The Truth About The “Dewy” Look

As a makeup artist, I get a lot of repeat requests. Smokey eyes, bronzed skin and black winged liner are three of the most popular. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of requests for “dewy skin.” So I suppose this is perfect time to give you the real scoop on that look.

The idea behind dewy skin is that it looks young, fresh and not made up. But like most makeup looks that people think look “natural,” it actually takes time, the correct products and a few other factors you may not have access to to get it right.

The best way to get the dewy look is to have a good base to start with. And by that, I mean good skin. Dry, uneven or dehydrated skin is not going to work here. If you regularly cleanse, exfoliate (this is huge) and moisturize, then you have a better chance of achieving the look. This is a good habit to have whether you want the dewy look or not, so get to it!

Before we go on, I want to preface this by saying that if you have oily skin, this is probably not the look for you. Adding shine to an oily skin is going to make you look, well, greasy. If you have oily skin and you’re using–but not over-using–oil absorbing and mattifying products, you probably still have some of your skin’s natural oils coming through anyway, so you may look dewy without trying. If that sounds like you, you can stop reading right here (unless my writing has you entranced).

If your skin is dry, normal, or normal to dry, and you have a consistent cleanse-exfoliate-moisturize routine, read on. If you have dry skin, you can start with a moisturizer for normal to dry skin (like Benefit Total Moisture Facial Cream or Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre). Normal or normal to dry skin, just use whatever moisturizer works for you (Ole Henriksen makes great moisturizers for a variety of skin types and concerns). You could also start with a serum like Tarte’s Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Illuminating Serum. This stuff gives some serious luminosity. I would avoid oil-free moisturizers for this look.

The next step would be a luminizing lotion or primer. Illamsqua makes a fabulous primer for dewy looks, called the Satin Primer. The Tarina Tarantino Pearl Glow Primer in Pearl is a good one too. Wonderglow by Charlotte Tilbury is another great choice.

Next, you’ll want to use a sheer foundation. I recommend MAC Face & Body Foundation. It leaves the skin with a very dewy finish, and feels lightweight.

Apply a liquid or cream highlighter to the cheekbones and browbones (and above the Cupid’s Bow, if you’re feeling daring). I like Benefit Watts Up for light to medium skin and MAC Cream Colour Base in Improper Copper for medium to dark skin. Use translucent powder only under the eyes and on the nose. You don’t want to over powder, because you’ll mattify the skin, which is the opposite of the dewy look.

Use a cream blush for cheek color, as they tend to have more of a dewy finish than powder blushes. I like the Make Up For Ever HD Blushes for this.

On lips, use a sheer gloss like Lancome Juicy tubes. You want something lightweight and almost watery looking, if that makes sense. I’d skip lipliner if you want to stay true to the look.

Since the rest of the face has that glowy, dewy quality, I prefer to “anchor” it with defined eyes (as Hayden and Camilla did in the pictures above). You can go dewy all over, like the model above did, but I don’t think that look translates well in real life for most people (it’s different for runway or editorial, which I’ll get into). So for eyes, I would go with a slightly shimmery, natural color or a metallic shadow in the brown or gold family, and black liner at the upper lashline and waterline. Go ahead and contour the eye with a matte color slightly darker than your skintone. (If you have hooded eyes, skip this step.)

And you’re done! Feeling dewy? No? Well, let me tell you truth about dewy looks…

When you see a dewy-faced actress onscreen, please know that she had the advantage of professional lighting, camera lenses, and a makeup artist to touch her up after each take. That celeb on the red carpet? She spent hours with a makeup artist beforehand and may even have one with her to touch her up throughout the event. And there’s a good chance she has the money to spend on high quality skincare services and products. Same deal with models, who are also often genetic freaks with amazing skin.

And the models and celebs you see in magazines? Please, they have it made. A pro makeup artist, photographer, and lighting, constant touchups during the shoot and Photoshop after. Anyone can look dewy after all of that.

So my point is, don’t think you’re doing it wrong if your dewy makeup doesn’t come out like Hayden’s or Camilla’s. Just use this post and those pictures as guidelines and give it your best. You’ll do great!

Have a beautiful day 🙂

45 thoughts on “The Truth About The “Dewy” Look

  1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For the tutorial, AND more importantly, the reality check! 🙂

  2. I’ve been wanting a dewy look for a long time, and I’m 60 years old! I wouldn’t do the sheer lipstick, but is there anything wrong with my having a dewy look otherwise? I’m young looking and dress young and feel young! My skin has gotten a little dry, but I’m working on it with thick moisturizers.

    • Nothing wrong with that at all! I actually think the dewy look works better on a drier skin because it doesn’t make the skin look oily, like the look can do to someone who has oily skin to start with. I would definitely go for it, Barbara!

  3. Thanks for this 🙂
    Just thought I might add, I’ve been looking for a good, long-lasting foundation that gives a dewy finish for ages. Most ones that claim to be suitable for dry skin still appear dry on me.

    Recently I stumbled upon Clinuque’s supermoisture and I love it. You don’t even need to put luminizer because it gives such a nice dewy glow on its own. I do have pretty clear skin to start with, but this gives me a gorgeous added glow. So if any people with dry skin are looking for a new foundaiton i reccomend it 🙂

  4. Hi there great tips and I love the way you’ve given suggestions of what to do besides running out and buying all me products. Also I’m wondering how long you’ve been a makeup artist as I’m one too…

    • Thank you!

      I’ve been a professional makeup artist for 5 1/2 years, although I have been doing makeup on anyone who would let me for as long as I can remember! How about you?

