Matte or dewy? Here's how to find out which foundation works best for your skin.

Finding a new foundation SUCKS. So many brands. So many formulations. So many ingredients. It's super overwhelming stuff for someone who just wants to know what will make their skin look nice.

More often than not, you'll end up spending your hard-earned pennies on a matte foundation that goes all cakey and gross by 12pm, or a dewy foundation that bails after, like, one hour. So rude. And foundations can be freakin' pricey, so it hurts the soul when you waste money on something that does absolutely jack-all for your complexion. 

Listen to Mamamia's podcast for your face, You Beauty, where Leigh reveals the trick to choosing the right foundation. Post continues below. 

So, what's the go? To help you get started on your journey to finding 'The One', we've asked celebrity makeup artist Michael Brown and M.A.C Cosmetics' Global Senior Makeup Artist Carol Mackie on what we should look for when it comes to finding the right formulation for your skin type.

Matte vs dewy. What's the difference?

Okay, first things first. "The main difference with a matte and dewy foundation is the overall finish," Brown explained. "Matte will have less glow, light reflective properties and often gives a velvet smooth finish to skin, whereas dewy is very light reflecting, is more often than not a lighter feel/texture and has major glow factor."

What are the pros of matte foundations?

"Matte finishes are amazing for oily skin concerns and therefore shine can be more balanced and controlled. Plus, if your skin is textured (bumpy, acne scarring, pores etc.) matte will create a diffused, smoother finish for this type of concern," Brown said. "Matte foundation can also last longer on the skin and is usually associated with a higher coverage."


Alright, what are the cons?

If you have dry skin, listen up – because this one's for you. "Matte foundation can appear dry on a very dry, dehydrated skin type, can look heavier on a more mature skin and show fine lines or facial hair," Mackie said.

Let's talk dewy. What are the pros here?

"Dewy foundations are creamy, add hydration and create a radiant, youthful and fresh finish. They offer a sheer to medium luminosity, provide natural coverage and look great on other parts of the body – such as chest and legs, working to smooth and add hydration whilst covering imperfections," Mackie explained.

According to Brown, dewy foundations can also have some anti-ageing benefits because they reflect light in areas of concern and "don't settle in creases or fine lines". As these formulas are usually really hydrating, this means no dreaded cakey-ness. Yay!

And the cons?

"For me, the biggest con is that dewy foundations sometimes do not last the distance. The 'hold' factor is less, your skin can 'eat' the foundation if it is dehydrated and the formulas is very lightweight," Brown shared. "A good dewy foundation, is one that has a little extra formula density, so it doesn’t slip and slide on the face."

So, always opt for a dense formula when going dewy – gotcha!

Watch: Here's a handy tutorial on getting rid of under-eye bags with makeup. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

So, what's the best option for oily skin?

"It really depends on how you prefer your skin to look," Mackie said. "If you want the skin to be more matte, go for a matte foundation. If you have an oiler skin type, but prefer a less matte finish, you can use a dewy finish foundation and then apply powder through the centre of the face to minimise shine." 

Or, if you want the best of both worlds, "You could use a matte finish foundation that will control the oil and add a cream blush and highlight to add luminosity and radiance to the skin," Mackie added.

"I have both in my kit depending on the individual client or model – it really depends on preference and individuality! Personally, I like my skin to look more glowing and dewy simply because it gives a more youthful appearance and my skin is more mature – so anything that helps me look younger I’m taking!"

Should dry skin types avoid matte formulas?

Not necessarily. "Dry skin types can actually benefit from dewy or matte foundations," Brown shared. "But for them, it's not the finish that should be the selling point, it's the product texture." 

If you have dry skin and want to go for a matte foundation because it provides a little more coverage, Brown suggested opting for a creamy formulation. "Creamy textures are perfect for a dry skin types, as they are slightly more weighted than a liquid, so the product stays put and won’t slip or fall into facial expression lines. Plus, creamy textures give a little more coverage for longevity."


"Cream foundations can be matte or semi-matte. In my work, I want foundations that last the whole occasion you are wearing it, which is why I tend to go with texture over finish," Brown said.

As long as your skin underneath is prepped correctly, you should be cakey and flakey-free! "Dry skin types can definitely use a matte finish, however you really need to prepare the skin beforehand with hydrating and moisturising skincare to ensure the skin doesn’t look dry – just softly matte," Mackie added.

What are some of your top tips to nailing flawless foundation every time?

Now you've got your formula sorted (look at you, you lucky thing!), you just have to use the right technique to make sure things stay smooth and dandy. And for Brown, it's all in the skin prep – so don't even think about skipping this step, or we'll totally dob you in. "No foundation, no matter what brand, texture or finish, can look good if the skin is not prepped correctly underneath," Brown explained.

For oily skin: You need to focus on hydration first (so hit up a good moisturiser), then use a blurring/mattifying primer on the T-zone before applying your foundation.

For dehydrated or dry skin: "Hydrate first, then add an illuminating primer over skin, concentrating on highlight points of the face," Brown said. This ensures it can reflect through foundation (read: makes it look all healthy and glowy). "Foundation can’t do it all – it needs to be paired with great prep products."


In terms of tools, there's one type of brush Brown said achieves that flawless foundation application like no other: a standard flat-tapered tip foundation brush. "It's amazing for smoothing and sweeping product across skin for a sheer veil of foundation." Sold! If you're after more coverage, Brown said to try a fatter flat-edged foundation brush (also known as a stippling brush) instead, as it's better for building coverage.

Finally, Mackie said to always concentrate on applying foundation to the centre of the face first, then work your way outwards. Anyone else just been slapping it on anywhere? Same.

Okay, enough chat. Gimme some suggestions!

Wondering if we have a coupla cute recommendations for you guys? Of course we bloody do! Here are a few pricey and budget-friendly options to get your started. 

Go forth!

NARS Sheer Glow Foundation, $80.

NARS Sheer Glow Foundation 


L’Oreal Paris Infallible Pro Glow Foundation, $27.95.

L’Oreal Paris Infallible Pro Glow Foundation 


REVLON Colorstay Full Cover Foundation, $32.95.

REVLON Colorstay Full Cover Foundation 

M.A.C Cosmetics Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 Foundation, $66.

M.A.C Cosmetics Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15 Foundation 


Read all this jazz and still can't decide which foundation is right for you? That's cool. As we said – it's a tricky game! Mackie's advice? Switch between both! "Depending on season, we see a lot of trends in finishes on the skin. When I am working backstage in Sydney or overseas, we often see more of a matte velvet, sophisticated finish more often on the runway. In summer it’s all about the glow – think more fresh, luminous, luxe!"

Feature Image: @ingridmakeupandbrows

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