review

    Don’t be put off by the under-£6 price tag: this is one of our favourite of the bunch. It uses one-of-a-kind technology to prevent pigments settling into fine lines, making it a good choice if that’s one of your bugbears.

    The coverage is a little fuller than some so it’s perfect if you’re new to sheerer bases and is long-lasting. Just ask make-up artist Patsy O’Neill who’s been known to use it on celebrity clients like Holly Willoughby during her on-screen appearances.

    Shop The Ordinary Serum Foundation at Cult Beauty, £5.70

    buy now

  • Best serum foundation for boosting radiance: Stila Hide and Chic Fluid Foundation

    Best lightweight serum foundations: Stila Hide and Chic Fluid Foundation

    If your skin’s in need of a super-charged radiance boost, this is where it’s at. It’s jammed with Irish sea moss to plump up a dehydrated, lacklustre face.

    The pigments are silica-coated, too, adding a plump bounce to your skin. In 30 shades, it’s one to reach for when you’ve skipped sleep or if you’re feeling hungover.

    Shop Stila Hide and Chic Fluid Foundation at lookfantastic, £31

    buy now

  • Serum foundation with the skincare benefits: Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Foundation

    Best lightweight serum foundations: Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Foundation

    Bobbi Brown is synonymous with sophisticated bases that make skin look naturally flawless. This bestselling formula is just as excellent. It’s infused with a power combination of lychee, bamboo grass and Cordyceps mushroom extracts to offer a firmer, smoother, more lifted look over time. 

    The potent ingredients are reflected in the price but you’ll look fresher instantly, too, with a healthy glow sans shine. As with all Bobbi Brown offerings, the shade range is inclusive with 22 shades – including a multitude of undertones – to choose from. 

    Shop Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Foundation at lookfantastic, £48

    buy now

  • Best serum foundation for barely-there coverage: Clarins Skin Illusion Natural Hydrating Foundation

    Best lightweight serum foundations: Clarins Skin Illusion Natural Hydrating Foundation

    This formula, available in 22 shades, replaces Clarins’ original pump-action Skin Illusion Foundation. But while the name is much the same, the formula is distinctly different. It has a dewier finish, fluid texture and a dropper delivery system that dispenses just the amount required.

    Skincare-wise, it fuses pigments with nourishing oils for a deeply hydrating blend that’s the ideal match for dry complexions. The coverage is uber-light – think a gentle tint. But if you usually go without a base and you’re simply after a confidence-boosting softening veil, it’s a smart buy.

    Shop Clarins Skin Illusion Natural Hydrating Foundation at John Lewis, £30

    buy now

  • Best airbrush-effect serum foundation: MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation

    Best lightweight serum foundations: MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation

    Full-coverage, high-glam bases are usually MAC’s bag but this is a departure from its other erase-all options. If the bestselling MAC Studio Fix Fluid Foundation feels too mask-like for you, then this, with 25 hues, is set to become your new favourite base.

    It doesn’t offer a shedload of skincare benefits like a serum would, but it has a comfortable fluid texture that imparts a gleam making dull, lifeless skin look infinitely better. It works beautifully topped with powder if you’re after extra mileage or a more matte effect, too.

    Shop MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation at lookfantastic, £28

    buy now

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