How To Put Makeup On Dry Skin

I've had dry skin all my life, but I didn't really realize it until I started to try wearing makeup. I remember when I had a makeover done in college, and the products looked positively awful on my skin: caked-on and flakey and just bad. I couldn't wait to wash it off. The makeup artist said it would look better once I dealt with my skin (I'm not kidding) and, while I didn't appreciate her blaming me for her poor application, it helped me realize I had dry skin. Of course, this experience didn't exactly encourage me to wear makeup so it was a few more years before I began to figure things out. Now that I've been wearing makeup regularly for years, in addition to writing about it and trying out tons of different makeup and skincare products, I finally know what works for my dry skin.

Getting makeup to look good on dry skin takes a combination of skincare and the right products. You can't do nothing for your skin and then wake up in the morning and throw any kind of foundation on and expect it to look good. Dry skin requires some TLC as well as some advance planning. You also should invest in products tailored for dry skin, and avoid anything for oily skin or with the words "matte finish." Below are the five steps that I follow regularly to make makeup look good on my dry skin, along with the products that I use. Follow these steps, and you'll have glowing, flawless skin in no time.

1. Exfoliate

Sephora Precision Pore Cleansing Pad, $6, Sephora; Soap & Glory The Greatest Scrub Of All, $35, Amazon; Cosmedix Purity Detox Scrub, $30, Amazon

Often with dry skin, flakiness can be an issue. You want your skin to be a smooth surface on which to apply makeup, so be sure to exfoliate at least once a week. If you have sensitive skin, it's best to avoid physical exfoliants and instead use a BHA or AHA exfoliant (BHA is the gentlest type) once or twice a week (for example, the Stridex pads found at most drugstores contain salicylic acid which is a BHA exfoliant). However, when I need to remove flakiness last-minute before applying makeup, then I will reach for a physical exfoliant such as the ones pictured in the photo below.

The little pink silicone pad is extremely useful because you can pair it with any cleanser to get some gentle scrubbing action in (plus it's only $6). I like every product that I've tried from Soap & Glory, and their scrubs have never been too harsh on my sensitive skin. As for the Cosmedix scrub, you can pair that with water or any cleanser for a very deep pore cleanse, and I like that it contains natural ingredients along with salicylic acid for smoother skin. So definitely consider using one of these or something similar to slough off flakes and such before doing anything else. Just be gentle!

2. Moisturize

Lush Skin's Shangri La, $50, Lush; Skin Inc. Daily Dose Custom-Blended Serum, $90, I Love My Skin Inc.; First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Pure Mineral Sunscreen Moisturizer, $30, Amazon

The next step, once your skin is clean, is to make sure it's properly moisturized. Above are three of my favorite products for keeping my skin hydrated.

I like to use Skin's Shangri La at night after washing my face before bed. It's a thick, luxurious moisturizer so it might make your face too shiny for daytime use, but it sinks in while I sleep so I wake up with glowing skin. The Skin Inc. Custom-Blended Serum is genius; you take a skin identity quiz on their website and then they blend three serums that are perfect for your skin type. This serum sinks in immediately, so it's fine to put it on before your nighttime moisturizer or before makeup (or both). Finally, I definitely recommend using a daytime moisturizer that has at least SPF 30 to protect your skin from sun damage. This one from FAB is perfect for dry, sensitive skin and it layers well under makeup. Make sure your moisturizer has been fully absorbed before moving on to the next step.

3. Prime

Pixi Flawless Beauty Primer, $22, Target; Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Primer, $42, Amazon

If you tend to use a rich moisturizer under your makeup you could consider that your primer and skip this step. I personally like to use a primer because of how it helps smooth and prep my skin for makeup.

I like the Pixi primer for dry skin like mine because it has a creamy, hydrating consistency and a warm, peachy color that has a glimmering sheen to it. It makes my skin appear to glow from the inside. You could also use the Smashbox primer — especially if you plan on being in a lot of photos that day — which helps to give skin a smooth and hydrated surface for makeup. Both of these are the smaller travel-size varieties, which I prefer because I only use a small amount and this way they won't expire before I get to use it all.

4. Foundation

Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream, $25, Amazon; MAC Face and Body Foundation , $28, Nordstrom; Japonesque Color Luminous Foundation, $36, Amazon

Choosing the right foundation (or BB cream) is key when it comes to making your makeup look good on dry skin. All of the prepping that we just did will be for naught if you use a foundation that dries your skin out and looks too matte or caked-on. If you have dry skin, look for makeup that's advertised for dry skin or contains words like "luminous," "dewy," "hydrating," or "glowing." The ones in the photo above are my personal favorites.

The bareMinerals Complexion Rescue is basically a BB cream, and it has the lightest coverage of the three. I use this one most days because of the natural look and the SPF 30. It's easy to apply, whether with a brush or your fingers, and although it won't cover everything it does give dry skin an amazing glow. It's available in 10 shades and I use the shade Vanilla, for reference.

The MAC Face and Body Foundation is a great foundation choice if you want light coverage and a dewy finish. I prefer to use a fluffy kabuki brush to apply this. It comes in 13 shades and I use the shade N1.

If you want medium to full coverage for dry skin, then you need Japonesque Luminous Foundation. It comes in 10 shades and I use Shade 2. I apply it with a foundation brush (this Sigma brush is my favorite) for a flawless finish. It covers almost everything and, despite the heavier coverage, it doesn't look or feel heavy. It has a nice, luminous finish just as the name promises.

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, $28, Amazon

I should also mention concealer. My all-time favorite concealer for dry skin is NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. I use the shade Vanilla.

It does indeed have a radiant and creamy finish, and covers extremely well. With this, my skin looks perfect.

5. Set

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfecter Poured in Rose Gold, $38, Sephora; Becca Shimmering Skin Perfecter in Pearl, $41, Sephora; Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray, $31, Sephora

Now for the final touches. If I need an extra glow, I'll add a highlighter and a cream blush. Then I set everything with a setting spray.

The Becca Shimmering Skin Perfecter Poured in Rose Gold makes for a great cream blush, whereas the liquid version in Pearl is an ideal highlighter for my cheekbones and brow bone. I blend both with my fingers. A few quick sprays of the UD setting spray makes my makeup last for hours without making it look dry or matte.

Here's a before picture of me without any makeup (or even moisturizer) on:

You can see how my skin looks a bit dull and red.

Now here's the results of all the aforementioned steps:

In this picture, I'm wearing the Japonesque Luminous Foundation in addition to the Pixi primer, NARS concealer, and Becca highlighters. You'd never know that I suffer from extremely dry skin by looking at this after picture, right? As long as you moisturize regularly and use the right products, you too can take your skin from parched to glowing.

Images: Kelly Dougher