Interested In A Natural, "No-Makeup Look"? Here's Our Step-By-Step Guide
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
It sounds a little counterintuitive: the "no-makeup look." But it's much more than a simple forgoing of your cosmetic bag: This effortless glow takes some skill to truly get right. It strikes the perfect balance between au naturel and polished—like you just so happened to wake up bright and refreshed (along with a strong brow game).
So how do you nail this "no-makeup look"? We tapped the experts for the easiest step-by-step guide.
How to nail the no-makeup look: 6 steps.
Of course, a "no-makeup look" won't look the same for everyone. The specifics can become a little nuanced (some can't possibly imagine skipping highlighter; others are fine sans shimmer), but here are some general guidelines to follow:
Create a hydrated base.
Of course, skin care is No. 1 priority for any natural, dewy look. But for the "no-makeup look," hydration becomes even more imperative: "You want to make sure your skin is well-hydrated so that when you're applying your foundation, it doesn't look too heavy," celebrity makeup artist and founder of Camara Aunique Beauty, Camara Aunique, tells mbg.
That might mean incorporating a hydrating toner into the rotation, sure, but you also want to keep your base bouncy and lightweight. To do so, mix a few pumps of serum or moisturizer with your foundation or BB cream for an extra-sheer application so you can blur any imperfections, but let your natural skin texture breathe.
Brighten dark circles and blemishes.
Looking bright and awake is arguably the most important part of the "no-makeup look." That includes a brightening eye cream (we repeat: skin care is the first step), and using concealer to your advantage.
On the eye cream front, makeup artist Alexandra Compton, product development manager at clean beauty retailer Credo, recommends snagging one formulated with caffeine. "This will immediately help to rehydrate, brighten and reduce any puffiness under the eyes," she says. As for concealer, Aunique is partial to a purple color corrector to instantly brighten dark circles. Pro tip: Apply it in the inner corner of your under-eye first (where people tend to have the most discoloration), sheer it out, then follow with a regular concealer on top to set. "That gives you instant brightness," Aunique adds.
Next, simply apply your concealer only where you need it most (breakouts, hyperpigmentation, and the like). Concealer is also the "no-makeup look" version of a highlighter: "Extend your concealer slightly over the tops of the cheekbones for a very natural, subtle highlight," says Compton.
Stick to your natural flush.
Don't go too heavy on the blush here—you want to stick to rosy shades that match your natural flush, says Compton (she suggests pinching your cheeks to identify your undertones). You might even want to choose a lip-to-cheek product here, as matching your pout to your blush gives you a natural-looking glow—like you just so happened to finish a brisk jog or hot yoga session.
If you don't have a multiple on-hand, no sweat: Aunique recommends a creamy nude or peach-toned lipstick on the cheeks for some subtle color (clean, natural options are typically loaded with good-for-you ingredients like hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, so it should be A-OK to tap one into the apples of your cheeks).
Skip the liner; opt for tight-lined mascara.
Love the definition of an eyeliner, but want to keep the look natural? There's a simple mascara hack you can do to achieve that same tight-line. Here's Compton's trick: "Using your favorite volumizing mascara, concentrate the wand as close to the lash line as possible. Do this a few times at the base of your lashes to build the formula up and achieve your desired level of intensity. Repeat on the bottom lashes as close to your waterline as possible."
If mascara's not your thing, simply reach for a clear option after curling those flutters: A clear mascara can provide definition and fullness (and condition your lashes, while you're at it) without a touch of pigment.
Don't overdraw your brows.
A fluffy, brushed up brow is a "no-makeup look" mainstay. "It's a simple way to pull together your look without using any makeup," Compton explains. But there's a fine line between achieving full, lush brows and arches that look too defined and painted.
To keep it natural, brush up those hairs with a dry spoolie to your desired shape. Check out any gaps or sparse areas, then fill in just those spots with your brow pencil or crayon. No need to outline the brow with any harsh lines—just draw in wisps of hair where you need to make them appear full. Then set with a swipe of brow gel (whether tinted or clear), and you're good to go.
Finish with a lip oil or balm.
As for your pout, simplicity is key: Stick to a tinted lip balm or chic lip oil to give your lips subtle shine without appearing too glossy. In terms of color, Compton recommends finding your "my lip, but better" (MLBB) sort of shade—one that matches your lip color perfectly but adds just a touch more intensity. If you opted for a lipstick-turned-blush on your cheeks, feel free to tap in the creamy shade on your lips as well—either leave it alone for a super-natural color, or top with lip oil for some sheen.
Final tips and tricks.
To truly elevate the natural look, mind these makeup-artist-approved hacks:
- Don't be afraid to use your hands: Skip the brushes, Aunique says; opt for your (clean!) fingers. Especially if you don't have a beauty blender on hand, your own paws work just as well. "Our hands warm up the makeup and sheer it out really nicely," she notes.
- If you simply can't skip the eyeliner, choose a white shade: If liner is your thing, you can keep it natural with a white or cream color. Simply apply it on your waterline to define your eyes without looking like you're wearing too much makeup. Bonus: A white or cream shade instantly brightens your eyes as well.
- Focus on the center of your face: "The center of your face is where people will naturally focus their attention," Compton says. That means focus your concealer inward—around the edges of the nostrils, for instance—for an extra bout of brightness, and spend the majority of your time perfecting your brows and lashes.
- Try the "reverse makeup hack": If you really want to shoot for a barely there makeup look, Compton suggests applying all of your base products in reverse order. Apply your concealer and blush, then overlay a tinted moisturizer or sheer foundation on top for a soft and cushiony finish.
If there's one overarching theme for a "no-makeup look," it's appearing bright and awake—like you just woke up with glowing, practically airbrushed skin. Other than that, there's tons of wiggle room here; you might have to use makeup to your advantage in a slightly different way, and that's totally fine. Take these six steps as guidelines, not so much as hard-and-fast rules: Love a berry-stained pout or peachy highlight? Go for it! Makeup should be fun, even if the final look is minimal.
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Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.