The 5 Best Moisturizers Under Makeup

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By Marissa DeSantis

You can use the best foundation money can buy, but when it comes to smooth, long-lasting makeup that won't crease or flake, there's nothing more important than the canvas you start out with. When prepping your skin for a full face of glam, it's essential to start off by applying one of the best moisturizers under makeup. Formulated with a base of hydrating ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, they can brighten the skin, provide sun protection, or provide a matte surface for foundation.

When it comes to ingredients, Orange County-based makeup artist Betsy Kelly Marshall calls glycerin the “ultimate hydrator,” and one that you’ll (luckily) come across in most moisturizers, but if you’re working with dry, creased skin, she recommends amping up the power with hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate, which is a form of hyaluronic acid. Kelly Marshall continues, “These [ingredients] bind moisture to the skin, so they’re best when used with a rose water spray or other hydrating mist.”

Beyond that, you’ll want to keep your specific skin goals in mind. For a brighter complexion, opt for ingredients like vitamin C and niacinamide which help stimulate cell turnover, and if you’re looking to curb oil, look for a mattifying formula, or one that prevents acne by by purifying pores with salicylic acid. You can also buy a moisturizer with sunscreen for UV protection, or — if you’re looking for a formula that’ll improve skin while you go about your day, opt for a lightweight serum that sinks deeply into pores to deliver active ingredients.

No matter what your primary skin concern is, you'll want to avoid any night creams or rich moisturizers that will be too heavy to penetrate the skin, since that can mess with your makeup application. With all that in mind, you'll find five of the best moisturizers to wear under makeup to help get you started.


The Industry Pro Favorite

This modest-looking moisturizer has a surprisingly glamorous following. Not only is the Embroylisse Hydra-Cream Light a French pharmacy favorite, but it's also Kelly Marshall’s first recommendation for an under-makeup moisturizer. Recently made available in the U.S., the lightweight moisturizer is made with water lily extract and two types of hyaluronic acid to leave skin hydrated all day long.

According to a reviewer: “I don’t have dry spots or cracking from the foundation when using this product. In the winter, or if I'm traveling to drier climates, I use moisturizer, Embryolisse, and SPF. My face feels smooth and makeup looks great.”


The Best Brightening Moisturizer

If you’re looking for moisturizer that’ll give you a radiant glow at an affordable price, this is the one. Another Kelly Marshall pick, Acure’s brightening day cream boasts two all-star ingredients: moisturizing argan oil and cica, which is a K-beauty fave that works to brighten, calm sensitive skin, and seal in moisture. But that’s not all — this formula is also packed with niacinamide to stimulate skin cell turnover and antioxidant-rich ingredients like kale and chlorella to protect skin from the elements. Acure’s moisturizer is also available in several other formulations that do everything from preventing acne to soothing irritation to resurfacing skin.

According to a reviewer: “Love this line of products. The day cream absorbs clean into the skin with no residue and can be worn to hydrate under makeup.”


Best Priming Gel Moisturizer

Kelly Marshall recommends this lightweight hyaluronic acid serum that practically disappears into pores. And once it is in your pores, it won’t just provide long-lasting hydration, it’ll also deliver antioxidant vitamin C esters and skin-conditioning vitamin B complex. The addition of green tea and cucumber extract work to calm redness and diminish the appearance of fine lines. The results? Plump, replenished, and rejuvenated skin. This fast-absorbing water gel formula is definitely the way to go if you’re in the market for a moisturizing serum with active ingredients to improve skin.

According to a reviewer: “When I got my first bottle of Sonage NMF Hyaluronic Serum, I was hooked! My skin feels soft and luxurious. It's the best hyaluronic serum I have tried.”


The Best Mattifying Moisturizer For Oily Or Acne-Prone Skin

For oily skin types, moisturizing before you apply makeup might seem like an express ticket to shiny skin. But that doesn't have to be your face's fate if you use a mattifying formula like La Roche-Posay's Effaclar Mat moisturizer. The dermatologist-tested moisturizer works to absorb excess oil and reduce the appearance of enlarged pores with micro-spheres and perlite, as well as the brand's Sebulyse technology, which was developed to target oil more powerfully than zinc. Salicylic acid also lands a spot on the ingredients list, making it a great choice for acne-prone skin and treating breakouts. Glycerin, dimethicone, and the brand's thermal spring water help create a smooth and even canvas for makeup.

According to a reviewer: “I have acne-prone VERY oily skin! When i first applied this. It wasn't sticky at all and takes about 1-2 min to completely absorb into my skin! But once it dries down. It is MATTE! [...] This is a miracle!”


The Best Priming Moisturizer With SPF

Save yourself the extra step in your morning routine by using a makeup priming moisturizer that also contains your daily sunscreen. Garnier's SkinActive Clearly Brighter SPF 30 moisturizer offers broad-spectrum sun protection in a non-greasy, moisturizing formula. The multi-benefit face cream is formulated with vitamin C and lipo-hydroxy acid to brighten and exfoliate skin, which helps reduce signs of sun damage, like dark spots, while also protecting skin from future damage. Meanwhile, ingredients like glycerin, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid help hydrate and lock in moisture.

According to a reviewer: “I use it everyday before I put in my makeup. Nice smooth feeling, not greasy at all.”


Also Great: A Hydrating Mist

Since many of the moisturizing ingredients on this list are humectants that bind water to skin, Kelly Marshall advises using a facial mist to lock in hydration. She specifically likes Avène’s Eau Thermale mist, a classic spray that utilizes thermal spring water derived from the south of France. The best part? This cult-favorite doesn’t just add hydration, it also soothes redness and irritation, so it’s perfect for anyone with sensitive skin.

According to a reviewer: “I don't know how I lived without this before. I use this before serum and moisturizer, it's amazing. It calms inflammation [...] It must be the trace minerals or something, but this is amazing.”