How To Tell If A Foundation Is Water-Based Or Not?


As an expert makeup artist, one advice I always give to my clients regarding foundation is to choose one that is suitable for their skin type. Discovering the right foundation for your skin type is crucial for achieving that flawless makeup look. But with so many options available, you can feel a bit lost. I advise starting with the base of a foundation, if you manage to figure out the base of a foundation you can tell if it is right for you or not. Now you may ask how to tell if a foundation is water-based or not.

You can tell a foundation is water-based if the first item is Aqua (water) and the first 4-5 ingredients are water-based. You can also check the texture and consistency and read the packaging properly to figure out if the foundation is water-based or not. Water-based foundations may contain some silicon or oil-based ingredients in low quantity. Not to worry, as I have provided a comprehensive guide on how to tell if a foundation is water-based or not in today’s article, stick around to learn more.

Understanding Foundation Types

Understanding Foundation Types

There are 3 types of foundations, which are water-based, oil-based, and silicon-based. Let me elaborate on these 3 types of foundations below.

1. Water-Based Foundations

These foundations have water as their main ingredient. Think of water-based foundations as your skin’s BFF. They’re usually pretty light and hydrating, so they won’t feel heavy on your face. Perfect for those who want a foundation that does not require much time to put on.

Have you got sensitive or oily skin? I feel you. Water-based foundations are great for that.

2. Oil-Based Foundations

The primary ingredient in these foundations is oil. Oil-based foundations are the rich, creamy ones. They’re like that thick, luxurious lotion you slather on when your skin feels like the Sahara Desert. Gives you more coverage, and gives your skin an extra glow.

If your skin’s on the dry side, or maybe you’re rocking some fine lines you want to smooth over, oil-based foundations could be your jam. They’re all about keeping you looking moisturized and radiant.

3. Silicone-Based Foundations

The base of this foundation is silicon-based. They’re the smooth operators. They glide on like a dream and give you this flawless finish.

Whether you’ve got oily, dry, or combo skin, silicone-based foundations are like the chameleons of the foundation world – they adapt and make everyone look good.

Key Characteristics of Water-Based Foundation

Before I tell you how you can identify if a foundation is water-based or not, take a look at the key characteristics of a water-based foundation. It will help you identify a foundation that is water-based.

  • The texture is quite thin and lightweight. You won’t have difficulty applying it to your skin.
  • Breathable and feels light on the skin.
  • Hydrating and ideal for sensitive skin.
  • Gives you buildable coverage.
  • You can blend water-based foundation with ease.
  • It gives a natural finish which I really love.
  • Regardless of skin type anybody can use it.

Ways To Tell If A Foundation Is Water Based

Determining whether a foundation is water-based is an important step in matching the product to your skin type and desired makeup routine. Don’t sweat it, I have elaborated a few crucial ways for you to tell if a foundation is water-based or not.

1. Check the Ingredient List

I can tell from my experience that, primarily the first ingredient listed on a product is its main component. If water (aqua) is listed first, it’s likely that the foundation is water-based.

Look for ingredients ending in -cone, -siloxane, or -methicone. If these are listed before water, the foundation is more likely silicone-based. And water-based foundations usually do not contain oils as primary ingredients. If you see oils listed at the top of the ingredient list, it’s likely not water-based.

2. Check Texture and Consistency

Water-based foundations tend to have a thinner, more liquid-like consistency. Apply some of the foundation on your skin, it will feel lightweight or weightless. They are absorbed quickly into the skin and provide a more natural, dewy finish.

3. Packaging Clues

If you pay teeny tiny bit of attention to the instruction or description on the package it may give you a clue. Phrases like “hydrating,” “lightweight,” or “for sensitive skin” might indicate a water-based formula.

Previously I said water-based foundations are a bit thin, remember? Water-based foundations often come in pump bottles or with dropper applicators due to their thinner consistency.

Not to mention, many brands clearly state whether their foundation is water-based in the product description. Checking the brand’s website or product information can provide this detail, so don’t hesitate to do a little Google search.

