Tinted moisturizer is a type of facial makeup that combines the benefits of foundation and moisturizer. More sheer and “breathable” than traditional foundation, it offers cosmetic benefits that regular moisturizer cannot. Tinted moisturizers offer a middle ground for those who dislike thick makeup but still want a hint of coverage, and they have become popular because of their light feel and natural look. Like foundation and moisturizer, tinted moisturizer can be used as a base for other cosmetics, but many women choose to wear the product alone, especially during the summer months.


Modern foundation finds its roots in the 1600s, when European theaters created makeup out of lard and ochres for their performers to use. Max Factor produced the first commercially available foundation in 1937; his formula, Pan-Cake, was originally developed for use on-camera but soon became overwhelmingly popular among the general population (by 1940, one in three American women used Pan-Cake). Like Pan-Cake, most other foundation products were fairly thick and highly pigmented until the 1980s. In the 1990s, sheer foundation became popular; soon after that, the tinted moisturizer was developed.

Color Matching

Tinted moisturizers are often offered in a smaller range of shades than foundation. Many of the most popular brands, like Laura Mercier and Bobbi Brown, offer tinted moisturizers in fewer than 10 shades. However, this is because tinted moisturizer does not need to be exactly matched to the user’s skin tone; it is generally sheer and blendable enough that a close match is all that is needed.

Range of Pigmentation

“Tinted moisturizer” is not a regulated term, and thus, a tinted moisturizer can contain only tiny amounts of pigment or can be nearly as opaque as a regular foundation. Generally, a quick test of the product’s consistency will tell how concentrated the pigment is: sheer tinted moisturizers will be thinner, while more opaque tinted moisturizers will be creamy.

Added Features

Tinted moisturizers often feature an SPF to protect the skin from sun exposure, and many also contain anti-aging products. Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Enhancers brand contains SPF 20 as well as retinol. Consumers with oily skin can buy oil-free versions, while those with dry skin can buy moisture-rich brands like Bobbi Brown’s tinted moisturizer, which contains shea butter and glycerin. Those looking for other ingredients in a tinted moisturizer will likely find them. Other products contain chamomile, light-reflecting pigments and soy protein.

Best Seller

Today, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer continues to receive much press as one of the best tinted moisturizers available. Allure Magazine consistently names it as a winner for their “Best of Beauty” award, Town & Country put it on their 150 Best Beauty Products list, and Cosmopolitan has rated it as the sheerest and best tinted moisturizer. InStyle has featured it, and Sephora reports that the product is a constant best seller.