Makeup Trend: Mastering Matte

A guide to the best matte foundations, primers, bronzers and more

How to use matte makeup for maximum effect

Modern matte makeup is light years ahead of where it was back in the ’90s when it last reached this level of popularity. Mattes are sophisticated, realistic and technologically advanced now, giving skin a smooth texture that’s both believable and comfortable.

That said, mattes should be used judiciously – never use all matte makeup (just as you should never use all shimmer). Instead, mix your textures to make your look modern and effective. Matte bases pair well with juicy lips; matte eyes are perfect with sheer foundations; bold, matte lips cry for a wash of shimmering blush. The key is striking a balance that gives your face overall dimension while prettifying.

Click through for the best matte foundations, primers, bronzers and more

Matte Foundations

There are so many choices this year for truly fabulous matte foundations, ranging from sheer BB Creams to full-coverage liquids to easy-to-apply powders. These are next-gen foundations that offer incredible, skin-like texture in believable colours. No masks here.

Emani’s Flawless Matte Foundation ($35) is a 100 per cent vegan powder with just enough coverage to blur imperfections and leave skin looking fresh. Honeysuckle, rosemary and grape extract keep skin hydrated and comfortable.

For more coverage, Estee Lauder’s Clear Difference Complexion Perfecting BB Cream ($46) provides a mattifying tinted sunblock (SPF 35!), that covers redness while helping to keep breakouts at bay.

The Body Shop’s new Tea Tree Flawless BB Cream ($15) is another light- to medium-coverage option that has a velvety matte finish.

For full coverage, these new liquid foundations will give you flawless, matte skin. They’re all incredibly pigmented (especially the NARS one) and set quickly, so pick up a small amount of product and work that in first before moving on. Working in thin layers is the key here.

Clinique’s Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer ($34) is the most forgiving, time-wise. It’s an oil-free formula that comes with a large doe-foot applicator for easy spot application.

Clarins’ Everlasting Foundation + ($41) is packed with nourishing ingredients to give skin a treatment while providing flawless coverage that easily lasts more than 12 hours.

NARS’ All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation ($57) is a bit misleading, because it’s not luminous at all. But it is incredibly weightless and does last the entire day. This one is best used with a brush.

Mattifying Primers

If you’re serious about making your matte look last the day (especially if you have oily skin), you’ll need a few extra products to help extend the life of your makeup. Even mattifying or oil-controlling products can only hold your natural oil production at bay for so long. But the products below are all winners.

Revlon’s PhotoReady Prime + Antishine primer (010 Clear) ($17.99) leaves a light, powdery finish that mattifies skin while prepping it perfectly for the rest of your makeup. Like all silicone-based primers, apply this in long, smooth strokes in very thin layers; do not rub as you would a lotion.

Lips are prone to dehydration, so layer on some matte lip balms under matte lipstick. Queen of the Hive’s Organic Manuka Honey Lip Balm ($4.95) delivers hydrating, matte coverage without any shine. Made with organic honey, cocoa butter and peppermint oil, it smells like an After Eight squeezed into a tube. This gives lips a grippy, cushiony base without compromising the matte effect.

For touch-ups, Urban Decay’s De-Slick Mattifying Powder ($38) is made with oil-absorbing rice starch that will help absorb any shine that appears during the day, without adding chalkiness or disturbing your makeup.

Matte Eyes

Matte eyes are versatile and modern. Go dark and you can create the illusion of depth when contouring; go light and you can even out your eyelids for a fresh, clean look. The key, as with all mattes, is to balance the flat with a little shimmer – add some highlighter on your brow bones, inner corners or cheek bones.

Using darker mattes around your eye crease/socket will help give the appearance of larger eyes. You want this area to look as if it’s receding, so matte is essential. Any shimmer here will reflect light, defeating the purpose (any shimmer should be above the crease, below the brow).

Estee Lauder’s Double Wear Stay In-Place Eye Pencil ($26) comes in several eye-defining matte shades ideal for creating dimension around the eyes. These are perfect for adding fullness at the roots of lashes and blend beautifully with a built-in smudger. Work fairly quickly with this pencil (one eye at a time), as once the creamy formula sets, it’s budge-proof.

Clarins’ Ombre Matte ($24) eye shadows are a cream-to-powder formula that are a cinch to apply. Fingers or brushes work equally well with this silky texture, providing even, velvety colour. The colour range is neutral, with darker shades perfect for foolproof contouring.

For colour, MAC’s  spring collection features a beautiful medium lilac eye shadow, Wow Factor ($19, limited edition).

Matte Lips

When you want to pull out all the stops with your lip colour, matte’s your friend. Nothing beats the pigmentation and longevity of a good matte lip. Pair a bold lip against dewy skin or luminous cheeks to keep things modern. If you’re concerned that matte equals dry, fear not. Today’s formulas are impressively lightweight, comfortable and even somewhat hydrating. But if you do have particularly dry lips, simply prime beforehand with a matte lip balm and you’re good to go.

New this spring from Lise Watier is Baiser Velours ($27), a collection of creamy liquid lipstick with incredible colour payoff. Apply and dab (quickly – they set in seconds) for more of a stain effect.

Urban Decay’s Revolution Lipstick ($26) really is revolutionary in that for a matte formula, it feels more akin to a sheer. Again, the colour payoff for this lipstick is impressive.

Canadian brand, Vasanti, offers Love Brights Gel Matte Lipsticks ($19), delivering bold, bright colours in a smooth gel texture.

Matte Blush

Matte blush is the easiest way to wear this beauty trend. And as long as your entire face isn’t already matte, this is flattering on everyone.

For spring, The Body Shop has just launched its new Lip and Cheek Velvet Sticks ($15). There’s something very satisfying about grabbing a chubby colour marker and boldly drawing across your face. These colours are sheer enough that you need three to five strokes per cheek and they blend like a charm. The sticks are available in five flattering shades and one “universal” shade that looks pitch black, but adjusts to your pH after application to emerge as a pinky-berry, wine colour on most skin tones. Yes, you can use this on your lips, but it’s much better as a blush.

Similar in concept is the cult favourite NARS’ Matte Multiple stick ($46) – but beyond format and texture, the similarities end. The formula for these sticks is so incredibly dense, it’s advisable to simply pat a finger onto the colour and then blend quickly onto cheeks and lips. These can be used wet as well, which eases the learning curve.

MAC’s Pro Longwear Blush ($31) is a long-time favourite, providing lightweight, extreme colour that lasts all day.

Matte Bronzer

I’ve never understood why anyone would want a bronzer with shimmer. Use it all over an you’re a disco ball. Use it for contouring and you defeat the purpose because of the reflective particles. If you’re going to have just one bronzer, make it matte.

Make Up For Ever‘s soon-to-be-launched (May 2015) Pro Bronze Fusion ($42), delivers natural, sun-kissed colour with an innovative gel-to-powder formula that’s lightweight and waterproof. The light, creamy texture makes it nearly foolproof. Available in three luminous matte shades (and three shimmer shades, if you must).

Guerlain’s iconic Terracotta Bronzing Powder ($60) is a beauty industry classic. Not only does it deliver realistic bronzing power, but it offers an impressive range of eight shades, so even the very pale and very dark can find options here.

This spring, Annabelle’s released a new matte version of their fan favourite, Biggy Zebra Bronzing Powder ($11.95). It’s a bargain that delivers finely-milled powder in beautiful, realistic colours.