Skin Tints Vs. Tinted Moisturizers — What's the Difference?

And which is best for you?

Skin Tints vs. Tinted Moisturizers
Photo: Getty Images

There's a surplus of beauty products on the market right now — that much we know. Whether it be hair products (shampoos, dry shampoos, bar shampoos...), body products (body lotion, body oil, body serum...), or skincare products (physical exfoliants, chemical exfoliants, hybrid exfoliants), there's plenty to choose from — but makeup seems to be the easiest category to differentiate.

Or is it?

Obviously it's easy to tell foundation apart from mascara, but some types of products are trickier to decipher. Take skin tints and tinted moisturizers for example. Both complexion products give our faces your-skin-but-better type finishes, and they are often used interchangeably. However, they're two totally different things.

If you're trying to understand the difference as you navigate the beauty aisles, we tapped a top celebrity makeup artist to break down everything there is to know.

What Is Tinted Moisturizer?

A tinted moisturizer is exactly what it sounds like, a moisturizer that has a tint to it. "They provide sheer to medium coverage, evening out the skin tone while hydrating and moisturizing the skin," says Jason Hoffman, VP of Artistry & Education at Amyris.

Hoffman further explains that in order for the product to be considered a tinted moisturizer, it has to moisturize the skin to meet FDA and FTA guidelines. A good example would be the Meghan Markle-approved Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 30.

"Tinted moisturizers come in a variety of formulations that are best used based on your skin type: if you have oily-skin, I recommend using an oil-free tinted moisturizer; if you have acne-prone skin, I recommend using a tinted moisturizer that is non comedogenic; if you have dry skin, I recommend a tinted moisturizer that includes hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, or squalane," says Hoffman. "You can also find tinted moisturizers that come in multiple finishes, including radiant, natural, and matte. Many tinted moisturizers also have SPF, which is great for everyday use and especially during the summer."

What Is Skin Tint?

Consider skin tints the sheerer versions of tinted moisturizers. However, they tend to have a texture more similar to a serum than a moisturizer, provide less coverage, and they don't moisturize the skin as much.

"They are typically less oily than tinted moisturizers and are the perfect product to achieve a no-makeup makeup look," adds Hoffman. "Skin tints will sometimes have skin-benefiting ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalane, niacinamide, or more. All skin types can use a skin tint, but if you are acne prone, make sure the product is non comedogenic."

A favorite of his is the Rose Inc Skin Enhance Luminous Tinted Serum as it's non-comedogenic and bridges the gap between powerful skincare and luminous makeup to deliver sheer, radiant coverage. "The pigment spheres are suspended within a skincare base infused with hyaluronic acid to visibly plump and smooth the appearance of fine lines, squalane to weightlessly hydrate the skin, and peptides to help protect against environmental damage," he says.

What's the Best Way to Use a Tinted Moisturizer?

These are particularly great if you have a drier skin type or want to stay on top of your skin's moisture levels without full-coverage.

Hoffman says you can apply it with either your fingers, a makeup brush, or a makeup sponge — it's all about preference. "If you're looking for a bit more coverage, you can layer with concealer on top. Then, you can finish your makeup routine with bronzer, blush, mascara or anything else you use," he adds.

What's the Best Way to Use a Skin Tint?

"Skin tint is great for a no-makeup makeup look, providing just a hint of coverage to make you feel like you're not wearing anything on your face," says Hoffman.

As with tinted moisturizers, he says to apply it with either your fingers, a makeup brush, or a makeup sponge — just make sure to apply a moisturizer underneath it so your skin gets those added skincare benefits. If you want more coverage, spot treat with concealer.

VIDEO: The Exact Order You Should Be Applying Your Makeup

How to Choose Between Tinted Moisturizer and Skin Tint:

According to Hoffman, it depends on your skin type and the type of result you want. "If you have acne-prone skin, choose a product that's non-comedogenic. If you're currently experiencing a breakout and want to have more coverage, opt for a tinted moisturizer over a skin tint. If you have dry skin, look for a tinted moisturizer or skin tint with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and squalane. If you have oily skin, look for a tinted moisturizer or skin tint that is oil-free," he suggests.

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