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The Differences Between Tinted Moisturizer and Foundation

by Valerie Bisharat

differences between tinted moisturizer and foundation

Rocking the right makeup base – whether it’s tinted moisturizer or foundation – can be a source of confidence.

But how do you choose which is right for you? Are they really all that different? When might you choose a tinted moisturizer vs. foundation and vice versa?

We pulled up chairs with two makeup artists specializing in clean beauty, Misty Spinney (San Francisco Bay Area) and Talia Favale (Los Angeles) to find out. Spoiler: as pros, both mostly use foundation, but said tinted moisturizer can be easy for everyday wear for those who prefer lighter coverage.

Turns out the differences boil down to two main factors: coverage and added benefits (like SPF and moisturizing qualities). Easy enough!

Let’s go deeper.

Consideration #1: Coverage.

Talia explained, “The pigment particles in foundation are smaller, so foundation offers more intense color and coverage.” The benefit of more pigment? “Nothing will give you a flawless finish like a well-matched foundation,” Misty shared. Both mostly use foundation in their everyday wear and with clients.

That said, foundations themselves range from heavier to lighter, so if you’ve used ones in the past that felt too opaque, you might want to try a product known for being lighter weight.

Tinted moisturizer, on the other hand, gives even lighter coverage. Misty and Talia agreed that for someone who prefers less – and perhaps doesn’t have or want to cover hyperpigmentation, discoloration, or redness – tinted moisturizer can be a good everyday option.

Consideration #2: Added benefits (like SPF and moisturizer).

Not all tinted moisturizers have the exact same features, but many offer SPF, moisturizing, and coverage benefits all in one. If you’re just learning about the best way to layer skincare products or want to save money by rolling several into one – and enjoy lighter coverage – tinted moisturizer might be for you.

Foundation, on the other hand, typically just gives coverage. To achieve sun protection and moisturized skin, you’d need to use skincare products with those benefits before applying it. For example, when you’re prepping your skin to put on makeup, you could add a day cream with SPF to the lineup to make sure you’re moisturized and sun protected.

Ready for the Sparknotes version?

Tinted moisturizer is for you if:

  • You like minimal coverage
  • You don’t mind showing discoloration or hyperpigmentation, or have little of it
  • You’re newer to learning the best order to apply skincare, so you like the idea of having products with multiple benefits rolled into one
  • You want to save time and money by rolling your makeup base and moisturizer (and often SPF) into one

Foundation is for you if:

  • You want a more flawless finish
  • You want your skin to look more even
  • You’re okay with getting any moisturizing or sun protection benefits you might want from other products

Do you have any questions about tinted moisturizer vs. foundation? Leave a comment so we can get you answers!

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