How to Apply Makeup to Dry Skin for a Hydrated, Dewy Finish

Person with dewy, radiant skin and naturally curly hair


Whether you experience dry skin seasonally or year-round, you may have found yourself wondering if you can still create a dewy glow with skincare and makeup products. The good news is that you can definitely boost radiance (and even add actual hydration) with makeup. But it's imperative to know which products will suit your needs best, along with how to apply them. Luckily, we have all the best tips right here—from celebrity makeup artist Denika Bedrossian, no less—so you can get that glow in no time.

Keep reading for our step-by-step guide on how to apply makeup to dry skin.

Meet the Expert

Denika Bedrossian is a Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist whose client roster includes Sarah Hyland, Mandy Moore, Jenna Dewan, and Hailey Bieber.

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Use the Right Skincare

When working with dry skin, it's crucial to prep with the right products before applying makeup to achieve the best results. Start by rinsing the face with warm water, then move on to a cleanser that offers gentle exfoliation. "A gentle exfoliating wash to remove any dead skin is a good start for having smooth skin before adding moisture and makeup," Bedrossian says. "I love to add moisture all over the face and neck, and for very dry skin, the Bubble Float On Soothing Facial Oil ($19) is an incredible option for a lightweight yet intensely hydrating oil."

If you need a hydrating vitamin C treatment for the morning, opt for something like Protéger's Dermal Serum ($115), which contains microencapsulated vitamin C, along with hyaluronic acid and aloe leaf juice, to add instant hydration to the skin and body while also promoting soothing and healing.

Whether you're using an oil or cream to moisturize, allow the product to absorb into the skin for a few minutes before moving on to makeup. "Allowing the product to sink in will allow your skin to bind beautifully with your makeup products," Bedrossian explains.

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Avoid Overly-Drying Ingredients

It's a good idea to take inventory of your makeup products to ensure that the formulas are hydrating and suitable for dry skin. The first products to check are foundation and concealer, both of which you likely use directly on your complexion following your skincare routine.

"When you have dry skin, it’s so important to allow your skin to bask in moisture," Bedrossian explains. "You'll want to avoid ingredients such as salicylic acid, parabens, and alcohol. These ingredients can tend to dry out the skin, not add any moisture."

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And Opt For Hydrating Ingredients Instead

Hydrating, creamy foundation and concealer formulas are excellent makeup to apply to dry skin after your skincare has fully absorbed it to keep the momentum going. Some ingredients to look for in foundations include hyaluronic acid and natural oils, both of which will help your skin to retain moisture.

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Pay Attention to Your Application Technique

As for technique, place a few dots of foundation on the face and lightly buff it in with a brush, then use concealer on top to aid in covering up any blemishes or uneven skin tone, along with under the eye area. For a hydrating concealer that offers full coverage, check out Tarte's Shape Tape Ultra Creamy Concealer ($31), and for foundation, try the MAC Cosmetics Studio Waterweight SPF 30 Foundation ($41).

When applying makeup, avoid rubbing it onto the skin, which can exacerbate a dry complexion (read: cause more flaking). Instead, gently pat on products and if you need to blend further, do so in one direction only.

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Lean Toward Cream Formulas

Once you've applied your concealer and foundation, bronzer will be next on the list. While bronzer isn't necessary to use every day, it certainly adds a subtle touch of warmth and can aid in achieving a healthy glow. For dry skin types, cream bronzers are best, as they adhere easily to the skin without accentuating dry patches the way powders sometimes tend to do.

To warm up and sculpt your complexion, apply a cream bronzer with a brush along your forehead, cheeks, and jawline. Mob Beauty's Cream Clay Bronzer ($30) comes in four shades and is ideal for dry skin: It buffs well into the complexion and dries matte without a powdery look or feel, and it has a velvety, cloud-like texture. You can use it as both a bronzer and a contouring product.

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Layer on a Cream Blush

After you've applied bronzer, smile so you can dab on some blush—preferably a cream formula—onto the apples of your cheeks. Use a blush brush or your fingers to lightly tap and build the color until it's at the desired pigment. Liquid blushes like Saie's Dew Blush Liquid Cheek Blush ($25) also work well on dry skin types. Layering cream products will allow your makeup to work harmoniously for a hydrated complexion.

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Have Fun With Eye Makeup

Since dry skin is usually less of an issue on the eyelids, you can apply your favorite powder eyeshadows, eyeliners, and mascaras as usual. However, if you do have dryness in this area or want to keep up with the hydrating theme, use a cream-based eyeshadow or tint instead. Thrive Causemetics' Brilliant Eye Brightener ($25) is a cream-to-powder formula that glides easily onto the lids and dries to last throughout the day. When removing eye makeup, it's imperative to do it gently without pulling or tugging.

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Make Skin Dewy, Not Greasy

Adding subtle touches of highlight or products that help dry skin look dewy is a great way to create a radiant makeup look. Be aware that there's an art to applying highlighters and products with dewier finishes so as not to end up looking greasy or overly shiny.

For highlighter, pinpoint the areas on the face that the light will naturally accentuate (think cheekbones, brow bone, and above the cupid's bow) and lightly tap your cream or liquid highlighter into those areas, blending the product in with your fingers or a fluffy brush to help spread it without clumping or streaks. For a soft shimmer highlight that works well with dry skin, try Chanel's Baume Essentiel Multi-Use Glow Stick ($45)

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Use Powder Strategically

For final touches, remember that makeup on dry skin usually doesn't need setting powder all over, yet there might be certain areas that need a little powder to help set or mattify. "With makeup, apply powders to set only in areas where needed," Bedrossian advises.

A powder like Extraordinary Translucent Setting Powder ($22) from Ciaté London is ideal to use under the eyes to set concealer and help with creasing. Apply it around the nose where skin may tend to get oily, too. If you use powder only where you need it rather than on your whole face, you'll keep your makeup in place without undoing all the work you just did to create a more hydrated look.

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Finish With a Hydrating Setting Spray

To set makeup on dry skin, Bedrossian touts that a hydrating setting or toner spray is the way to go, "I love to finish makeup with the Bubble Bounce Back Balancing Toner Mist ($13), which has niacinamide, to set and add a final layer of moisture," she says. "This allows makeup to look natural and make it last." Think of it as the finishing touch to get in any added moisture for your skin to drink in.

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