While full-coverage foundations are great for filter-like skin, they can also be heavy and constricting. Tinted moisturizers are sheer, lightweight and provide enough pigment to give you a natural glow, which is great for those exceptionally sweaty, humid summer months. Think: “your skin, but better.”
To help you determine the best tinted moisturizers for your skin type, we spoke to dermatologists and makeup artists about how to shop for them and compiled a list of their recommendations.
SKIP AHEAD How we picked the best tinted moisturizers | Best tinted moisturizers | What to look for in a tinted moisturizer | How to use a tinted moisturizer
Our top picks
- Editor’s pick: Saie Slip Tint Dewy Tinted Moisturizer
- Best for sensitive skin: EltaMD Tinted UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
- Best for dry skin: ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint
- Best for oily skin: Laura Mercier Oil-Free Natural Skin Perfector
How we picked the best tinted moisturizers
Experts say using a tinted moisturizer is a great way to get everyday coverage without the uncomfortable feeling of a heavy foundation on your skin. When shopping for the best one for you, our experts recommended considering the following factors:
- Ingredients: Look for common skin care ingredients to target specific concerns, including niacinamide, which can decrease inflammation and redness, hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and vitamin C to brighten your complexion and reduce the appearance of dark spots. You should also consider sun protection in your tinted moisturizer (ideally SPF 30 or higher) to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
- Formulation and coverage: Consider oil-free options, which our experts told us can help prevent breakouts and feel less heavy or oily on the skin. Some tinted moisturizers have a thicker formula that provides more coverage and reduces the appearance of marks and acne on the skin. Others will be more sheer to give the skin a natural look.
- Skin type and finish: Our experts recommend considering different finishes that coincide with your skin type, including radiant (which pairs best with dry skin), natural and matte finishes (both of which can benefit oily skin).
Best tinted moisturizers of 2023
We spoke to makeup artists and dermatologists about their favorite tinted moisturizers to incorporate into your everyday routine and compiled their recommendations below. We also included a few Select staff picks that we love.
NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer
The NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer is an expert favorite due to its dewy finish and buildable light-to-medium coverage. “I love that it’s hydrating, contains vitamin C and SPF 30, and has a great shade range that includes deeper skin tones,” says Paige Achkov, a makeup artist and owner of luxury bridal beauty team Top Tier Artistry. It’s offered in 16 color shades and has a vegan, oil-free formula.
Saie Slip Tint Dewy Tinted Moisturizer
I love using the Saie Slip Tint on my dry, sensitive skin — it provides a great amount of coverage and reduces the appearance of redness caused by my rosacea. I also find it to be extremely lightweight and buildable, so I never feel like I’m putting too much on my skin. It also serves as a mineral sunscreen with SPF 35 protection. The tinted moisturizer includes ingredients like hyaluronic acid and licorice root extract to hydrate and brighten the skin, according to the brand. It also comes in 14 shades and provides a light, radiant finish.
Laura Mercier Oil Free Natural Skin Perfector
The Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer is a favorite among our experts. “It has a slight blurring effect and gives the skin a beautiful, youthful glow,” Achkov says. It’s fragrance-free, oil-free and provides SPF 20 protection. It’s also offered in over a dozen color shades. “It gives enough coverage while still being breathable and allowing you to see your skin underneath,” says Brittany Lo, founder and CEO of Beautini. Laura Mercier offers another version of the skin perfector that isn’t oil-free but does offer SPF 30 protection.
ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint
The ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint is a favorite among our experts thanks to its SPF 40 protection and hydrating, serum-like consistency, which is applied with a convenient dropper. “This one is great for dry skin because it has a dewy finish and contains squalane oil and hyaluronic acid, which is wonderful for the skin,” Achkov says. Select’s associate updates editor Zoe Malin says she likes the ILIA skin tint for daily wear since it provides a good amount of coverage, but still feels smooth and lightweight on the skin. “A little goes a long way, so one bottle lasts you a while. I use it like a primer under makeup and it makes my skin so even,” she says. Haley Haemmerle, a makeup artist and instructor at The Makeup Academy of New York, noted that this tinted moisturizer has a very “wet-looking finish,” which can be a downside for some — she recommends setting it with powder to avoid too much shine.
Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint
Malin is also a fan of this skin tint from Glossier, which provides a very sheer amount of coverage thanks to its breathable, ultra-thin formula. “It’s so lightweight, which is part of the reason why I love it. I hate thick, cakey makeup — this just soaks into my skin and I forget I’m wearing it,” she says. Malin says that it almost acts as a primer before applying makeup, allowing her concealer to sit better on top of her skin.
The skin tint doesn’t have SPF, but does have other skin care elements like glycerin to moisturize the skin and powder to minimize the appearance of pores, according to Glossier. It’s offered in a dozen color shades.
Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer
Aneta Grzesiak, a makeup artist based in New York City, says she uses this tinted moisturizer and BB cream combination every day because it provides a natural finish and SPF 20 coverage. It’s also formulated with a variety of skin care ingredients, including vitamin A to help reduce signs of aging, vitamin C to help even out skin tone and chamomile as an anti-inflammatory, according to Tarte.
EltaMD Tinted UV Clear Broad-Spectrum
Dr. Eileen Deignan, a board-certified dermatologist and chief of dermatology at Emerson Hospital, says she uses this tinted sunscreen every day, noting that “it’s light enough to [only] use a teaspoon and get adequate SPF and a sheer coverage.” It has SPF 46 — the highest on this list — and a fragrance-free, noncomedogenic formula. It also contains niacinamide, which experts told us has a natural anti-inflammatory effect, and sodium hyaluronate, which keeps the skin hydrated, according to the brand.
bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream
The BareMinerals Complexion Rescue comes recommended by Dr. Erum Ilyas, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, in our guide to tinted sunscreens due to its inclusive shade range: It comes in over 20 shades to match your skin tone. I’ve used this tinted moisturizer for years and love its lightweight, buildable texture and non-irritating formula on my sensitive skin. The tinted moisturizer — which contains SPF 30 — has a noncomedogenic and hypoallergenic formula, meaning it won’t clog your pores or cause irritation, and it contains hyaluronic acid and squalene to help hydrate the skin, according to the brand.
MAKE UP FOR EVER Reboot Foundation
The Reboot Foundation provides a sheer-to-medium coverage and works like a tinted moisturizer, according to Linda Thao, lead instructor at The Makeup Academy of New York. It has a radiant finish and is formulated with several skin care ingredients, including ginseng to help produce natural collagen and mondo grass to help protect the skin’s moisture barrier, according to the brand, which is great for mature skin.
What to look for in a tinted moisturizer
When shopping for a tinted moisturizer, our experts recommend looking at several factors, including your specific skin type and your desired coverage. Below, we highlight their suggestions when shopping for a tinted moisturizer.
- Look for a tinted moisturizer that fits your specific skin type, whether it’s oily, acne-prone, dry or combination — your skin type usually informs the “finish” of the product (how it sits on the skin). Tinted moisturizer will almost always offer a radiant finish due to its hydrating properties, which will leave the skin looking dewy, according to Haemmerle. This is a plus for those with dry skin, but it can be an issue for oily skin types. Haemmerle recommends an oil-free tinted moisturizer with a natural finish for those with oily or acne prone skin to avoid shine.
- Determine the amount of coverage you want. As our experts noted, a tinted moisturizer generally won’t provide as much coverage as a foundation or BB cream. However, some tinted moisturizers have thicker formulas than others, and Thao noted that more coverage can be a better option for oily skin types since they’ll be less shiny.
- Find the shade that works best for you. Finding a tinted moisturizer that properly matches your skin tone and shade can be difficult because there “tends to be less options compared to foundations,” Lo says. Due to the sheer coverage, there is some leeway when it comes to a perfect shade match, but you should always test it out before committing to a specific color.
- Keep skin care ingredients in mind. “Most tinted moisturizers have skin care benefits as well as coverage, so it’s the best of both worlds,” Thao noted. In addition to SPF, these ingredients include niacinamide, which can decrease inflammation, and vitamin C, which can “decrease fine lines and also help even out skin tone,” according to Deignan.
