Ask any makeup artist, and they'll tell you prepping your complexion with high-quality, strategic skincare products before going in with foundation, concealer, and powder is just as (and perhaps more) important than the makeup application itself. In order for your makeup to look amazing, the goal is to get your skin looking and feeling its absolute best. We're not talking perfection; we're just talking coaxing your skin into living its best and glowiest life courtesy of A+ products. Think about it this way: You wouldn't show up for a marathon without putting in ample work and training beforehand. And in a way less dramatic sense, the same goes for your skin.
Celebrity makeup artist Pati Dubroff (who works with Margot Robbie, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Kate Bosworth, and more) once said she nurtures and prepares the skin for at least 40 minutes before starting the makeup process pre–red carpet. Of course, we don't expect you to go to those kinds of lengths (for the record, we're not attending red carpets and hardly have that kind of time or patience), but something can be learned from that type of expert-level stratagem.
Even though we know most celebrities have an army of experts, products, and in-office treatments to help keep them looking right and tight, we asked three of the most sought-after makeup artists in the industry (from Paris, London, and New York, no less!) to share the absolute best skin-tightening face creams they swear by for lifting perks. Then, we took it even further by asking them to share their stash of reinforcements, aka the skin-tightening lineup of serums, masks, massaging tools, and anything else they love to use in tandem with said lifting creams. Curious to get in on their age-defying routines? Keep scrolling!
"I know most people start applying their face creams from the center and then spread outwards, but I like to do the exact opposite, and here’s why. Most of us have dry cheeks since the skin doesn't produce as much sebum there as it does other places like the T-zone. Therefore, applying most of the product to the cheeks and sides of your forehead will give you more hydration exactly where you need it.
"This cream from Sisley is one of my favorites. It's a super-lightweight formula that's great for creating radiance and a nice lifting effect."
"I actually use this mask as a moisturizer for super-dry or dehydrated skin. It plumps the skin and provides an immediate tightening effect. It's truly an extraordinary product. I apply a small amount, so I make sure there is no excess product on the skin, and then I continue with foundation. It's probably my most effective trick when I am working with someone who has very dry skin."
"This is my personal favorite. I use it on my clients and on my own combination skin. No formula has worked better for giving my skin lots of hydration, elasticity, and radiance without that greasy feeling so many other rich creams can leave behind. This is a versatile, all-year-round kind of moisturizer—it's truly magic!"
Photo:Getty Images; Pictured: Amina Muaddi, celebrity client
"If I have a few extra minutes, I like to use a mask that helps brighten and give a nice lifting and tightening effect. My favorite is the Biologique Recherche PIGM 400 Sheet Mask. It has a high concentration of vitamin C, and I can see a difference in the skin right away."
(Editor's note: To view pricing for Biologique Recherche's products, you'll need to visit the Joanna Czech website, create an account, and log in.)
"Moisturizer is key before makeup application, but you'll get an even better finish if you pair your cream with a serum. I love a good vitamin C serum before applying moisturizer because it will help plump, lift, and brighten the skin. Then, your moisturizer will hydrate and seal all that goodness in. I'm currently obsessed with the vitamin C serum from Alpha H."
"For something affordable yet effective, I like Olay’s 3-Point Age-Defying Cream. It's easily absorbed yet still hydrating, smoothing, and firming.
"To apply serums and moisturisers, I like to start from the centre of the face and smooth upward and outward. Any extra moments you can spend on massaging during your application, your skin will thank you for! Remember to be gentle around the eyes and pay the jawline and lymph area (at the sides of the neck) extra attention."
"I am totally in love with Dr. Macrene's skincare line and her High Performance Face Cream. The ingredients are all USDA organic, vegan, and free of all the toxic ingredients that can be found in lots of beauty products. I've become increasingly drawn to cleaner beauty options, and this brand really caught my attention because of how efficient and noticeable the results are. The formula really does what it promises and is even suitable for sensitive skin types.
"I apply the cream with my fingers and really massage it onto the skin so it penetrates better and relaxes my clients. Everyone loves a massage and some extra pampering. It really makes a big difference!!"
"I also love the IS Clinical Youth Complex, which is full of antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, and retinol, which are all great ingredients to tighten the skin while improving skin texture and reducing fine lines and wrinkles. I have become a huge fan of using retinol-infused skincare products, as they've made a night-and-day difference with improving my skin texture and making my complexion smoother and plumper. I highly recommend this product!"
"When I have the time, I love to give my clients a mini facial. I start by applying a face mask, and my favorite for skin-tightening is the Eden Instant Lift Mask from Joanna Vargas. It instantly brightens the face and firms the skin. Taking the time for a face mask is so important because it gives a boost of hydration, which will allow the skin to really soak in all the ingredients, and it will also enhance the absorption of the face cream afterward."
"Then, I like to use a jade roller to massage the rest of the mask onto the skin to really activate the blood circulation and wake up the muscles! There are a few face rollers that I like, but my favorite is Sentara Holistic's Pink Quartz Roller. It has two sides—one for the under-eye and a bigger side for the face. They are eco-responsible and have very low production to make sure every crystal is ethically sourced. They also take the time to recharge them over the full moon to maximize the crystal efficiency! I absolutely love them."
(Editor's note: Martini's fave isn't available in the U.S., but we're huge fans of this luxe alternative from Herbivore.)
More Skin-Tightening Creams Our Beauty Editors Love
I'm extremely loyal to just a handful of moisturizers, and this cult-classic pick from Charlotte Tilbury is one I can count on when I want my skin to look plump, tight, and super dewy. It's loaded with amazing ingredients like the brand's BioNympth Peptide Complex (which kick-starts collagen products, discourages wrinkles, plumps, and moisturizes) along with luxe, delicate oils from rose hip and camellia, damask rose water, and organic aloe vera. It's genius under makeup, especially if you top it off with Tilbury's Wonderglow Instant Soft-Focus Beauty Flash Primer ($55).
You'll believe in magic after trying this ridiculously lovely moisturizer from IS Clinical. Not only does the brand make some of the most coveted skincare products in the industry to begin with, but it also partnered with top makeup artists when it conceptualized and created this cream. It imparts a deeply hydrating, subtly luminous finish, and thanks to the addition of copper peptides, each application stimulates collagen products to help firm and minimize wrinkles.
QMS Medicosmetics is one of the most sought-after skincare lines across the pond in locales like the UK and Germany. I was lucky enough to receive a facial from one of its expert aestheticians late last year, and I've been hooked on this skin-tightening elixir ever since. It is especially strategic in that it's designed to improve your skin's line of defense thanks to a roster of skin-identical proteins along with hydration-inducing squalane and hyaluronic acid.
My beauty PIC Courtney Higgs cites StriVectin as a pot of gold for all things firming and tightening. (She's also a huge fan of its body products.) This game-changing face cream features the brand's Gravifill-cs shaping complex to noticeably sculpt and tighten facial contours, and the patented Nia-114 technology strengthens skin’s moisture barrier to keep skin moisturized, supple, and supremely firm.
Last but not least, Courtney also really likes Murad's Resurgence line if you're after lifting and skin-tightening benefits. The formula is preposterously rich (in the most amazing way possible), so we recommend you apply it at night pre–beauty sleep. The formula supports your natural cell turnover to sculpt and restore your natural facial contours and essential fatty acids, and other ingredients like shea butter retinol secure hydration, wrinkle-reduction, and lots of bouncy elasticity.