Matte Makeup Is Making A Comeback—Here's How To Do It Right

The softly powdered, neutral makeup look that's flattering on everyone, works for all skin types, and complements every occasion is back, but not quite like we remember it.

By Simone Sydel6 min read

The beauty world has seen an enduring tug-of-war between matte and glowy makeup in the past eight to ten years, and with every season, one seems to be favored over the other. One became popular with the rise of the Glossier, clean girl, and minimalistic makeup trends on TikTok; the other has been a constant favorite of makeup artists and beauty enthusiasts alike.

Perfected over the years to become a staple for any occasion, the timeless trend of softly powdered makeup is making a comeback with a modern twist. With an ever-increasing demand for makeup that just works for everyone, it's no surprise that matte makeup is yet again having its moment.

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When Exactly Did Matte Makeup Go Out of Style?

Matte makeup never quite went out of style for those with combination or oily skin. However, we can all agree that the heavy matte look did become an overdone sensation around 2017 or 2018 when we collectively decided that waking up two hours earlier to paint a facade on our faces before work or school was no longer the most convenient.

It was about the time we realized the 2016 Instagram look only looked good on, well, Instagram and that looking at the rearview mirror in our car and seeing our reflection with all the creases, cracks, and lines that powdered matte makeup emphasized was not something to wear proudly after all.

Luckily for everyone who needed a change of pace, this was around the time brands like Glossier started popping up on the market, with a message centered around embracing our natural beauty while honoring our skin instead of covering it under layers of pigment. That's when we saw a rise in the popularity of more natural-looking makeup, with dewy and glowy finishes taking center stage.

Fast forward to the pandemic, and the quarantine life pushed us to embrace our natural beauty even more as we spent most of our days in front of a computer screen and lounging on our couches instead of at an office desk and meeting with friends during our free time.

Dewy skin makeup trends were driven by the association with feelings like freedom, being clean, or having fun at the beach.

Falling out of having a makeup routine really does give you a sort of freedom that many of us didn't want to give up when the time came to return to our workplaces and social lives. Be it the need to sleep in an extra hour or just not wanting to deal with the hassle of a full face of makeup every day, many of us streamlined our beauty routines during this time, and trends like "clean girl makeup" that made you look clean, polished, and put together, all while taking a minimal amount of time to achieve, became the preferred option.

From there, and during the first year of summer vacations after being locked up in our houses for what seemed like an eternity, "beachy" and "glowy" makeup became popular, and most of these looks consisted of simply evening out your skin tone with a tinted moisturizer and adding the tiniest bit of blush or bronzer to accentuate the natural shadows of your face.

So, while minimalistic makeup truly looks good on most people, it seems that these trends are driven by emotions through associating them with a feeling like freedom, being clean, or having fun at the beach, which could be the reason why we've seen matte makeup take the backseat in recent years.

The Matte Resurgence We're Seeing Now

Late last year and into the beginning of 2024, we started seeing a shift in the beauty industry toward more matte looks, and as usual, it all started on TikTok. This resurgence of matte makeup seems to align with a growing appreciation for its versatility and flattering effect, proving once again that it’s a beauty staple that genuinely looks good on everyone and complements any occasion, making it an ideal choice for both casual and formal settings.

From a full glam evening look to a lightweight day look, a matte base can be made to work no matter your skin type or personal preference, simply because it's a technique that aims to cover our imperfections rather than exacerbate them, which is often the case when using dewy finish makeup products that may look good on camera, but in the real world, it makes you wonder whether you really look glowy or like you're sweating, or whether the bumps, dry patches, and fine lines on your skin look less or more prominent.

The resurgence of matte makeup has also brought back a classic and timeless aesthetic that is not tied to any particular generation or trend, making it accessible and adaptable for everyone. Matte makeup’s universality has brought on the collective realization that a matte finish provides timeless elegance and simplicity, and it always looks in-fashion, especially when done correctly.

A Classic Look with a Twist

So, what sets this modern take on matte makeup apart from its previous iterations? Well, for starters, it's all about balance. While the heavy matte look of the '90s focused on a completely flat and powdered finish, today's matte makeup, through various trendy forms such as "cloud skin," aims to strike a balance between shine-free and natural-looking.

This is achieved by using complexion products with a velvety matte rather than a dry powdery finish, as well as incorporating a small amount of strategically placed contour or bronzer and blush to add dimension and warmth to the face, creating a healthy and balanced look, rather than a complexion that looks dull and flat.

