There was a time when matte skin was all the rage — we layered on matte foundations, followed by copious amounts of powder to bake, and then locked it all in with a mattifying setting spray. A few years later, we would pivot to the total opposite end of the spectrum: reaching for anything and everything with glowy finishes, smearing on shimmers and glosses until we beamed like the sun. Now, however, it seems that we’re settling into a middle ground with the “cloud skin” makeup trend.
Starting with the rise of “skinimalism” in 2020 and 2021, we’ve seen more of a focus on complexion than ever before. Picture the best skin day of your life — glowy, plump, supple, and well moisturized — but now picture achieving that with some light makeup.
“Cloud skin is plump yet light and effortless, radiant yet softly matte,” Chantel Miller, director of artistry and digital content at MAC Cosmetics, tells POPSUGAR. It combines the best of both worlds — matte and glowy skin — for a finish that’s ubernatural.
“‘Cloud skin’ is the idea of perfect matte, plump skin — not necessarily the idea of a foundation-like finish,” Miller says. She describes it as “youthful and baby-like,” emphasizing that this isn’t an overtly makeup-y makeup trend.
How to Get “Cloud Skin” Makeup: Tutorial
For “cloud skin,” the prep is critical. “Regardless of your skin type, we want to plump up the volume of your skin before we do anything else,” Miller says. Reach for a hydrating serum to start. MAC Cosmetics recently launched a new line called Hyper Skin, which contains the Serumizer Skin Balancing Hydration Serum ($55). We also like the Wet n Wild Prime Focus Primer Serum ($8) or the Ilia Beauty True Skin Radiant Priming Serum ($52).
Depending on your skin type, your prep might end there. (Those with oily skin will probably find the serum to be hydrating enough for their complexion.) “You don’t want your skin to look or feel slippery or dewy,” Miller says. “You want it to feel like it does when you get out of the shower and freshly dry your face.” Those with normal to dry skin can continue their prep with a moisturizer of their choice.
Once those products have been absorbed into the skin, you’re ready for makeup. “Next, look at areas where you may develop shine throughout the day,” Miller says. Instead of applying a mattifying primer on your entire face, you want to use it on targeted areas where you tend to get shiny. Miller likes the MAC Prep & Prime Skin Refined Zone ($25). “A little pin-head-size drop patted into those shiny areas is a true miracle,” she says. We also like the Rare Beauty Pore Diffusing Primer ($28).
Finally, you’re ready for foundation. “This is one of those occasions where I prefer a fluffier brush vs. a slick synthetic foundation brush or sponge,” Miller says. We like the Jones Road Blush Brush ($34) for this. Use a circular motion with your brush to buff the product into the skin in small areas. “It’s like the difference between staining an object or painting it — we are staining here.” For a generic minimal makeup look, your complexion process would stop here. However, for “cloud skin,” your final step involves powder.
You’ll want to grab your favorite loose powder with a sheer to medium finish — but don’t overdo it. We love the Beauty Bakerie Face Flour Baking Powder ($24). “For this airy, matte finish, you do want to powder the entire face but with a very light touch and fluffy brush,” Miller says. “Be sure to be deliberate with your brush strokes — a patting motion works best to ensure you capture the soft powder on the surface of the foundation.” And there you have it: hydrated and smooth with a healthy radiance but no shine.
If you couldn’t tell, “cloud skin” makeup isn’t something you can throw on in five minutes; it requires a little patience, allowing each product to fully absorb into the skin before moving on to the next step. Find joy in the slow process of getting ready by turning it into a self-care moment. Throw on a podcast, listen to some music, and really focus on what you’re doing.
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