The 3 Rules for Choosing a Foundation When You're Dealing With Dry Skin

When it comes to choosing your makeup, it can be so crucial to opt for products that work with your specific skin type. I recently learned how helpful it can be when it comes to application and the finished look. You wouldn't want a foundation to make your skin appear more oily or for it to irritate your sensitive skin. Plus, when it's suited for your type, you know it probably won't make any of your skin problems or concerns worse.

Personally, my skin type is usually combination but veers toward dry in the fall and winter months. Anyone who deals with dry skin on the regular knows how annoying it is to put makeup on when the flakes are out of control. And sometimes, your face could feel so dehydrated it might even feel uncomfortable or irritating to put any product on. Applying foundation is always tough for me because it can end up highlighting the flaky skin, and some formulas can dry out my face even more.

After talking to some dermatologists about this dilemma, I learned that there are three important rules for choosing a foundation when you have dry skin. One, you should think about the texture of the formula. Two, look for certain ingredients that can benefit the skin. And three, you'll need to think about what you can do to manage the dry skin before application.

Foundation Texture

TyLynn Nguyen



There are so many different foundation textures and formulas out there. You've got liquid, powder, stick, and even serum now. "I would recommend liquids, creams, or stick foundations, depending on what coverage you are looking for in your foundation," says Robyn Gmyrek, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Park View Laser Dermatology. "I would not opt for powders, as they will not moisturize as well and can absorb oils from the skin, especially if they contain clay or talc, and contribute to further dryness."

Board-certified dermatologist Roberta Del Campo, MD, agrees, adding that it might help to purchase a foundation with noncomedogenic skin oils that can hydrate, smooth, and allow for a better base for makeup application.

Foundation Ingredients to Look For

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Today's foundations are packed with some good-for-the-skin ingredients. So this is the perfect opportunity to use that to your advantage and choose a product that has something that can nourish your skin as well. Think of it as a two-for-one. And who doesn't love multitasking products like that?

Take a look at this list of dermatologist-recommended ingredients that can help your dry skin:

Glycerin: It's a humectant, so it will draw water into the skin, Gmyrek says.

Dimethicone: It's hydrating.

Niacinamide: This ingredient is hydrating, has anti-inflammatory properties, and helps the skin barrier.

Ceramide: A hydrating ingredient that also repairs the skin barrier.

Hyaluronic Acid: This powerhouse is ultrahydrating.

Oils: Gmyrek says sunflower, argan, coconut, and jojoba oils can help.

Shea Butter: It's an emollient that can soften and smooth.

Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide: Del Campo says these protect against sun damage and are hypoallergenic.

Vitamin E: This antioxidant can soothe skin and has anti-aging benefits, Del Campo adds.

Foundation Ingredients to Avoid

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There are also some foundation ingredients that won't do your dry skin any favors. Here's what to avoid:

Alcohol: This is a surefire ingredient that will dry out your skin.

Vitamin A: Board-certified dermatologist Brooke Jackson, MD, says you should be careful with vitamin A (or retinol) because it can be drying.

Bismuth Oxychloride: Del Campo says this ingredient can be irritating.

Clay or Talc: Gmyrek adds that some matte-finish foundations will have clay or talc, which can soak up the skin's natural oils.

How to Prep and Apply Foundation for Dry Skin

Emma Hoareau



Get your skin in check before applying product. "Foundation will sit better on smooth, hydrated skin, so start by addressing the dry skin," Jackson explains. Some of this involves making some changes to your lifestyle or daily habits based on the season. Jackson advises people to stay well hydrated, especially in the winter months. She also recommends investing in a humidifier if you're dealing with a dry environment.

"Review all of your products and make seasonal changes. Often, the products we use in the summer may be too drying for the winter months," Jackson explains. "This may also mean talking to your dermatologist about any topicals that you are using, which come in different formulations. You may need to change to a more moisturizing formulation in the winter months."

When it comes to application, prep the skin with a moisturizer and hydrating primer to smooth and prevent the foundation from settling in the dry cracks of the skin. When choosing a primer, you can use the above list of ingredients, too. "Remember, the higher up on the ingredient list something is, the more the product contains," Gmyrek says.

