If you’ve ever wasted precious minutes in the makeup aisle agonizing over the differences between liquid foundation and tinted moisturizer, we’re here to set the record straight.
For all intents and purposes, there are more similarities between the two products than differences – but, as always, the devil’s in the details.
Here’s everything you need to know to pick the perfect coverage for your skin.
So, What’s the Difference, Anyway?
When beauty editors road test tinted moisturizers and liquid foundations for their magazine, they get down to brass tacks: how well does the product cover imperfections? How heavy does the foundation feel once applied on the skin?
And while those are important notes to cover – more on that below! – we’re grateful to editors who take the time to suss out what makes these products different – and who should be using them.
According to Shannon Romanowski, tinted moisturizer generally contains more humectants – which means it helps keep moisture locked into your skin.
“Tinted moisturizers are usually best for women with dry skin and women that don’t need quite as much coverage,” explains Romanowski at Self.
As you might be able to guess from the name, tinted moisturizer is pigmented – which means it’s perfect if you just need a light correcting base. It can also include other goodies, like sunscreen or antioxidants, to help keep your skin looking young and fresh.
Liquid foundation, on the other hand, has very little of the moisturizing properties in tinted moisturizer – and way more pigment.
“A foundation covers the skin with a layer of color and gives it a flawless finish,” confirms O Magazine’s beauty director, Valerie Monroe.
That’s part of what makes liquid foundation such an appealing choice for fashion editors – not only does it provide an incredible base to build up your look, but it also masks any and all imperfections.
Liquid foundation is heavier in texture, but blends more easily – yet another reason makeup artists love it.
When you’re choosing which product to add to your shopping cart, knowing the basics helps.
But there are plenty of other very personal preferences you might want to consider, too.
Here’s a mini-checklist you can take with you to answer every single one of your questions:
1. Cover Up or Go Au Naturel
Are you after that fresh, dewy face straight from the runways? Or do you need to master professional polish with a matte, no-nonsense look?
Whatever style you’re dying to try, choosing between tinted moisturizer and liquid foundation can make all the difference.
Tinted moisturizers and BB creams – with lighter textures and less pigmentation – will help you nail fresh-faced appeal.
“I love tinted moisturizer, because its sheer coverage evens out your complexion in the most natural-looking way," makeup artist Laura Mercier told Allure.
“It’s better to go darker than lighter, so you warm up your skin instead of looking too pale," Mercier adds.
After applying both moisturizer and primer, add a coat of tinted moisturizer and set with loose powder or setting powder.
Because liquid foundation is matte, it provides the ideal starting point for a killer, pared-back face perfect for going from office to on the town – plus, it offers a lot more coverage than tinted moisturizer.
Blend carefully on the back of your hand with a makeup sponge before applying to your cheeks, forehead, and chin. Mercier suggests cutting your foundation with water – dampen your makeup sponge – if you want a lighter effect.
From our catalog: Our Fruit Pigmented Tinted Moisturizer comes in eight customized shades and offers medium coverage for a fresh, dewy face. Looking for something more substantial? Try Fruit Pigmented Healthy Foundation
for full coverage that won’t weigh you down.
2. Mark Your Calendars
Warmer weather equals less makeup, which means reaching for a lighter base like tinted moisturizer.
Not only will this strategy give your pores a vacation from heavy, pore-clogging foundation, but both tinted moisturizer and BB cream often include sunscreen in their formulas (bonus!). When you’re on the go, it’s nice to have at least one one-and-done product in your makeup bag.
But, if you can’t live without foundation in warmer months, try out a powder version for maximum coverage with minimal weight.
From our catalog: Our Fruit Pigmented Foundation Face Powder offers medium coverage with a near-matte finish – everything you’re looking for in a foundation for the summer.
3. Check in with Your Skin
When it comes to finding the right foundation, one size doesn’t fit all.
Knowing whether you’re prone to breakouts or in need of major moisture will help you make the best decision for you and your pores.
“If your skin is oily, use oil-free liquid or powder foundation,” advises Jessica Maitlin at O Magazine.
“If you have combination skin, strategically apply a powder foundation” to your T-zone, she adds.
From our catalog: Aging or dry skin can often benefit from a cream-based foundation. Our version is pigmented with fruit and filled with antioxidants that will hydrate your skin and give you a gorgeous near-matte finish.
4. To BB or Not to BB
If you’re ready to pare back and pick a tinted moisturizer, there are plenty of options.
Choose one closest to your skin shade, or even go a little darker if you want more coverage but none of the weight of a full foundation.
In addition to tinted moisturizers, you’ll find similar products like BB creams – the Korean beauty phenomenon – crowding the shelves.
What’s the difference?. “They usually contain sunscreen, moisturizer, color, and anti-aging ingredients.”
If you don’t mind a little less pigment, opt for a multi purpose BB cream instead of tinted moisturizer.
Looking for maximum coverage? You can use BB cream after your primer and before a light foundation – it might even help you wear less foundation overall, since BB cream corrects your color, too.
From our catalog: Try our BB Cream for light coverage and a healthy, glowing complexion.
5. Textured Trio
If you tend to suffer from breakouts or are simply looking for more coverage, then foundation’s definitely the way to go.
But how do you begin to tell which foundation will work best for you?
While some of this comes down – yet again – to personal preference, many foundations are designed with specific skin types in mind.
Let’s break it down:
Liquid foundation: Even in this category, there are tons of options! Have trouble with breakouts? Look for a foundation that’s oil-free – even a water-based foundation will do. Worried about drying out? Opt for a moisture-rich formula to keep your pores hydrated.
Powder foundation: Sensitive skin does best with a mineral-based loose powder foundation, while pressed powder foundations work wonders for oily or combination skin.
Cream foundation: If your skin needs a little extra moisture, opt for a creamy foundation and apply with a makeup brush for even coverage.
While skin type can go a long way towards pointing you in the right direction, finding the best shade for your skin tone is perhaps even more important – unless you want to have a weird ring of foundation around your jawline, or look like you’re two different shades in those reunion photos.
According to CoverGirl scientist Sarah Vickery, most women struggle with finding the right color.
“Only 15 percent of women choose the correct shade if the appropriate tools aren't provided,” Vickery told Fitness. Ouch! That means many of us are stumbling around in the dark.
If you can, try a little bit of the shade on your hand in natural light before taking it home. If it doesn’t work for you, most major pharmacies will take makeup back or offer a refund.
Don’t be shy in asking for help, either – it definitely doesn’t pay to wear the wrong shade all season long.
From our catalog: For light coverage with a dewy finish, try our Fruit Pigmented Water Foundation – a perfect option for summer!
While there’s plenty to consider as you’re finding the right fit for your makeup bag, remember there are really no wrong choices.
It all comes down to what feels best on your skin – and what won’t cause you to break out or dry up.
If you’re true to your skin type, the rest will come with practice – and lots of expert blending!
Do you prefer tinted moisturizers, or do you go all-out glam with liquid foundation? Tell us about your favorite look in the comments below: