Does Skin-Care Infused Makeup *Actually* Have Legitimate Skin Benefits? A Derm and Cosmetic Chemist Investigate
While multi-tasking products were on the rise pre-2020, there’s no denying that the pandemic’s mass eschewing of full-face makeup days sent the trend into overdrive. Think about it: There are new iterations of these makeup-skin-care hybrids entering the market daily, particularly when it comes to complexion products. You know the type, skin tints that soothe with tiger grass, foundations infused with arnica, niacinamide-powered BB creams—the list goes on and on.
But do these skin-care-infused makeup products actually have legitimate skin-care benefits? And if so, how do they factor into our skincare routines, and can they potentially replace them altogether? To find out, we asked the experts.
Do makeup-skin-care hybrid products actually have skin-care benefits?
“Skin-care ingredients in makeup products can work, but much like in regular skin care, whether or not it actually works comes down to the specific ingredients and formula,” says Michelle Wong, PhD, cosmetic chemist and content creator (you might know her as Lab Muffin).
Unfortunately, there isn't a clear answer as to whether skin-care-infused makeup can really make a difference in your routine. "There's a case to be made for certain ingredients, but for many of them, it's going to be difficult to compete in this space without doing what the competition [in the traditional skin-care space] is doing," says board-certified dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, MD. Wong points out that it’s hard to make generalizations within the skin-care/makeup hybrid category because it's incredibly varied and new. And because brands are unlikely to publish studies comparing the effects of their hybrid products to skin-care products, it's hard to determine how they truly stack up.
As a result, there are a few reasons why you won't want to rely exclusively on makeup to meet your skin-care needs. For starters, Wong notes that hybrid formulas only really work for delivering ingredients that don't need to penetrate the skin too deeply. Since makeup is the last step of your routine, it's likely being layered over other products that might interfere with how well it can sink into the skin—for example, putting a retinoid-infused product over a moisturizer may weaken its potency, which is great for minimizing irritation but may not give you the full range of benefits.
What's more, specific products and ingredients are inevitably going to offer different levels of different benefits, and Dr. Hirsch explains that anything can be "bad" for skin if it's incompatible with someone's complexion needs or if they're using it the wrong way. While some fairly ubiquitous actives, like hyaluronic acid (a humectant that draws moisture into the skin), are unlikely to cause issues in excess, others, like niacinamide (a redness-reducing antioxidant), are only beneficial at specific percentages and can cause irritation if they're overused. So you'll want to keep in mind which actives are already a part of your skin-care routine before layering on even more of them with your makeup.
She adds that another common concern among dermatologists is that people will rely on SPF-infused hybrid products as their sole provider of sun protection, and "the hard reality is that no one uses enough of a coverage product to get the labeled sunscreen dose."
Is there any reason someone should prioritize these makeup-skin-care hybrids over traditional makeup products?
As you may have gathered, some hybrid formulas are better than others. Dr. Hirsch notes that those made with hydrating ingredients can effectively moisturize the skin and help makeup go on more smoothly, and are unlikely to come with any risk of irritation. She's also a fan of products that both cover and treat hyperpigmentation at the same time, which means those with calming ingredients like niacinamide and aloe are a solid bet—but, again, you'll want to make sure you're not overdoing it on the actives, so pay close attention to how your skin reacts any time you're using these types of formulas.
For Wong, the chief benefits of this emerging category are simply convenience and simplification—they can be great for anyone looking to pare down their routine, but whether or not they actually work really depends on your skin type, the product, and how it's being used in conjunction with the rest of your routine.
Either way, both experts agree there’s certainly an appeal to guilt-free makeup application. And even if your hybrid products aren't necessarily transforming your skin, they likely aren't hurting it (the way the pore-clogging foundations of yore used to) either. As long as you aren't relying on your makeup to meet all of your skin-care needs and are taking care not to overdo it or mix it with incompatible products elsewhere in your routine, we say this category is worth getting excited about.
Shop some of our favorite good-for-skin picks, below.
A beauty editor favorite and Hailey Bieber’s concealer of choice, the Revealer Concealer is an iconic product in the hybrid space. The formula is infused with caffeine, pink algae, arnica, vitamin B5, peptides, and hyaluronic acid—all of which work together to brighten, soothe, and plump the skin in addition to concealing blemishes and imperfections. Did we mention its extra creamy texture?
This seemingly pedestrian contour stick does far more than just sculpt and define cheekbones (which it does quite well). It uses jojoba seed oil to improve hydration and strengthen the skin barrier, berryflux vita to boost hydration, and kaolin clay to absorb excess oil and help the formula stay in place. Keep in mind that kaolin clay can be drying, so this product is best suited for oily skin and should be used with caution if you have other drying ingredients in your routine.
Packed with fermented arnica to visibly reduce redness and irritation, along with two proprietary blends that promote calming and protect the skin from stress, this medium-coverage foundation delivers longwear performance without compromising the skin. If that weren’t enough, it also comes in a whopping 51 shades.
This serum packs a punch, bringing together vitamin C, SPF, and niacinamide together in a stabilized formula that comes in three translucent tones to boost skin’s natural glow. While we suggest using this an SPF boost (not your main source of sun protection), this hard-working serum blends the line between makeup and skin-care for a totally unique formula that can be used alone or under makeup.
Tower28 is known for their non-irritating formulas that are safe for use on all skin types without sacrificing any of the fun and color payoff that comes with traditional makeup. We particularly love their non-pore clogging lip and cheek cream blushes, which are made from a blend of soothing ingredients like aloe vera extract, green tea extract, and castor seed oil. We also love the brand’s multi-tasking bronzers
Summer Fridays’ first foray into the makeup category is exactly what you’d expect from the brand: lightweight, uber hydrating, and packed with skin-loving ingredients. Ingredient highlights include tiger grass, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, squalane, vitamin E, safflower oil, and avocado oil.
Even textbook color cosmetic brands are getting in on the hybrid trend. Charlotte Tilbury’s hyaluronic acid-infused lipstick balm has the hydrating power of a balm with the color payoff of a lipstick. It also gives a glossy finish—what more could you want from a lip product?
When Tatcha came out with its set of primers, we knew it was going to be good. The innovative, luxe skincare brand consistently delivers, and the Silk Canvas Primer is no exception. Thin layers of silk act as a barrier between makeup and the skin to protect from pollutants, ensure smooth application, and keep product in place all day long.
Another hybrid lip treatment, Tarte’s Maracuja Juicy Lip Balm is part lip gloss, part lip balm, and part lip treatment. It features goji, grapeseed oil, and maracuja oil to comfort lips, visibly plump, and smooth the appearance of lip lines.
Yes, even Chanel is betting on the new hybrid category. This stunning lip and cheek balm is made with red camellia oil, which delivers immediate softness and comfort, and works long term to help maintain the skin’s barrier function. The buttery formula blends easily and lasts for hours.
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