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What’s the Best Foundation for You: Dewy or Matte? We Asked the Pros

Photo by Caroline Tompkins / Refinery29 for Getty Images

With so many new foundations launching every week and even more trending on TikTok, it’s tempting to keep trying to find the absolute holy grail, best foundation for your unique skin type and tone. But it’s a waste of time and your hard-earned money to keep testing the wrong products. It helps to understand exactly what you’re looking for and to start, that’s where dewy foundation vs. matte foundation comes in.

Foundation is broken up into two types: those with a dewy finish and those with a matte finish. Which one you choose depends on a variety of factors, not just your skin type as many believe. To get to the bottom of it, we enlisted makeup artist Alixandria Capparelli.

About the Expert:

Alixandria Capparelli is a makeup artist and founder of Hairy Little Things.

Dewy Foundation 101

“Dewy foundations usually have more oils and skin care-like ingredients in them to plump and fill in fine lines, add hydration and make you shine like a dewy little dumpling by reflecting light,” Capparelli says. Dewy foundations contain oils such as jojoba or almond, as well as humectants to hydrate and smooth. They often come in tinted moisturizers and more medium-coverage, flexible foundations.

Pros of a Dewy Foundation

  • Plumps and fills in lines. Those with aging skin often find matte foundation causes their lines to look more dry and pronounced. On the flip side, dewy foundation injects skin with the hydration it might need.
  • Gives you a radiant, lit-from-within glow. The trend lately has been more towards glowing skin and away from cakey complexions. Dewy finish foundation is the perfect base for achieving that look.
  • Easy to build and blend. Although all foundation types range in coverage, dewy foundation is often much more buildable and layerable, allowing you to find the exact coverage for you.

Cons of a Dewy Foundation

  • Can amplify texture. If you have acne-prone skin, dewy foundation can make breakouts look more obvious. This goes for post-acne marks, too.
  • Is highly movable. Those who touch their face, wear masks or just worry about their makeup transferring, should skip dewy foundation as it tends to rub right off. Setting spray can help keep this from happening.
  • Has difficulty covering hyperpigmentation. Dewy foundations just aren’t as full-coverage as their matte counterparts. This can make it difficult to cover dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Getting a Flawless Dewy Finish

Capparelli stresses the importance of starting your dewy finish with the right skincare to ensure smooth, hydrated skin. To boost the lasting power, apply a primer, as well. Then, put the foundation brush down for this. “I typically apply my dewy foundation with my hands for a light and skin-like finish,” Capparelli says. “This really helps it melt into your skin with the help of the heat from your hands.”

Next, pair cream products with dewy foundation, such as cream blushes, highlighters and bronzers to “amplify the glow,” Capparelli adds.

The Best Dewy Foundations

1. Best for Dry Skin: KOSAS Tinted Face Oil Foundation

KOSAS Tinted Face Oil Foundation

This face oil and foundation combo delivers a natural-looking, velvety finish while nourishing your skin with avocado, jojoba, and rosehip seed oils.

2. Best with SPF: COOLA Mineral Face SPF 30 Rōsilliance BB+ Cream 

COOLA Mineral Face SPF 30 Rōsilliance BB+ Cream

It’s rare to find a hydrating BB cream that provides buildable coverage while also protecting the skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays.

3. Best for Light Coverage: LAURA GELLER Quench-n-Tint Hydrating Foundation

LAURA GELLER Quench-n-Tint Hydrating Foundation

Those with dry, dehydrated skin (including mature skin), will love this hyaluronic acid-infused foundation for its intense hydrating properties. Plus, the sheer-to-light coverage is easy to apply with your finger tips for a dewy glow.

4. Best for Full Coverage: ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS Luminous Foundation


Those craving a more medium-to-full coverage should go for this lightweight, second-skin foundation that’s incredibly buildable. It’s also water-resistant, so it lasts longer than the standard dewy skin tint.

Matte Foundation 101

“Matte foundation is a finish that gives you a very polished, airbrush-like look,” Capparelli says. “These foundations are typically formulated without oils and with ingredients that will help absorb all of your natural producing oils.” Those with oily skin or acne-prone skin often reach for matte foundations because they absorb excess oil and keep skin from looking overly shiny and greasy. “I like matte foundations best for highly textured, acneic and larger pore skin types,” Capparelli adds.

Pros of a Matte Foundation

  • Less pore-clogging. Many matte foundations are oil-free so they won’t clog pores or cause them to appear larger. This makes them especially great for those with combination skin or acne-prone skin.
  • Better at hiding imperfections. A matte finish doesn’t reflect light so it’s better at hiding breakouts, oversized pores and textured skin. It also naturally has a fuller coverage so all imperfections are less noticeable.
  • Longer-lasting without transfer. Unlike dewy foundations, matte makeup stays put even without setting spray. It’s best for big events or long days when you won’t have a moment to reapply. 

Cons of a Matte Foundation

  • Makes fine lines more noticeable. Those with aging skin or especially dry skin can find matte foundations tend to settle into lines in a less flattering way. Using a hydrating primer can often help keep this from happening.
  • Harder to blend. If you’re new to foundation, or just want an easier complexion application, you might find matte options thick and hard to blend. They don’t layer as well and are less buildable overall.
  • Can look heavier. Since the current makeup trend is towards a skin-like finish, matte foundation can look dated if not applied correctly. The right foundation brush can help you create a seamless finish

Getting a Flawless Matte Finish

First, make sure the skin is hydrated with an oil-free base and a primer that will assist in helping the foundation sit smoothly—preferably something that has a silicone or dimethicone base. “I always apply my matte foundations with either a large fluffy brush for a lighter finish or a slightly damp sponge and press it into the skin for more of a full coverage,” Capparelli says. Finally, set the face “hot spots” (where excess oil pops up) with a setting powder and a puff. This often includes the T-zone and forehead. “Press the powder into the skin, never rub!” Capparelli adds.

The Best Matte Foundations

1. Most Lightweight Foundation: L’ORÉAL Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation

L’ORÉAL Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation
Courtesy of L’ORÉAL

This medium-coverage foundation hides blemishes, dark spots, uneven skin tone and more imperfections without becoming cakey. It feels comfortable for a full 24 hours.

2. Best with SPF: IT COSMETICS Bye Bye Foundation Oil-Free Matte Full Coverage Moisturizer™ with SPF 50+

IT COSMETICS Bye Bye Foundation Oil-Free Matte Full Coverage Moisturizer™ with SPF 50+
Courtesy of IT COSMETICS

This moisturizer/foundation hybrid covers redness, breakouts and dark spots without settling into fine lines. It also contains SPF 50 for serious UVA and UVB protection.

3. Best for Oily Skin: TARTE Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Foundation

TARTE Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Foundation

Those who deal with greasy skin with excess oils will favor this full-coverage foundation that conceals imperfections while absorbing oil. You’ll never need blotting papers again.

4. Best for a Natural Finish: NARS Soft Matte Complete Foundation

NARS Soft Matte Complete Foundation
Courtesy of NARS

If you prefer a more natural, second-skin type of finish, this slightly matte foundation is about to be your new fave. The formula balances and absorbs excess sebum while still keeping skin hydrated, plump, and hydrated.

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About the author
Elizabeth Denton
Elizabeth is a freelance beauty writer. Previously, she was a beauty & fashion editor at Time Out New York, Seventeen, & Allure. She has more than a decade of experience in the beauty and fashion world, writing for Nylon, StyleCaster, Cosmopolitan & more.
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Article Last Updated April 1, 2022 12:00 AM