The Skin-Enhancing Serums MUAs Swear By For Flawless Makeup
It doesn’t matter how long you spend perfecting your on-point makeup look if your skin is a total mess underneath. And with annoying (but inevitable) maskne causing flareups lately, or dry patches brought on by colder temperatures – thanks winter – proper skincare is crucial, now more than ever.
So, we turned to a few of our favorite beauty industry pros to see how they prep skin prior to applying makeup and which serums they consider go-tos for a smooth, well-hydrated canvas.
From antioxidant-packed primers and glow-enhancing elixirs to liquid lift treatments, here are the 12 best skincare serums makeup artists love.
Makeup serums are a must, according to glam guru Molly R. Stern who works with A-listers like Cara Delevingne and Zoey Deutch. “They nourish the skin differently than just using a moisturizer, and the barrier of tired, environmentally-affected skin gets broken down when serums are applied and massaged in.” One of Stern’s faves includes Saint Jane Luxury Beauty Serum, $125, because it’s “a healing serum for an instant glow, especially when used with tools to stimulate the complexion.”
To make Nicole Richie’s eyes appear wide awake for a socially distant awards show or photoshoot, her MUA Mai Quynh applies Skyn Iceland Brightening Eye Serum, $40, to the under-eye area, lets it absorb into the skin, then does double duty with Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels, $33, while her hair is started. “I leave them on for about 10 minutes and before her makeup is ready to begin,” she says. Did we mention this icy one-two combo is the best ever on tired, hungover, or puffy peepers?
Celebrity makeup artist Marni Burton-Gabor turns to First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Coconut Skin Smoothie Priming Moisturizer, $29, as the foundation for makeup before foundation. “Even though this is a primer-moisturizer hybrid, it acts like a serum prep step because it blurs tiny imperfections, while moisturizing, brightening, and smoothing. It’s also void of artificial fragrance, parabens, alcohol, and sulfates, which can cause breakouts, itchiness, and tiny little red bumps.”
Reese Witherspoon’s makeup artist, Kelsey Deenihan, is partial to The INKEY List’s skincare products to prep her skin for photo ops and VIP book club Zooms (we assume). “After cleansing, I always start with hyaluronic acid as the first-step serum to hydrate and plump skin and act as a delivery system for the products that follow,” she says. Deenihan likes the uber affordable The INKEY List Q10 Serum, $7, on Witherspoon because it contains squalane, an antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals.
Greenwich, CT-based groomer and makeup artist Jennifer Brent always takes Ling Skin Care with her on set, because of its pure ingredients. “I start on a fresh face and wipe down the skin with Ling Micellar Rose Water Toner, $32, then the next step is exfoliation. I love to use Ling Spotlight Papaya Surface Peel, $65, which removes dead skin cells from the surface with papaya enzymes. The final step is hydration. I apply their Replenishing Hydrator, $40, all over, top off with Dual Moisture Emulsion, $68, and very last I apply their Re-Lite Eye Gel, $80, with a rose quartz roller. “This eliminates bloating and inflammation in the face and minimizes dark circles.”
Posts You'll Love:
Even though beauty educator Terri Bryant created a universal line of tools intended for applying makeup (oh hi, GUIDE BEAUTY), she’s all about healthy AF skin first and foremost. “I want my serums to be lightweight, absorb quickly, and pack a punch, so I use Powerella Hydro-Greens Gel Serum, $39, every morning and night,” she explains. “It’s a vegan powerhouse blend of skin superfoods with over 90 free-radical fighting plants and minerals — like a shot of green juice my skin drinks up!” Bryant is also a fan of the Tatcha The Serum Stick, $48. “While it can be used all-over like a traditional serum, I keep it on hand as my on-the-go treatment, touch-up balm, and overall quick-fix skin and makeup savior.”
“Skin prep is the most vital step in makeup application so I never take it lightly,” says MUA Lisa Aharon, whose clients include model Kate Bock and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel herself, Rachel Brosnahan. Pre-makeup, Aharon likes to use water-trapping Epicuren Moisture Surge Hyaluronic Acid Gel, $37, followed by Bio Peptide Complex Serum, $100, with collagen-boosting peptides, as the first layers of skincare. “This hyaluronic acid delivers all that it claims and their Complex Serum is a fantastic partner for its firming/pore-minimizing effects,” she adds.
When Issa Rae’s MUA Joanna Simkin wants to get the Insecure star’s skin looking bomb, she relies on Alleven Total Face Serum, $141, since it has major 3-in-1 product benefits. “It’s rich like a cream, efficacious like a serum, and hydrating like a moisturizer,” says Simkin. “And the unique cream-in-serum texture smooths wrinkles, protects skin from blue light, restores radiance and firmness, all while sealing in moisture and locking out pollutants. It is one simple step to enhanced, healthier skin.” Sounds like a winner to us.
Three skincare serums celebrity makeup artist and brand founder, Jenny Patinkin can’t live without would be: Circcell Vitamin C Ampoules, $175, (to give a controlled dose of vitamin C because too much can be drying) and Maya Chia The Eye Achiever Multi-Correction Eye Serum, $70, (an oil-based serum that won’t evaporate over the course of the day like water-based eye creams can, leaving you with cakey or creasy concealer).
“I use Kate Somerville DermalQuench Liquid Lift, $95, to achieve lit-from-within, glowing skin before any makeup prep, advises makeup artist Nina Park, who works with stars like Brie Larsen, Laura Harrier, and Tessa Thompson. “I like to spray DermalQuench directly onto my palms and press into the face, letting it sink in. Almost instantly, the skin is dewy, moisturized and smooth, and I never have to use a lot of foundation after.”
What’s the most important rule we learned from all of this? Skin prep is ESSENTIAL for flawless makeup! While a lot of those listed here are definitely on the top end of the price spectrum, that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of other great, more affordable options. For more amazing serums, check out our fave serums under $40.
Disclaimer: Every product we review has been independently selected and tested without bias by our editorial team. We never take payment to review products, however, some brands allow affiliate links, so we may earn a commission if you purchase a product by clicking on one of our links.