Since quitting my office job to become a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom, my look has undergone a bit of a transformation. My gray pencil skirts and heels have turned into yoga pants and flip-flops.
But just because I now consider jeans my “fancy” clothes, it doesn’t mean I don’t still want to look nice. Scrape all the dried milk and tomato sauce off my face and you’ll find a woman under there who still wants to feel pretty.
Enter the no-makeup, makeup look. I first saw it when traveling through Europe as a little girl. The women there didn’t wear nearly as much makeup as we tend to, yet they all had this naturally beautiful, effortless chic going on.
Wearing visible makeup can carry that uncool vibe of trying too hard, like wearing a ballgown at a baseball game. NOT wearing obvious makeup, on the other hand, makes you look like you have good genes. Like you just roll out of bed looking fabulous.
Also, I’m convinced that lighter makeup makes you appear younger. I’m not eighteen anymore and wearing tons of makeup somehow makes this more obvious.
So after much trial and error, here are the steps I use to create the no-makeup, makeup look:
1- Since your skin will be on display, it’s important to take good care of it. Take most of the money you were planning to spend on cosmetics, and put it into good skincare products instead.
2- Keep your eyebrows groomed, but don’t pluck them too thin because it’s aging (our eyebrows thin as we get older).
3- Don’t apply thick foundation during the daytime. Try tinted SPF or BB cream instead, and blend it well.
4- Apply eyebrow powder with an angled eyebrow brush. Use one shade lighter than your eyebrows (unless they are blonde) because it looks more natural. Right now, I’m using medium brown from Tarte, but I like Anastasia powders too.
5- Apply concealer to any spots or skin imperfections, which about 99.9999 % of us have. Look for any little red dots to cover, apply a light amount of concealer then “tap” it in with your finger until it disappears. Some people believe in applying concealer before foundation/BB cream, but I find that just messes up my work.
6- Apply light blush in a natural pink or peach color unless you’re naturally rosy. I like applying it to the apples of my cheeks and also lightly under the outer halves of my eyebrows. This balances the color on your face and is a trick I picked up from French women.
7- Spray a light mist of rose or mineral water over your face to melt everything together. Take a sponge and lightly blend.
8- Try “tightlining” your upper eyelashes. There are a couple different definitions of tightlining running around the web, but I prefer the technique where you gently lift your upper lashes and apply liner to the inner rim of your upper lashes.
This technique takes a little practice. You want a water-resistant liner (or cake liner and flat brush) and you want to keep it far forward, on the lash line itself. Otherwise, your liner gets wet and runs into your eye. But when done correctly, the liner is nearly invisible, yet makes your eyes look great. Laura Mercier has a good tutorial on this technique.
For a little extra punch, I sometimes apply liner to the top lashes as well. I dip a flat eyeliner brush in eyeshadow, then “push” it into my top lash line from above. As much as I love winged eyeliner, it kind of ruins the no-makeup effect, so it’s better to stick to your lash line’s natural shape.
9- Curl your lashes with an eyelash curler to open up your eyes. Then apply mascara, first wriggling it up from the roots, then using the tip to “paint” individual lashes. Use an eyelash brush to sweep out any clumps.
10- Some natural-looking makeup routines incorporate taupe eyeshadow at this point, but I’ve never found it very helpful. Either the eyeshadow is too light to make any difference, or it’s dark enough to shatter the illusion. But maybe that’s just my eyes.
11- For the lips, a glossy clear balm can be enough to faintly bring them out while still looking natural. Or you can use a nude pencil, being sure to blend well. For the pencil option, shade selection is important.
You want to get one that’s just a *tiny* bit darker than your natural color and you have to be careful about layering clear gloss over it. Clear gloss darkens the color and can look just like lipstick.
Sometimes I apply balm, let it sit a few minutes, then wipe it off and apply nude lip pencil. The small amount of residue left behind moisturizes your lips, but there’s not enough left to create lipstick.
12- If you really want to use lipstick, select a natural-looking shade (for you, because everyone has different lip colors) and instead of applying it straight from the tube, use your finger. Dab your finger on the lipstick and “pat” it into your lips. (Germaphobes won’t like this method, but it creates a much lighter lipstick layer and looks more natural than straight tube application).
13- Finally, pat your face with some oil-absorbing blotting papers, using both sides. You can wrap them around a finger to get around nooks and crannies, like the area right under your eye. This serves the purpose of powder without leaving anything cakey behind. Tarte and Tatscha make great blotting papers, but there are a lot of other good ones on the market.
…And thirteen steps later, your no-makeup look is complete!
Yes, by the way, I *do* get the irony of a complicated routine that results in looking like you did nothing. But this way, all the artifice is invisible. You’re just a prettier version of yourself.