WTF Are Tinted Oils?

Half facial oil, half pigment. We test-drive four iterations of the latest foundation alternative.

WTF Are Tinted Oils?

I’m perpetually on a Goldilocks-esque hunt for the perfect foundation. One that’s not too thick and not too thin. One that evens my skin tone without turning it into one opaque shade. One that’s gentle enough not to cause breakouts but tough enough to stay put slash not leave two bean-shaped marks on either side of my nose when I wear sunglasses.

It has to be out there somewhere, right?

Anyway, when a press release landed in my inbox touting a new product under the category of “tinted oil,” I had to investigate.

Basically, tinted oils (also known as serum foundations) are lightweight, skin-nourishing alternatives to heavier foundations and tinted moisturizers. The main criterion is they all have to have skin-benefiting properties—so you’re not just wearing makeup for the sake of wearing makeup, but rather treating your skin to the same regenerative, super-moisturizing ingredients during the day as you do at night.

Skepticism aside, I found that after two weeks of alternating tinted oils instead of my usual all-over tinted moisturizer and Picassoed concealer routine, my skin was feeling less tight and flaky than usual by the end of the day (and I may even have found a new addition to my Holy Grail drawer).

Here’s what went down. And by “down,” I mean all over my face.


RéVive Le Tint Moisturizing Veil


The Press Release: “A tinted oil that combines special bio-engineered ingredients that promote skin-cell turnover, and color correcting pigments to instantly blur imperfections.”

The First Impression: This was the tinted oil I originally read about in the aforementioned press release. It hasn’t gone to market yet, but, using the art of General Pestering, I managed to get my hands on one of the luxe-looking frosted-glass bottles. Each droplet of this stuff is marbled with streaks of oil and feels thinner than a standard foundation or tinted moisturizer when you rub it between your fingers. I liked the quantity that comes in the bottle (like, you’re good for a year) and the long eyedropper used to dispense the product.

The Good: Of all the tinted oils, where this one really shone was through a lens—it’s the ideal base for FaceTiming or selfie-ing. It caught the light like it was infused with tiny magical pearls and gave my skin that perfect natural-yet-naturally-flawless finish. My boyfriend actually asked if I was wearing different makeup, which, in the past four and a half years, was the first time that’s ever happened.

The Bad: After a few minutes, you could see where it had started to patch around my forehead and temples. You have to apply it very thoroughly because of the oily consistency.

The Scent: Inoffensive, ever so slightly dough-like.

Apply With: Fingertips. (It soaked into the Beauty Blender really easily, so you end up using way more product than necessary.)


Gressa Minimalist Serum Foundation


The Press Release: “It’s a serum. It’s a foundation. It’s a multivitamin for your face. Perfect your face with long-term benefits of this revolutionary serum to powder foundation.”

The First Impression: It’s just…so…light. I don’t know how to describe it. The consistency is of a dry serum, and a little goes a long way—one healthy drop on a Beauty Blender covered my entire face.

The Good: After two different makeup-loving acquaintances recommended this stuff, I had to give it a shot. It felt really nice on my skin—like I wasn’t wearing any makeup at all. Of the four, this is the product I’ve been using most often. It’s the perfect level of coverage for my taste: medium but still natural-looking with freckles peeking through. It’s also certified organic, which makes me feel better about myself and the fact that I’m eating Wendy’s chicken nuggets as I write this.

The Bad: The powder finish is nice if you like the matte look, but I wish it were just the slightest bit more dewy.

The Scent: It smells exactly—and I mean exactly—like Vega One protein powder. But that just means it’s healthy, right?

Apply With: Beauty Blender.


Josie Maran Vibrancy Argan Oil Fluid Foundation


The Press Release: “A revolutionary medium-to-full coverage skincare foundation fluid powered by 100 percent pure argan oil and nutrient-rich pigments for vibrant, glowing skin. Like a fresh squeezed juice, Vibrancy utilizes a revolutionary cold-pressed process that preserves the powerful, hand-selected ingredients for the freshest, most effective skincare foundation.”

The First Impression: Of the four, this one had the most coverage and was the only one that felt like more of a foundation than it did an oil—but it was still more silky-smooth than the average liquid base.

The Good: The range of shades and undertone guide made it easy to find one that matched my skin perfectly rather than somewhere passable in between. I also usually have a few surprise blemishes waiting after I rinse off a medium- to full-coverage foundation, but that wasn’t the case with this product.

The Bad: After an hour, I did notice it a little bit of caking around the dry patches on either side of my nose.

The Scent: Nothing discernible.

Apply With: Fingertips or Beauty Blender.


Cover FX Custom Cover Drops


(Okay, so this one is actually just the tint in tinted oil. But mix however many Custom Cover Drops you want into your facial oil and voilà.)

The Press Release: “Custom Cover Drops can be mixed with anything liquid to add coverage—moisturizers, serums, oils, primers, foundations and tinted moisturizers that are water, oil or silicone-based. Weightlessly transforms your favorite beauty product into the sheerest tint all the way to a total coverage foundation, depending on how many drops you add.”

The First Impression: Hallelujah.

The Good: Where do I begin with these little droplets of super-pigmented, flesh-tinted goodness? One squeeze of the eyedropper into a fingertip-sized pool of oil covered my entire face and some neck*. After massaging it into my skin for a few seconds, it actually felt like it disappeared under the surface, leaving my usually usually dry and pillow-lined face looking even and—dare I say—awake. I also love that with these drops, I don’t have to lug around two full-sized bottles of foundation when traveling—just this tiny eyedropper and my regular facial oil, and I have everything from a light tint to a full-coverage foundation with me.

The Bad: The stuff is potent—it’s pure pigment, so adding too many drops will render your moisturizing base a thick fleshy paste (and not in a Kevyn Aucoin way). I would also recommend mixing these drops into a lighter-consistency oil or serum—thicker nighttime oils, like my go-tos, Kiehl’s Midnight Repair and Vintner’s Daughter, will leave that telltale I’m-going-to-bed-and-I-don’t-plan-on-anyone-coming-with-me oil slick, regardless of how many Magic Drops you squeeze in.

The Scent: Whatever the scent of the oil you mix them into.

Apply With: Fingertips. Magic wand. Just try them.

*The last time I said those words in that order, I was describing my first makeout.

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