Everyone is obsessed with dewy skin. We want skin steeped in hydration and glowing, with health and vitality, as if lit from within. Luckily, we have every tip and bit of research you need to get skin that not only reflects light but seems to be the source of light itself. Words like “luminous,” “glowing,” and “radiant” are what we want, and we want it, well, right now.
The desire for dewy skin is based on our obsession with healthy, youthful skin. Have you ever looked at a baby? That chubby, cute little face practically glows. That’s the skin we are craving, because it looks healthy. In a culture obsessed with wellness, great skin is a badge of honor — and the biggest indicator of overall health.
But what exactly what does “dewy” skin mean, where did our recent obsession with it come from, and how can you get this glassy, perfect skin for yourself? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is dewy skin?
The hallmark of dewy skin is that it appears to be drenched in hydration, so lush with water that moisture beads on the skin, refracting light. Think of morning dew resting on blades of grass, sunlight practically dancing through these beads of water, giving the greenery a lush, glittering appearance. It’s the same with the skin: Pearlescent elements of the skin allow natural light to play on and bounce off with that same glittering glow.
Because let’s be honest: As we age, our ability to reflect light diminishes. Our skin becomes less supple, its volume diminishes, and the contours of our face start to absorb light rather than reflect it. It’s nothing to fear or something anyone should be ashamed, it’s just a fact of life — one that has to do with our hormones, particularly estrogen.
In your 20’s
As a woman in your 20’s, estrogen is at an all-time high and your skin is at its absolute peak in terms of its collagen production, which is what creates taut, tight, “bouncy” skin; and hyaluronic acid content, which maintains and holds moisture in the skin. You also still have some of your “baby fat,” which means that your midface (ie, around your cheekbones and the volume of your cheeks under your eyes) protrudes from your skull, naturally bouncing light off this part of the face.
Youthful skin has a lot of cellular turnover (the process by which the body makes new skin cells and sheds dead ones) and skin recovery as well, which means that sun and environmental damage, wounds, and other maladies are more easily repaired. Essentially, your skin is at its best, and its youthful volume, hydration, and natural elasticity allow light to bounce playfully from the face. It’s why culturally, we love this appearance: it’s the hallmark of youthfulness.
In your 30’s
Unfortunately, as we age, estrogen levels start to decline. Starting in your 30’s, the skin’s ability to maintain high levels of collagen production and repair itself begin to diminish. The fat content drops from the face and skin loses its moisture - and thus its luster - more rapidly. Due to the lessened volume underneath the skin — as well as a slower rate of collagen production — collagen fibers begin breaking down, which is when fine lines and wrinkles start forming.
Dryness and inflammation may also become a problem in your 30’s. To keep your skin producing new cells in a youthful, healthy manner, now’s the time to use products that contain ceramides, which amp up collagen production, as well as those containing retinoids, which boost your rate of cellular turnover.
In your 40’s
Your skin’s elasticity, firmness, and moisture decline further by the time you reach your 40’s, causing dullness, wrinkles, and dryness to increase rapidly — women sometimes feel their skin practically changes “overnight.” This is when some may seek cosmetic injectables to replace the loss of midface volume that creates hollowness around the eyes as well as the overall appearance of sagging skin. Due to these issues, dewy skin starts to become less of an easy beauty trend and more of a skincare goal.
Luckily, this doesn’t mean the dewy look is all but lost for those over a certain age. The beauty industry is rife with solutions to achieve dewy skin: dewy makeup.
What is dewy makeup?
Dewy makeup is a combination of cosmetics which gives the appearance of luminous, hydrated skin. The beauty of is that skin doesn’t need to actually be glowing from within to look like it is: These cosmetics contain particles that reflect the light, creating a glow in all the right places. Apply these products to your forehead, below your eyebrows, the bridge and tip of your nose, your midface, the apples of your cheeks, and the Cupid’s bow of the your lips — essentially, anywhere light would naturally bounce off youthful, plump skin.
Regardless of age and skin health, you can apply luminizing primers, highlighters, and all manner of glowing products to create spotlights at various points of the face that make skin shine with radiance and look as if it’s in perpetual soft lighting.
One of the great things about dewy makeup is there are oh-so-many tools to get the look. Whether you have a casual affair with cosmetics or you’re all-in with every product, here’s a list of makeup-based glow-getters:
Adding a serum to your skin care regimen, which boosts hyaluronic acid to higher levels is critical to achieving that light-bouncing dewy skin look. Brands from Tarte to Volition Beauty have created beautiful serums that pack all the hyaluronic acid your skin needs in with other skin-loving ingredients like marine water, watermelon, and apple extracts, which smooth skin and diminish the appearance of fine lines. There are also serums that impart subtle shimmer, like the Illuminating Serum from Maya Chia, so take your pick and use them in conjunction with your skin care routine. Apply before your moisturizer.
And while we’re on the topic...
