5 foundations that say they won't stain your mask—and if they work
I tested "transfer-proof" makeup from Fenty, Maybelline, and more to see which actually stay put.
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At the beginning of quarantine life, many of you probably left your makeup lonely on your vanity. After all, many offices and schools went remote and business meetings and classes took place over pixelated Zoom calls. Now, as some head back to the office or participate in social(ly distant) events for which they want to don foundation, concealer, mascara, and lipstick, it’s pertinent to choose makeup that’ll stay put underneath a face mask.
Of course, foundations weren’t designed with facial coverings in mind, but many make claims about not transferring onto clothing, napkins, or other skin. I sought out foundations with these claims, which led me to these five popular ones to try out:
- Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
- Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Foundation
- KVD Vegan Beauty Lock-It Foundation
- Maybelline Super Stay Full Coverage Foundation
- Covergirl TruBlend Matte Made Liquid Foundation
My aim: to find the one that won’t make a mess of my mask or rub off, leaving me blotchy or bare-faced when the mask comes off.
How I tested transfer-proof foundations
I applied the foundations to the bottom half of my face with the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge, my usual makeup applicator. I also applied E.L.F. Cosmetics HD Loose Powder in the shade Translucent to one half of my face, as a means of setting the foundation, to see if it made a difference in results (spoiler: It didn’t). Then I donned a disposable medical mask, and walked for about an hour in 60- to 75-degree temperatures. Really, I just went through the motions of my typical post-work routine these days, but applied foundation before I went out the door.
The tests weren’t perfectly controlled: The temperature fluctuated some and I had more pep in my step from day to day, causing me to sweat more or less. As a whole, though, I saw how each of these foundations wore on my face with the limited amount of air circulation a mask provides and with me working up the same kind of sweat I used to when I walked to work pre-pandemic.
Originally, I thought I was testing these foundations' transfer-proof ability by looking at my mask after and taking note of the makeup stains, but after my experience with one of these, I realized that the story isn’t what gets on your mask, it’s what doesn't stay on your face. Ranked from best to worst, here’s my experience.
1. Most transfer-proof drugstore foundation: Covergirl TruBlend Matte Made Liquid Foundation
This product, which is the foundation version of our best drugstore concealer, claims to be “transfer-resistant” and have “flexi-hold technology that creates a strong, yet flexible film on skin for durability and comfort.”
It rubbed off onto my mask a little bit during my walk on a 61° evening, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at my skin. The foundation faded slightly around my nose and chin, where the mask rubbed the most, but it looked like the typical wear-off you’d see after wearing a foundation for several hours, instead of obviously patchy.
Both sides of my face looked the same, despite the powder I used to set the foundation, and both remained matte-looking—I have normal-to-dry skin, so you may have different results with oily skin, but this withstood sweat and looked great after testing, so I’d recommend giving it a try.
2. A great high-end foundation: Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Foundation
This department-store foundation claims to last for 24 hours on the skin (which we didn’t test for) and should, as the name suggests, stay in place. It also claims to be “transfer-resistant” and “sweat- and humidity-resistant.”
I went to the Reviewed office on the day I tested this foundation, so I wore blush and bronzer on top of this during testing, and again applied powder to one half of my face. This foundation got a full-day wear test, which included me going for short walks and sitting in the office with no AC). When it passed with flying colors, I decided not to bother re-testing for the hour-long walk.
In fact, this foundation only got better looking throughout the day, as it looks more dewy on my dry skin over time, and barely rubbed off on my mask at all. By evening, I noticed some shinier areas the tops of my cheeks and on my nose, but my jawline and mouth stayed matte-looking. Considering Estée Lauder’s heftier price, I recommend the Covergirl TruBlend over this, as they boast similar results with a mask, but this is a great option.
3. A solid drugstore foundation pick: Maybelline Super Stay Full Coverage Foundation
Another drugstore option, this Maybelline foundation claims to last for 24 hours without fading or shifting all day, and reviewers commented that it is transfer-resistant under a mask.
Overall, I’d say those happy reviewers are correct in their assessment of this Maybelline foundation. While it’s true that friction between the mask and the highest points of my face—chin, nose, and cheekbones—caused this formula to wear off onto my mask, it didn’t transfer any more than the Covergirl or Estée Lauder. Still, you wouldn’t be able to tell that I has just been wearing a mask if you saw me.
My decision to rank the Maybelline below the Estée Lauder one is only based on preference. I liked how the pricier formula looked on my skin and it was very comfortable to wear. That said, you may prefer the Maybelline if you have oily skin, as it’s more matte than the Estée Lauder one.
4. A foundation to use with caution: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
This foundation doesn’t make a specific claim about transferability (just “longwear”-ingness), but given its popularity, and its similar attributes to other foundations on this list, I decided to try it. The Fenty formula is made with “climate-adaptive technology that’s resistant to sweat and humidity” and it says it’s “light as air” on the skin.
Immediately upon application, I noticed how dry this looked on my skin, so if you have very oily skin, you may like it. For me, it was just too matte-looking on my skin. Still, it only bled onto the mask slightly where the mask rubbed my cheeks and the overall appearance of this foundation at a glance was fine after my walk.
Where I docked the most points from this foundation had to do with how it settled in certain areas, like in the line under my bottom lip and above my chin, which was not flattering. The Covergirl, Estée Lauder, and Maybelline formulas wore off in a natural way and I’d much prefer that to the foundation pooling in crevices as it wears away.
5. A foundation to stay clear of: KVD Vegan Beauty Lock-It Foundation
This is supposedly “transfer-resistant, so you can trust it to stay on your face.”
It doesn’t seem fair to put KVD Vegan Beauty right after Fenty Beauty in this list, as this foundation presented dramatically worse results. It wore off in the most obvious way, leaving large patches of my skin uncovered and blotchy-looking around my jawline, upper lip, and cheeks. The shade was too light for my skin tone, so it was easy to see the difference but, on the other hand, the Maybelline and Fenty were darker than my skin tone, so I would have seen obvious discoloration from those, too, if they performed similarly to this.
The KVD was a hot mess on my post-mask face, and it proves that you can’t just glance at your mask to check that your foundation stayed in place—the damage on the mask looked almost the same as all of the other foundations above. Do not wear this if you’re going to wear a mask at all.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.