It doesn’t matter how expensive your makeup is or how perfectly you apply it — if your skin isn’t prepped properly, your makeup is never going to look as good as you want it to. Smooth, well-hydrated skin is the secret to your foundation looking flawless (or the secret to using less foundation and concealer in general). Backstage at fashion week and behind the scenes before red carpet events, makeup artists are spending as much — if not more time — cleansing, toning, and moisturizing as they are applying actual makeup. And a good moisturizer under your makeup is key. The best ones hydrate, smooth, mattify, or add a glow depending on the look you’re going for and, most importantly, play well with makeup. These are some of the moisturizers that top makeup artists have stashed in their kits.
Sunday Riley Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner ($55)
Stella McCartney’s show starts bright and early at 10 a.m. every fashion week, which means the models need to arrive at 6 a.m., after a late night of fittings and almost a month of living out of a suitcase. It’s why McCartney, who came backstage and offered free mini facials to all the girls who were walking the show, enlists the help of skin-care brand Sunday Riley. Not only is it a nice treat so early in the morning, but it gets the skin in perfect shape for makeup artist Pat McGrath and her team, who kept the models’ faces as pure and as naked as possible. Last season, Sunday Riley incorporated a new product into their quickie facial routine. After massaging the skin with a blend of the brand’s Ceramic Slip Cleanser and UFO Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil and wiping it off with a warm washcloth, the aestheticians backstage then smoothed the Martian Mattifying Toner all over the face. The gel formula, which breaks down into a more watery consistency as it’s rubbed in, left the models’ skin with the perfect velvety-matte finish—eliminating shiny spots, softening dry areas, and making pores at least appear a bit smaller.
Butter Elixir Face Oil ($58)
This all-natural face oil started showing up in makeup artist Tom Pecheux’s kit about a year ago after one of his assistants found it at a store in Brooklyn, and he hasn’t stopped using it since. “I love the smell, I love the fact it’s oily but it doesn’t feel greasy, and that it doesn’t feel like there’s much left over on the skin after application,” he explained. “You know how sometimes when you put on oil it’s hard for the skin to absorb it and it’s hard for the makeup to stick to the skin and not slide around? Well, this obviously doesn’t do that otherwise, I wouldn’t use it.” And because it features an all-star list of oils — apricot, rosehip, and argan — it’s not only intensely nourishing, it’s also good at soothing raw, dry, or flaky skin, even around the delicate eye area.
Sanctuary Instant Illuminating Beauty Balm
A favorite of makeup artist Lisa Butler, this beauty balm promises to hydrate (thanks to vitamin E and glycerin), brighten (with vitamin-C-rich kakadu plum), and give skin a soft-focus finish as a result of the blurring powders in the thick formula. “You squeeze it out and it’s a bit opaque, but as you rub, it goes clear,” said Butler backstage at Isabel Marant, where she incorporated the balm into her prep routine. “It’s really oily but it does soak in a bit, so we apply it and then let it absorb for a minute. It’s not as thick as Arden Eight Hour Cream, but it’s much oilier than a moisturizer. Because we really want that shine [for the show], I’d rather get a shine from skin care than from a shimmery highlighter, which won’t look as natural and effortless.” Based in Great Britain, the brand unfortunately doesn’t ship outside of the U.K., but I did track the product down on Amazon if you’re interested in giving it a try.
M.A.C. Mineralize Timecheck Lotion ($45)
Makeup artist Val Garland has whipped out this lightweight gel lotion backstage at countless fashion shows. “I’m loving this product,” she said at Giambattista Valli. “It’s a great primer because it gives a fantastic matte texture to the skin.”
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream ($100)
The woman behind the eponymous makeup empire has used this incredibly rich, thick moisturizer on models for years (luckily for us, she now sells it to non-models). “I never ever go anywhere without [it],” she says. “It is my secret weapon for dream skin! It contains camelia oil, rosehip oil, Bionymph peptides, and hyaluronic acid; it instantly floods the skin with moisture. I never ever start a makeup without it, as it makes it last longer and look glowing, gorgeous, and luminous!” The makeup maven has also been known to apply her cream with a gentle tapping motion, which reduces puffiness while increasing circulation.
Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Infusion de Rose Nourishing Crème ($68)
Mario Dedivanovic often opts for this lightweight cream, which smells faintly of roses. “This is one of my go-tos,” he says, “as it works great with all skin types! It contains rosehip-seed oil, which helps locks in moisture all day and gives the makeup a gorgeous glow. When I use this on my clients I can see the makeup become one with the skin,” he adds.
Philosophy Renewed Hope in a Jar ($38)
This AHA-spiked moisturizer is excellent at promoting cell turnover (one of the pillars of glowing skin). “This moisturizer is not only lightweight,” says Dedivanovic, “but the formula is whipped so it feels and sits beautifully on the skin.” He loves using it as a base for creating radiant looks: “It helps to bring out the natural glow of my clients’ skin,” he explains, “[which keeps] the overall look very fresh.”
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream ($27)
Makeup artist Carl Ray says he loves using this cult classic on his clients (one of whom is Michelle Obama). “Foundation and concealer apply smoothly and evenly [after use], creating a completely clear canvas,” he notes. This simple formula is also one of Dedivanovic’s favorites: “It’s just a very emollient moisturizer that works well with all skin types,” he says. It works especially well with looks that require more powder because the powder grabs onto the moisture and prevents it from looking too dry. “
- The 10 Best Moisturizers Under $20
- Here’s How to Layer Your Skin-Care Products for Dry Skin
- The Exact Products Used to Get Glow-y Skin at The Row
Now give yourself a mini facial massage:
- 1 Sunday Riley Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner ($55)
- 2 Butter Elixir Face Oil ($58)
- 3 Sanctuary Instant Illuminating Beauty Balm
- 4 M.A.C. Mineralize Timecheck Lotion ($45)
- 5 Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream ($100)
- 6 Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Infusion de Rose Nourishing Crème ($68)
- 7 Philosophy Renewed Hope in a Jar ($38)
- 8 Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream ($27)