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8 best tinted moisturizers and skin tints, according to experts

Tinted moisturizers can be a great option to even out your skin tone without heavy foundations — here are the ones experts recommend.
Our experts said a tinted moisturizer is lightweight enough for everyday use and can provide sheer to medium coverage for mild imperfections on the skin.
Our experts said a tinted moisturizer is lightweight enough for everyday use and can provide sheer to medium coverage for mild imperfections on the skin.puhhha / Getty Images ; Glossier ; Sephora

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Full-coverage foundations can be great for creating a smooth filter on your skin — however, they may be too heavy or constricting for everyday use, especially during the hot, humid and exceptionally sweaty summer months. A tinted moisturizer — a moisturizing cream with some slight color — can be a sheer, lightweight alternative to foundation, and its benefits are multifold: The tint can help even out your complexion and provide coverage for small imperfections (like mild redness or pimples), while the moisturizer element can hydrate the skin, experts told us.

SKIP AHEAD Best tinted moisturizers to shop in 2022 | What to look for in a tinted moisturizer | How to use a tinted moisturizer

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.

What is a tinted moisturizer, exactly?

Tinted moisturizers, sometimes called skin tints, “act like a light foundation without appearing cakey,” explained Dr. Eileen Deignan, a board-certified dermatologist and chief of dermatology at Emerson Hospital. 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, Deignan explained.

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, Dr. Tracy Evans, a board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology, recommended layering your sunscreen under the product and on top of your regular every day moisturizer.

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. However, 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,” explained Aneta Grzesiak, a makeup artist based in New York City. 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 said.

Best tinted moisturizers to shop in 2022

We spoke to makeup artists and dermatologists about their favorite tinted moisturizers to incorporate into your everyday routine and compiled them below. Our experts recommended tinted moisturizers with different finishes, including radiant (which pairs best with dry skin), natural and matte (both of which can benefit oily skin). All of these options are also oil-free, which our experts told us can help prevent acne.

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 is hydrating, contains vitamin C [and] SPF 30 and has a great shade range that includes deeper skin tones,” said Paige Achkov, a makeup artist and owner of luxury bridal beauty team Top Tier Artistry. This tinted moisturizer is offered in 16 color shades and features a vegan formula, according to the brand.

Laura Mercier Oil Free Natural Skin Perfector

This tinted moisturizer from Laura Mercier is a favorite among our experts. ”This is a great option for dry skin — it has a slight blurring effect and gives the skin a beautiful youthful glow,” Achkov said. The tinted moisturizer is fragrance-free with SPF 20 protection, and it’s offered in over a dozen color shades. “It gives enough coverage while still being breathable and allowing you to see your skin underneath,” added Brittany Lo, founder and CEO of Beautini. Laura Mercier also 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 squalene oil and hyaluronic acid, which is wonderful for the skin,” Achkov said. 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 recommended setting it with powder to avoid too much shine.

Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint

This skin tint from Glossier is designed to have very sheer coverage thanks to its breathable, ultra-thin formula, according to the brand. It 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, Glossier says. Grzesiak said this skin tint is a great option for everyday wear, and it’s offered in a dozen color shades.

Tarte Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer

Grzesiak said she uses this tinted moisturizer every day. This combination BB cream and tinted moisturizer features a natural finish and SPF 20 coverage, according to the brand. It also features 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, Tarte says.

EltaMD Tinted UV Clear Broad-Spectrum

Deignan told us she uses this tinted sunscreen every day, adding that “it’s light enough to [only] use a teaspoon and get adequate SPF and a sheer coverage.” It features SPF 46 — the highest on this list — and a fragrance-free, non-comedogenic formula. It also contains niacinamide, which experts told us has a natural anti-inflammatory effect, and sodium hyaluronate, which the brand says can help keep the skin hydrated.

bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream

Dr. Erum Ilyas, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, previously recommended the Complexion Rescue in our guide to tinted sunscreens due to its relatively inclusive shade range — it features over 20 shades to match your skin tone. The tinted moisturizer — which contains SPF 30 — features a non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic formula, and it contains hyaluronic acid and squalene to hydrate the skin, according to the brand.

MAKE UP FOR EVER Reboot Foundation

The Reboot Foundation is a sheer-to-medium coverage product that works like a tinted moisturizer, according to Linda Thao, lead instructor at The Makeup Academy of New York. It has a radiant finish and features 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.

What to look for in a tinted moisturizer

When shopping for a tinted moisturizer, our experts recommended looking at several factors, including your specific skin type and your desired coverage. Below, we highlight their suggestions when looking for the best tinted moisturizer for you.

  1. 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 recommended an oil-free tinted moisturizer with a natural finish for those with oily or acne prone skin to avoid shine.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 said. 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.
  4. 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.

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 said. Our experts recommended 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 recommended layering a mineral sunscreen underneath your 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 said. Some tinted moisturizers are buildable, so you can layer them if you need more coverage.

Just because tinted moisturizers are sheer doesn’t mean they 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 explained. Deignan said 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 removing balm to prevent acne.

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