Everyone knows that great makeup starts with your skin. But with winter in full swing and dry, flaky, irritated skin to contend with, how is anyone supposed to slay in these conditions? Sure, there’s plenty we can do to switch up our skin care during the wintertime—from infusing nourishing ingredients into our regimens and swapping our regular moisturizer routine to ‘French girl slugging’—but it stands to reason that your makeup application should get an update, too.
While the heat and humidity of summertime calls for heavy duty putty primers and oil-absorbing powders, mastering your winter makeup prep is all about packing on hydration, according to Rachel Duncan, professional makeup artist and owner of luxury bridal makeup company Color Me Gorgeous.
“Beautiful makeup starts with hydrated skin, I can’t say it enough,” explains Duncan. “Get rid of all that dead/dry skin…It’s what causes cakey looking makeup nine out of 10 times.” In lieu of a dedicated makeup primer, opt for a smoothing, hydrating serum instead to prep skin for winter makeup. “You want to use skin care that balances the skin, replenishes, and protects that moisture barrier,” says Duncan. “Not only does it leave the skin looking juicy and plump, but it also is a foundational step for glowing, long-wearing makeup.” To help you serve looks all season long, we tapped pro makeup artists to share their favorite serums for winter makeup prep.
10 Hydrating serums for flawless winter makeup
Danessa Myricks, Beauty Oil with Gold Leaf — $30.00
To prep winter skin for a flawless makeup application, Duncan swears by Danessa Myrick’s Beauty Oil. “It’s full of hydrating ingredients like squalane, jojoba, and sunflower that nourish the skin…There’s also a gold leaf in it to calm redness,” she explains. Duncan says the skin-nourishing dry oil has a lightweight texture that agrees with clients across skin types, and that it absorbs beautifully without leaving a greasy residue behind. What you get is a “a lovely, hydrated complexion ready for whatever makeup look you’re ready to create!”
Rituel de Fille, Thorn Oil Priming Facial Elixir — $68.00
Celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenburg is no stranger to makeup hybrids—she created the Bloss (lip balm and gloss) and Blighlighter (blush and highlighter). So it’s no wonder that she’s a fan of Rituel de Fille’s Priming Facial Elixir, which is a makeup primer and nourishing face oil in one. “This serum is a gentle moisturizer for dry skin and also helps to balance oily and combination skin,” Greenburg explains.
With antioxidant-rich rosehip oil, and nourishing marula oil at the top of the ingredient list, this luxe face oil kicks winter dryness to the curb while softening skin for a gorgeous makeup application. “Since it’s oil-based, it works best as a primer for oil-based makeup products but really can be used under anything,” says Greenburg. “I recommend allowing a few minutes for the serum to absorb into the skin before applying your makeup.”
Cocokind, Ceramide Barrier Serum — $22.00
Celebrity makeup artist and founder of Color May Vary, Renee Loiz, who’s responsible for Quinta Brunson of Abbott Elementary’s gorgeous red carpet glam, loves Cocokind’s budget-friendly Barrier Serum as winter makeup prep. “It deeply hydrates the skin and reduces water loss all while smoothing skin texture and increasing suppleness,” says Loiz. It also helps combat visible signs of skin irritation, which is a huge plus during harsh winters that can stir up trouble for sensitive skin.
Ren Clean Skincare, EverCalm Redness Relief Serum — $60.00
To combat the red, dry skin that the cold winter air inevitably brings, pro makeup artist and men’s groomer Lucy Halperin loves the EverCalm Redness Relief Serum. “It counteracts dry, tight winter skin, and calms any redness while strengthening the skin’s moisture barrier,” she says. Halperin will use the skin-soothing serum along with the matching day cream or recovery balm, depending on her client’s needs. “Overall, the range is super buildable, lightweight, and gives skin a dewy, healthy look before applying makeup.” To get the most out of the product, Halperin recommends patting it into the skin for optimal absorption, and “don’t forget the neck area, including the back of the neck!”