4. Compatibility with Other Products

I have used water-based foundations with various water-based products on numerous clients. Because water-based foundations mix well with other water-based products. If it doesn’t blend well with an oil-based primer or moisturizer, it’s likely water-based.

5. Performance on Skin

Water-based foundations generally give a more natural, dewy finish and are less likely to clog pores, making them a good choice for sensitive or acne-prone skin. As a professional makeup artist, I always use a water-based foundation when it comes to clients who have sensitive skin.

Difference Between Water Based, Oil Base & Silicon Based Foundation

Difference Between Water Based, Oil Base & Silicon Based Foundation
CharacteristicWater-Based FoundationOil-Based FoundationSilicone-Based Foundation
Primary IngredientsWater and often glycerin or other water-soluble compoundsOils such as mineral oil, jojoba oil, or other botanical oilsSilicones, such as dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane
TextureLightweight and breathableRich and emollientSmooth and silky
HydrationProvides hydration without a greasy feelCan be moisturizing, suitable for dry skinMay not provide as much hydration as water-based formulas
CoverageBuildable coverage, often ranging from sheer to mediumTypically provides medium to full coverageCan vary but often provides a smooth, medium coverage
FinishNatural or satin finishDewy or luminous finishSmooth, matte, or satin finish
Suitability for Skin TypesSuitable for various skin types, including normal, oily, and sensitiveBest for dry or mature skin; may not be suitable for oily skinSuitable for most skin types, but may not be ideal for very oily skin
LongevityMay not be as long-wearing as oil-based formulasTends to have good staying power, especially for drier skinCan have good longevity and may resist transfer
Ease of BlendingEasy to blend into the skinRequires thorough blending due to richer textureSmooth and easy to blend
Ideal UseEveryday wear, natural makeup looksSuitable for occasions when a more polished look is desiredOften used for a smooth, photo-ready finish
Likelihood of BreakoutsLess likely to cause breakouts, suitable for sensitive skinMaybe comedogenic, potentially causing breakouts in some individualsGenerally less likely to cause breakouts, but individual reactions can vary

Proper Way To Apply Water-Based Foundation

Proper Way To Apply Water-Based Foundation

I have elaborated on the same technique I use to apply a water-based foundation on my clients below.

1. Use a Damp Makeup Sponge or Brush

Water-based foundations blend well with damp makeup sponges or brushes. The moisture helps in achieving a seamless and natural finish. This is why I recommend applying the foundation using gentle tapping or stippling motions.

2. Build Coverage Gradually

Since water-based foundations are often buildable, start with a small amount and add more as needed. This allows you to achieve your desired level of coverage without overapplying.

3. Blend Quickly

Water-based foundations can dry faster than some other formulations, so it’s advisable to work quickly during application to ensure even coverage.

You can follow the skincare routine I have listed here to achieve the optimal result and it will help to maintain skin quality while you use a water-based foundation.

  • Before applying a water-based foundation, ensure your skin is well-hydrated. Use a lightweight, hydrating moisturizer to create a smooth base. This enhances the foundation’s adherence and prevents it from settling into dry patches.
  • Pairing a water-based foundation with a water-based primer can improve longevity and help the foundation adhere better to the skin. This combination creates a cohesive base for makeup application.
  • If your water-based foundation doesn’t contain SPF, consider applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen before makeup. This is a crucial step for daily skincare and helps protect your skin from the sun’s harmful effects.


Take a scoop of my tips regarding water-based foundation.

  • Store in a cold and dry place, ensure you keep the foundation away from heat.
  • Give the water-based foundation bottle a nice shake before you use it.
  • Always check the expiry date before you purchase and use.
  • Wet your skin using it to get the best result.

Final Thoughts

Doing makeup for a variety of skin types is my job as an expert makeup artist. And I always rely on a water-based foundation whenever I have to work on sensitive skin. Oil and silicon-based foundations sometimes irritate sensitive skin which is why I avoid using them. It is so easy to work on oily skin with a foundation with a water base. In some cases, dry skin goes well with a water-based foundation as well. It is a pretty versatile foundation type.

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