Furthermore, the minimalism that has become a staple in modern makeup looks is still present, and it's used to the look's advantage by keeping the rest of the makeup simple, clean, and light so as not to compete with the matte base. This results in a tastefully executed look that enhances natural features rather than masking them under layers of coverage and heavy products but also lasts all day while remaining fresh and polished.

Wearing Matte Makeup the Right Way

While matte makeup can work for everyone, no matter the skin type or preference, this doesn't make this style foolproof. In fact, as with any makeup look, there are certain guidelines and techniques that must be followed to achieve the desired result. First and foremost, choosing the right products for your skin type is crucial.

Matte Makeup for Dry Skin

The irony about matte makeup is that it can make textured skin look flawless if done right, but textured and dry skin can also be the reason matte makeup looks bad on you. So, if you have dry skin, you want to start by prepping your complexion with a hydrating primer, such as the Tatcha Liquid Silk Canvas, and applying a little bit of a hydrating liquid foundation, such as the Laura Mercier Real Flawless Weightless Foundation, over it. 

Then, you want to use the tiniest amount of powder to set only certain areas of your face, such as the eyelids, nose, center of forehead, and chin, to avoid looking dry and patchy while making sure your makeup stays on all day. The Kosas Cloud Set Baked Setting & Smoothing Powder is a fantastic powder for dry skin as it doesn't dry out flat, but it also doesn't leave your skin looking caked, so you can touch it up throughout the day without worrying that it will look heavy or unnatural.

Finally, when it comes to adding dimension to your face, you can probably get away with cream-based contours, bronzers, and blushers as long as they have a velvety matte finish. A fantastic option for making your dry cheeks pop while defining your bone structure is the Patrick Ta Double-Take Crème & Powder Duo.

Matte Makeup for Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, you can get away with using more powder if you use the right kind, as cakiness is still possible if you go overboard. So, start by prepping your face with a hydrating primer that's not flattening but doesn't contain shimmery ingredients that could turn your skin into a greasy mess by the end of the day. The Iconic London Velvet Smooth Pore-Refining Primer is a fantastic option for this, as it delivers essential hydration without leaving the skin looking oily.

The next step is a foundation, and if you are an oily girl, you probably know the struggle of finding a foundation that lasts all day and keeps the shine at bay. However, the solution to this is pretty simple, as any semi-matte foundation can work for you; you just need to use the correct amount in the right places. Start with a thin layer of a buildable foundation, such as the Dior Backstage Face & Body Foundation, in the outer perimeter of your face, and then gradually build up coverage in the center to avoid a mask-like appearance.

Once your liquid base is applied, you can set everything in place with a finely milled powder, such as the Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Instant Setting + Blotting Powder, paying extra attention to your T-zone and any other areas where you tend to get oily. Remember, do not sweep the powder on your face; instead, press it gently using a large, fluffy brush for the perfect coverage and no cakiness.

When it comes to adding dimension to the face, stick to matte bronzers and blushes that will give you a natural-looking flush of color without adding any unnecessary shine. Additionally, pay special attention to the areas of application, as you certainly don't want to drag your bronzers and blushes all the way to your smile lines, which will cause them to look even shinier and misplaced throughout the day. Instead, keep the pigment focused on the upper cheek area and blend it out to create a subtle yet defined look. Use products like the LYS Beauty Blush and Bronzer for a long-lasting and budge-proof matte finish that will stay put even on the oiliest of skin types.

Matte Makeup for Combination Skin

When it comes to the skin type that's a combination of dry and oily, you really just need to focus on creating a balance between the two by trying to avoid using too much product in areas that are already oily and adding a little bit of moisture to areas that are prone to dryness.

In terms of foundation, you can choose any product with a semi-matte finish as long as it's not overly drying or greasy. The Estée Lauder Double Wear Sheer Foundation is an excellent option for combination skin, as it provides a natural-looking finish while still being hydrating enough to keep dry areas under control and oiliness at bay.

Then, use a very light hand with powder in areas that are naturally oily to help them stay matte throughout the day without looking cakey. The Givenchy Prisme Libre Loose Setting and Finishing Powder is an excellent powder as it's buildable, so you can control the amount of coverage you want depending on the area and skin type.

Finally, when it comes to contouring and color, stick with cream-based products with a semi-matte finish, as they are easier to blend and will give the dry cheek area a more natural look compared to powders. The Rare Beauty Contour Stick and Liquid Blush are two great options for creating a seamless matte finish on combination skin without making it look too dry or too oily. 

The modern take on matte makeup offers a balance of shine-free and natural-looking skin while still incorporating the minimalist approach to create a polished and long-lasting look deserving of a spot in every girl's beauty routine.

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