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The "No Makeup Look"

Posted by Julie Hafer on

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. This is one of my very favorite looks, and one I wear myself most days. It's the introvert's makeup!

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: there's an art to achieving a true “no makeup” look 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):

  1. Concealer - applied in the “T-V” pattern explained below
  2. Blush or Bronzer - matte shades used on apples of the cheeks and blended relentlessly, including under eyes and on neck
  3. Powder - t-zone only
  4. Eyebrow makeup - see guidelines below
  5. Lip balm - not to the point of being shiny, just to avoid flakes and dry lip
  6. Matte eyeshadows - in brown, taupe, or light gray shades depending on your skin tone, again, blended relentlessly
  7. Perhaps mascara - but you must brush through it thoroughly to avoid clumps and wear very little

Also, 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 because too much makeup can actually draw attention to a breakout. The main thing is getting rid of flakiness so the makeup doesn't cling to it. A good glycolic product will do the dead skin dissolving for you, then a super lightweight SPF 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!

1) 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:

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Once you’ve gently patted that in, using a pat-tug motion as opposed to a vigorous rub so you keep it in the area you meant to, 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, because that fools no one!

I wouldn’t choose any “fun” blush colors here and definitely no shimmery ones. Stick to a matte shade darker or a tad brighter than your skin, a plausible color. 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 a little, and only to the t-zone. If you’re really oily, a blotting powder is your best bet to avoid it looking like makeup.

4) Time for eyebrow 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, or a too-warm or too-cool color that's incompatible with hair color. That's the critical thing when choosing brow makeup--you must match your hair’s undertone

5) Lip balm! The tiniest amount smoothed over an exfoliated lip (you can use a scrub, but don't overdo it). 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. Always use fragrance-free lip balms because essential oils are drying.  

6) 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 mostly off. Fingers are a good thing to use here. Smudge it all in and rub it around.

7) Mascara is best done using a separate spoolie brush, sweeping the spoolie over the mascara wand and applying the color lightly to the upper outer edges of the lashline and maybe a tad to the bottom lashes, taking a clean index finger and giving the lashes a little sweep to remove excess underneath. Alternatively, you could get some accent eyelash extensions and just not worry about mascara at all.

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. 


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