      • Hi Allison

        Well like you I’ve been doing and experimenting with makeup since I can remember (10yrs old to be exact lol) and became a qualified makeup artist 15 years ago…when I worked that out I couldn’t believe how long it’s been hehe……what’s your favourite makeup style…? I’m loving going a little retro lately and enjoying makeup of the 40’s and 50’s…


      • That’s great! My favorite style kind of just depends on the person, the event or them, and my mood. But I do LOVE retro looks! I did a photoshoot last winter with one model showing looks from seven decades, and it was one my favorite jobs ever.

  5. I have dry skin that’s sometimes okay and sometimes pretty bad and do the whole cleanse-exfoliate-moisturize thing every day along with my foundation routine, and it’s a hit and miss operation! I use several layers of medium to full coverage foundation, super high coverage cream concealer, liquid highlighter and two layers of a dewy finish spray. On a bad skin day, it looks greasy and gross, so I don’t even try anymore when I notice my skin looks awful. On an okay skin day, it looks amazing – natural and flawless (it’s a really good concealer ;)). So I guess I’m part-time dewy, lol! Do you have any recommendations on dewy finish sprays though? Cause I feel like mine only keeps the dewy finish up for an hour or so.

    • Hi Emma! It’s really hard to maintain the dewy look all day without touchups, so I don’t think it’s a matter of a different spray. Whenever you see the dewy look on a model or actress, you can bet that they have someone there touching them up pretty frequently to keep them looking dewy. Especially because your skin is dry, it’s going to absorb any type of spray quickly. Sorry I don’t have a better answer for you, but I believe in the honest policy when it comes to giving pro advice 🙂

  6. Thanks for the info. I am 49 and have a little wrinkley area just under my eyes. Other than that I look younger. (Maybe early 40’s 🙂 Of course I know that there is not much I can do about that but I do LOVE the Dewey finish look, however researching (buying and trying )I have learned that most products for the illuminized look actually accentuate wrinkles,instead of making you look younger. What products that have the same effect can you recommend for ageing skin? Thanks

    • Hi, Lauren! Your best bet is to avoid putting illuminating products under your eyes. Use a thin layer of moisturizer first, then a concealer that is a shade lighter than your skin (I like MAC Select Coverup for the undereye area). Undereye concealer is meant to cover darkness, and most darkness is from the center of the eye in towards the nose. Unless you have undereye darkness at the outer corners of your eyes, you really don’t even need to put concealer there. And if you have crow’s feet, skip extending the concealer out that far, because most concealers have a tendency to settle into those fine lines.

      If the illuminating products are settling into other lines on your face (typically happens around the mouth and on the forehead), don’t use those products there. Instead, use a sheer foundation (MAC Face & Body would probably be great on you), a creme blush on your cheeks, and a cream highlighter on your cheekbones and browbones. If don’t get oily/shiny, you can get away with not powdering your face (still do a light layer under eyes though, to set the concealer) and that will let the dewy-ness of the sheer foundation, cream blush, and cream highlighter show through.

      I hope that helps!

  7. Is there a foundation you would recommend that is similar to Mac Face & Body that has a lighter shade? MAC doesn’t make a foundation light enough for my fair skin.

    • Hi Alison! Have you looked at the shades specifically for the Face & Body foundations? They are different than most of the MAC foundations. Face & Body also makes a pure white foundation, which you can add into the one that is closest to your skin color. Using the white, I have never had trouble matching very fair skin. I even use the white Face & Body to lighten shades from other liquid foundation lines, so it might be a good one for you.

  8. Thank you this is so helpful! I’m 16 and I’m obsessed with makeup (well not really I just wanna look the best I can). I have REALLY REALLY bad undereye circles and I use concealer to cover but I also have crow’s feet so I don’t know what to do! My concealer will ALWAYS settle into the fine lines and it makes me look like I’m 50 😦 Do you have any suggestions?

    • You’re welcome! My next blog post will be about under eye circles, so hopefully you will find that helpful too.

      As far as concealer settling into crow’s feet, you don’t usually really need to put it on that area. All under eye circles that I see usually stop about 2/3 of the way out on that area. Is there darkness at the outer corners of your eyes?

      I would also say that crow’s feet typically don’t show up until at least the late 20s, so I’m wondering if your fine lines are from something else? An allergy or sensitivity maybe? At 16, you have great collagen, elasticity, and quick cell turnover, so fine lines may actually be from something else. I would suggest going to a dermatologist, they might be able to figure out what’s going on. In the meantime, I would definitely always wear sunglasses when you are outside or in the car during they day, and if it doesn’t sting your eyes, apply a moisturizer with SPF or a thin layer of sunscreen on the area.

      I bet you look great though, so please don’t worry too much!

  9. I just stumbled upon your blog and I LOVE IT! The Benefit heavy lotion isn’t in my budget right now. Do you have any cheaper versions for very dry skin??


    – Jesi

  10. hi! the products recommended are quite pricey…can you recommend products within the price range of lets say l’oreal, neutrogena or maybeline for each step? appreciate it soon!

    thanks for the very good read!


  11. To add “dew” to my face as the day goes on I really like Hada Labo gel cream..I pat it on over my cheeks. It can be used under and over makeup. It’s a hyaluronic acid gel that I really like.

  12. I love the dewy look. It has to be done right or you just look like your face is melting. I’ve just started with Natasha Denona and I’ve fallen in love. I have always gotten it confused it with highlighters. I do think,if done correctly, it can look stunning.

    • This look could be great for you then! Regarding the lines above your lips, you may find prescription retinol helpful. As far as makeup, I would only lightly apply foundation there and do not powder over that area, as the powder can settle into the lines and make them more prominent.

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