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How to Find the Best Vegan Foundation

More people are switching to a vegan lifestyle. One of the best first ways to be more animal-friendly is by using cosmetics that don’t contain animal ingredients or test on animals. And switching out your usual foundation with a vegan product is an easy way to transition to animal-friendly makeup, which is why more people started using vegan foundation last year.

I’m definitely a fan of vegan cosmetics and try to use animal-friendly brands as much as possible. But I’m also someone who values product quality — after all, just because we’re being nicer to our furry friends doesn’t mean we have to settle for a less-than-amazing foundation. This is why I’m here to tell you how to find the best vegan foundation and to recommend some of my favorite products.

Bottom line up front:

I recommend the Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation over all of these. Tarte has always been a cruelty-free brand and many of their products are vegan. Even though this says it’s a matte foundation, I found it made my skin too dewy — and my skin is on the dry side. Even with this complaint, it’s still the best vegan foundation I’ve ever used.

What Is Vegan Foundation?

Image from Unsplash

First things first, what do we mean by vegan foundation? Vegan makeup products, including foundation, don’t contain any animal ingredients. Vegan foundation is made of plant-based ingredients while still evening out your skin tone and covering up imperfections.

It can be difficult to identify animal-derived ingredients. Here are some of the most common ones used in foundation:

  • Casein (milk protein)
  • Beeswax
  • Collagen
  • Carmine
  • Estrogen
  • Elastin
  • Gelatin

All of these ingredients benefit the foundation in different ways but mainly ensure the product has a smooth texture and lasts all day. Some of these ingredients, such as collagen, benefit the skin. Keep in mind that there are vegan forms of collagen, but it’s still best to avoid any foundations containing collagen unless the brand says they’re not animal-derived.

If animal welfare is your concern, you should ensure the brand is cruelty-free, meaning they don’t test their products on animals. While the terms “vegan” and “cruelty-free” aren’t interchangeable, most brands that make vegan products are also cruelty-free.

How to Find the Best Vegan Foundation

There are many vegan foundation options on the market, but it’s essential to know they’re really vegan. Some of the same rules apply when buying a vegan foundation as opposed to buying a non-vegan foundation, such as knowing your foundation preference. Here’s some advice to follow when buying a vegan foundation.

Leaping Bunny Certification

Even though the Leaping Bunny Certification doesn’t mean the product is vegan, it does mean the brand is cruelty-free. The program was founded in 1996 and has since then helped users find products that don’t test on animals.

The brands in the program pledge they’re cruelty-free and do not undergo animal testing at any stage of the product production process. The logo is of a bunny that looks like it’s hopping, with a circle around it. You can find this logo printed on the side of the product’s packaging.

Know Your Skin Type

The type of skin you have depends on the foundation you choose. Most people have one of the following skin types:

  • Normal
  • Dry
  • Oily
  • Combination
  • Sensitive

How does foundation impact your skin type? The right makeup can reduce the flaws that come with certain skin types. For example, if you have oily skin, a powder foundation can mattify your complexion and reduce shininess. On the other end of the spectrum, if you have dry skin, a BB cream can keep your skin hydrated all day.

Read the Ingredients

Some skin-friendly vegan ingredients you can find in animal-friendly foundation include:

  • Shea butter
  • Plant-based glycerin
  • Glucosamine (an ingredient from mushrooms)
  • Jojoba oil

These aren’t the only ingredients you should look for. Avoid beauty products that contain dangerous ingredients such as sulfates, phthalates, and parabens. Use clean beauty products made of natural ingredients that your skin will love.

In addition to these ingredients, it’s best to avoid any ingredients that can cause sensitivity. Everyone has different allergies and it’s important to know if you have any ingredient intolerances before buying foundation. But these are the common ingredients that irritate the skin, especially those with sensitive skin:

  • Petroleum
  • Fragrance
  • Alcohol (ethanol)
  • Benzoyl peroxide

Know Your Foundation Preference

Liquid Foundation
Image from Sephora

There are three types of foundation textures:

  • Liquid
  • Powder
  • Cream

While there are certain foundation textures recommended for specific skin types, the foundation you choose boils down to your preference. For example, even if you have oily skin, you may prefer a liquid foundation. There are liquid foundations out there with mattifying qualities.

Foundation preference also boils down to coverage strength. Some of the most foundation coverage options include:

  • Sheer
  • Medium/buildable
  • Full

If you want to cover any spots, acne, fine lines, and other imperfections, you’ll need a full-coverage foundation. I recommend these foundations mainly for those who need to cover imperfections all over their face, such as uneven skin tone.

Otherwise, I recommend most use medium/buildable coverage. This foundation type looks the most natural and you can always build up the product if you need more coverage. Plus, they’re more lightweight compared to a full-coverage foundation. However, I use a full-coverage foundation because I feel this type hides my acne scars better.

