Cloud skin is the soft focus makeup trend that’s sweeping social media. It stands in contrast to the dewy glazed doughnut look with its more matte finish. On the other hand, celebrity makeup artist Emily Gray notes that the trend fits in with other recent favorites in that it presents a softer complexion rather than full coverage. “Cloud skin is all about a light veil of loose powder, used as a way to lightly set makeup and blur texture,” explains Kevyn Aucoin director of artistry and education Nick Lujan.
Powder is the key ingredient here as it lends a blurring effect—hello, Paris filter IRL. Celebrity makeup artist Judi Gabbay notes that while it’s peaking in popularity in the mainstream, makeup artists often use the technique “for shoots and red carpets as it photographs beautifully and locks in glam for all-day wear.” Cofounder of NUDESTIX, Taylor Frankel says seasonality also has something to do with it. “We tend to be drawn towards matte finishes in the colder months and dewy, glowy skin in the warmer months,” she explains. Frankel adds that it also folds nicely into the more natural-looking minimalist routines that people are looking for.
What is cloud skin?
Gabbay explains that cloud skin is essentially “a soft matte skin feel that has been rebranded for TikTok. Think hazy, blurred skin with minimal glow in all of the right places.” Gray explains that this effect gives the face a “soft looking, velvety, almost filter-like quality.” She adds that she’s seen it described as “the joining between the full coverage matte and natural dewy complexion.”
Frankel says the blurred matte complexion is paired with a soft flush of matte blush on the eyes, cheeks and lips. When it comes to cloud skin, she notes that “there are no harsh defined lines or finishes. The blush melts into the skin with diffused edges, so you don’t really know where it starts and where it finishes.”
Skin prep for cloud skin
The crucial first step to attaining cloud skin is good skin care, says makeup artist Allison Kaye. Gray suggests heavily prepping with moisturizers, especially if you have dry skin. “Drier skin types can do cloud skin, but they need to focus on hydration to avoid having a flaky or raisin-like complexion,” notes Gray. Gabbay explains, “you’ll want your skin to feel plump and hydrated as you’ll be powdering over the top.”
For skin prep, Gabbay likes using Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream ($65) with the Tarte Maracuja Oil ($48) for extra hydration. She also recommends a hydrating primer. For oily skin, Gray suggests Uncommon Beauty Daily Water Cream ($48). For those with dry skin, like her, she recommends Kora Organics Noni Glow Facial Oil ($69) topped with Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($49). Pro tip: Gray likes to add a bit of liquid highlighter to her moisturizer “to create a bit more radiance from within effect.”
First, lay the foundation
Gabbay notes that this look calls for different textures in different parts of the face to create the cloudy effect, so there are a few essential steps. Frankel suggests beginning with a soft matte finish foundation or complexion product like NUDESTIX Tinted Blur Foundation Stick ($32). For a liquid product, Kaye recommends Maybelline Fit Me Matte ($9) or Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup ($48). If you’re using liquid foundation, Gabbay suggests stippling it on to skin with a damp beauty sponge. Frankel follows the foundation with a blurring stick like Blot & Blur Matte Stick ($34). It helps easily create a soft blurring finish.
Then “bounce” the sponge with a slightly lighter shade of concealer beneath the eyes for an airbrushed effect, says Gabbay. You can follow this with cream contour, bronzer and liquid or cream blush, says Gray. For contouring, Gray suggests Danessa Myricks Balm Contour ($26) since they’re easy to blend. “For blush, I have been absolutely obsessed with Half Magic Cheek Fluffs ($20), which are cream-powder hybrids, so they essentially have a built-in cloud skin effect,” she adds. Frankel suggests Nudies Matte Lux Blush ($35), “which is a blurring matte blush formula to create a soft focus skin finish.”
Now, make it “cloudy”
“Now we get to the magic step and key to cloud skin, the pressed powder,” says Gray. The experts’ suggestions on how to best apply the pressed powder vary. Feel free to try each option and see which works best with your skin. “It’s all in the application,” says Lujan, who notes that “loading your brush is just as important as applying.”
Lujan says to begin by dipping your fluffy brush into loose powder. “Stand the brush upright and tap the handle on a hard surface. This drops the powder deep into the bristles to help avoid dry patches or over-powdering the skin. It also helps eliminate fall-out.” Then press and roll your brush gently over your complexion, avoiding hard pressure. The press-and-roll technique helps “distribute the smallest and smoothest amount of powder, just enough to blur texture and lightly set. Leaving you with a demi-matte/satin/silky skin finish,” says Lujan. If there is excess powder at the end, be sure to dust it off.
When looking for the right loose powder, Lujan suggests considering soft, light, fluffy, rolling, barely there clouds. Avoid powders that grab or feel textured. The smoother, the better for this look. Lujan recommends Kevyn Aucoin Beauty Loose Setting Powder ($42) paired with the large, fluffy, soft Blurring Powder Brush ($47).
Gray and Gabbay like using powder puffs to apply powder. Gray recommends Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Powders ($48) for light to medium complexions. For medium to deep complexions she recommends The Lip Bar Set the Tone Finishing Powder ($13). Gabbay suggests using a velour puff and Laura Mercier Translucent Powder ($43) to “dab the center of your face and under eyes leaving your perimeter dewy.” Gray prefers to apply powder gently over the entire face, dabbing excess powder with her palm. She notes that you can top the powder with a luminous powder highlighter or blush.