Chalk it up to pared-down pandemic beauty routines or the fatigue of overly-filtered faces on Insta, but the era of hiding what your skin actually looks like seems to be over. Full coverage foundation is now being pushed aside for "skin tints," which even your complexion while allowing your natural skin to shine.
While tinted moisturizers have long reigned supreme as the go-to product category for perfecting the no-makeup-makeup look, skin tints have recently come to dethrone them. The term "skin tint" was first introduced when ILIA launched its Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 ($48) in 2019, and in the years since, many of our favorite brands (Glossier! Fenty! Maybelline! Summer Fridays!) have followed suit with variations of their own.
As these fresh-face-making products have flooded the market, they've made it easier than ever to achieve effortless-looking glam with truly minimal effort. Keep scrolling for more on how to add them into your everyday routine.
What is a skin tint
While there's no standard definition of what constitutes a skin tint, celebrity makeup artist Katey Denno (who serves as a beauty expert for ILIA Beauty) likes to think of them as super-lightweight complexion products that offer the minimal coverage while still evening out your skin tone. Cosmetic chemist and SOS Beauty’s co-founder Charlene Valledor echoes this sentiment, adding that skin tints are meant to lightly blur and diffuse minor skin concerns to leave a barely-there, dewy finish.
One of the biggest differences between a skin tint and its sister products—tinted moisturizers, BB/CC creams, and foundations—is coverage. Skin tints are the sheerest possible option, and both pros recommend these products for people who really want their natural skin to show (if you're looking to cover acne, discoloration, and the like, you may want to opt for something else).
Many skin tint formulas are also enriched with skin-nourishing actives, placing them squarely in the "skin-care/makeup hybrid space." You'll often find natural oils, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C on their ingredient lists, which means they'll keep your complexion looking fresh long after you take them off at the end of the day.
How to use a skin tint
Skin tints are super easy to use, but before you put one on it's important to make sure your skin is properly prepped. Valledor recommends starting with a moisturizer, and, if the skin tint itself doesn't have any SPF in it, a sunscreen.
From there, it's really dealer's choice as far as how you apply your tint. Denno says you can use your fingers to spread the product, or (if you like using tools) you can dab it on with a dampened Beautyblender. Either way, your skin will be ready for the rest of your routine in 20 seconds, max.
One last pro tip: If you have oily skin, use a bit of powder to set the product in place, as lightweight skin formulas tend to break down faster than fuller-coverage products.
The best skin tints to try
Not only is this the original skin tint, but it also happens to be Denno’s favorite. In addition to providing light-to-medium coverage, it’s also infused with skin-nourishing actives like squalane and shea butter that care for your complexion while you wear it, plus SPF. “It’s a beautiful product that will leave your skin glowy, nourished, and protected,” says Denno.
For an exceptionally dewy finish, we love Chanel Les Beiges Water-Fresh Tint. Its gel texture contains pigmented micro-droplets to blend into the skin and match your skin tone. It’s also made with 75% water and tamarind to boost moisture for up to eight hours.
Another early adopter of the skin tint craze, Kosas went viral with its Tinted Facial Oil (which launched in 2019) earlier this year. It’s made with a blend of skin-loving natural oils (raspberry! avocado! rosehip seed), and is a great complexion-evening option.
Need great lightweight coverage? Fenty’s skin tint contains a special complex to give you a blurred effect that smooths out uneven texture.
This $10 drugstore tint gets the W+G beauty editor stamp of approval. It’s made with antioxidant-rich marula oil and skin-strengthening jojoba oil (both of which are non-comedogenic, so they won’t clog your pores), and the adaptable pigments leave behind a dewy, velvety finish.
Another W+G-editor fave, this humectant-rich tinted serum is equal parts skin care and makeup. It blends easily into the skin, blurring pores and minimizing redness while somehow looking like you’re wearing nothing at all.
Caliray’s take on a skin tint lives up to the brand’s California roots, leaving skin with a slightly-sunkissed glow. What’s more, it’s packed with antioxidants to protect your skin from the environmental stressors that cause visible damage.
This formula toes the line between a skin tint and a tinted moisturizer, and has a slightly creamier texture than some of the other oil-based products on this list. It’s infused with hyaluronic acid to give your skin an added boost of hydration.
“Radiant” is the key word here, as this stuff will leave skin with a lit-from-within glow every time you apply. And though it’s a light-coverage product, it’s got some pretty serious staying power. As one reviewer puts it, “I’ve sweat, cried, and worn it for a full day, and it still looked great.”
For some easy-to-copy makeup application tips ahead of your next important Zoom call, check out the video below.
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