When it comes to foundations, they can take many shapes and forms! Liquids, creams, powders…and sticks (oh my)! So I thought it would be fun to do a deep dive on STICK foundations specifically in the clean beauty world.
This post contains affiliate links. I purchased most of these products myself (some were gifted by brands) and this post reflects my honest thoughts, as always! I may earn a commission on purchases made through these links which directly help support the blog.
Foundation Sticks 101: Pros & Cons
First things first, why use a foundation stick over the other forms? Well, there are pros and cons and it might depend on your preference!
Stick Pros 👍
- Less mess
- Easy to travel with
- Can double as a concealer
- Usually are waterless and concentrated
- Super quick and easy to swipe directly onto skin
- You can use two different shades for a natural contouring or highlighting effect
- You don’t necessarily need a brush or beauty blender; you can just blend with your fingers
Stick Cons 👎
- They can sometimes be chalky or cakey
- Might need to warm them up on skin before they glide easily
- Not as hygienic since you are constantly applying the stick directly onto skin
How to Apply Stick Foundations
It’s not complicated! Just draw a few lines around the main areas of your face: cheeks, forehead, chin, and nose (not all over!). Then blend to your heart’s content.
Testing ALL the Clean Foundation Sticks!
I dug around to make sure this list included all of the clean beauty foundation sticks that are out there! If you know of any others, drop them in the comments. But these all use ingredients that are up to my (somewhat strict) standards. Some of them are long-time faves, others are new to me!
P.S. all of the foundations in this post are gluten free, cruelty free, and phenoxyethanol free! You can learn more about ingredients to avoid in cosmetics here.
Click to jump to a specific review:
- Jones Road The Face Pencil
- Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick
- Vapour Luminous Foundation Stick
- Zao Organic Foundation Stick
- Well People Bio Stick Foundation
- Au Naturale Zero Gravity C2P Foundation Stick
Jones Road The Face Pencil [6th Place]
Price: $25 for 2.9 g (0.1 oz)
Shelf Life: 24 months
Shades Available: 25
Coverage: Light wash to cover redness and correct discoloration
Packaging: Pencil (needs to be sharpened) with a plastic cap
Other Notes: Cruelty free (not vegan, contains beeswax), made in Germany, contains coconut (MCT), gluten free, silicone free
Okay, so I’m not totally sure that this belongs on this list. It’s supposed to be a hybrid concealer-foundation pencil, but after using it, I definitely consider it more of a concealer. You can use it all over as a foundation, but the tip is so small that you literally would need to draw little lines all over your face (Jones Road does suggest blending the pencil with a moisturizer for a wash of foundation coverage too). But I think it’s better suited for smaller, targeted areas that you want to conceal.
I wear shade 5 which is for light skin with cool pink undertones. I initially thought it would be sharp or stiff since it’s a pencil. But it’s creamy, lightweight, and does start to melt/glide around your skin more easily after a few seconds of warming up. And it’s a thicker formula than I expected. One downside is that you need to sharpen it when it gets dull (you can use this $8 sharpener which was made specifically for the pencil)!
Jones Road claims to use a clear base with these so there is no chalky undertone and I would agree! But I also feel like it kind of sits on skin instead of fully melting in, and in turn, looking a little flat. It does hold up somewhat decently throughout the day, but it does fade a bit and become slightly more oily with my skin after a few hours.
Would I repurchase? No; it’s not big enough to use as a full foundation and there are other concealers I prefer. Cool concept though!
Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick [5th Place]
Price: $68 for 9 g (0.31 oz)
Shelf Life: 18 months
Shades Available: 21
Coverage: Medium coverage with a radiant, natural finish
Packaging: Plastic twist-up case and cap with a magnetic hold
Other Notes: Vegan, cruelty free, silicone free, gluten free, contains coconut (MCT), made in Italy
I was so curious to try this for the longest time! The packaging is beautiful (even though it’s plastic) and Westman Atelier seems like a super-luxe brand, albeit not the cleanest on the market (lots of [safer] synthetics and polymers; would love to see more natural and organic ingredients for this price). The first thing I noticed with this one is how beautifully it swipes onto my skin. It’s front-loaded with lots of emollients and moisturizing ingredients so that makes sense. It’s DEFINITELY creamy and silky. Maybe even kind of velvety.