We have Asia to thank for our obsession with lit-from-within skin. Their skin care regimens have many steps and culminate with moisturizer to lock in layers of dew-inducing hydration and complexion correction. Even if you’re not interested in an intricate skin care routine, a good moisturizer that hydrates and helps with collagen production and repair is the right step toward luminous skin. Many companies, from Tatcha to Herbivore to La Mer, make premium moisturizers meant to give you dewy skin. The trick is to be relentless and consistent with your application — if you want skin that has a higher water volume and mimics the behavior of younger skin, you need to use moisturizer morning and night.
Speaking of which…
Sleep masks and treatments
There’s no better time to repair and hydrate your skin than when you’re asleep. It’s when the body goes into repair mode since it doesn’t have to power any other activities. If you want real results, use this valuable time to give your skin the assistance it needs to repair damage and restore hydration and plumpness. After your evening cleansing routine, slather on a sleep mask like those made by Belif or Dr. Jart+ to seal in hydration.
Pro tip: Chug a large glass of water right when you wake up to replace water lost while sleeping and enhance the benefits of your nighttime skin care regimen.
A primer with pearlescent properties will help you get that lit-from-within appearance. Too Faced, Estee Lauder, and Kat Von D all have primers that lock in that hydrated look and focus light where it benefits the face most. Apply this on top of moisturizer and under your complexion product for a stunning glow. Also, check out First Aid Beauty: Their Coconut Skin Priming Moisturizer is a two-for-one product that locks in moisture and primes makeup with a touch of glow.
Foundation and tinted moisturizer
There is seemingly no end to the complexion products which create a dewy glow. Most have some luminosity aspect to help skin appear glowing and supple. The trick with foundation is to find the shade that matches your face and to apply it from the décolleté up instead of from the forehead down. (This helps you blend it properly.)
Pro tip: Every woman should have a variety of foundations and tinted moisturizers to ensure that skin matches pre- and post-sun exposure.
If you’re exposed to any amount of sunlight — even through a window in a building or a car — your melanin production will increase, giving you a slight tan. Since your skin’s tint has changed, so should the complexion product.
Balms and creams
Sometimes, a soothing natural balm or cream can be used to amplify hydration before makeup application. Balms are a long-held beauty standard that have come back with some gorgeous new, light formulations. Glossier’s Balm Dotcom is a great example of a hydration-boosting, skin-loving balm, and many celebrity makeup artists swear by the healing, plumping powers of Weleda’s Skin Food. This is used as an extra insurance policy before makeup application in the morning or to reinvigorate tired skin before applying makeup for a night out or after a long day. Also, if you’ve been playing in the sun, this is an incredible skin-loving strategy to rehydrate post-sun.
Luminizers and highlighters
These products add glow to just the right spots in order to produce the effect of light bouncing from the face. Strategically placed in the areas where light bounces from plump, healthy skin, they can create a youthful, camera-ready look at any time. Luminizers and highlighters come in all sorts of formulas: pens (Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Radiant Touch is a gold standard), sticks (many makeup artists swear by NARS’ The Multiple in Copacabana and South Beach), pots (like RMS Beauty’s Living Luminizer), drops (Benefit Cosmetics’ High Beam is a long-time fan favorite), and tubes (Becca Cosmetics’ Shimmering Skin Perfector is a perfect example). You can also blend the liquid versions into your matte foundations to make them a little more glow-y.
BB and CC creams
Beauty balms and complexion-correcting creams are great ways to get skin-boosting benefits while helping heal conditions like acne and cover other complexion issues. A lot of these products have glow-inducing benefits to help skin glisten with health while they do their magic underneath. Take your pick of products that match your skin needs: Clinique, Laneige, IT Cosmetics, Smashbox, Dr. Jart+, Bobbi Brown, and Dior are just a few of the companies that make these beauty-boosters. For best results, just apply over your moisturizer, below — or instead of — your foundation.
As a final touch, you can also set your makeup with a spray that locks in the dewy look while adding that extra touch of hydration and glow. Makeup-setting sprays formulated with a touch of luminosity are the way to go. Brands like Urban Decay, Wander Beauty, and Lilah B. boast formulas that keep your dewy skin look sealed for hours and hours.
The history of dewy skin
In the West, we’ve been obsessed for years with cosmetics, but our focus has been on matte skin, which is dry, not-oily, and looks “flat” from a lighting perspective.
While the dewy standard of beauty has been been long prized by French, Japanese, and other cultures, our recent obsession with glowing, poreless, luminous skin comes from Korea. K-beauty became pervasive in the West thanks to the introduction of one particular product that blew the beauty culture wide open: BB cream.
Originally created in Germany as a water-based cream which could be harmlessly applied as a protective cover to post-peel patients, giving the appearance of even skin tone, Korean beauty companies took this product to the next level. They used this base product to create an effective cover for skin imperfections that could also be used to treat other conditions, like acne. The BB cream revolutionized the world of beauty in the last decade, creating a demand for and incredible interest in K-beauty, as well as an obsession with their products, which are some of the world's most effective and multi-functional.
