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Dewy Freshness or Matte Perfection? Your Guide to Makeup Finishes

Dewy Freshness or Matte Perfection? Your Guide to Makeup Finishes
SkinStore Editors
9 months ago
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Anyone who wears foundation regularly is probably familiar with the two popular finishes: matte and dewy. While each type of makeup has its place in a makeup routine, not every formula perfectly matches every skin type. Quite a lot goes into deciding which is right for you, like the longevity, texture, finish, and skin benefits. So, if choosing between matte foundation and dewy foundation is the makeup conundrum that always leaves you stumped, here’s everything you need to know about matte foundation vs. dewy foundation and the pros and cons of using each.

Table of Contents:

What is Matte Makeup?

Matte makeup is all about a specific finish that makes the skin look healthy with no signs of shine, dewiness or glossiness. Rather than the skin appearing reflective and almost wet (to some degree), matte makeup looks even across the face yet boasts a bright yet velvety finish. Matte makeup (foundation and concealers) is ideal for those who need more makeup coverage and want to hide any last trace of breakouts, enlarged pores, redness, discoloration, and hyperpigmentation and keep oiliness at bay all day and night.

Since matte foundation, available in cream, liquid and powder form, is thicker and more opaque than dewy formulas, matte makeup works well for controlling oil and providing long-lasting coverage that stays put throughout the day. However, if the makeup settles into dry or mature skin, it can accentuate fine lines and wrinkles. That’s because most makeup contains oil-absorbing ingredients such as minerals, powders and even silica to prevent the oil from breaking down the makeup, making it an ideal option for when you need your makeup to last and not look shiny, like for a photoshoot or an important event such as a formal party or wedding.

Achieving a natural look using matte makeup isn’t as difficult as you may think—and it doesn’t require reapplying powder to the makeup throughout the day, either. First, start with a good primer to provide hydration to the skin so that the makeup doesn’t look cakey. Then, apply matte makeup directly to the skin and press it in with a damp blending sponge, creating a seamless, almost airbrushed finish. For oily skin or to ensure that the makeup will last, set the makeup with loose powder.

What is Dewy Makeup?

The most significant difference in dewy finish vs. matte finish makeup is how the skin looks when wearing dewy makeup. The end goal of dewy makeup is to create skin that looks more hydrated, lit from within and with a healthy glow without appearing glittery or shimmery. Dewy makeup doesn’t have to look wet. It should appear natural when done right, almost like you just finished your skincare routine. Since dewy makeup creates a bit of shine on the skin due to the makeup’s light-reflecting capabilities, dewy cream and powder foundations, blushes and highlighters allow for the skin to shine through, making them perfect for daytime makeup, summertime, or just when you want to sport more of a ‘my-skin-but-better’ look. It’s also perfect for giving life to dry or dull-looking skin since dewy makeup imparts a healthy glow.

Dewy makeup shouldn’t look greasy or oily nor slip off the face. Bear in mind that many dewy foundations contain hydrating ingredients, like emollients and humectants, so if your skin is oily, they may not be the best fit. Ideally, you don’t want to mattify makeup that is supposed to have a dewy finish, so try and skip applying powder to set the makeup, which can hinder the formulation’s effects.

To make the most of dewy makeup, apply a small amount of foundation all over the face. Then, layer a liquid or serum-like highlighter onto the tip of the nose, brow bones, high points of the cheeks, and the middle of the chin and press it into the skin with a blending brush or a damp blending sponge. You can also add dewy makeup to the eyes for a bit of a pop. To set everything in place, a light spray of a makeup setting spray will lock the makeup in place.

Matte vs. Dewy Makeup: The Differences Between Them

There are quite a few differences between matte and dewy makeup and the finishes they leave on the skin.


Dewy makeup generates a subtle glow, while matte makeup has a more polished look minus the light reflection. Because different ingredients are used in each type of makeup—dewy makeup contains more hydrating ingredients while matte makeup is made with mattifiers and more powders—the finish is different.


Dewy foundation may feel lighter on the skin than matte formulations since they are formulated with hydrators, giving way to a light-as-air finish.


Matte makeup is more of a long-wear option since it contains oil-absorbing ingredients to prevent the makeup from slipping, shifting or oxidizing in color. Dewy makeup requires more touchups, but applying too much powder to blot down excess shine can transform the finish and make it appear muddy.

While skin type plays into which formulation you choose—dry skin tends to gravitate more towards dewy makeup, while oily skin types appreciate the benefits of matte makeup—how and when you wear each makeup also factors into your decisions. Dewy makeup is generally better for fresh-faced makeup that looks light and natural, while matte makeup is often the choice for full coverage that lasts hours. At the end of the day, which makeup you choose comes down to personal preference.

How to Choose the Right Finish

When choosing between matte vs. dewy foundation, you’ll want to select a formula based on your skin type, the look you’re going for and the occasion.

Here’s what to take into consideration when choosing a dewy finish vs. matte finish: 

Choose Dewy If…

  • Your skin is dull and lacks a healthy glow 
  • Your skin doesn’t sport many lines and wrinkles 
  • You want makeup that’s easy to blend and buildable 

Choose Matte If…

  • Your skin is oily 
  • You want full-coverage makeup
  • You need to cover up blemishes, discoloration and spots 
  • Your makeup needs to last all day or all night

The Best Tips and Tricks for Dewy Makeup vs. Matte Makeup

The key to getting good makeup, whether you use matte or dewy foundation, comes down to applying it the right way. That also includes prepping the skin properly and using the right makeup tools and sponges, which can affect the final result.

It's essential to prep the skin when using dewy foundations and makeup with dewy finishes. Applying a thin layer of a hydrating serum or primer and letting it absorb is necessary to moisturize the skin. Next, apply the dewy makeup to the skin with a damp sponge and then blend it into the skin with a foundation brush for a seamless finish. Since dewy foundation tends not to last as long on the skin as other formulations, setting it in place with a makeup setting spray is key.

For matte makeup, the skin should first be prepped with either oil-free moisturizer or primer to help absorb any excess oil on the skin. Next, apply the matte makeup, but the tools must be based on the makeup formulation. For example, matte powders are applied with a kabuki brush, whereas mattifying foundations and creams can be applied with a makeup sponge or a foundation brush. With a matte foundation, it's best to start with a small amount of product and build up if needed. Then, set the makeup in place with translucent powder.

The Bottom Line

Makeup is an individual choice, and what works for one person's skin may not be the best choice for another. Whether you choose a matte foundation or one with a dewy foundation, understanding each makeup's finish and using them according to your skin's needs and the look you are trying to create will help you decide which one is best for you. It's always fun to mix it up and experiment with new types of makeup; at the end of the day, all about feeling good in your skin.

Shop both matte and dewy makeup looks at SkinStore.

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