What is a tinted moisturizer?
Tinted moisturizers, sometimes called skin tints, act like a light foundation without appearing cakey. In addition to offering coverage, these moisturizers can “provide a protective barrier between your skin and the environment” by trapping moisture and shielding the skin from outside skin pollutants and irritants, according to Deignan.
Tinted moisturizers vs. tinted sunscreens
There’s a lot of overlap between tinted moisturizers and tinted sunscreens. Many tinted moisturizers will provide some form of broad-spectrum coverage, ranging from SPF 15 to SPF 40 and above. While tinted moisturizers can be tinted sunscreens and vice versa, the biggest difference is that tinted moisturizers don’t necessarily have to contain SPF, and some may offer less protection than most tinted sunscreens, which experts told us should offer coverage of SPF 30 or higher. If you’re using a tinted moisturizer without SPF for the coverage, you should layer your sunscreen under the product and on top of your regular every day moisturizer, says Dr. Tracy Evans, a board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology.
Tinted moisturizers vs. BB and CC creams
Beauty balm (BB) creams, color correcting (CC) creams and tinted moisturizers are all very similar in function: They help even out your skin tone while avoiding the heavy, sometimes cakey, coverage of a foundation. But there are some fundamental differences between BB creams, CC creams and tinted moisturizers when it comes to coverage.
“BB and CC creams tend to address certain skin concerns like discoloration, aging or improving skin texture,” Grzesiak says. Both creams sit somewhere between tinted moisturizers and foundations — CC creams are formulated to reduce discoloration and redness, while BB creams can provide enough coverage to help reduce the appearance of blemishes and smoothen out the skin. Tinted moisturizers, on the other hand, “generally provide lighter, more sheer color and coverage than BB and CC creams,” Deignan says.
How to use a tinted moisturizer
While some tinted moisturizers have skin care benefits — including SPF to protect against the sun’s rays, hyaluronic acid to help hydrate the skin and vitamin C to brighten the complexion — it shouldn’t replace your everyday moisturizer, according to Haemmerle. “It's just going to give you a skin-like finish and help make your skin a little bit more even,” she says. Our experts recommend layering your tinted moisturizer on top of your everyday moisturizer and serum, especially if it contains SPF — if it doesn’t have broad spectrum coverage of at least 30, they recommend putting on a mineral sunscreen before applying the tinted moisturizer.
Most tinted moisturizers have sheer to medium coverage, meaning if you have certain skin concerns like dark circles, hyperpigmentation or redness, it likely won’t cover them up completely, Achkov says. Some tinted moisturizers are buildable, so you can layer them if you need more coverage.
Just because your tinted moisturizer is sheer doesn’t mean it won’t clog pores or prevent breakouts on oily or acne-prone skin. “Anything can block pores, and the thicker it is, the worse it is — in order to carry the tint, you have to thicken the base,” Evans says. Deignan notes that those who struggle with acne should look for tinted moisturizers that are “oil-free and non-comedogenic” — additionally, tinted moisturizer should be fully removed at the end of the day with a makeup remover balm to prevent acne.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Dr. Eileen Deignanis a board-certified dermatologist and chief of dermatology at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts.
- Dr. Tracy Evans is a board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology in San Francisco, California.
- Aneta Grzesiak is a makeup artist based in New York City.
- Paige Achkov is a makeup artist and owner of luxury bridal beauty team Top Tier Artistry.
- Brittany Lo is the founder and CEO of Beautini based in New York City.
- Haley Haemmerle is a makeup artist and instructor at The Makeup Academy of New York.
- Dr. Erum Ilyas is a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group based in Pennsylvania. She focuses on adult and pediatric medical dermatology, cosmetic dermatology, and skin cancer treatment.
- Linda Thao is a makeup artist and lead instructor at The Makeup Academy of New York.
Why trust Select?
Mili Godio is an editor at Select who has covered a wide range of skin care topics, including treatments for cystic acne, keratosis pilaris and under-eye circles. For this article, Godio spoke to three dermatologists and five makeup artists to narrow down their recommendations for the best tinted moisturizers to shop.
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