It’s safe to say that matte makeup has made a major comeback in the past few seasons. This isn't, however, your mother's matte makeup. The former finish left something (okay, a lot) to be desired and as a result, underwent a makeover and returned with a bright future ahead. But it's not just the shine-absorbing qualities that make the 2.0 versions a go-to for makeup artists now — it's also the long-lasting, pore-minimizing, gorgeously versatile benefits that make this comeback so exciting.
And while it’s common to think about matte shades as exclusively for foundation, (you can thank 1950s stars like Bette Davis and Grace Kelly for that), the new matte recruits are also offered in hydrating, no-sheen eye tints, lipsticks, blush and even nail colors — all of which create an ideal finish for capturing the best selfie. According to industry pros, the no-shimmer surface helps you avoid looking like an oil slick and helps ditch a glare in photo-ops.
Here, Maybelline New York Global Makeup Artist Grace Lee reveals the perks of modern-day matte makeup and the simple ways to incorporate it into your beauty rotation.
So, What Is Matte Makeup?
“Matte makeup comes out with no shine and is usually flat with color,” says Lee, adding that the payoff is more muted than its glossy counterparts. On a technical level, the formulas are made without sparkling ingredients like mica and silica, and are instead stocked with low-reflection additives like talc. Unlike the vintage variety, newer matte powders have smaller particle sizes, so the product lays cleaner and blends more seamless without looking dry or chalky.
How to Prep Skin for Matte Makeup
Laying the right groundwork is almost as important as the application itself. Guarantee a flawless canvas by smoothing a hyaluronic acid serum onto your bare complexion, followed by a gel moisturizer and a sunscreen like the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 30. Let the ingredients absorb for five minutes, then apply a lightweight, silky primer for grip using fingers in a sweeping out motion. This will ensure your matte look will last all day. Plus, it’ll help fill any lines or larger pores, so makeup sits on an even surface. Try NYX Professional Makeup #NoFilter Blurring Primer.
How to Choose the Right Base
You do you, says Lee of the many, very personal, matte foundation options. “It can depend on your skin type, or it can depend on what your needs are, like how much time you have,” she adds. It’s best for drier skin types to use cream or stick formulas as the emollient texture can ease discomfort associated with tightness and flaking. Oily skin types are best paired with loose or packed shine-absorbing matte powders. Blot the slick layer with Urban Decay The Velvetizer Translucent Mix-In Medium by applying it all over the face and neck with a large natural bristle brush, or by adding a dime-sized amount into a liquid foundation for extra mattifying powers. Normal skin? You can wear a liquid, stick, powder, faintly tinted or a hybrid cream-to-powder matte formula.
Use a foundation brush or sponge to bring the look to life, says Lee. “Just don’t dampen the sponge as it might sheer down the texture or make the foundation dewier,” she cautions.
The Perfect Matte Makeup for Fair Skin Tones
Technique is key when applying no-sheen hues to lighter skin tones. A swipe of soft, matte pink or peach lip color will work wonders to play up your porcelain features. “Don’t use lip liner,” says Lee. “Just use the [lipstick] color and concentrate it in the center of the lips and blend outward.” Think of it like a gorgeous ombré lip but with a single hue. Try NYX Professional Makeup Matte Lipstick in Hippie Chic. Dust matching powder blush onto apples (cream blush’s dewy finish will detract from the classic look), like Lancôme Blush Subtil in Aplum, and add several coats of black mascara and brow color for a well-groomed finish.
The Perfect Matte Makeup for Medium Skin Tones
Deeper pinks and oranges are the best matte bets for lips for those with olive skin tones. Try a smooth, richly pigmented lip glaze like L’Oréal Paris Infallible Paints/Lips Matte in Peach Pit, which delivers a saturated color in a single coat. The only caveat when picking a pink lipstick? Stay away from those with blue undertones for medium skin tones. The hints of blue and purple will make you look washed out.
Earthy accents are especially on-trend this season, which pair nicely with pink and peach hues on tan skin. Sweep a matte brown hue like NYX Professional Makeup Nude Matte Shadow in Not Today from lash line to the crease, and then load up on mascara and use your go-to blush. The shine-free look is sophisticated, bute the pops of color keep it fun.
The Perfect Matte Makeup for Deep/Dark Skin Tones
Women with deeper skin tones can pull off an array of shades — from vibrant and bold to more neutral on eyes, lips and cheeks. “A flattering matte [eyeshadow] can be a soft taupe-y brown,” says Lee of the universal pick. Try Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Secret Service, a soft, cool-brown matte that can be used in the crease or all over.
Add a little extra drama with a muted fuchsia lippie like L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Matte Lipstick in Matte Mandate or downplay it more with a purple-toned pink. To help the bright hue resist fading or transfer, hold a tissue over lips and dust a translucent powder (through the tissue) to set it in place.
Bring it all together with several coats of mascara and brow gel, and a sheer application of pink cheek color, which will allow the matte features to shine.
The Perfect Matte Makeup Pairs
We're not suggesting you have to be exclusive with mattes — on the contrary, mixing and matching textures can really help you achieve your best look. "Anything goes," says Lee, who recommends tossing the rulebook and playing different finishes against each other. Here's how to do it at home:
Matte + Cream
Keep your complexion matte (we recommend Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Foundation) and everything else nice and dewy. We're talking liquid lips, creamy cheek color and even cream eyeshadow. Or, skip the eye makeup altogether and just use a multi-tasking cream stick on lips and cheeks, like the YSL Baby Doll Kiss & Blush Lip and Cheek in Cute to Devilish.
Matte + Highlight
"You can do matte skin with a glossier highlight," says Lee. After applying the no-sheen foundation, strategically place luminizer on all prominent facial bones for a more structured look. Think: brow bones, high cheekbones, along the jawline and down the front of the nose. You can even dab a bit into the Cupid's bow for some sexy lip definition. Use a stick brightener for easy touch-ups like IT Cosmetics Hello Light Anti-Aging Luminizing Crème Stick.
Or, try it the other way: dewy skin with a matte lip. Bring in a liquid foundation or tinted moisturizer with the words "illuminating," "radiant" or "glow" printed on the label and apply using your fingers or a foundation brush. To really up the ante, cocktail a tinted moisturizer with a liquid highlighter for elevated brightness. Try NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator. Then choose a bold, matte version of liquid lipstick for your lips like Maybelline New York Matte SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick in Ruler.
Matte + Cream + Gloss
Like the triple play of makeup textures, this look will incorporate them all. Keep skin and lips super matte (try Giorgio Armani Lasting Silk UV Foundation and Maybelline New York Color Sensational Matte Metallics Lipstick), then use a cream cheek color on your apples — tapped on using your ring finger in fluid motions. Finish with a clear eye gloss on lids and extra mascara.