This summer, I've been giving my skin a breather. Usually, one to prep, apply, and blend before leaving the house, I now reserve my foundation and concealer for special occasions. Since making my skin's health a priority, the last thing I want to do is layer on formulas that could clog pores or aggravate skin during the day. Instead of my usual full-coverage foundation, I've been favoring a new lineup of skincare products that treat, rather than camouflage.
These foundation alternatives go beyond tinted moisturizer. I've been using setting sprays and serums that help keep my skin looking its best—and sometimes add a touch of color, lightweight coverage, or bronzy glow. I've noticed that the more I refrain from applying makeup in the summer heat, the clearer my complexion becomes. When I do break out, pimples appear to settle down faster when I don't try to mask them with a concealer.
Keeping coverage to a bare minimum has also improved the efficacy of my sun protection. I now use formulations with a higher SPF and reapply throughout the day without worrying about disturbing my beauty look. Above all, I love seeing the state of my natural skin and working toward improving its natural healthy glow.
Here are the skin-perfecting products I've been using instead of foundation this summer.
Best Overall: Tatcha Silken Pore Perfecting SPF 35 Sunscreen
No white cast
May cause breakouts for some
Who else recommends it? 90% of 300+ Amazon reviewers rated it 4 stars or above.
If there ever were a perfect sunscreen, this might be it. Its lightweight silky-smooth texture graces skin with a matte, poreless-looking finish (and doubles as a primer). I don't leave the house without it. When I reapply it throughout the day, instead of worrying about ending up greasy or covered in white, I know it's refreshing and protecting my skin.
Type: Physical | Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 15%, Octisalate 5% | SPF: 35 | Size: 2.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"Tatcha's Silken Pore Perfecting Sunscreen is definitely worth the hype we see for virtually every Tatcha product out there today. It delivers on its promise to provide broad-spectrum SPF 35 protection, all while leaving skin with a nurtured, healthy look and feel." — Bryan Levandowski, Product Tester
Best Bronzing: Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops
Mimics the antioxidant benefits of vitamin D
A little oily
For a little help with the whole glowy, bronzy thing (without harmful UV rays), look no further than this multi-tasking serum from Drunk Elephant. In addition to imparting the perfect touch of sunshine, the drops boost your skin's defense against pollution and other environmental stressors (perfect for city-dwellers) and replenish skin with vitamins and fatty acids to support a healthy skin barrier function. The flattering complexion-blurring, summer-ready glow is just a bonus.
Type: Drops | Application Method: Add to an oil or serum and manually apply to face and body | Shades: 1 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Sunscreen: Shiseido Waso Color-Smart Day Moisturizer Oil-Free SPF 30 Sunscreen
Balances oil levels
Instantly gives a youthful look
May look orange on certain skin tones
For a touch of color, this brand new tinted moisturizer from Shiseido customizes to your skin tone. The SPF 30 moisturizer comes out white but then adapts to blend with your complexion the moment you apply it to your skin. It also boasts the Japanese superfood, loquat leaf, to balance sebum levels and ensure you enjoy a long-lasting matte effect throughout the day.
Type: Physical | Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.4%, Titanium Dioxide 5.3% | SPF: 30 | Size: 1.9 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Dark Circles: Becca Cosmetics Under Eye Brightening Corrector
Instantly brightens and illuminates
Formulated with vitamin E
Full of natural ingredients
Hard to blend
Just a touch of this eye brightener goes a long way to make the most sleep-deprived face look instantly refreshed and well-rested. Described as "eight hours of sleep in a jar," this formula tackles dark circles as well as fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes. On days that I need a pick-me-up, I gently touch the tip of a Beauty Blender into the pot and then lightly dab just below my eyes before blending—no extra shot of espresso necessary.
Finish: Radiant | Active Ingredients: Vitamin E, Peach- and Apricot-Tinted Pigments | Shades: 4 | Size: 0.15 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Highlighter: RMS Beauty Living Luminizer
Contains vitamin E
Gives a dewy look
Effect is too subtle for some
For the ultimate can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it, natural-looking highlight, look no further. Add just a touch to the top of your cheekbones, brow bones, eyelids, or Cupid's bow for a glow that, while super subtle, has a major impact.
