When you can’t be bothered to apply a full-coverage foundation, but still need a little something to even out your complexion, a tinted moisturizer is your skin’s best friend.
“These products offer lightweight coverage for someone who’s looking for something that won’t completely mask the skin,” says celebrity makeup artist Adriana Aude. A tinted moisturizer can step in when you want to enhance your complexion but still see your freckles, smooth out pores but not erase them, and even out your tone without completely changing it.
But it does more than just make skin look pretty. A tinted moisturizer can do something you’re probably not expecting: block visible light that can damage skin and cause premature aging with the addition of SPF, says dermatologist Sheryl D. Clark, M.D., assistant professor at Weill Cornell School of Medicine. Unlike UV light from the sun, which causes skin cancer and aging but isn’t obvious to the naked eye, visible light is the light that you can see. A broad spectrum sunscreen will shield your skin from UV light, but still allows in visible light. A tinted moisturizer can fill in the gaps.
That said, most of these won’t take the place of your regular facial sunscreen, especially if you’re sweating or swimming. If you’re at the beach, wear both. It’s a generally good idea to wear one daily anyway—even if you’re hanging out at an office—due to the blue light from electronic devices, says Dr. Clark. “This exposure may be smaller, but it all adds up,” she says.
How to choose the best tinted moisturizer for your skin
For acne-prone skin: Go for a tinted moisturizer that’s oil-free and noncomedogenic (so it won’t clog pores). If you have severe acne, a tinted moisturizer isn’t going to be enough to cover up the breakouts, so if coverage if your goal you’ll probably want an acne-friendly foundation, says Aude.
For sensitive skin: Avoid tinted moisturizers that contain potential irritants like alcohol, witch hazel, and synthetic fragrances, says Annie Chiu, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at The Derm Institute in Redondo Beach, California.
Look for iron oxide: This supplies the tint that is skin-protective, says Dr. Clark. It’s also helpful if the formula has antioxidants in it (like vitamins A, C, or E) to guard against free radicals, a type of molecule in your body that can wreak havoc on your skin. But remember, any makeup with SPF is typically not enough to shield your skin from the sun on its own, so the products should be seen as supplemental.
Pay attention to buzzwords: Look for words like skin tint, hydrating foundation, and even CC or BB cream—these can all act as a tinted moisturizer.
Now that you know what to look for, here are the best tinted moisturizers with SPF to consider when you want that no-makeup makeup look.