Some of the most desired, must-have Korean beauty lines are:
- Peripera - Known for their genius makeup products with some of the smartest product packaging — think blushes you apply in a tube with a sponge-tip applicator and hydrating lip stains in a marker. Their Ah Much Real Cushion Blusher is not to be missed.
- AmorePacific - This legendary skin care brand is a must-have among socialites and the beauty editor set. They focus on hydration and skin health intensely but also have beautiful makeup products to help enhance your glow, like their Color Control Cushion Compact.
- Dr. Jart+ - One of the original Korean brands to hit the US market, Dr. Jart+ essentially introduced us to the BB cream.
- Mizon - Their All in One Repair Snail Repair Cream is legendary. Yes, snail cream — they found that snail excretion helps repair damaged skin, so not only did they create a cream that utilizes its power, they’ve also doubled down with a BB cream that heals while concealing and imparting a gorgeous glow thanks to the extract.
- Shangpree - Spa-obsessed Korean elites have flocked to the spa of the same name for years for their first-class products and extensively-trained staff. The spa launched an eponymous beauty line for its devoted fans, including a celebrated line of skin care products. While makeup isn’t their focus, their Crystal BB Cream is a must-have.
- Jung Saem Mool - Korea’s most celebrated makeup artist has launched a premium makeup line combining his high standards for quality with his trademark glow. These products are meant to create a dewy, flawless, pearl-like appearance — and they deliver. The Essential Glow Base creates a luminosity few other highlighters achieve, rendering a dewy glow from even the most tired, dull, dry skin.
- Holika Holika - This ultra-fun beauty brand mixes two Korean loves: natural ingredient-infused beauty treatments and plucky packaging and formulations. This is a brand that screams fun but yields high-quality results. The Aqua Petit Jelly BB is a fan favorite.
Today, supermodels lead the way with dewy, luminous complexions. Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kaia Gerber, and Kendall Jenner all have that lit-from-within glow. Other celebrities are known for that gorgeous dewy glow as well; Demi Lovato, Zendaya, Lucy Hale, and Shay Mitchell are perfect examples. But don’t think it’s just young women — Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, and Jessica Alba are all the epitome of dewy skin. Every woman can achieve this gorgeous glow.
How to get that dewy look
Now that you know the definition of dewy skin and a bit about its history, let’s discuss some tips for looking dewy in each season.
As the beauty trend finds its basis in water, it’s the key to achieving the look throughout the year:
- The key to dewy skin is hydration. Supple skin is a dermis so nourished from water it appears plump and luscious.
- Sealing water in is critical not only for skin health, but also getting that dewy look you desire.
- Your water intake is where it starts, which means drinking plenty of water and eating plenty of water-rich fruits and vegetables.
- Using the right moisturizer on top of cleansed, properly-exfoliated skin is also critical. You can take it a step further by applying the product on top of damp skin to lock water into the skin.
Read more about creating dewy skin naturally here.
After that, it’s a matter of using illuminating products to add to your glow:
- Dewy skin makeup looks soft, so it’s best to apply with soft applicators — this is where beauty blenders, sponges, and clean fingers and hands become your friends. Essentially, anything that can layer on product and blend easily will do the trick.
- Start with a dewy skin primer to build a base for a dewy makeup look that won’t budge. Simply apply to a makeup sponge or Beautyblender and tap onto clean, moisturized skin.
- Next, layer on a foundation with a bit of luminosity. Foundation brushes will change the way you look at and use the product: Not only do they apply product more evenly, you end up using less of it.
- Strategically placed concealer helps even your complexion, creating a smooth canvas for dewy makeup. Apply and then blend it by tapping your ring finger or using a concealer brush or sponge.
- A slight bit of contouring helps keep the bright focus on the dewy spots. You want to apply contour in the shape of a “3” on both sides of the face: Swipe a bit of bronzer or contouring stick from the temple into the mid-jaw, then dip outward underneath the jawline. Blend with your fingers or a blending brush or sponge. Some people like to add a bit of bronzer along the hairline to add a touch of shadow and underneath the jawline to add definition.
- Add blush to the centers of cheeks and blend in. This helps give the natural flush of youthful, healthy skin.
- Add highlight to give your dewy skin that light-bouncing effect everyone loves. Sweep a bit of highlight powder, cream, or stick underneath the browline and along the outside of your brow bone, the bridge of your nose, the center of your cheeks, your Cupid’s bow, and the tip of your chin. Blend with your ring finger or a small shadow brush.
- When it comes to eyeshadows and lipsticks, that soft lighting effect is usually best achieved with cream and liquid products.
- This is also where you want to avoid matte beauty products. The matte look eliminates shine and moisture, which is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve here. You can use a luminizing setting powder to set the look if you’d like, but you want to make sure not to pile on the shimmer. A little luminosity goes a long way.
- Finish your look with a makeup-setting spray, and you’re ready to step out into the world with a glow-getting, dewy makeup look!
The possibilities are endless when it comes to getting that dewy glow, and with the right application you can light up the day or night with a face that glows with health.