Matte Skin Is Back—Here's Everything to Know About the Cloud Skin Trend

Oily-skinned girls, rejoice.


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The trend cycle is just that—cyclical. Which means nearly everything that goes out of style will eventually find its way back into the zeitgeist once again. Just look at the recent resurgence of thin brows: While just mention of the trend is enough to leave those who lived through it the first time recoiling, today’s iteration features a much-needed modern-day makeover. 

And after a years-long love affair with dewy, glassy skin, it looks like the beauty community is finally coming back around to the matte look. It calls back to the powder puffing days of the mid-2010s, when undereye baking was the standard and matte foundations were set with even further mattifying setting sprays. Today’s take on the trend is decidedly different, combining the best of late 2010’s matte craze and the glowy goodness of the early 2020s for a more dimensional, soft-focus look called “cloud skin.”

Coined by makeup artist and global senior artist for MAC Cosmetics, Dominic Skinner, the trend occupies the space between matte and glowy radiance, meant to mimic the way clouds can look when the sun is shining through them, giving an almost-illuminated appearance to the fluffy white masses. By mixing textures and thoughtful powder placement, cloud skin gives a lit-from-within, hazy diffusion that’s been all over on TikTok.

If the viral trend looks familiar, that’s because it is. “This is the way professional makeup artists have been doing makeup for a long time, long before social media came up with catchy names for everything we do,” says makeup artist and founder of her eponymous brand, Jenny Patinkin. “In a nutshell, ‘cloud skin’ is softly mattified makeup that doesn't look dull or flat but that also doesn't have the bright dewy or highlighted reflection we've been seeing so much of recently.”

The technique has been particularly popular for red carpet looks throughout the years—too much powder can look dull and bland under the hot lights of a red carpet, while camera flashbacks can quickly make skin look too shiny. A restrained but purposeful powder application, as well as a thoughtful combination of mattifying and moisturizing products, is key to striking the right balance.

According to Patinkin, cloud skin is all about three things: making sure your skin is well hydrated and plump before applying any makeup, but not so much that it looks slick or sticky; applying makeup in thin layers with soft brushes so natural skin can still come through; and dusting a very light wash of powder on top as a last step.

Ahead, we’re breaking down the cloud skin trend step by step, plus sharing a few of our favorite product recommendations.

Base Prep

Any great makeup look starts with great skincare, and cloud skin is no exception. The goal here is to boost moisturize levels and give skin a bright, plump complexion. Start with a hydrating serum, like MAC Cosmetics Hyper Real Serumizer Skin Balancing Hydration Serum ($55; or Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($44; Skin should feel well hydrated—not dewy or slippery.

Depending on your skin type, you should either follow up with a moisturizer of your choice (if your skin is on the drier side) or simply skip ahead to the following step, primer. To create that perfectly balanced cloud effect, prep skin with a mattifying primer, like the E.L.F Matte Putty Primer ($10;, focusing the product on targeted areas where you tend to get the shiniest.

Foundation and Concealer

Next up is foundation. To further create that balance, Patinkin suggests using a lightweight foundation or skin tint with a radiant finish, like the Rare Beauty Positive Light Tinted Moisturizer ($30; Buff a small amount of product into the skin with a fluffy brush (rather than a densely packed brush or sponge) for more of a natural filter on the skin. Lightly apply concealer as needed.

Blush, Bronzer, and Highlighter

If you want to add blush and bronzer, Patinkin suggests looking for cream products with semi-matte or natural finishes, which will add color, structure, and a hint of radiance to the skin without feeling outright glowy. We love the finish on Danessa Myricks new Yummy Skin Blurring Balm Powder Flushed Color ($25; 

The dewy base will already look highlighted in comparison to the fluffier, powdered sections, but for even more glow, add a transparent, shimmer-free highlighter, like the Tower28 SuperDew Highlight Balm ($18; to the high points of the cheeks, lips, eyes, and Cupid’s bow.

Be sure to blend out any obvious lines with a light, airy touch; each texture should look like it seamlessly leads into the next.


Here’s where the powder comes in. According to Patinkin, you’ll want something translucent and finely milled—either a loose setting powder, like Huda Beauty Easy Bake Loose & Setting Powder ($35; or a pressed powder, like Kosas Cloud Set Baked Setting & Smoothing Powder ($35;, will do. The key is using a small enough brush for pinpoint application—we’re fans of Jenny Patinkin Luxury Vegan Blend/Sert Brush ($24;

Dip the brush into the powder, tap off any excess product on the brush, and lightly tap or swirl onto the face. Apply a light dusting of powder in the inner corners of the eyes, around the nostrils, and along both the jawline and hairline along the upper forehead. If you find your T-zone tends to get oily throughout the day, swipe some powder on the nose and chin as well. Avoid the high points of the face.

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