Type: Cream | Shades: 5 | Finish: Shimmer, Sheer | Size: 0.17 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Face Oil: Pai Skincare Rosehip BioRegerate Oil
Evens skin tone
Feels slightly greasy to some
Everything begins with good skin. To ensure I wake up to hydrated, even skin that doesn't need covering up, I've been using this celebrity-loved oil (Kourtney Kardashian is a fan) to replenish and balance my skin while I sleep. The potent formula works as an overnight reset to undo daily damage, even for dry or sensitive skin. Its star ingredient, Andean rosehip oil, boasts high concentrations of omegas 3, 6, 7, and 9, as well as antioxidant carotenoids to help repair and protect your skin. Every morning my skin is smoother, plump with moisture, and ready for a foundation-free day.
Skin Type: All | Active Ingredients: Rosehip Seed Extract | Dosage: Two to three drops in AM and PM | Size: 0.3 and 1.0 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What to Look For in Skin Perfecting Products
Sun and Environmental Protection
The first way to maintain your skin's health is to use products that will protect you from the sun, pollution, and other environmental stressors. Tinted moisturizer, sunscreen with a higher SPF, and certain serums will boost your glow while protecting you from your environment. “Antioxidants are key when it comes to making skin look more youthful and even-toned,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. “They defend skin from free radical damage before it occurs and prevent visible signs of damage like premature aging (photoaging), which can manifest as fine lines and wrinkles or hyperpigmentation.” Her favorite is vitamin C, which she says is particularly effective in protecting against environmental aggressors and mitigating signs of aging. “Layering a vitamin C serum underneath SPF is one of my favorite secrets for maintaining clear, healthy, glowing skin—even as we age.”
You don't have to sacrifice your glow if you want to pass on your foundation. Look for eye-correcting creams that will tackle your dark circles, fine lines, and wrinkles to help you look more awake. Also, find a lightweight, sheer creme highlighter to pat into the high points of your face for maximum glow. Dr. Engelman also recommends products that offer gentle exfoliation, such as chemical exfoliants like hydroxy acids. “Getting rid of dead skin cells and revealing fresh, younger skin is an effective way to brighten skin,” she says.
“Keeping skin hydrated is so important,” says Dr. Engelman. “Not only does it help keep your skin barrier healthy, but it also plumps and brightens from the inside out, giving you a healthier, more youthful appearance.” Focus on finding oils and serums that will rejuvenate and repair your skin overnight before you even need to think about applying foundation—that way, you'll wake up with plump, smooth skin that's ready to go. A favorite ingredient of Dr. Engelman? Hyaluronic acid, a lightweight skin-hydrator that draws moisture to the skin.
What are the best products for glowing skin?
The best products for glowing skin support your skin’s natural appearance with ingredients like fatty acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and botanicals. You can also boost your glow with products that provide a bit of blur and shimmer over your skin.
How can I blur my pores?
You can blur your pores using a lightweight primer or product specifically designed to blend and mattify your skin. Hydrated, moisturized skin will also appear more even and poreless, so don’t skip the moisturizer or facial oil.
What is a skin perfector?
Skin perfectors help treat and support your natural skin rather than fully cover or camouflage like a foundation. Skin perfectors can be used alone or with other makeup to smooth, even, and blur the skin’s appearance. They typically contain nourishing ingredients to boost your skin’s health, such as fatty acids, vitamins, antioxidants, and botanicals.
What does an exfoliating skin perfector do?
Exfoliating skin perfectors use gentle exfoliating properties, usually chemical, in the form of hydroxy acids to gently encourage skin cell turnover and remove dead skin cells. These products can improve the glow and healthy appearance of your skin.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic in New York City.
Ananthapadmanabhan KP, Mukherjee S, Chandar P. Stratum corneum fatty acids: their critical role in preserving barrier integrity during cleansing. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013;35(4):337-345. doi:10.1111/ics.12042
Tan H, Sonam T, Shimizu K. The Potential of Triterpenoids from Loquat Leaves (Eriobotrya japonica) for Prevention and Treatment of Skin Disorder. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(5):1030. doi:10.3390/ijms18051030
Phetcharat L, Wongsuphasawat K, Winther K. The effectiveness of a standardized rose hip powder, containing seeds and shells of Rosa canina, on cell longevity, skin wrinkles, moisture, and elasticity. Clin Interv Aging. 2015;10:1849-1856. doi:10.2147/CIA.S90092