Not All Tinted Moisturizers Are Created Equally—Here's How to Choose One
Tinted moisturizers might just be the easiest thing to wear when it comes to makeup. Whether you're going for an easy-breezy look, a lighter alternative to foundation on sweltering days, or even something to wear on a night out, the versatile product has got you set. It pretty much does it all—improves your complexion, hydrates your skin, and leave you with a dewy glow.
"Tinted moisturizer is basically a regular moisturizer, with pigment added," explains board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD, FAAD. "It's lighter than foundation, providing less coverage, but if your skin tone is already pretty even, a tinted moisturizer is a great option to give you a no-makeup (makeup) look. Its primary goal is to moisturize while providing a hint of color to brighten your skin and give a glow."
The good and bad news, though? There are so many products to choose from out there. Some tinted moisturizers reign supreme over the others. So, if you're considering one, you're in luck. We went to the experts to help us choose.
How to Find a Tinted Moisturizer for Your Skin Tone
Because tinted moisturizers provide very light coverage, finding one that matches your skin tone is a bit different than shopping for a concealer or foundation. "Shade-matching the tinted moisturizers are different, because most don't have an exact color match, but more of a shade range," explains celebrity makeup artist Jessica Smalls, whose clients include Janelle Monae and Yara Shahidi. Keep some of these tips in mind:
1. Mix It Up: "Tinted moisturizers tend to blend into the skin pretty easily, and they are sheer so the color doesn’t have to be as specific when you're only seeing a tint of color. That’s not to say I don't use one or two shades even with a tint. I always mix!" says celebrity makeup artist Georgie Eisdell, whose clients include Gwyneth Paltrow and Sophie Turner. "I still match the same way I would a foundation—choose the closest color to the skin on your nose. I like to have the next shade darker to mix in with the color that matches my nose if I need a little more warmth."
2. Make Your Own: You can also make your own if you can't find a shade that works for you. "It's the easiest thing. Anyone can do it! I mix my daily moisturizer with a little bit of Armani Power Fabric Concealer and I get the most beautiful tinted moisturizer ever," says Andreea Ali, a celebrity makeup artist whose clients include Natalia Vodianova and Izabel Goulart.
3. Think About Your Preferred Coverage and Finish: "Some tinted moisturizers are buildable, which means you can create the type of coverage you need, and some have SPF, which can slightly change the color. Decide which you want and go from there," Smalls explains.
Look for These Ingredients
Again, not all tinted moisturizers are created the same, so it's important to read the labels and see what ingredients you're working with for your specific skincare needs. "Try to choose one with SPF for UV protection, along with antioxidants to combat sun damage and minimize fine lines," Henry suggests. And as for the ingredients you want to avoid, she recommends staying away from anything with fragrance or talc, which can cause irritation.
Think About Your Skin Type
Keep your skin type in mind when you're shopping for a tinted moisturizer so you can make sure it's going to help (and not harm) any skin conditions you have. Henry broke it down for us:
Dry Skin: "Try and look for a tinted moisturizer that has moisturizing ingredients like avocado, hyaluronic acid, squalane, and aloe," she recommends
Oily Skin: "Choose an oil-free tinted moisturizer. That way, you’ll still get the moisture, but none of the pore-clogging oil."
Sensitive Skin: Look for something that's hydrating, fragrance-free, and with natural ingredients.
Normal or Combination Skin: Opt for a balanced tinted moisturizer with ingredients like ceramides for non-greasy hydration.
Try These Application Tips
You don't need a fancy brush or sponge to apply a tinted moisturizer. All of the makeup artists I spoke to for this story said using your fingers is best. In fact, Ali said using a sponge would waste a lot of product.
"My favorite tip for applying tinted moisturizer is to apply it with your fingers," Smalls explains. "You're more likely to apply the right amount when you massage it in with your fingers, the same way you do your day time moisturizer," Eisdell adds that she prefers to apply a little bit more coverage to her T-zone, so she just taps some extra product to that area to finish.
Best Tinted Moisturizers
Need more help choosing one? Here are some recommendations from our editors and the experts.
Hands down, Laura Mercier's tinted moisturizer was an all-time favorite—Eisdell, Ali, and Henry all recommended it. I have always loved Laura Mercier's oil-free tinted moisturizer," Eisdell says. "It evens out the skin beautifully, has a stunning color range, and is amazing for acne-prone skin but gives the most amazing glow to the skin."
Smalls lists Kevyn Aucoin's skin tint as one of her picks. The lightweight, sheer product also contains moisturizing hyaluronic acid, butterfly bush flower extract for blue light protection, and wu-zhu-yu fruits extract to brighten.
Neutrogena's moisturizer is an affordable drugstore pick but works just as hard as the more expensive ones on this list. It has SPF 20 and anti-aging ingredients.
This hydrating and sheer tint has a blend of botanical oils: Avocado, meadowfoam, red raspberry, jojoba, camellia seed, and rosehip seed. It's also available in 16 shades.
Tom Ford's tinted moisturizer blurs spots, lines, and wrinkles, all with a lightweight finish. It's formulated with hyaluronic acid, jojoba oils, and SPF 15.
Eisdell recommends this moisturizer, saying "it gives a gorgeous glow to the skin and just enough coverage that you look natural."
"This is a great, clean option with argan oil, green tea, and vitamin E. It also has an SPF of 47, which is pretty great coverage," Henry says.
Formulated with antioxidant botanical extracts, this tinted moisturizer protects the skin from environmental damage. The lightweight product also smoothes fine lines and evens complexion.
Smalls also recommends Nars's tinted moisturizer—it's designed for normal to dry skin types. The oil-free product provides sun protection, keeps skin hydrated, and reduces hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
Ilia's all-natural formula is good for sensitive skin types, according to Henry. It leaves a light, dewy finish and protects against sun damage.
Not only does this product blur and correct any blemishes, but it also protects again UV rays and blue light, brightens, and locks in moisture for up to 12 hours. It's made without parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances.
"Another all time favorite is Chanels Les Beiges Water Fresh tint," Eisdell says. "It is the ultimate no-makeup makeup tint. It blurs the skin so you really cannot tell there is anything on the skin but it really evens out the skin beautifully."
This mineral-based moisturizer is formulated with algae extract and antioxidants to hydrate, lock in moisture, and protect against free radicals. You'll get sheer to medium coverage with this one.
It's easy to build coverage with this lightweight moisturizer to match your exact preference. It contains nourishing and protecting ingredients like squalane, mineral electrolytes, and mineral-based sunscreen.
With this sheer moisturizer, you can mask redness and uneven skin tone. It's ultra-moisturizing with SPF 15, too.
Burt's Bees BB cream not only conceals any blemishes, but it also reduces the appearance of fine line and wrinkles and moisturizes. It comes in three shades.
Smalls suggests this affordable pick. It leaves your skin hydrated for up to eight hours and provides lightweight, breathable coverage.
This tinted moisturizer is packed with nourishing ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, licorice root, feverfew, white tea, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E. It provides up to 12 hours of hydration and is also good for sensitive skin types.
Treat your seriously dry skin with this ultra-hydrating cream. It's packed with hyaluronic acid and aloe. The sheer formula is long-lasting and sweat- and humidity-resistant.
This tinted cream provides more coverage than the usual sheerness of other moisturizers. It guards against sun damage and pollution, moisturizes, and reduces shine.
Protect your skin from dangerous sun exposure with this oil-free, zinc-based, and reef-safe product. Other nourishing and hydrating ingredients include sea algae, white grape, pomegranate juice, and vitamins C, E, and B5.
Next up, I have very strong feelings about tinted lip balm—here are my favorites.
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