Find the Right Shade

Foundation Shades
Image from Sephora

Last but not least, you’ll need to wear the correct shade of foundation. Ideally, the foundation should match your skin tone perfectly, though it can be hard to find one that does. At best, find a foundation that doesn’t leave a white or dark cast on your skin.

You’ll also want to keep undertones in mind. We all have a skin undertone, and that undertone is either cool (hints of pink), warm (hints of yellow), or neutral (a little bit of both). If you don’t match your foundation to your skin undertone, your skin could end up looking too yellow or too pink.

How I Chose These Foundations

First, some of these foundations are ones I used in the past. If I haven’t used the product, I at least have used the brand and can verify that they make high-quality products. I also verified that these brands, or at least these particular products, are vegan.

My Favorite Vegan Foundations

While you can shop around for vegan foundation yourself, I want to recommend some of the vegan foundation options that I think you’ll love. Read through my list before you go shopping!

Tarte Amazonian Clay 16-Hour Full-Coverage Foundation

Tarte Amazonian Clay 16-Hour Full-Coverage Foundation
Image from Tarte

I stopped using this foundation to try another one, but I may think I go back. This best-selling foundation from Tarte is long-wearing and offers some of the best coverage I’ve ever used in a foundation. This foundation evened out my skin tone and even covered my acne scars. It goes on smoothly and feels like silk on your skin.

In addition to these benefits, this foundation offers SPF 15 and isn’t made with dangerous ingredients, such as mineral oil, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, and gluten. This foundation is vegan but not all products in Tarte’s line are, though Tarte is 100% cruelty-free.

My only complaint is my skin looked oily. While this foundation is said to control oil, I live in a hot and humid environment — even though I have dry skin, this foundation didn’t give me a matte finish at all. I kept having to blot my face with powder. I’m reading that’s because Tarte redid the formula and that the old formula was better.

Smashbox Halo Healthy Glow Tinted Moisturizer

Smashbox Halo Healthy Glow Tinted Moisturizer
Image from Sephora

Nearly every Smashbox product I’ve ever tried was high-performing and their foundations are no exception. I wanted to diversify my recommendations and recommend a tinted moisturizer as opposed to a foundation. This tinted moisturizer is made with hyaluronic acid to give your skin a healthy dose of hydration.

Even though it has a light coverage, it is long-wearing and gives you a lovely dewy finish. Plus, this tinted moisturizer will look natural. If you want more coverage, I recommend using this as a primer — especially if you have dry skin.

Smashbox is also a cruelty-free brand. I don’t think every Smashbox product is vegan but they do have plenty of vegan options.

Too Faced Born This Way Matte 24-Hour Foundation

Too Faced Born This Way Matte 24-Hour Foundation
Image from Sephora

Too Faced is one of my favorite brands. I absolutely love their bronzers and lip glosses. Plus, I always hear amazing things about their foundations and primers. In addition to these benefits, Too Faced has always been cruelty-free and is starting to expand to more vegan products, such as this foundation.

The Born This Way Foundation provides medium and buildable coverage. I’m reading that you can apply a second layer to get this to full coverage, though some reviewers say this foundation gives as much coverage as a full-coverage foundation. Plus, it has a natural finish — no matter how much product you apply. The matte formula is perfect for those with oily skin, though they do have a non-matte option.

In addition to these benefits, Too Faced formulated this foundation with skincare ingredients. Alpine rose supports skin health, coconut water replenishes skin moisture levels, and hyaluronic acid is a popular anti-aging ingredient that helps skin retain hydration.

Covergirl Clean Fresh Skin Milk Foundation

Covergirl Clean Fresh Skin Milk Foundation
Image from COVERGIRL

While Covergirl is now a cruelty-free brand, not all of its products are vegan. Actually, only the products in the Clean Fresh collection are vegan. There’s only one foundation in this collection: the Skin Milk Foundation. I do like Covergirl products but never had luck with their foundations. Still, I appreciate their cruelty-free status and how they make affordable products, so I wanted to recommend one.

This foundation is nourishing and perfect for those with dry skin. I’m also reading it’s ideal for those with all skin types, including dewy and sensitive skin. It leaves a dewy finish but still feels lightweight on the skin. It does have light coverage, so this may be a better primer. Even though the foundation has a light coverage, it is long-lasting. I love how inclusive this foundation is — it’s available in a variety of skin tones.

I am reading some definite cons. A couple of reviewers said the foundation is hard to blend.

ILIA True Skin Medium-Coverage Serum Foundation

ILIA True Skin Medium-Coverage Serum Foundation
Image from Sephora

This foundation is great if you truly want medium and buildable coverage. It offers skin-loving ingredients, such as niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that builds protein in the skin. Aloe is also an ingredient, which calms the skin. It doesn’t have a dewy finish but a glowing one. It’s also lightweight and feels like your natural skin.

Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick

Milk Makeup Flex Foundation Stick
Image from Sephora

I want to try this product so bad! I’ve heard nothing but great things. Foundation sticks are so easy to apply and blend, but you have to find the right one. I love the one from Sephora Collection, but that brand isn’t vegan or cruelty-free, unfortunately.

Why do I want to try this foundation stick so badly? It’s water-based so it feels lightweight on the skin. It is a medium-coverage cream foundation but it does a fantastic job at hiding imperfections. Plus, it has a natural finish and doesn’t feel like any makeup is on your face.

Milk Makeup is not only 100% vegan and cruelty-free but they’re also a clean makeup brand. I’ve used their lip and cheek products and love them. I wasn’t a big fan of their mascara, but it’s no big deal.

I am reading a couple of cons with this one. Be aware that you’re choosing the right shade. Fortunately, Milk offers several shades, but reviewers complained that their shade was off. Sephora makes it easy to find the best Milk Makeup foundation shade that corresponds with your favorite foundation shade. With a couple of clicks, I was able to find my shade in this foundation stick.

Some reviewers are also complaining that the foundation is hard to blend, but my assumption is they don’t know how to use a stick foundation. I like to make a few streaks on my cheeks, one down my nose, one under my eyes, and a couple on my chin and forehead. Then, I blend it all out with a brush. However, cream foundations do have a thicker formula, so you may need a Beauty Blender for this one.

NYX Cosmetics Born to Glow! Naturally Radiant Foundation

NYX Cosmetics Born to Glow! Naturally Radiant Foundation

I have a love-hate relationship with NYX. But I will say I love their concealer. Because of that, I’m sure their foundation is great.

It has medium and buildable coverage. From what I’m reading, the coverage is still pretty impressive and it doesn’t look cakey. It’s also lightweight and gives you a radiant finish — not dewy. The foundation glides smoothly on the skin and blends well. I’m also loving this wide shade selection. And that $10 price tag isn’t so bad, either.

While NYX is a cruelty-free brand, not all of its products are vegan. Still, their vegan selection is pretty impressive. I think all of its foundations are vegan as well as a variety of its face, eye, and lip products. This product does have some downsides. Customers complained about the packaging and said the product can get very messy. However, this is really the worst complaint I’ve seen, so that’s not really terrible.

Urban Decay Hydromaniac Glowly Tinted Hydrator Foundation

Urban Decay Hydromaniac Glowly Tinted Hydrator Foundation
Image from Sephora

Urban Decay is one of my favorite makeup brands of all time and I love their foundation. I also really love how they’re extending their vegan line. This foundation offers medium coverage with a radiant and dewy finish. It feels lightweight and looks natural.

Your skin won’t look cakey — rather, your complexion will look smooth and healthy. It’s formulated with marula oil and kombucha filtrate so your skin stays hydrated. I definitely recommend this foundation if you have dry skin but not oily and combination skin.

It’s still a long-wearing foundation, perfect for those long nights and any time when you can’t keep fixing your makeup. Make sure you only use a little bit because that’s all you need.

Milani Conceal + Perfect Smooth Finish Cream to Powder

Milani Conceal + Perfect Smooth Finish Cream to Powder
Image from Milani Cosmetics

Milani has been one of my favorite drugstore brands for years. I’ve used several of their products — I especially love their eyeshadow, lipstick, and face products. I think this foundation is so unique. It has the silky consistency of cream but finishes like a powder. It doesn’t feel dry, settle into lines, or look cakey.

This is a buildable foundation and you can easily build this up to full coverage. It applies seamlessly and blends well. It stays on for several hours, perfect for a night out. Milani has always been an inclusive brand and they offer a variety of shades in this foundation.

The packaging is ideal for travel. It has a soft matte finish and ingredients such as bamboo extract and lily control oil production. I am reading that Milani had this foundation previously but changed the formula. Not sure if the new formula is better or worse.


Question: Even though the product says vegan, should I still read the ingredients?

Answer: I would, just to verify there are no animal-derived ingredients. Refer above to the most common animal-derived ingredients you’ll find in the foundation.

Question: Are these foundations good for my skin?

Answer: I did try and select foundations that offer skincare benefits, or at least ingredients that your skin loves. I still suggest looking deeper into these foundations and ensuring the foundation doesn’t contain ingredients that will irritate your skin. You should also consider your skin type. For example, while moisturizing ingredients are great for dry skin types, they may increase oil production in those with oily/combination skin.

Question: Are any of these brands 100% vegan?

Answer: Milk Makeup is the only brand on this list that’s 100% vegan. If you want other 100% vegan brand recommendations, I suggest checking out e.l.f.

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