Best moisturisers to wear under makeup that are kind to your skin

For a flawless base

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Ellie Davis14 November 2023
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It’s an experience that is all too familiar.

You spend time carefully layering up your skincare product, treating your complexion to the nourishing ingredients of formulas that you’ve invested in research and your hard-earned pennies.

You coat your skin in the rich creams in the hope that they will counteract your concern – be it dryness, dehydration, blemishes or dullness. After following your routine to the letter, you prepare for the next stage: makeup.

Only as soon as you apply your foundation or concealer, you find that the lotions and base products are not compatible and you’re left with balling, flaking and peeling, leaving you to start the whole process from scratch.

So how do you avoid this? We consulted the experts to find out.

Is moisturiser important to wear under makeup?

Moisturiser is one of the most important products in any skincare routine. It hydrates the surface layer of the skin, acting as the sealant to lock in nourishing ingredients and protecting against external aggressors that could lead to dryness, oiliness or dehydration.

Ruby Hammer, Global Make-Up Artist, Brand Founder and beauty expert, adds that “Moisturiser not only hydrates the skin underneath makeup it helps to give the skin a more even surface” and thus encourages a more flawless finish.

Caroline Barnes, professional make-up artist and Cetaphil partner continues, “You need the soft slip of moisture to help blend your foundation into your skin, so it looks invisible. Even if you have oily skin, it's important to use skincare suitable to your skin type to help connect your base”.

How long to leave moisturiser before makeup?

If you’re anything like us and rush the morning routine to maximise sleep, you may not have the time to encourage your moisturiser to fully absorb before layering up with your base products.

In this case, look out for a quickly absorbing formula as Barnes and Hammer both agree that you need to give it time to sink in. Hammer says “I like to leave at least five minutes, but if I’m using a rich cream I leave it for as long as fifteen minutes to make sure it has sunk in”.

What ingredients should you avoid in a moisturiser if following with makeup?

Reading an ingredient list is enough to give even the most learned skincare expert a migraine so both makeup experts have kept it simple: steer clear of silicones as this will cause pilling.

How do you prevent flaking?

Balling, flaking or pilling – no matter what you call it, it’s something we’d all like to avoid when we put our face on and it’s a question of compatibility. Cast your mind back to GCSE Chemistry and you may recall learning about hydrophilic/hydrophobic (water-loving or repelling) and this follows in much the same vein. You need two products that blend harmoniously.

You should also consider the following:

  • Avoid silicones: Barnes recommends “avoiding products that contain silicone. When mixed with water they repel each other and therefore aren’t able to blend together. So, if your foundation is water-based, you may experience this issue.”
  • Keep it light: Hammer says to “look for lightweight formulas that are easily absorbed into the skin. By using lighter layers, you can also work out which products are interfering with each other”.
  • Absorption: “Take the time for your skincare to be absorbed”, Hammer stresses.
  • Hydration: Treat your skin to provide the ultimate base. She concludes, “Flaky base products can be down to several reasons including dry skin and if you are not regularly exfoliating. Skin should be clean and hydrated prior to makeup application”.

Shop the best moisturisers below that will enhance not hinder your makeup look.

Barrier Restore Cream

rhode skin

The Barrier Restore Cream is described as a “rich” moisturiser, which is not at all the word I would use to describe it. The opposite is in fact true: it’s incredibly lightweight.

I have very dry skin and this product did provide a hydrating layer but would not be sufficient in winter. For the warmer weather, however, it works wonders as the featherweight texture would see you through elevated temperatures and it is understandable why LA-based Bieber created a product of this nature. This also ensures that it wont cause breakouts for the blemish-prone like myself.

The formula has the label’s signature peptides at its heart, chosen for its plumping effect on fine lines. This ingredient is combined with nourishing shea butter to strengthen the skin’s barrier, squalane for hydration and calming, niacinamide for balancing and the antioxidant acai - a unique component that shields the skin from free radicals.

The packaging explains that half a finger length is all you need to cover the entire face. It’s true; a little goes a long way. Like rhode’s serum, it’s easily blended, quickly absorbed and has the same plain scent. It’s cooling - but strangely not calming - where a bout of irritation remained as red and inflammed post application as it was pre.

Where this product excels is in the dewy, light reflecting radiance that is your complexion once you have layered it up. It’s glowy not greasy - a very important distinction that’s worth noting. That said, I will be following it up with an additional, more nourishing product for my skin type.

Buy now£29, rhode

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Water Cream

Charlotte Tilbury

The Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream is the definition of a holy grail product. Since its launch, over 10 years ago, the moisturiser has formed the basis of skin routines the world over, bringing with it a rich, creamy texture that glides over the skin. In the last few months, this winning formula was adapted into a body product but now the eponymous entrepreneur has taken it one step further with the Magic Water Cream.