Del Campo recommends using a slightly damp sponge applicator to ensure that the formula is applied uniformly.

Makeup Removal Tips That Won't Dry Out the Skin

I find that when I'm battling dry skin, the act of removing my makeup can worsen the problem and sometimes make my skin so irritated and sensitive. To help that problem, the dermatologists suggest cream-based cleansers since they don't dry the skin. "I recommend creamy or oil-based cleansers," Gmyrek says. "The oils dissolve makeup and pull dirt from the skin and pores without stripping skin of natural oils like soap-based cleansers do. These work really well, even on waterproof or thicker, high-coverage foundations." Dove's Beauty Bar ($4) is a recommendation from Jackson, who says it's a moisturizing cream that's gentle enough for daily use and nondrying.

And if you want to add another product to remove makeup, Del Campo advises against toners, which can strip the skin. Instead, reach for micellar water.

Best Drugstore Foundations for Dry Skin

If you're on a budget or just don't want to splurge on a foundation for your dry skin, there are plenty of drugstore and affordable options for you. This can be clutch if you only deal with dry skin a couple of months out of the year (like myself) and don't want to empty your wallet for two expensive foundations. Below are some picks recommended by dermatologists and editors.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint

Jackson recommends Neutrogena's liquid foundation, which contains hyaluronic acid. The formula is lightweight and has a water-gel consistency, so it doesn't feel too heavy.

Physicians Formula Organic Wear Silk Foundation Elixir

Formulated with jojoba oil, aloe vera, coconut oil, and botanical cactus flower, this weightless foundation is a recommendation from Del Campo. The coverage can range from sheer to buildable, and it leaves you with a dewy finish.

Maybelline Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation

Gmyrek says the price of this foundation can't be beaten, and it's got a selection of 24 shades. The formula contains beneficial ingredients like water, glycerin, and dimethicone.

Covergirl + Olay Simply Ageless 3-in-1 Liquid Foundation

Another pick from Jackson, this foundation contains hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. The product also helps in the anti-aging department, working to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin tone and texture.

Maybelline Dream Radiant Liquid Foundation

This liquid foundation from Maybelline provides up to 12 hours of hydration, thanks to hyaluronic acid and collagen. The medium-coverage product is another recommendation from Gymrek because it contains dimethicone, glycerin, and shea butter.

L'Oréal Age Perfect Radiant Serum Foundation With SPF 50

There's a hydrating serum and vitamin B3 in this foundation that's especially designed for mature skin. It also has SPF 50 protection and comes in 30 different shades.

Burt's Bees Goodness Glows Liquid Makeup

This foundation contains meadowfoam seed oil, a moisturizing and nourishing ingredient. The medium- to full-coverage foundation comes in 18 shades and is free of parabens, phthalates, SLS, petrolatum, talc, synthetic fragrances, and silicones.

Covergirl CG Smoothers Hydrating Makeup

Ultramoisturizing and lightweight, this foundation from Covergirl does a good job of minimizing blemishes and redness. And it leaves a natural finish.

Revlon ColorStay Makeup for Normal/Dry Skin SPF 20

Revlon's ColorStay foundation has a whopping 24 hours of staying power. The oil-free formula contains hyaluronic acid and SPF 20 protection, too.

No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Serum Foundation

Not only will No7's serum foundation blur blemishes and other imperfections, but it will also work to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by reflecting light away. The hydrating product will leave your skin glowy and plump looking.

Almay Best Blend Forever Foundation

Described as both a foundation and a moisturizer, this product doesn't disappoint. The lightweight formula provides buildable coverage, SPF protection, and eight hours of hydration.

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Foundation Stick

If you prefer a stick foundation, this pick from Neutrogena might be your best bet. It blends easily, doesn't leave a cakey finish, and won't clog pores. Plus, it's formulated with moisturizing hyaluronic acid.

Next up, I'm Pretty Cheap When It Comes to Eye Shadows—These Drugstore Picks Are Divine