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Find Your Tinted Moisturizer Soulmate


On the surface, tinted moisturizers don’t sound all that confusing. What it does is in the name, but the name is a vague one and therein lies the problem. There are as many kinds of tinted moisturizers as there are, oh I don't know, hats? Beanies, sun hats, fashion hats, functional hats. Tinted moisturizers with SPF, ones that really cover, ones with emphasis on the moisturizer, ones that fit in your particular definition of 'clean.' A real smorgasbord to choose from—don't you wish you could find the one you actually want?

There are lots of ways to evaluate tinted moisturizers, but in the most basic terms, they all fall somewhere on a finish-coverage axis. When it comes to coverage they’re never going to be fully opaque (that’s foundation territory), but some are more opaque than others. For example: the difference in opacity between It Cosmetics’ CC Cream and Ilia’s Super Serum is leaps and bounds! Imagine buying one and expecting the other—it’s a recipe for disappointment.

The other axis is finish. A little dewiness to put the moisturizer in tinted moisturizer is par for the course. But some dry down more satiny, or to a skin-finish, while others come with dewiness overload. Let’s use Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer as our true neutral—the classic has enough coverage and a not-quite-dewy-or-matte always natural finish. Lancôme’s Skin Feels Good has a little more coverage, but otherwise is pretty close.

tinted moisturizer axis

In quadrant one of the finish-coverage axis, you’ve got your nearly full-coverage, not so dewy formulations. The Ordinary’s Serum Foundation feels really light (it’s literally liquid), but actually covers the most. You can dilute a pump in your daily moisturizer to modulate the coverage and turn it into a more lotion-like consistency. For an option with SPF, It Cosmetics’ CC Cream comes out of the tube thick, covers like oil paint, and dries down without much shine.

Kosas’ Tinted Oil falls on the border of quadrant two. Even though it’s got ‘oil’ in the name, the finish isn’t super shiny and has a decent amount of coverage. (Actually, some popular feedback is that it tugs onto dry patches, this might not be the best option if you self-identify as a slab of clay.)

Quadrant three’s got the super dewy options: Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint and Ilia’s new Super Serum Skin Tint, which both have liquidy consistencies, feel quite oily going on, and offer a little, but not much, complexion coverage. Ilia’s got SPF, if you’re into that! Bareminerals’ Complexion Rescue is the closest formulation to actual moisturizer (in this beauty editor’s opinion) but has more coverage than the former two—and also comes with SPF.

In the last quadrant, you’ll find Jan-Michael Vincent Gee Beauty’s Prime Skin, which has a little more dew than Nars’ Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer and a little less coverage. Thrive Causemetics’ Buildable Blur CC Cream covers blemishes the best while allowing you to keep your dew, and Colourpop’s Pretty Fresh is a great budget substitute if you’re willing to forgo the SPF.

Of course, lots of other tinted moisturizers exist, but this chart works as a pretty good reference guide. And if you have a favorite tinted moisturizer that’s not in this chart, please add its approximate coordinates in the comments. I like to hang out somewhere around (3,-6), how about you?

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG