How to Apply Tinted Moisturizer for a Dewy, Radiant GlowFebruary 01, 2024
As beauty editors, we spend a lot of time fielding questions from friends (and family) about makeup. And one question we hear time and time again is "What does tinted moisturizer do?” The confusion is understandable: Depending on who you ask, this hybrid product could be considered skincare or makeup. In reality, it’s a bit of both, providing skin benefits like a moisturizer but with a bit of sheer, light coverage to help even out your skin tone. Because tinted moisturizer sits at the intersection of skincare and makeup, it’s the perfect choice for quick, natural-looking makeup. Plus, according to makeup artist Tim Quinn, it’s among the easiest products to use.
Here, Quinn and fellow makeup artist Lisa Aharon explain how to apply tinted moisturizer for a fresh, skin-like finish. After that, we’ll share a few of our favorite formulas to shop right now. Find all the details and learn how to use tinted moisturizer in your beauty routine below.
What Is Tinted Moisturizer?
“Tinted Moisturizer is a lightly pigmented hydrating skin tint that will minimize skin imperfections without covering them,” explains Aharon. Think of tinted moisturizer as a more super lightweight alternative to foundation or other complexion makeup products. As indicated by the name, it combines makeup with skincare benefits, including moisturizing properties.
“The finish normally ranges from natural to dewy depending on the formula and will often have SPF as well,” says Aharon.
What Is Tinted Moisturizer Used For?
Tinted moisturizer is a great option for the days when you want your makeup routine to be lower maintenance or just want to even out your complexion. It’s also a good choice if you don’t love the look of a full-coverage foundation.
“It’s great as an everyday complexion product, especially if you choose one with built-in sun protection,” says Aharon. You can use it as a substitute for foundation and pair it with other makeup products, wear it on its own for a no-makeup makeup effect, or choose a tinted moisturizer sunscreen to help shield against UV rays like Aharon suggests. Whichever way you decide to wear your tinted moisturizer, knowing how to apply it correctly is the most important step to achieving healthy-looking skin.
How to Apply Tinted Moisturizer
Step 1: Cleanse your face
Clean your face thoroughly to ensure your skin is free from any excess oil or residue.
Step 2: Follow up with a moisturizer
As with foundation, you’ll want to apply your moisturizer before makeup. Using your fingertips, massage the product onto your face in light circular motions.
Step 3: Put on your SPF
Once your moisturizer has fully absorbed, apply your sunscreen—this is especially important if you are using a tinted moisturizer without SPF. Even if you use a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen, wearing SPF under your makeup will help provide further protection.
Step 4: Apply tinted your moisturizer
Place a tiny amount of product on the key areas of the face—forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin. With your fingers, spread out the tinted moisturizer until the product is evenly distributed. If you require more coverage, you can build up the color, but always start light and layer it up gradually as opposed to going in heavy from the beginning.
Step 5: Blend out product
Once you have your base covered, you can use a buffing brush to smooth out the tinted moisturizer and create a natural, second-skin effect.
Tips for Applying Tinted Moisturizer
Outside of the above steps, there are some additional application tips that can help turn tinted moisturizer into a truly holy grail product for you.
Cater to your skin type
The difference in your skin before and after tinted moisturizer will usually be ever so subtle as they tend to be sheer. But this doesn’t mean all tinted moisturizers will have the same effect. It’s essential you choose one based on your skin type. For example, if you're prone to breakouts, seek out an oil-free formula. Then, choose the tint or shade that best matches your skin tone. Some formulas have universal tints, while others come in a catalog of colors for a customized fit.
Ditch the sponge
Tinted moisturizers are like hydrating lotions, and you wouldn’t apply a moisturizer with your makeup sponge, right? “Since tinted moisturizer is already quite sheer, I prefer to use fingers or a brush for application,” explains Aharon. “Fingers will give the most natural effect, whereas using a brush to pat on the product could provide a little more coverage.” She notes that while a wet blending sponge is amazing for a barely there approach, it could potentially diffuse the product too much.
If you need more coverage in certain areas, apply a bit of concealer (using a light touch) and blend it out with your fingers to give your skin a smooth appearance.
Skip the powder
Although you may be tempted to set your look with a finishing powder, we highly recommend resisting the urge. The point of tinted moisturizer is to look like you're not made up, so embrace the radiant, dewy finish.
