When your skin is so dry that it snows more than, well, nature, applying makeup to mask it can actually draw more attention to the flakes and scaly patches. Before you know it, that radiant glow you were striving for ends up resembling fine grit sandpaper. Bottom line: “It’s difficult to create the appearance of a smooth surface on a textured surface—whether it be painting a wall, your nails, icing a cake, or putting foundation on your skin, ” says Dana Rae Ashburn, New York-based makeup artist and founder of ABLE Cosmetics.
Ideally, you could go makeup-free and let your moisturizer do its thing—but not everyone is blessed with a perfectly even complexion. That’s where a full- coverage, moisturizing foundation comes in.
How to choose the best full-coverage foundation for dry skin
Avoid matte products: “These foundations typically contain oil-absorbing ingredients like silicone and talc, which can make dry skin look even drier, worsen dry patches, and feel tight and uncomfortable on your skin, ” says celebrity makeup artist Michanna Murphy. (That goes double for powder foundations. ) You’ll stand a better chance of your foundation not caking and settling into dry patches by choosing one with a creamier finish.
Steer clear of salicylic acid: This ingredient does acne-prone skin a solid by sopping up excess oil. For those with a case of the flakes, however, it will dry out your skin even more, says Dr. Jaliman. Instead, look for hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, dimethicone, and vitamin E.
Look for hydration-centric lingo: Foundations that have serum, oil, or hydrating in the name are indicate that they’ll offer up some added moisture to your skin, says Ashburn. Other keywords to look for include radiant, dewy, illuminating, glow, and water. Because dry, dehydrated skin has a tendency to absorb newly applied foundation and leave your face a patchy mess, says Murphy, an extra dose of hydration from your makeup can help keep flakes at bay for that much longer.
Skip the scents: It can be difficult to find a foundation without fragrance in it, but stick to unscented varieties if you can. Fragrance in your foundation means that it also contains alcohol, which can lead to more dryness, says MŌDA Brush executive makeup artist Dominique Lerma.
Now that you’re armed with the necessary intel to find the perfect full-coverage foundation for dry skin, check out the super-hydrating options below to get started.
BEST OVERALL The Sensual Skin Enhancer
Murphy considers Kevyn Aucoin’s Sensual Skin Enhancer to be one of the best full-coverage foundations for dry skin. “It offers one of the best shade ranges on the market and is super-pigmented, ” she says. This long-wearing formula contains jojoba oil, honey, and minerals that hydrate the skin, creating a natural, dewy complexion. (And don’t be fooled by its small size, adds Murphy. Because of how little you need to apply, this itty bitty jar will last you at least a year. )
BEST VALUE Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation
This cult favorite drugstore foundation for dry skin offers buildable, skin- like coverage at a ridiculously affordable price. The noncomedogenic, fragrance- free formula hydrates and smooths for a luminous finish, thanks to hydrating ingredients like dimethicone (to smooth skin) and glycerin (to pull moisture in). And with more than 3, 100 raving reviews on Amazon and a 4. 4-star rating, testers swear it will be your new holy grail.
RAVE REVIEWS Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF 50+
Formulated by dermatologists and a plastic surgeon, this CC+ cream is a hydrating foundation and anti-aging concealer in one. It’s infused with hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and antioxidants that increase hydration and smooth texture for even and flawless coverage, says Lerma.
Hydro Boost Hydrating Tint
Formulated with hyaluronic acid, Neutrogena’s weightless water-gel formula boosts hydration for 24 hours, and when used on the regular, improves the look of your skin over time. It’s also oil-free and noncomedogenic, so you don’t have to worry about breakouts or a greasy feel. In fact, you’ll barely be able to tell that you’re wearing makeup at all.
Luminous Silk Foundation
Armani’s classic Luminous Silk Foundation has a name that speaks for itself. The formula contains pigments that are designed to effortlessly blend and layer while giving off that glow-from-within look. While it initially has more of a medium coverage, it easily builds to a full-coverage finish for all skin types.
Sheer Glow Foundation
“The glycerin in this foundation is a humectant, and it works to moisturize the skin by drawing water from the air into the skin’s outer layer, ” says Dr. Jaliman, while also serving as a protective layer that helps to prevent moisture loss. Plus, if dryness has left your skin looking as drab as it feels, its complexion brightening formula—including a vitamin C derivative to nix discoloration and turmeric extract to even skin tone—can help bring it back to life.
