Tips For Achieving Even Makeup Application On Dry, Flaky Skin

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Dealing with skin dryness is a challenge on its own, and putting makeup on those flaky patches can cause a headache. Sometimes it may seem like you've done everything right, and then your foundation, highlighter, or blush sticks to a dry patch and make it even more apparent. Whether your skin is naturally on the drier side or you're affected by external factors, makeup should make your skin look better, not create another problem to deal with.

Achieving flawless makeup application on dry skin is definitely possible with a little bit of effort. Focusing on the right skincare ingredients and practices will help combat dullness and flaky skin, as will the right makeup products. Before doing anything else, you should be exfoliating on a regular basis with either a chemical or physical exfoliant to remove any flakes. Moisturizing with a hydrating product is the next crucial step, after which you'll want to use a hydrating makeup primer before applying your base.

Once you've tackled the skincare portion of the process, it's time to find the right makeup formulations for skin prone to dryness. Powder-based products will make your skin look duller, so make sure to go for liquid or cream highlighters, blushes, and foundations. Don't forget to set your dewy look with a setting spray and refresh it with a hydrating facial mist as needed. Dry skin, who?

Exfoliate before doing anything else

The first step to achieving flawless makeup application on dry skin that tends to flake is to exfoliate. How you go about this step will depend on the level of dryness you're experiencing as well as how sensitive your skin is. Either way, exfoliation is crucial for removing dead skin cells that are flaking off and it will allow hydrating ingredients to penetrate the skin better later on in the skincare process.

Exfoliating the skin can be done with either a physical or chemical exfoliator. If your skin is not sensitive, using a physical exfoliator like a scrub or an exfoliating brush is an easy way to combat flaky skin. "Mechanical exfoliation usually involves physically removing the dead skin cells by either microdermabrasion, microbead scrubs, or other abrasive materials," board-certified dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum explained to InStyle. However, she notes, steer clear of rubbing your face too hard, as it can cause microtears on the skin's surface.

On the other hand, a chemical exfoliant will work best for sensitive skin as well as acne-prone skin. According to Neal Schultz, a board-certified dermatologist, chemical exfoliation is generally preferable to using a physical exfoliant as it's more effective and predictable (via InStyle). Schultz recommends using glycolic acid, but you can also use lactic acid, as both are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which are great gentle exfoliants. Make sure you're not applying a chemical exfoliator every day, as overdoing it can irritate dry skin, Nussbaum warns.

Use a moisturizer with hydrating ingredients

Moisturizing is crucial after you've exfoliated, as the fresh skin that's been revealed needs hydration. It's likely that you won't completely get rid of skin dryness with just one moisturizing session before bed, so it would be best to develop a skincare routine for dry skin you'll follow day-to-day.

With so many serums, oils, and creams out there, it can be hard to know what's best for your skin. According to Melissa Lekus, a Los Angeles esthetician, hyaluronic acid is going to be your best friend if you have dryness issues. "The best ingredient for dry or dehydrated skin is hyaluronic acid, due to its ability to hold up to 1000 times its weight in hydration," she explained in a conversation with Healthline. A serum is your best bet if you have blemish-prone skin, as they are more often than not non-comedogenic, which means they won't block your pores. If you prefer the texture of a cream, look for oil-free options that were formulated specifically for acne-prone skin. Oils are great for sensitive skin overall, especially rosehip and squalane oils.

As for the ingredients to avoid if you have dry skin, Lekus advises against using moisturizers that contain kaolin, charcoal, salicylic acid, and tea tree oil. "[These] over-dry already dry skin, stripping the top layer of the epidermis, which may result in flaky or scaly skin," she tells Healthline.

Don't skip primer

After you've exfoliated and moisturized, just one more step is needed to prepare the skin for a flawless foundation application, and that's priming. Many don't prime their faces before putting on foundation, but if you have dry skin, it's a step you don't want to miss. Makeup artist Nydia Figueroa warns that not using a primer will most likely cause your foundation to cake, which is exactly the opposite of what you want with dry skin. When speaking to Allure, Figueroa recommended using a primer with moisturizing ingredients, like one with hyaluronic acid. She noted that vitamin E, aloe, and blue agave extract are also great hydrators to look out for.

Mary Phillips, a makeup artist, advises to steer clear of brushes when applying primer. "A makeup brush will just drag the primer around," she shared with Allure, adding that a damp beauty sponge is a good alternative if you don't enjoy the idea of your fingers possibly contaminating the product. After application, Phillips recommends leaving the primer for a minute or two to fully absorb into the skin, which will prevent your base makeup from pilling.

The Plump & Prime Face Plumping Primer Serum by Too Faced is cruelty-free and contains collagen-boosting peptides, while the Bare With Me Hydrating Jelly Primer by NYX is a similar product at a lower price point. If you've never used a primer before and don't want to break the bank for it, Catrice's The Hydrator is a great starting point.

Avoid powder-based makeup products

While it can seem time-consuming to have to do all of these steps to ensure your makeup looks good, taking care of your dry skin is crucial. When choosing a foundation, it's important to remember that not all makeup formulas work the same on different types of skin. "Foundation can look cakey and dry as a result of the foundation itself or as a result of the skin that it's being applied to," board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick explained when talking to Byrdie. The same goes for highlighters and blushes! If you have dry skin, powdered products should generally be avoided, as they tend to cling to uneven skin patches, making them more apparent.

Unsurprisingly, the best modus operandi is to go for products that contain moisturizing ingredients. "Those with dry skin may benefit from foundations with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid [and] liquid formulations," Garshick shared, adding that "[they'll] deliver long-lasting hydration while providing buildable coverage, improving the overall complexion." Other than formula, focus on lightweight products and apply them with your fingers for a natural finish.

In a conversation with Byrdie, makeup artist Nick Lujan warned to watch how much product you're using, as overdoing it can make your dry skin look worse than it actually is. Using lightweight liquid products that are buildable will create the best possible results, unlike caking on layers of powder-based makeup.

Use a facial spray to additionally hydrate dry skin

Setting your makeup is just as important as priming your skin before applying it. A setting spray is going to help the makeup stay in place, and if you have dry skin, it can also be an additional aid to keeping it looking dewy and hydrated all day long, says makeup artist Nydia Figueroa. "I love using a setting spray over makeup to combat dryness and add longevity," she tells Byrdie.

Don't be afraid to re-apply the setting spray throughout the day if you need to add a little glow to your skin. A moisturizing facial mist is a good alternative and will also provide a cooling effect when you need it most.

Steer clear of sprays and mists that have a matte finish and choose products with hydrating properties that will leave your complexion glowy. Caudalie's Beauty Elixir Prep, Set, Glow Face Mist is a three-in-one product with a refreshing scent that comes in the perfect on-the-go size. The Makeup Setting Spray by NYX is a lightweight spray that will leave your skin feeling and looking dewy, while e.l.f.'s Makeup Mist & Set is a budget-friendly option with hydrating ingredients such as aloe and vitamin E. The Facial Spray by Evian is a tried-and-true refreshing facial mist that comes in three handy sizes for all your needs, while the Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist is specifically formulated to combat dry skin and dullness.