"Powder is definitely a no-no," says Quinn. "It's all about the glowing skin." If you can’t skip out on setting your makeup, we recommend spritzing with a setting spray like the Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray. It helps keep your makeup in place while still maintaining a luminous, glowing finish.
What Is the Difference Between Tinted Moisturizer and CC Cream?
The primary difference between a tinted moisturizer and a CC cream is the level of coverage. Tinted moisturizers provide less coverage, making them ideal for subtle, natural looks. CC creams, meanwhile, usually have medium or even full coverage and focus on correcting your color or complexion.
Additionally, though both tinted moisturizer and CC cream offer skincare benefits, the main purpose of CC cream is to color correct. CC creams are intended to even out redness, correct an uneven skin tone, and help cover dry spots. Ultimately, tinted moisturizer is very much a moisturizer first and foremost, and CC cream more closely resembles a skincare-infused foundation.
As for BB creams, they have similar coverage to CC creams but are often formulated specifically for blemish-prone skin (the “BB” stands for blemish balm).
What Is the Difference Between Tinted Moisturizer and Foundation?
Again, the differentiating factor between tinted moisturizer and foundation is the level of coverage (plus hydration). Tinted moisturizer is what you wear when you want a veil of color with an extra dose of hydration. Foundation, on the other hand, is for when you want more control over your coverage. It also comes in a wide range of finishes and is your best option for a matte or full-coverage look. While many foundations boast a variety of makeup benefits, they likely won’t deliver the same level of hydration as a tinted moisturizer.
What to Look for in a Tinted Moisturizer
What to look for in a tinted moisturizer depends on your skincare needs and aesthetic preferences, but there are some features that every good tinted moisturizer should have. Above all, you want a tinted moisturizer to have the hydrating benefits promised in the name. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, for example, are great for locking in moisture. Typically, you’ll also want a tinted moisturizer to offer a light level of coverage and a very natural-looking finish. Finally, many tinted moisturizers have built-in sun protection, which is always an added benefit on top of your normal SPF.
Our Favorite Tinted Moisturizers and Skin Tints
Formulated with witch hazel extract and aloe vera, this tinted moisturizer works to keep your skin hydrated all day. It comes in 12 shades, each of which is oil-free, won't clog your pores, and is suitable for all skin types—even sensitive skin. It also has the added benefit of helping protect the skin, thanks to containing broad-spectrum SPF 19 sunscreen. Pretty mighty for a tinted moisturizer, if you ask us!
Look to this luxe beauty option for buildable light-to-medium coverage. The water-cream formula is infused with glycerin and hyaluronic acid and offers 24-hour hydration.
It’s available in 20 shades, including light, medium, and deep options designed for different undertones. Each has a radiant finish, so be prepared to get compliments on your lit-from-within glow.
We love this drugstore gem from Maybelline. Their water-based tinted moisturizer
delivers 12 hours of hydration and has a barely-there feel, making it ideal for everyday wear. It has a natural coverage level, making it perfect for blurring your pores and enhancing your skin rather than covering it up completely. Choose between 14 shades to find the one that best matches your skin tone.
If you want the benefits of a tinted moisturizer but with a little bit more coverage, then this option from IT Cosmetics is for you. While it’s technically a CC cream, it has a fluid skin tint texture reminiscent of our favorite tinted moisturizers. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, green tea extract, and niacinamide, it also offers major skincare benefits. Use it to boost hydration, as well as even out the tone and texture of your complexion over time. Plus, with an SPF of 40, it will help protect your skin against sun damage.
We can’t get enough of this tinted moisturizer from Saie Beauty, and its amazing, silky texture. The formula with hyaluronic acid and pansy flowers helps hydrate your skin and fight free radicals. It also contains SPF 35 and helps protect your skin against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
The Iris&Romeo Best Skin Days SPF 30 is one of Aharon’s favorite tinted moisturizers because “it’s loaded with skincare benefits, melts into the skin effortlessly, and has buildable coverage.”
Some of the skincare benefits it boasts include improving your skin’s hydration, elasticity, and radiance. If you want bouncier, firmer-looking skin, this is the tinted moisturizer option for you.
This offering from sunscreen brand Supergoop! is another one of Aharon’s favorites. It offers the broad-spectrum sun protection of a sunscreen with the color-correcting effects of a CC cream, making it a particularly great option for summer. “SPF 50 gives you everyday protection or beach-ready skin,” she says. “The 100% mineral formula is great for sensitive skin and leaves you flawless and glowing.”
Next Up: The Best Lightweight Skin Tints