I wear shade Atelier 0 (neutral with rose undertone) but could for sure go darker in summer. It’s supposed to look like your skin, but enhanced, and I do feel like that’s true! It does have gorgeous, even coverage and doesn’t appear patchy or sparse on me at all.
If I use a setting powder on top of this one, it holds up really well throughout the day and still looks fresh even hours later. I only notice slight creasing on deeper lines like on my neck (where setting powder was not used). If I don’t use a setting powder, I notice that it can kind of fade away on areas like my nose and chin (not much though).
Would I repurchase? No, it’s too expensive for what I’m willing to spend. The foundation is pretty nice and I’d consider purchasing it again and moving it higher up this list if it were cheaper. But I feel like you’re just paying for the brand name and not actually the quality of ingredients, and it doesn’t perform that much better than others in this guide.
Vapour Luminous Foundation Stick [4th Place]
Price: $46 for 8.5 g (0.29 oz)
Shelf Life: 6 months
Shades Available: 19
Coverage: Light to medium coverage, luminous finish
Packaging: Plastic twist-up case and cap, can send back to Vapour for recycling
Samples: Yes, $8 foundation sample sets plus $10 credit towards next purchase
Other Notes: Cruelty free (not vegan, contains beeswax), silicone free, coconut free, gluten free, made in USA
This is considered a makeup and skincare hybrid! I LOVE how effortlessly it swipes onto my skin; very buttery smooth! If you live in a colder climate, it’s not as smooth during the colder months FYI. The coverage is on the lighter side and it can be quite sheer, but you can build it up towards medium coverage. If you’re looking for something that evens out skin tone and lightly conceals but doesn’t give heavy coverage, then I think you’d like this!
I am kind of in-between shades: 117L (light, yellow undertones) when my skin is paler in the winter, and 120L (light-medium, pink undertones) in the summer months. I also like to mix and match these shades for a contour and highlight effect.
The only thing is that this foundation can feel oily and slick, I mean it IS a luminous foundation after all! So I absolutely need a setting powder over this one. I also notice that it settles into deeper lines towards the end of the day, specifically smile lines and necklines; you can quickly blend it out as that happens. But if you have more oily skin then it might be too luminous for you. It’s really great for dry or mature skin types, though.
Would I repurchase? I’m really torn with this one! So my answer is…maybe? It’s not that this is a bad foundation, but I think it’s just a preference for me because I typically use foundations with more coverage and I don’t care for the luminous/dewy look on my skin personally.
Zao Organic Foundation Stick [3rd Place]
Price: $44 for 10 g (0.35 oz)
Shelf Life: 12 months
Shades Available: 14
Coverage: Medium to full coverage with a natural powdery finish
Packaging: Bamboo outer case, twist-up inner plastic cartridge (refillable)
Samples: Yes, $1 from Zao in select shades
Other Notes: Vegan, cruelty free, gluten free, silicone free, contains coconut (MCT), made in Italy, Cosmos Organic Certified by ECOCERT
This one is super interesting! It’s creamy but not very dense and feels more like a powder after it’s on your skin. So I almost don’t need a separate setting powder on top. One of the first things I noticed was the smell! It kind of reminds me of a sunscreen with hints of vanilla. I like it, but if you’re sensitive to scents, it could be bothersome for you.
Zao goes on really smoothly and is fairly easy to blend (heads up, the stick is quite chubby!). It honestly looks sooo pretty on my skin and I like that I can get a fuller coverage with it. It evens out my complexion and has a soft finish, but it doesn’t feel dry at all. I wear shade 773 Sand Beige which suits me well.
However, my tip with this one would be to make sure you are not OVER blending because it can start to look crepey if you do. At least that’s been my experience! Having well-prepped skin makes a huge difference with this one too. Some days if my skin isn’t thoroughly exfoliated, this looks cakey on me at the end of the day if I use too much. I’m not sure it would work well on drier skin types either.
