best serum foundations

11 best lightweight serum foundations for glowing, natural-looking skin

Posted by and for Make-up

All products on this page have been selected by the editorial team, however Stylist may make commission on some products purchased through affiliate links in this article

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.

Their consistency is fluid and 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.

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 for sheer coverage or dial up the density for more coverage.

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.

Best lightweight serum foundations

  • Clinique Even Better Clinical Serum Foundation SPF20

    best foundation serum Clinique
    Best lightweight serum foundations: Clinique Even Better Clinical Serum Foundation SPF20

    Waterproof and long-lasting, this satin-matte finish serum foundation is ideal for warm-weather holidays and hazy summer days. 

    Shop Clinique Even Better Clinical Serum Foundation SPF20 at Lookfantastic, £34

  • Ilia Beauty Super Serum Skin Tint SPF30

    best foundation serum Ilia
    Best lightweight serum foundations: Ilia Beauty Super Serum Skin Tint Broad Spectrum SPF30

    A US sensation, this Ilia beauty skin tint combines skincare benefits with hardworking make-up creds. Niacinamide, squalane and non-nano zinc oxide help to reduce redness, smooth skin, improve elasticity and protect against the harmful effects of sun exposure and blue light. 

    Shop Ilia Beauty Super Serum Skin Tint SPF30 at Naturisimo, £46

  • Rose Inc Skin Enhance Luminous Tinted Serum

    best foundation serum Rose Inc.
    Best lightweight serum foundations: Rose Inc Skin Enhance Luminous Tinted Serum

    Sheer and luminous, this Rose Inc tinted serum is hydrating and smoothing – creating a lit-from-within, healthy glow.

    Shop Rose Inc Skin Enhance Luminous Tinted Serum at Space NK, £36

  • The Ordinary Serum Foundation

    The Ordinary Serum Foundation review
    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, £6.40

  • Stila Hide and Chic Fluid Foundation

    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

  • Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Foundation

    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

  • Clarins Skin Illusion Natural Hydrating Foundation

    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

  • MAC Studio Waterweight SPF 30 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

  • Kosas Tinted Face Oil

    best foundation serum Kosas
    Best lightweight serum foundations: Kosas Tinted Face Oil

    Another TikTok sensation, Kosas is beloved by celebrities, beauty professionals and make-up enthusiasts alike. Featherweight, with medium coverage and all-day wear time, it sits on the skin with a silky-velvet finish.

    Shop Kosas Tinted Face Oil at Cult Beauty, £40

  • Yves Saint Laurent Youth Liberator Serum Foundation SPF20

    best foundation serum YSL
    Best lightweight serum foundations: Yves Saint Laurent Youth Liberator Serum Foundation SPF20

    Soften and replenish stressed, tired skin with this serum foundation that also works as added protection against UVA and UVB damage.

    Shop Yves Saint Laurent Youth Liberator Serum Foundation SPF20 at Lookfantastic, £21.75

  • Shiseido Synchro Skin Glow Luminizing Foundation

    best foundation serum shiseido
    Best lightweight serum foundations: Shiseido Synchro Skin Glow Luminizing Foundation

    Fresh and dewy, this serum foundation is blended with argan oil, yuzu seed and wild thyme extract for a luminous, natural-looking result.

    Shop Shiseido Synchro Skin Glow Luminizing Foundation at Lookfantastic, £39

Sign up for our essential edit of what to buy, see, read and do, and also receive a free guide to the 101 Female Authors Everyone Should Have On Their Bookshelf.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Main image: courtesy of brands

Share this article

Recommended by Amber Voller