Water based foundation or silicone based foundation – What’s right for me?

The type of foundation you wear can make or break your look.
water based foundation

When it comes to buying makeup, we’re more likely to be influenced by how aesthetically pleasing the packaging is, or how trendy the product has become rather than the ingredients. If you’ve ever found your foundation pilling, separating or flaking, it may be because you’re using a water based foundation when you actually need a silicone based foundation. 

All foundations and primers are either water based, silicone based or oil based – and what you choose can make or break your look depending on your skin type and what combination of makeup you use.

So, what’s the difference between all these types of formulas and why does it matter? Read on to find out.

water based foundation

What are silicone based foundations?

You can tell what is a silicone based foundation by the ingredients list. Typically the first few ingredients will end in -cone or -siloxane. Even if the first ingredient on the list says ‘Aqua’ or ‘Water’, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the foundation is water based.

“Silicone-based foundations are known for their long-lasting wear and ability to create a smooth, blurred appearance on the skin and achieve a fuller coverage – think pore filling!” explains Susan Lilian, pro makeup artist and founder of Smith Kit.

“Silicone-based foundations actually come in different finishes from dewy through to matte.”

This particular foundation is best for skin with fine lines and bigger pores as the silicone can have a blurring effect.

“If you’re acne prone, make sure you find yourself a non-comedogenic silicone formula. Don’t forget to double cleanse this particular formula to clean your pores out well,” Susan adds.

The best silicone based foundations


DIOR Backstage Face & Body Foundation

from $79 at Adore Beauty


Chanel Les Beiges Foundation

from $105 at Myer


Rare Beauty Liquid Touch Weightless Foundation

from $59 at Sephora

What is a water based foundation?

On the other end of the spectrum is water based foundations which are, as the name implies, high in water content. You can tell your foundation is water based if there are no ‘-cone’, ‘-siloxane’ or oil products at the top of the ingredients list.

“Water-based foundations are fabulous for someone who is after a lightweight feel and finish on the skin,” says Susan. “These foundations are great for sensitive, dehydrated or dry skin types.”

“Acne-prone skin also loves water based formulas as they don’t add any extra oil to the skin.”


Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

from $105 at Armani Beauty


Make Up For Ever HD Skin Hydra Glow Foundation

from $72 at Sephora


Chantecaille Future Skin

from $153 at Mecca

What is an oil based foundation?

Oil based foundations will have nourishing ingredients like jojoba, mineral or argan oil listed within the first 2-3 ingredients.

“The oils within the foundation will replenish and add radiance to dry skin for a dewy, glowing complexion,” Susan says. “This formula generally offers a good amount of coverage and tend to be more resistant to sweat and humidity.”

This type of foundation is great for people with extremely dry skin. Alternatively, this formula is not ideal for those with oily and acne prone skin as it will add extra oil to the face.

What foundation should I wear with my primer?

If you’re finding that your foundation is slipping around your face, separating, pilling or flaking – then you might not be using the right combination of products.

“As a general rule of thumb, be sure to pair your water base foundation with a water based primer to avoid formula separation,” Susan explains.

The same rule of thumb also applies to oil based and silicone based formulas too. If you stick to this simple rule and check the ingredients of both your foundation and primer, you’ll be sure to take your makeup to the next level.”

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