True Match Lumi Healthy Luminous Makeup
Besides the fact that it contains 40% water for all-day hydration, this foundation from L’Oréal is also suitable for all skin types—including Sahara dry. The ingredients work together to improve your complexion the more you wear it, such as vitamins C and E to improve skin tone and clarity, along with SPF 20 for added protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. (You still need to apply a face sunscreen beforehand, though!)
PhotoReady Candid Natural Finish Anti-Pollution Foundation
This creamy, dreamy formula feels more like a moisturizer than a foundation, so it blends into the skin effortlessly–no dry patches in sight. It also offers some antioxidant protection against blue lights and pollutants, all while maintaining a natural look. Bonus: It’s oil- and fragrance free.
Born This Way Foundation
A cult favorite, Born This Way packs coconut water and hyaluronic acid for a natural-looking finish that works for both light makeup days and full-coverage events. The brand also recently expanded its shade range, so there’s a match for every undertone.
Pro Filt’r Hydrating Longwear Foundation
Hydrating and long-lasting? Fenty Beauty pulls it off with this medium-to-full coverage foundation. Ideal for normal to dry skin, it has a natural finish that feels comfortable without slipping around. Plus, with a whopping 50 shades to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find your match.
“Magic” indeed. Just a little bit of this creamy foundation goes a long way to seamlessly build up a full, flawless coverage that still looks natural on the skin. In addition to glycerin and dimethicone, it also packs a form of hyaluronic acid, which pulls moisture into the skin. Bonus: It photographs beautifully and never feels heavy.
Silk Crème Moisturizing Photo Edition Foundation
This long-lasting foundation offers up a one-two punch of shea butter and hyaluronic acid to hydrate, while the silk protein fiber and glycerin blend helps to both retain and deliver moisture to the skin. “It offers an inclusive shade range, a beautiful satin finish, and contains a ton of pigment—even doubling as a concealer, ” says Murphy.
SEA Water Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15
This vegan, cruelty-free foundation is super liquidy—meaning it feels weightless on the skin for a radiant, buildable coverage. The formula includes a special algae and marine flower combo that helps to smooth and soften skin, while nourishing vitamin E gives the formula more of a slip.
Tinted Face Oil
The formula behind this face oil-foundation fusion combines several all- natural ingredients (avocado, jojoba, and rosehip, to name a few) into a deeply hydrating elixir, says Murphy. Because it’s highly pigmented, you won’t have to use a lot of product to get the coverage you need—and best of all, it will last all day.
Future Skin Foundation
Chantecaille’s Future Skin is an oil-free, lightweight gel foundation that’s composed of 60% charged water, which transfers moisture into the skin. The formula contains natural botanicals, such as aloe, chamomile, and arnica, making it a perfect choice to calm and soothe irritated or sensitive skin.
The best way to apply foundation if you have dry skin
Proper prep before applying foundation is paramount if you’re dealing with dry, flaky skin, says Ashburn.
Smooth things out: Use a gentle face exfoliator to buff away dead skin, leaving a smoother surface to work with. Then, opt for an oil cleanser so that your scrubbing doesn’t strip your skin further, and follow up with a super-hydrating moisturizer. (Check out these amazing moisturizers for dry skin for an ideal base. )
Mist away: Ashburn recommends using a hydrating mist before, during, and after each layer of makeup to amp up glow.
Prime the skin: “Using a hydrating primer will help to moisturize skin, as well as act as a barrier, prohibiting your skin from absorbing the newly applied foundation, ” says Murphy. The result? Longer wear and a smoother finish. (We love this hydrating primer from First Aid Beauty because it’s noncomedogenic and fragrance-free. )
Choose the right tools: Finally, when you apply your foundation, use a damp sponge, says Ashburn, like this one from Beauty Blender. The water will help to evenly distribute the product, pressing it into your skin rather than it laying on top, which can make your skin look dry.
If using a makeup brush is more your style, avoid using circular motions, says Murphy. Use downward or stippling motions to build coverage instead, especially on dry areas.