Saint Jane, Luxury Beauty Serum — $125.00
This Saint Jane serum is a serious splurge, I know, but hear me out—celebrity makeup artist Molly R. Stern (who’s worked with Maya Rudolph and White Lotus’ Simona Tabasco) says it makes for beautiful skin prep before applying winter makeup. “It calms the skin and provides intense hydration,” says Stern. The high-end serum uses a soothing hemp extract along with a blend of ultra-nourishing plant oils and extracts to calm irritated skin, banish dryness, and reduce redness. Stern recommends mixing a few drops with your foundation for an extra glowy look.
The Outset, Vegan Collagen Prep Serum — $46.00
While we totally understand the skepticism around celeb beauty brands, the Vegan Collagen Prep Serum by Scarlett Johanssens’s skin-care line, The Outset, is worth the hype. Celebrity makeup artist Melanie Inglessis—who’s worked with everyone from Ana De Armas and Jennifer Lawrence, to Wednesday’s Jenna Ortega—uses it to prime skin for a flawless makeup application. The skin-smoothing serum uses vegan collagen and a botanical alternative to hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump skin. “It is the perfect product to boost radiance, improve elasticity and smooth the look of wrinkles for a firmer appearance before makeup,” she explains.
Monastery, Aloe — $84.00
This Monastery serum is a staple in celebrity makeup artist Rachel Goodwin’s kit. And given that her client list spans some of our favorite A-listers, from Rose Byrne and Sarah Michelle Gellar, to Rachel Bilson and Emma Stone, I’ll be adding this one to my cart ASAP. The lightweight gel serum touts two molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, suspended in a base of super-soothing aloe vera for makeup prep that’s equally calming and hydrating. “It is extremely soothing and hydrating and leaves the skin ready to wear makeup,” says Goodwin. And thanks to naturally fragrant clary sage, white camphor, and lavender oils, “it also provides an aromatherapeutic skin-care prep experience.”
Pai Skincare, Back to Life Serum — $74.00
Pai’s Back to Life Serum is the ultimate pick me up for dry, dull winter skin. Gabriella Boccia, a makeup artist for The Detox Market says it’s a go-to before makeup application in the wintertime. “The Back to Life Serum gives your skin a great hit of hydration which prevents makeup from settling into dry spots, and [helps makeup] blend evenly over skin,” says Boccia. The water-based serum uses glycerin (a hero for dry skin, according to derms), along with nourishing jojoba oil and plumping hyaluronic acid to deliver lasting hydration and comfort to dry skin in need of TLC. “It’s like a drink of water for your skin that is gentle enough to use if you are sensitive or irritation prone,” explains Boccia.
Tower28, SOS Intensive Rescue Serum — $34.00
To deliver soothing hydration to dry, winter skin before applying makeup, celebrity makeup artist Beth Follert (the mastermind behind Constance Wu’s stunning makeup looks) keeps this Tower28 serum in her kit. The sister product to the brand’s best-selling SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray, the SOS Intensive Rescue Serum is powered by hypochlorous acid, a powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial ingredient that soothes sensitive skin, reduces redness, and strengthens its moisture barrier. “It’s great for calming the skin (and especially sensitive skin) before makeup application,” says Follert. The result is softer, visibly soothed skin that’s the perfect canvas for makeup.
Charlotte Tilbury, Collagen Superfusion Face Oil — $80.00
“One of my favorite serums to use would have to be the Charlotte Tilbury Collagen Superfusion Face Oil,” says NYC-based makeup artist Judi Gabbay, who’s worked with Real Housewives of New Jersey star Melissa Gorga, and TikTok creator Madison Beer. “It’s a great start for skin prep under glam, as it hydrates and plumps skin quickly with the help of vitamins A & E.” The skin-softening face oil also features antioxidant-rich avocado, olive, babassu, and raspberry seed oils to combat winter dryness and give skin a healthy, radiant glow that looks gorgeous under makeup. Plus, you can get the mini size for under $30.
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