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What’s the Best Skin Tint and Is the Answer None of Them?

They’re tinted moisturizers that don’t moisturize and I tried them all

I’ve always been obsessed with makeup, and obsessed with the idea of not wearing makeup. When makeup brands began retailing "skin tints" in the past few years, I thought I'd found the solution for girls everywhere looking to secretly wear makeup while telling people in their nine person seminar classes they don’t capitulate to hegemony, or something. Skin tints promised to deliver a better version of my skin.

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Unlike chalky, sometimes-brown-and-sparkly BB creams or foundations, skin tints are light and sheer, allowing one’s pores and skin texture to show through the makeup. If this sounds suspiciously like tinted moisturizer, it mostly is because it is. After posting in an online forum where a community of cosmetic chemists talk about dweeb stuff (I called myself a "journalist looking for answers" like I was cracking a decades-long murder case), that was the the consensus.

So basically, they’re a less effective tinted moisturizer.

But Bob Zonis, the senior formulating chemist at Beaumont Products and a cosmetic chemist who hasworked on color cosmetics for Estee Lauder, Maybelline, and Elizabeth Arden, told me that the phrase "skin tint" isn’t just a marketing trick. "If someone sells a ‘Tinted Moisturizer,’ they still have to prove that it moisturizes," said Zonis. "Otherwise, both the FDA and the FTC could go after them for violations. A clinical test to prove moisturization is expensive, and only gets more so every year." Skin tints don’t have to prove they moisturize, and thus require no expensive test. So basically, they’re a less effective tinted moisturizer.

So basically, they’re a less effective tinted moisturizer.

Obviously, though, I’m a slave to capitalism and have tried dozens of skin tints in the hopes of a more fulfilling social, professional, and sexual life. I have some answers. For a dewy look (I like to call it That Wet Look) I mixed these with Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer. For a more matte look, I mixed these with Garnier’s 5 Second Blur. That might be off-label advice because you’re supposed to use the 5 Second Blur under makeup, but I’ve done it a ton of times and didn’t die or even contract a virus.

Cover FX Custom Cover Drops, $44.00

The marketing rhetoric surrounding Cover FX Custom Cover Drops is entrenched in a narrative myth of customization and free will, kind of like Chipotle. The intention of this product is that the consumer can add one to four drops of it into any primer or moisturizer to build a custom amount of coverage. The idea, I think, is smart. In execution, it’s just gloopy as fuck.

Which begs the question: do I look like an apothecarist to you? Oh I do?

The packaging of the Cover FX Custom Cover Drops (redundant!) is the worst I’ve seen in my many centuries of applying viscous peach-hued broths to my face. Because the CFCCD concept is so caught up in the concept of "choice" and "blendability," it comes in a vial with an eyedropper. Which begs the question: do I look like an apothecarist to you? Oh I do? Well in that case, thank you. I’m thinking about opening up an apothecary/coffee bar in New Buffalo, MI called Old Wives when I turn 42.

This is just thick foundation. But it’s a nice thick foundation, and it’s one that comes in 25 shades.

I haven’t worn this alone, only blended into moisturizer and primer. One drop gives full coverage, but I’ve cranked it up to four on particularly acne-riddled days. Once, I was sitting in a businesswoman’s office while wearing this and she told me that I had beautiful skin, which literally has never happened before. Neither that compliment nor the sitting in the businesswoman’s office.

Lush Colour Supplement, $17.95

On the night I would receive Lush’s Colour Supplement via messenger for this article, my roommate and I were waiting for a pizza. We had dangerously low blood sugar. To stave off our hunger, we were eating three-week-old apples and a tin of Jordanian Maamoul cookies we received as a gift from her boyfriend in October and forgot about until that moment. After an hour of waiting, the doorbell rang. When we answered the door, however, the delivery person wasn’t holding a pizza, but a 0.6 ounce pot of vegan foundation.

I will buy this product even after this hyper-intense, Gonzo skin tint experiment is over.

I don’t want to belittle real suffering by saying we were devastated, but really we were devastated. But here’s the thing, this "colour supplement" (Oukay, Canada, I’m not here to police your language, buttttt) works so beautifully it almost made up for the fact that it wasn’t our cult-favorite pizza at the door when we needed it most. I will buy this product even after this hyper-intense, Gonzo skin tint experiment is over. Plus, it’s the cheapest of all the tints featured here! Five out of five iPods!