Since this one is made in Europe, it’s hard to find US stockists that carry it! Even the US Zao website doesn’t have many shades available (I bought it from Organic Bunny’s site but she doesn’t offer refill cartridges, FYI).
Would I repurchase? Yes! This one is great for when I want fuller coverage. There is a bit of a learning curve, but once you figure it out, it’s good stuff!
Well People Bio Stick Foundation [2nd Place Runner Up]
Price: $27 for 10 g (0.35 oz)
Shelf Life: 3 months
Shades Available: 14
Coverage: Medium coverage with natural, satin finish
Packaging: Plastic twist-up case and cap
Samples: Not from Well People, but you can sample it via The Detox Market
Other Notes: Vegan, cruelty free, silicone free, gluten free, contains coconut (MCT), made in China, EWG verified
This was the first clean beauty foundation stick I tried years ago! Since then, Well People has been bought by Elf so I think the formula may have changed slightly. But it still performs as well as I remember it! They also released darker shades which was long overdue. I use shade 2W which is light with golden undertones; I could go lighter in winter since it’s a tad yellow for my skin.
There are a couple of things I like about this foundation like the price point, coverage, and how accessible it is. I will say, the caveat with this one is that it takes a smidge more effort to blend; it can be a little stubborn. It just doesn’t melt into skin as easily as other foundations in this guide. But it DOES eventually work in seamlessly and provides decent coverage with a satin finish.
Like most of the foundations in this guide, I do need a setting powder with this one too. Otherwise, it can become oily after wearing it for a while. But I almost feel like it looks better on my skin after some time? Like it looks good when first applied, but even better after an hour or two.
Ultimately it’s not perfect, but the fact that it’s more budget-friendly and available in retail stores moves it up the list for me!
Would I repurchase? Yes! I particularly enjoy that I can quickly pick this foundation up at a store like Target if needed, instead of having to order online.
Au Naturale Zero Gravity C2P Foundation Stick 🌟 [1st Place Winner: Becca’s Fave!]
Price: $42 for 9 mL (0.3 fl oz)
Shelf Life: 24 months
Shades Available: 15
Coverage: Medium coverage, cream-to-powder soft focus finish
Packaging: Aluminum twist-up case and cap
Samples: Yes, $15 sample bundle for up to five samples
Other Notes: Vegan, cruelty free, gluten free, made in USA (Wisconsin!), silicone free, contains coconut (MCT), uses ECOCERT pigments
This has been a long-time fave of mine, and after testing a bunch of other stick foundations, it’s still number one! This one goes on like a nourishing creme but finishes like a weightless powder. It’s buildable, medium coverage, and looks very natural on my skin. It’s not quite matte, but it has a blurry, soft focus. I wear shade Seville for light skin tones with neutral to light olive undertones. I could probably go one shade darker in summer.
I wouldn’t recommend this one if you have dry skin or dry patches because it can cling to them. And make sure to apply it to prepped and well-moisturized skin for the smoothest application! It does tend to melt a tiny bit as the day goes on (with my combo skin) so I recommend a setting powder over it. There’s not much of a smell to this one but it does contain some lavender.
And you can’t beat the quality of ingredients in this guy. Au Naturale makes everything BY HAND in their own lab in Green Bay which is amazing. Lots of certified organic and ECOCERT materials and consciously-sourced pigments. I have a separate post about clean beauty foundations that are reader favorites, and this one made that top ten list!
Would I repurchase? You betcha! I am on my third tube 👍 There’s so much to love about it: the packaging, the ingredients, how it looks on my skin, and the fact that it’s made close to home!
Also available on Amazon.
Other Clean Beauty Foundations (Not Sticks!)
If you’re interested in other clean foundations that are NOT a stick, you’ll surely wanna check out this guide:
Have you tried any of these sticks? Which one are you most interested in? Thanks a bunch for checking out this post and I hope it was helpful! 💚