How to get dewy skin (without looking sweaty, greasy, or clammy)

makeup for dewy glowing skin


For those who are not so into skin cancer or Ed Hardy, glowing is the new tan. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally quite pale or my twenties brought on skin issues I’d never had to face before (breakouts and first wrinkle lines? Oh cruel fate!), but I’ve become obsessed with that glowing-from-within look I see all over magazines and runways – and on ungrateful 16-year-olds!

This led me on a search for the best products and methods of application to get a dewy, youthful look without a ton of work. The result of months of research is what you see below. It might look like a lot of words, but it the actual process takes about 5 minutes once you know what you’re doing.

Before you start:
If you have oily skin tread very, very carefully. A lot of people, including experts, will tell you not to attempt this look if you have oily skin because so many of the products can add to shine or clog pores. But it can be done. I have combination skin, so my “T-zone” (my forehead and the bridge of my nose) can get oily and I’ve managed to make it work. Keep some oil blotting sheets in your bag along with translucent powder in case you start to get shiny during the day.

If you have dry skin, moisturize like it’s your job. Don’t ever skip the moisturizer if you’re prone to dry or flaky skin, especially in the winter. Make sure you use gentle products and facial cleansers that won’t dry out your skin.

Prep like a pro.
Wash your face with a gentle exfoliotating scrub. I use Proactiv daily, which works wonderfully, but most people don’t need that level of help. I also like C.O. Bigelow* or St. Ive’s Apricot Scrub*, though admittedly St. Ive’s is a bit rougher and could irritate dry or damaged skin.

Pat your face dry with a towel and use a non-comedegenic moisturizer with an SPF 15 or higher. Then use an all-over facial primer like Stila or Too Faced. I was recently turned on to Too Faced by a makeup artist friend of mine and it has changed my life. It’s creamy, oil-free, and light-as-air. Don’t be put off by the slight color – it goes on clear.

Don’t opt for one or the other when it comes to moisturizer and primer. While, yes, most primers are just glorified moisturizers, some actually smooth and prep your skin for makeup, keeping it in place and preventing greasy skin later in the day. Taking the extra step leaves your skin smooth and moisturized, adding to your healthy glow.

products for dewy glowing skin

l to r: proactiv oil-free moisturizer, too faced primed & poreless primer, stila illuminating tinted moisturizer

Shimmer, don’t sparkle.
Always remember that the look is clean, fresh, and dewy – not sparkly. Stay far far away from anything that has glitter, sparkles, confetti, or anything that looks like it could double as ingredients for an art project. My tried-and-true faves are MAC Strobe Cream – used all over J. Crew catalogs for that fresh-faced look – Benefit Sun Beam (for some bronze highlights in the summer), or Stila Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer.

STOP! Do not apply it everywhere.
The key to applying any shimmer or highlighter is to apply it only where the light hits your face – along your cheek bones, your brow bones, your temples, and the inner corners of your eyes near your nose to brighten them up. Some people swear that a small dab down the center of the bridge of your nose makes it look thinner, and while I’ve yet to notice a difference, it can’t hurt so go for it. Gently squeeze a very small amount (smaller than a pea) onto your ring fingers and dab along each surface I mentioned, then slowly work it in, making gentle circles with your fingers until it absorbs.

how to apply highlighter to face

apply highlighter to cheek bones, brow bones, temples, bridge of the nose, and inner corners of the eye

Apply foundation as usual.
It’s best to use a tinted moisturizer or a light liquid foundation (I like Clinique City Block or Clinique Perfectly Real Foundation) for two reasons: 1.) the shimmer shows through sheer cover better, and 2.) your overall look is cleaner. The more crap you cake on, the less fresh and easy the whole thing looks. Unless you really need the coverage, you’re probably fine with a tinted moisturizer.

Apply foundation evenly with a clean makeup sponge. Use a creamy concealer for any trouble spots. If you want you can add another dab or two of your shimmer cream above the foundation as well. But it most cases it won’t be necessary.

Use powder, but sparingly.
Seal the look with a translucent powder, or use an extremely light touch with bronzer to warm up pale or cool complexions. Make sure to use a very large, loose brush. For bronzer, only hit the higher parts of your face the sun would naturally reach – forehead, nose, cheeks, and maybe a touch on the chin. Again, the more product you use the more cakey it’ll look.

You now have a blank canvas to do with as you please! The look goes great with clean, simple, shimmery eyes and a fresh pop of color on the lips. For every day, I go with Stila Convertible Color in Gerbera, NARS shadow in Nepal on my lids, Stila Major Lash or CoverGirl LashBlast Fusion mascara, and my favorite lip color of all time: Poppy King for J. Crew.

glowing skin makeup options

bronzed, a subtle cat-eye, or a pop of lip color / source: harper's bazaar & j. crew

If you want something a little more special, I’ve seen a subtle cat-eye liquid liner look for spring on the Spring/Summer 2012 runways that I love, which won’t undo your fresh-faced look. Or you could use a bit more bronzer to go with this season’s trend. Just remember to only play up one feature at a time – either your eyes or your lips – to keep it chic, not overdone.


*A quick note about products: Those listed here are by no means an exhaustive list of options for all skin types. I encourage you to ask informed staff members at stores to suggest makeup that suits your skin type and experiment with combinations that are right for you.

posted by Manda in Fashion 2 what you have to say

2 Responses to How to get dewy skin (without looking sweaty, greasy, or clammy)

  1. Martha

    Do you have a youtube channel?

    • Manda

      At the moment we don’t, but as the site grows we’re considering establishing one to share how-to videos for some of our posts. As soon as we do we’ll let everyone know. Thanks for commenting!


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