For some, going bare is bliss. For others, it sounds as good as going to the beach in your skivvies (read: not ideal). If you fall into the latter category but crave that fresh-faced, model-off-duty look, you’re not alone. So-called ‘no makeup makeup’ has been a trend on and off the runways for years, so why are we talking about it now? Well, the COVID-19 pandemic meant a renaissance of sorts for the strategically subtle look. “We know from people staying at home more these past two years that minimalism reigned supreme,” explains Rose-Marie Swift, a celebrity makeup artist and founder of RMS Beauty. And it shows no signs of slowing down.
Ultra-matte complexions, overtly filled-in brows, and blinding highlighter have given way to lit-from-within skin, more natural arches, and a just-back-from-the-gym flush. “The emphasis on wellness, healthy-looking skin, and less makeup aligned with people’s lives as opposed to glamming up,” Swift notes. But, as many can attest, that which seems simple can often be the trickiest to master. And, because ‘no makeup makeup’ doesn’t actually have to mean ‘no makeup at all’ (though, if you want it to, go for it!), we’re breaking down exactly what you need to know about achieving a barely there beauty look.
How to Achieve the Ultimate No Makeup Makeup Look
“No makeup makeup aligns with my philosophy of ‘less is more’ on the skin,” Swift shares. So, what does that mean in terms of building out your kit? Follow these four simple steps to ace your fresh face days:
1. Embrace the Base-ics
The fact of the matter is that a good skincare routine is the crux of any makeup look, but this is especially true of no makeup makeup. Whether you have a multi-step regimen or embrace the skinamilism trend, start by applying your skincare and sun care as normal (if you have questions about layering, we’ve got you covered) so that your complexion is prepped and ready for color.
Rather than reaching for a full-coverage foundation, no makeup makeup is your skin’s time to shine. “I’ve always felt that skin with makeup should still look like real skin,” Swift says. Swapping powders for buildable, cream-based formulas that melt into the skin is a good place to start. “The more sheer the makeup is, the more hydrated and youthful your skin looks,” she adds.
If you are dealing with a breakout, redness, or dark circles that you want to minimize, carefully considered concealer will be your best friend. For under-eye concerns, Swift likes to apply her cult-favorite Living Luminzer directly on the darkest part (not the whole area) and then layer the ‘Un’ Cover-Up concealer on top. When targeting specific spots, use a small, flat brush or your fingers for natural-looking application. “Skin is sensual and it should exude that sensuality, not cover it all up,” Swift says.
2. Eyes Up Here
While the skin is the star of the ‘no makeup makeup’ show, it’s how you enhance your other features – specifically the upper third of the face – that ties the look together. “For lashes, I personally like to go in and apply to the base of the lashes, close to the skin with a thick amount of product,” Swift says. A coat or two of mascara will subtly volumize and emphasize (for a naturally defined look, we’re fans of ILIA Limitless Lash Mascara and Jones Road Beauty The Mascara). “I’ll also go in with the tip to deposit a good amount of product onto the lashes and then comb up for the elongation and definition – giving that brightening effect,” she adds. Curl the lashes prior to mascara application to give the illusions of being wide awake (whether you slept a wink or not).
If you’re looking for a bit of color, opt for a neutral hue that complements your natural skin tone. A hint of shimmer, as found in RMS Eyelights Cream Eye Shadow, adds a nod of subtle glam, while a matte shade – there are plenty to choose from in the Natasha Denona Biba All Neutral Eyeshadow Palette or among Jillian Dempsey’s Lid Tints – has a ‘just woke up like this’ vibe. If you are looking to make use of something you may already have in your kit, try applying an eyeshadow primer as your eyeshadow. Need a bit more oomph? Smudge a bit of black or brown liner into your lash line.
As for the eyebrows? “[Brow] powders give the most natural look, period,” Swift says. You can apply them wet or dry, but don’t forget to hydrate first. “My pro tip is to always moisturize your brows when you’re applying your skincare,” she emphasizes. The RMS Back2Brow Powder comes in three easy-to-match shades that include a hint of luminosity. Honor your natural brow shape by filling in sparse areas and brushing the product through. If you’re partial to a brow gel (we love the Kiminko Brow Sensei for transparent hold), remember to brush upward for fullness.
3. Glow Up
For those of us who are not fresh from a facial, replicating the subtle glow may require a bit of help. “Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to the elegant sophistication of the dewy, light-reflecting glow,” Swift explains. The key to youthful luminosity is avoiding products that are too glittery and applying strategically. “Highlight wherever the face is elevated – cheekbones, brow bone, the center of the eyelid just above lashes, the bow of the lips, and down the bridge of the nose to lengthen and slim,” she says.
If you’re looking for some direction, Swift’s Living Luminzer is an OG for a reason. Additionally, the Jones Road Beauty Miracle Balm comes in an array of your-skin-but-better shades that add just a hint of radiant color. You also can’t go wrong with the Rituel de Fille Rare Light Luminizers. Oh, and there’s no need to reach for the contour stick today. Let your natural bone structure – literally and figuratively – shine.
4. Rosé All Day
The final step is to pop those lips and cheeks. “Go for a hydrating balm or cream that gives a hint of color – it will do wonders to complete that no makeup makeup look,” Swift notes. Multitasking formulas, like the RMS Lip2Cheek, in a sheer shade can subtly enhance the features. For cheeks, we’re also fans of the Youthforia BYO Blush. The color-changing blush oil reacts to your skin’s natural pH to reveal a custom, sure-to-be-complementary natural flush.
When it comes to your pout, a hydrating gloss (à la the Iconic London Lustre Lip Oil) or balm (hi, Rosebud Salve) will do, but, if you’re looking for something more lasting, Swift has a tip. “When it comes to lip liner for a natural look, I suggest using a pencil that matches your natural lip color,” she says. “From there, you can apply the desired lipstick color over it, and it will look much more natural as it fades because it won’t leave that stenciled lip outline.”
You don’t need to feel intimidated by a bare face – or at least the appearance of it. If you want to achieve an effortless look with minimal effort, first reach for creamy color correctors to minimize complexion concerns without concealing your whole face. From there, a few swipes of mascara, light brow grooming, and a fake flush can quickly recreate a natural glow. Et voilà! A naturally put together look that is simply chic.
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
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