Designed for summer months or those who prefer a lightweight moisturiser, the newest innovation has a more weightless gel-like texture that is immediately absorbed by dehydrated skin with very little required in the way of rubbing in and no white cast. Once applied, it locks in moisture using a specialised technology that the brand says lasts for 100 hours. Within the formula is also niacinamide to refine pores and balance the skin as well as a firming biopeptide complex that minimises the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

Buy now£70, Charlotte Tilbury

ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Marine Cream SPF30


This beautifully-scented product from Elemis feels like a luxury pampering experience with every application. The texture - while lightweight - is packed with a cocktail of fine line-busting ingredients including Padina Pavonica and Ginkgo Biloba that have quick and effective results. In just a couple of weeks, wrinkles appear minimised.

The product contains SPF30 so you have extra coverage against further ageing caused by UV rays, especially when layered under an additional sun cream, and it offers hydration too. This cream will leave your skin feeling silky soft with no white residue in sight.

Buy now£94, Cult Beauty

Tatcha The Water Cream


Each application of this lightweight moisturiser from Tatcha feels like a luxury experience. From the aroma to the texture, it’s a step you will relish each morning and night and that’s all without even referencing the formula.

The product is backed with hydrating botanicals with a unique water-burst composition that is released upon contact with your skin. It harnesses Japanese plant-based ingredients like wild rose, leopard lily and superfoods like the brand’s signature and trademarked Hadasei-3 to leave skin healthy, refine pores and combat excess oil production. You will notice your face feels moisture-enriched, balanced and softer.

Buy now£67, Space NK

Jones Road Light Moisture Cream


Founded by Bobbi Brown, it will come as no surprise to fans of the makeup expert that the Light Moisture Cream from her Jones Road Beauty label was designed specifically for layering up.

It has a bouncy gel consistency and an enriching formula that can be worn under makeup without the pain of pilling. This all comes down to its lightweight consistency that makes it ideal for daytime use. You may need a thicker formula when it comes to your night cream, but this will do the job to quench your skin’s thirst to counteract both dehydration and dryness.

Buy now£38, Jones Road

Chantecaille Bio Lifting Oil Free Fluid+


To hydrate the skin before makeup application, the Bio Lifting Oil Free Fluid+ is on hand. The botanical-based formula restores and moisturises in order to leave you with a glowy complexion.

It is multitasking and works to smooth out the skin, minimise the appearance of hyperpigmentation and encourage elasticity, all while remaining lightweight and layerable. The oil-free composition means it will not interfere with your makeup. It is 96 per cent natural origin and includes soothing and fragrant rosewater as the main ingredient.

Buy now£245, Chantecaille

Emma Lewisham Illuminating Brighten Your Day Crème

Emma Lewisham

Layer this cream onto your skin to bring added radiance to your makeup look. The moisturiser is powered by vitamin C and packs antioxidant protection, while also giving a dewy, lit-from-within finish. It combines this with the nourishing benefits of vitamin E to offer deep hydration that lasts throughout the day.

What makes this product stand out from the crowd is the very gentle exfoliation that encourages better absorption of the ingredients to follow and enhances the brilliant finish. Emma Lewisham is a natural skincare label taking a more sustainable approach with refills and entirely recyclable packaging.

Buy now£80, Naturisimo

Weleda Skin Food


The Weleda Skin Food is a certified hero product. It’s the bestselling product in the brand’s offering - and for good reason. The organic formula means it can be used by all skin types, providing a nourishing and protective layer whether you use it as a moisturiser or as an all-purpose balm. You can put it on any dry skin from your face to hands, while doubling up as a primer that will keep makeup in place for longer.

This is especially true for those with dry skin as the nourishing treatment will encourage your base to sit better (however, it’s not ideal for oily skin and may in fact have the opposite effect). It is made up of organic sunflower seed oil and extracts of wild pansy, chamomile, calendula and rosemary extract for a combination that is soothing and shielding.

Buy now£14.95, lookfantastic

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré Nourishing Moisturiser


The French pharmacy essential Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrate has made its way across the Continent to the UK and is now considered a cult purchase and a makeup bag essential. It has a cream-lotion texture that is hydrating but lightweight.

The versatile product has a priming effect, while also plumping and providing moisture with its fatty acid and vitamin-rich formulation. It is absorbed speedily into the skin and leaves a velvety look in its wake to give a more flawless finish to the likes of foundation.

Buy now£13.65, Boots

Clinique Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator


For a much-needed wave of hydration, Clinique’s cult Moisture Surge Hydrator is on hand. The lightweight formula packs a real moisturising punch with activated aloe water and caffeine to encourage your skin to produce its own moisture. It has a gel-cream texture and so, can sit seamlessly under makeup. The product is gentle and can be used on sensitive skin.

Buy now£26, John Lewis

CeraVe AM Facial Moisturising Lotion SPF50 for Normal to Dry Skin 52ml


Every dermatologist you will ever speak to globally will stress the importance of wearing SPF daily. This doesn’t need to be a chore, in fact, CeraVe has created this moisturiser to be used every single day to protect your skin from stress from the sun with SPF50. It provides a broad spectrum shield to limit exposure to ageing UVA and burning UVB, while remaining lightweight.

The sun’s rays can negatively impact the skin barrier, leading to fine lines, pigmentation, uneven skin texture and loss of elasticity so this is the first and most important step that you can take to repair and protect from the aforementioned as well as prevent sensitivity, inflammation and peeling.

Buy now£13.20, lookfantastic