Unlike most skin tints, this product is a whipped mousse with a velvety finish instead of a liquid. It doesn’t make your face look mossy or furry, as some mousses do, but sort of dewy (a tip for free: you always look dewy if your mirror and phone case are constantly covered in finger grease). Mixed with moisturizer or primer, the pigment in this product goes far, and the texture changes, too. It’s almost milky, but not in a gross way. Even alone, the coverage of this little pot of goo works well on discoloration (I have a perpetually chapped chin from weather and over-exfoliation). It works less well plastering over pimples, milia, or other 3D blemishes. The Colour Supplement comes in seven shades, and if you’re looking for an added air of That Wet Look and have rabid brand loyalty, Lush also makes a bronzing skin tint and a highlighting skin tint to build on top that people on the internet seem to like.

Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint, $26.00

I’m a ride or die bitch for Into the Gloss and its start-up skincare/cosmetics branch Glossier, and I ordered this stuff legiterally the second it went live last year. Glossier has a "makeup as skincare" approach and usually it works. I love Glossier’s spirit of female entrepreneurship, love its packaging, love its Instagram, but I only kinda like its skin tint.

I love Glossier’s spirit of female entrepreneurship, love its packaging, love its Instagram, but I only kinda like its skin tint.

I find the Perfecting Skin Tint impossible to apply evenly with my fingers, which defeats the point of a breezy, face-forward product. The Perfecting Skin Tint is a thin, sheer liquid and instead I have to blend the shit out of it onto my face with my dirty, gnawed-on Beauty Blender. When mixed with the Priming Moisturizing the tint looks pretty, but I wonder why these two separate products don’t just exist as one, premixed. I experimented with full coverage using this product, and I found I needed 14 drops to cover up normal chin and cheek redness.I was disillusioned with it all. Is "customization" really all that? Can the available five shades satisfy all skin tones? Can women have it all? Should I go to grad school? Do overnight oats even taste good or do I just like the lifestyle concept of eating out of a mason jar? I don’t have the answers, but check back with me in a month or so. I feel as if all will be demystified by then.

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Day Tint, $48.00

I’m a sucker for stylish Korean packaging and pretending to understand scientific breakthroughs in skincare, which is why I spent $48 this summer on a tube of tinted moisturizer. I got hot and bothered by the concept of "time release microcapsule ceramides" inside this tint, which are apparently tiny particles that rebuild the skin barrier after damage from scrubbing, scarring, and chafing (all gerunds I am overly familiar with). I like the rest of the Dr. Jart + Ceramidin line (particularly the Oil Balm, though not anymore than I like Vaseline, to be truthful), but this product is useless to me. Except for the SPF 15 in it. Wear sunscreen if you remember. I know it’s so hard to remember, especially in the darkest days of winter.

I’m a sucker for stylish Korean packaging and pretending to understand scientific breakthroughs in skincare

The Ceramidin Day Tint comes in only one shade, which I can’t pull off. It’s yellow, but doesn’t even try to color correct my skin’s redness. I look jaundiced. As an experiment, I wore this over a color correcting green concealer on red spots and this is so light, the green shone through. This is the skin tint that made me lose my childlike innocence about skin tints. It’s indistinguishable from a tinted moisturizer. Maybe the ceramides are real, but I don’t see Dr. Jart giving any Ted Talks about it, so I’m not convinced.

Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation Serum, $60

I’m always 35 minutes early to everything because I have a pernicious anxiety disorder, but it’s really a boon whenever there’s a Sephora within a two mile radius. I used to take a fiction workshop that was three blocks from an extremely good Sephora (Wow, I hear you thinking, she writes both hard-hitting pieces on fleshy goos AND literary fiction?!?! Let’s hire her to do freelance work!). I used to go before class every week and subtly mist myself with SK-II Facial Treatment Essence and redo my eyebrows. But then my brother’s girlfriend told me that Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation Serum changed her life and I was like, okay, got to use my precious little time at Sephora and purchase this product because I trust Ani. (Her name is Ani; Hi Ani!).

The guy at the register told me this was his go-to gym makeup.

Like a damn fool, I bought Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation Serum without really testing it or doing any research. The guy at the register told me this was his go-to gym makeup. It made me feel better that someone else in the city in which I live has similar hang-ups with facial upkeep, but I don’t agree with him at all. Wearing foundation to the gym is even beyond me, mostly because I sweat exclusively out of my forehead rather than my armpits.

This only comes in one color, and it doesn’t work with my face. It’s orange with a semi-matte finish. I first tried applying this to my dry face, and it was impossible to spread and blend. Then I washed it off and started over, diluting the serum with primer. I will concede this: a little pigment goes far. But at that point, I was just wearing a foundation I made myself rather than a "no foundation" serum. I’ve tried to love this product because I paid so much money for it and it’s a good product to talk about when pleasant conversation comes to a stand still, but I couldn’t get away wearing this without it looking orange in dark lighting, much less to the gym like the well-groomed fellow at the Downtown Brooklyn Sephora.

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