tinted moisturizer vs foundation

Tinted Moisturizer vs. Foundation: Knowing the Difference

We all want to look our best while doing what's best for our skin. What we use as a base for our makeup or use alone to face the day, matters. Tinted moisturizers or some type of foundation can make up look fresh, natural, and flawless, or they can look fake and 'too much.' How do you know the difference? How do you know what will bring out your beauty? Here, we'll discuss what tinted moisturizers and foundations are, their differences, their similarities, and which might be optimal for your skin and lifestyle. 

Related: Knowing the Difference Between Fine Lines and Wrinkles

What is a Tinted Moisturizer?

Tinted moisturizers are a much lighter weight base face makeup than the usual cosmetic foundations. This means that they offer far less coverage than foundations, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There are times that you don't want a full or even partial coverage. 

If your skin is in generally good shape or for occasions where you don't want to wear a lot of cosmetics, the minimal coverage of a tinted moisturizer will work perfectly. Team your tinted moisturizer with a good quality, well-placed concealer, and you could walk away with a natural look that has you glowing. 

A little-known fact is that tinted moisturizers have more humectants in them than do foundations. Humectants naturally hydrate your skin and leave it looking fresh and supple. Because you're wearing this for most of the day, you'll want to ensure that your base is as nourishing to your skin as possible. So, if you don't already know what your skin type is - dry, oily, normal, or combination, you'll need to work that out. 

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What is a Foundation?

Foundation is a form of face makeup used by makeup professionals and newbies alike. Foundation, as its name implies, is at the base of the rest of your makeup. You could think of it as the canvas for the work of art that will be your face. It covers blemishes, discolorations, blurs imperfections, and gives you a smooth, even 'canvas' upon which to apply your other makeup. 

There are things to consider when choosing the proper foundation for you. 

  • Finding the right skin tone.
  • Choosing the right amount of coverage.
  • Discovering the correct formula for your skin type.
  • Deciding on the best method of application.

Related: All About Exfoliation: How Much is Too Much?

The Types of Foundation

Following are a few of the many types of foundations available. 

Cream Foundations 

These are the most popular kind of foundations. With so many brands and skin tones available, you're sure to find one just right for you. They're easy to apply and retouch during the day. Foundations have more pigmentation than tinted moisturizers, so they offer a range of coverage simply by using less or more layers, and they can last all day on your skin without appearing cracked or cakey. 

If your skin is oily, you may prefer an oil-free foundation. Equally, you may choose a foundation with a matte finish, a dewy finish, extra coverage if you have scarring, or a long-wear foundation, so you don't have to retouch. 

CC Foundations

CC foundations offer 'complexion correcting' or 'color correcting' - hence, the CC. The function of these kinds of foundations is to provide an even skin tone under your makeup. They are specially formulated to cover or correct redness, hyper-pigmentation, age spots, scarring, melasma, blemishes, blotchiness, and sallow or dull complexions.   

CC foundations use light-diffusing particles to create the appearance of an even skin tone. They also include ingredients that protect your skin (SPF sun protection) and anti-aging ingredients

CC creams are lighter than regular foundations, with a whipped texture. This provides a natural glow as it works its magic for your appearance. You could even use a CC cream under a regular foundation as a primer. They're also a good choice for oily skin. 

Oil-Free Foundations

If your skin is oily, most foundations will only make the issue worse. Your skin will look shiny or even wet when you use the wrong foundation. It will also prevent your other makeup from looking its best. So, oil-free foundations to the rescue. With these, you can have a soft, matte finish that maximizes the functions of your other makeup

Oil-free foundations work to minimize shine all over your face, but especially on problem areas, like your forehead, nose, and chin.  

There are other kinds of foundations, including BB (beauty balm) foundations, liquid foundations, sticks, and powder foundations.

Tinted Moisturizer vs. Foundation - What's the Difference

Now having full descriptions of tinted moisturizers and foundations, let's look at the main difference.


The most significant difference between tinted moisturizers and foundations is the level of coverage each offers. Tinted moisturizers don't provide a lot of coverage. They are a veil, meant to give minimal coverage if you're after a natural look or prefer to wear less makeup. The 'lightness' of tinted moisturizer provides you with a healthy glow. 

Foundations have higher concentrations of pigmentation which means they can offer greater coverage. Available in sheer, medium, or full coverage, most are designed to hide scars, blemishes, imperfections, hyper-pigmentation, fine lines, and large pores.  

Both forms of face makeup often include other ingredients that will hydrate, nourish, protect, and otherwise improve your skin's look, feel, and health. Thankfully, gone are the days when we were limited to cosmetics that harmed our skin or appeared unnatural and cakey.  

Related: The Myth of Skin Hydration 

The Last Word on Tinted Moisturizers and Foundations

The choice of cosmetics is wide and varied. You can quickly become overwhelmed trying to figure out what works best for your skin's needs and the look you want to achieve. Hopefully, the above has removed some of the mystery and will help you decide which face makeup you need and how to get your best look. 

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