I’m often vexed when I see tutorials for the “no makeup” look. I’m pretty strict with my interpretation of it, as in, I think if you’re going for it, GO FOR IT. Attempt the undetectable--or else why bother?
If you’re adding visible shimmer, that’s not the “no makeup” look. If your mascara, liner, eyeshadow, brow makeup, blush or lip color is obvious, it’s not the “no makeup” look. It may be a “natural” look but let’s be clear here! The “no makeup” look is it’s own awesome beast and you need to respect that.
So what constitutes a “no makeup” look beyond just not wearing makeup at all? Because that would be the simplest thing, wouldn’t it?;)
In my own interpretation, I allow the following things for the “no makeup” look (in this order):
- Concealer (applied in the “T-V” pattern explained below)
- Blush or Bronzer (matte only) on apples of the cheeks and blended relentlessly including under eyes and on neck
- Powder (t-zone only)
- Brow makeup (see guidelines below)
- Lip stain (matte) in a color one shade darker/brighter than your lip color and rubbed mostly off
- Lip balm (not to the point of being shiny, just to avoid flakes and dry lip)
- Matte eyeshadows in brown, taupe, light gray shades depending on your skin tone, again, blended relentlessly
- Perhaps mascara but you better not clump it or I’m coming for you
But before we get to that, a hugely important consideration for the “no makeup” look is the beforehand skin prep. You must get rid of dead skin flakes and have a smooth surface beforehand. Does this mean you can’t attempt the look if you’re broken out? Actually, no, it might even be a good look to try if you’re broken out! The main thing is you can’t have little bits of skin flakes. A good AHA/glycolic product will do the dead skin dissolving for you, then a super lightweight SPF lotion will do the trick to prep your skin surface properly. Heavy lotions will create a melty looking face situation that will blow your “no makeup” look pretty quickly.
The goal of the “no makeup” look is to have the complexion looking as flawless as possible, retaining its natural highlights and contrasts (which are “added” and enhanced using concealer and blush), while emphasizing the eyes and lips without the color itself being detectable. Let’s start with concealer as the first step!
- Apply concealer to the “T-V” area of your face, which is above the brow, down the center of the face, in the darkest part of your eye area, in the nasolabial line area and along the lower lip curve, like this:
Once you’ve gently patted that in (do both sides of your face as opposed to the above photo if that isn’t obvious;), you can then apply concealer to any red spots on the face gently with your finger or a concealer brush. I’m going to advocate for a concealer brush because it’s easier and you end up applying less than if you applied it directly from the tube. This is the “no makeup” look after all, so the less makeup you apply, and the more strategically, the more real-looking the end result.
2) Apply blush to apples of the cheeks first, then blend under eyes so you eliminate the lightness created from concealing your circles, then blend all over the face (don’t forget around the mouth) and apply to the neck so you don’t have a face differently colored than your neck (that fools no one!). I wouldn’t choose any “fun” blush colors here and definitely no shimmery ones. Stick to matte a shade darker or brighter than your skin, a plausible color. If you need to know what that is, give your cheeks a little slappy slap and see what comes up! Bronzer might even be the best choice if you’re struggling to find a realistic matte blush color for yourself. But again, keep the bronzer matte.
3) You get to use powder if it’s necessary, but only to the t-zone. If you’re really oily, a blotting powder is your best bet to avoid it looking like makeup.
4) Brow makeup! The best way to get eye emphasis without betraying the “no makeup” aesthetic is by getting the brow shape perfected and the color deepened without revealing the products used to get there. So, a brush-through is crucial to eliminate any visible fill-in lines. If you looked like you stenciled on your brows (meaning the makeup shows obviously over skin), you’re doing it wrong. That means choosing your brow makeup carefully. Most mistakes I see involve brow makeup that’s too light as opposed to too dark.
A too-light (or too warm) isn’t going to blend into the hair. Erring on the side of too dark is preferable because it can be blended! You can either use a brow brush or a spoolie brush to achieve the blending. It can’t really be done with fingers (as much as I love to save time!) unless the only spots in the brow being filled in are in the interior of the brow or the brows are just being darkened and not enlarged.
Another critical thing when choosing brow makeup--you must match your hair’s undertone. That means if you have ash blond, cool brown or black hair please don’t use a warm brown brow makeup. It will look fake. If you have red, auburn or strawberry blond hair please don’t use a neutral or cool colored brow makeup color--it will look gray/green on you.
All this said, I would suggest going as bold on the brows as possible (in terms of darkness and fullness) because it’s where you can get the most from the “no makeup” look if you do it realistically.
5) Lip stain! The same principles apply to lips as to cheeks. Keep the color shimmer-free and keep the color only slightly darker and brighter than your natural shade. Put it on as bold as you like but then wipe it off until there’s practically nothing left but a stain (evenly distributed over the lip--a lip brush might be the best bet here to get that evenness).
6) Lip balm! The tiniest amount smoothed over the lip stain. When I say tiny amount I mean barely any. You don’t want a greasy mouth, just hydration. Not even visible hydration though. So I’m thinking less than you are, I almost guarantee that. If you have lip flakes, you need to have handled that the night before. Always use fragrance-free lip balms because essential oils are drying. No mint, lemon, rose, what have you! Those are irritants and will keep the dryness cycle going. Exfoliate with a toothbrush or a bit of sugar if you have flakes, but they should rub right off if you do a thick coating of that lip balm the night before.
7) Matte eyeshadow. Again, no shimmer. And keep the shades realistic. You can apply to the crease, lower lid, whatever! Doesn’t matter, but then you’ll be wiping it off to create a stain like we did with the lip color so don’t get overly attached to your creation. Fingers are a good thing to use here. Smudge it all in and rub it around.
8) If you must (even though it’s kind of on-trend right now not to), you can use mascara. But so help me if there’s a clump!!! Using a spoolie brush can help, just sweep the spoolie over the mascara wand and apply the color lightly to the upper outer edges of the lashline and maybe a tad (TAD) to the bottom lashes. And that’s it. Probably also best to take your fingers and give the lashes a little sweep to remove excess.
And there you go! The “no makeup” look! I’m so excited for you. This is my all-time favorite look because guess what? It will literally never be out of style as long as humans continue to wear makeup. It will never not be awesome to look like you’ve got naturally great skin, a healthy glow and eyes that pop without it looking like you tried. Good luck with your efforts, and please let me know if I can help you in person or with an online consultation! All the products I mention are available in my shop and can be shipped.