Your 7-Step Guide To Applying Makeup On Dry Skin

Straight from Sir John.

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A woman applying makeup on dry skin, according to Beyonce's makeup artist.
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Once the temperature dips below about 50 degrees, a certain beauty conundrum becomes apparent: Suddenly, it’s harder for your skin to hold onto moisture, which results in flakes and a not-very-smooth makeup application. But Sir John, a top makeup artist who works with A-listers like Beyoncé, has shared his master tips for how to put makeup on dry skin so your glam this winter can remain on point.

Though he currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, Sir John grew up in New York City and Buffalo — so he’s well aware of cold weather beauty dilemmas. “Trust me,” he laughs. Currently, Sir John is sharing his makeup intel with Assemble, a recently-launched digital platform where prominent BIPOC leaders — including Tiffany Haddish and Law Roach — teach lessons from their professions as a way to help guide the next generation with inclusivity top of mind. “I feel like it’s my job right now to make sure that culturally, all people — especially Black and brown people — are able to see themselves within the beauty industry,” says Sir John.

As far as dealing with dry skin, Sir John relies on a multi-step makeup application process that entails using a cream foundation and lip balm — but it all begins with prepping your complexion. Also key? “Carry around a mist,” he tells Bustle. “Caudalie Beauty Elixir is nice. Dezi Skin has a really nice setting spray. You could even go old-school and get rosewater, put it in a small travel bottle, and use that since rosewater is really calming.” Spritz whenever your face starts to feel dry to freshen things up.

For the ultimate dry skin makeup routine, keep reading for Sir John’s expert guide.

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1. Exfoliate

Before even touching your makeup products, you’ll want to exfoliate. “This is the time of year we can break out our chemical exfoliators,” says Sir John. “Or, if you’re going to do any laser or resurfacing treatment, now’s the time because we’re not as sun-sensitive.” (Of course, he notes that you should still be wearing SPF all year-round.) Whatever your exfoliant of choice may be, he says it’s important to slough off dead skin buildup. “Dead skin is going to cling like a bad relationship to your complexion until you either use a manual or chemical exfoliator,” says Sir John.

2. Slather On The Hydration

Once that buildup is taken care of, surge your skin with hydration. “You can just use something that offers basic hydration,” says Sir John. Any moisturizer will do, but he’s partial to water-based formulas. “They slide right across the skin and don’t allow makeup to absorb,” he explains.

3. Prep Your Pout

Your lips also need some moisture before you apply any pigmented product, otherwise, you run the risk of lipstick cracking from dryness. “The skin on your eyes and the skin on your lips is basically the same — it’s so thin,” says Sir John. “So every day I use an eye cream on my lips. I also use SPF so they’re protected from the sun.” He also recommends using any sort of lip moisturizer that has a waxy, balmy texture.

4. Put On A Skin-Boosting Primer

You may not always use a primer, but Sir John recommends using one if you’re dealing with extra dry skin. His tip? Look for a primer that doubles as skin care. “If you’re going to have it on your face for eight to 12 hours of the day, what is it going to do for you? The goal is to find a hybrid skin care primer that gives you long foundation wear and works as a treatment.”

5. Apply A Cream Foundation

Out of all the different foundation formulas on the shelves, Sir John suggests using a cream on dry skin. “They’re going to be a little bit more comforting, more emollient,” he explains. “You can buff them into a bit more coverage if you need it or dial it down where you don’t.” Use a wet sponge to blend. And for even more of a hydration boost, mix it with a little bit of your moisturizer as you apply.

6. Conceal

Sir John believes a concealer should always go on after your foundation. “You’ll apply a lot less concealer when you do it last,” he says, adding that creamy liquid formulas work best with dry skin. “Just dot in certain places to brighten or lighten rather than slather.” Pro tip: Less is more.

For your application technique, he offers two options — either use a large synthetic blending brush for an airbrushed look, or use your ring finger to warm up the product and tap it on.

7. Seal It In With Moisture

To further protect your full beat from cracking or flaking, this step is a must. “If you happen to be really dry, I’ll take a moisturizer — not a heavy amount, just enough to coat the hands — and press it into the skin,” says Sir John. “It melts the blush into the face and everything looks really seamless and not so stiff. You’ll wind up with a beautiful, super-emollient glow.” Face oil devotees take note: Be sure to use a moisturizer versus an oil for this. “Oil is going to get right to the skin and could possibly leave holes in places,” he cautions.

If you need your makeup to last through an extra-long day and find at some point that you need a touch-up, Sir John advises refreshing only the T-zone — what he calls a high traffic area. “Take a cotton pad or wipe and just remove makeup underneath the eyes, around the sides of the nose, and the chin,” he says. “Moisturize again, and just swap out the concealer — this will give you a whole new face.”

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