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Style Makeover Tips

9 Best Full-Coverage Foundations for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists and Makeup Artists

These hydrating foundations will take your skin from dry to radiant.
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.

The cause of your dry skin could be as obvious as the winter weather—when the humidity level drops, the loss of moisture in the air (combined with the frigid temps) can rob the skin of moisture, says Debra Jaliman, MD, NYC-based board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules. Or, the cause could be subtler, such as your penchant for taking super-hot showers (the hot water and steam can strip the skin of its natural oils), getting a little too happy at happy hour (alcohol dehydrates the skin and dilates blood vessels, causing redness), or eating too many salty foods on the regular (which steals water from your body, including your skin).

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, the moisturizing foundation comes in.
How to find 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 and vitamin E.

Look for hydration-centric lingo: Foundations that have serum, oil, or hydrating in the name are a solid indicator 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

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 the 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.