Skin finish fixes: How to get dewy, matte or luminous skin

Skin Finish Fixes
Product photography by Carlo Mendoza; Model photography and makeup by Dallas Curow; Model: Angelika/The Rock Agency

Skin Finish Fixes
Product photography by Carlo Mendoza; Model photography and makeup by Dallas Curow; Model: Angelika/The Rock Agency

See the skin finish tips and tricks »

One of the easiest (and often overlooked) ways to switch up your makeup look is by changing the finish of your foundation. It might seem like a small thing, but skin finish—the texture and amount of luminosity of your foundation—has a big effect on any look. In fact, many eras of beauty are in part defined by the skin finish that accompanied them, for better or for worse. Where full-coverage, matte foundation accompanied the brown beauty palette of the mid-90s, shimmering skin went hand-in-hand with the lavish application of bronzer in J. Lo’s early-aughts heyday.

Of the many variations on skin finish, three stand out as classics: luminous, dewy and matte. Let’s explore these different variations, learn which products you need to pull them off and how to pair them with complementary makeup for best results.


Skin Finish Luminous
Photography and makeup by Dallas Curow; Model: Angelika/The Rock Agency

Skin Finish 1: Luminous
Luminous skin has a romantic, ethereal vibe. If done well, it steers well clear of the Twilight vampire realm and remains firmly in “I just ran a 5k” exercise glow territory. It’s a sheer look that showcases your skin’s natural beauty, enhancing it with the clever use of understated highlighting.

To create a luminous finish, the key is to use a foundation with light coverage that allows your true complexion to show through. Skip the heavy coverage and opt for a lightweight, buildable formula like Chanel Vitalumière Aqua, a tinted moisturizer such as Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen, or your BB cream of choice. Start the application at the centre of your face, where most people tend to need the most coverage, feathering outwards gradually. Set the foundation with a luminous powder like M.A.C Mineralize Skinfinish or M.A.C Mineralize Skinfinish Natural. Concentrate the powder on the forehead, cheekbones and chin. For an extra dose of luminosity, apply a cream highlighter such as Benefit’s High Beam on the cheekbones, bridge of the nose and cupid’s bow.


Skin Finish Luminous
Photography and makeup by Dallas Curow; Model: Angelika/The Rock Agency

Best makeup for a luminous skin finish:
To complement your luminous skin finish, keep the rest of your makeup understated. A dusting of blush on the apples of your cheeks, a quick coat of mascara, and a moisturizing tinted balm on the lips should finish off your natural, glowing look beautifully.


Skin Finish Dewy
Photography and makeup by Dallas Curow; Model: Angelika/The Rock Agency

Skin Finish 2: Dewy
Dewy skin the basis of any energized, sexy, healthy look. It’s also a great way to fake vitality when you’re feeling under the weather, and a sneaky way to moisturize during the dry, winter months.

The route to dewy skin requires three main steps: 1) make sure your skin is generously moisturized before you reach for your makeup bag, 2) choose a moisturizing foundation, and 3) skip the powder. Quenching your skin with moisturizer or a few drops of face oil (like Belmondo’s “In the Dew”) before you begin helps plump up your skin and create a smooth, even base. Then, by opting for a foundation with a moisturizing formula and letting it breathe without setting powder, your skin will look natural all day long. Hint: an oil-based foundation such as Giorgio Armani’s Maestro will often give you a creamier look than more matte, oil-free varieties.


Skin Finish Dewy
Photography and makeup by Dallas Curow; Model: Angelika/The Rock Agency

Best makeup for a dewy skin finish:
Keep the rest of your makeup clean and crisp when you’re working with a dewy skin finish. A simple slick of black liquid liner, a few coats of mascara, and a creamy pink lipstick is a perfect accompaniment to a dewy complexion.


Skin Finish Matte
Photography and makeup by Dallas Curow; Model: Angelika/The Rock Agency

Skin Finish 3: Matte
Matte skin hasn’t been a predominant beauty theme over the past few years, but it’s starting to return slowly but surely. Makeup artist Peter Phillips turned out an ultra-matte look for the Alexander McQueen Spring 2014 runway show, and Nars just released a matte version of their cult product The Multiple. Matte skin looks sophisticated and clean, and it provides a fresh base that allows dramatic eyes and/or lips to shine.

Before we talk foundation, let’s talk primer, which is the underpinning of any successful matte look. When choosing a primer, look for one that’s specifically mattifying. Cover FX, Lorac and Korres are just three companies of many who make a primer of this kind. Choose one that works for you and apply as directed. Once it has set, there are three main options for matte foundations: matte liquid foundation such as Nars Sheer Matte Foundation, a mousse or cream-to-powder formula like Revlon New Complexion, or a full-finish powder such as M.A.C Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation. Consider applying your foundation with a sponge or brush to avoid transferring the oils from your fingers onto your face.


Skin Finish Matte
Photography and makeup by Dallas Curow; Model: Angelika/The Rock Agency

Best makeup for a matte skin finish:
You can pair a matte skin finish with similar matte eye and lip products for a unified look, or for more contrast, bring in a bit of shimmer to the eyes and lips. Try out a shimmering green smoky eye, a subtly frosted coral lip colour, or both.