I came of age in the era of full-glam beauty tutorials on YouTube, and I spent my high-school years believing that even a trip to Trader Joe’s required a smoky eye and a full face of foundation. By the time I got to college, my skin was the worse for wear. I dealt with stubborn acne and persistent dryness, and I no longer liked the feeling of wearing a full face of makeup on a daily basis. So when Glossier launched in 2014 and I was first introduced to the concept of no-makeup makeup, I became a skin-tint girl almost overnight. I stood in line on a hot New York August day to enter the original Glossier flagship to buy the brand’s Perfecting Skin Tint when it launched, and when I started using it, I knew immediately that I would be a devout skin-tint wearer. It offered barely there coverage, enough to blur my hyperpigmentation and make me feel put together while being lightweight so my skin could breathe. Essentially, it gave me that look of my skin but better, and my obsession hasn’t waned in the decade since.
Skin tints are less pigmented than foundations, so they allow for a certain amount of flexibility that full-coverage complexion products don’t. Add to that the way skin tints play nice with other makeup like blush and bronzer, all while feeling weightless on my face, and it’s the best of all worlds. But as with many complexion products, skin tints have historically had limited shade ranges. Thankfully, the category has evolved since Glossier launched with five shades. Brands have expanded their color palettes to be deep-skin friendly — and added ingredients like hyaluronic acid and SPF to the formulations for skin-care benefits.
Nearly nine years after purchasing that first bottle of skin tint, I am now a beauty-podcast producer and certified product junkie with an arsenal of skin tints to fit different needs, and after a lot of trial and error, I’ve found a few that are perfect for my skin. Below is my beloved skin-tint rotation.
For sheer coverage
This is where my obsession began. When these first launched, with just five shades, I was wearing G2, which matched my skin tone — deep brown with warm yellow undertones — and it looked great. When Glossier expanded the range to 12 shades in 2021, I tested them and found the reformulated G2 shade was even better than before: The tint matched my undertones much more, rendering the makeup even less detectable.
One thing that has been consistent between the two launches is the incredibly lightweight formula. If you’re looking to cover up a zit, this won’t be for you, but it’s perfect for sheer coverage. It has a blurring, filterlike effect that evens out your skin tone without distorting what you actually look like or feeling heavy on the skin. I find myself reaching for this one on vacation and in the summertime when I’m already tan and looking for the lightest possible touch of makeup in the hot and humid weather.
For a dewy, buildable formula
The first time I tried this skin tint, I audibly gasped: I have never had a complexion product match my skin so perfectly. While skin tints tend to neglect darker skin tones, Ami Cole caters specifically to “melanin-rich skin,” as the company says, with a variety of undertones. When I learned the company was founded by a Glossier alum, Diarrha N’Daiye, my hopes were set high and then exceeded — it’s my favorite everyday tint.
The formula is lightweight and buildable, so you can customize the coverage as you need. The skin tint perfectly masks my hyperpigmentation, though it won’t cover intense breakouts, so I pair it with concealer if I need more coverage. The finish is dewy without being oily, leaving me with a truly skinlike finish that acts as a great base for the rest of my makeup.
For medium coverage with SPF
Saie’s Slip Tint has a thicker formula than other skin tints I’ve tried and has the most coverage, so it’s perfect for when I have acne scars or I’m dealing with an active breakout and need coverage that won’t do further damage to my skin. The Slip Tint also has zinc oxide for sun protection, though the addition of that ingredient made me a bit skeptical. When I’ve tried mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide in the past, they leave me looking ghostly instead of dewy. But this formula is the best of both worlds: a mineral sunscreen that actually blends into darker skin tones and covers blemishes for a flawless base. I wear shade 9.5, and I find it blends well into my skin. Others should be able to find something that works for their skin tone in Saie’s recently expanded shade range, which now includes more rich tones.
For all-day wear
I’ve heard from other beauty hobbyists that Shiseido’s skin-care products are some of the best on the market — Charlotte Parler, an aesthetician and a co-founder of Dieux, loves its sunscreen — so I was incredibly excited to try out the brand’s skin tint when it dropped last year. The Self-Refreshing Tint is said to resist heat, humidity, and oil and last for up to 12 hours. My in-person workday typically lasts about this long, and the Shiseido skin tint gets me through 40 minutes of commuting, hours of client meetings, and post-work drinks with no transferring and minimal creasing. I wear shade 525, a deep brown that melts into my skin with a matte finish that combats oiliness throughout the day. The coverage is light but buildable, so I like to apply multiple layers depending on how sheer or opaque I want my base to be. While this is the most expensive skin tint on my roster, the price is well worth it for the sun protection and skin-care ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which helps skin retain its moisture so mine feels great even after having this on all day.
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