I want to start this post off by saying that any methods and/or products I mention in this post suit my personal preferences. Your style might vary and obviously if you have a different skin tone than me (which you most likely do!) then you will need to find products that are the appropriate shades for your skin tone. I am not saying these products will work for you the way they do for me, I am only saying they work for me and if you have similar coloring they might work for you as well. Just because I do things a certain way does not mean that is how you have to do it as well.
I also want to note before going any further that I am by no means against more bold, creative, colorful makeup looks! I DO wear more bold looks myself, but my usual preference is for soft, subtle, natural looking makeup. I'm not saying that other looks are “wrong” - they aren't. If you are not a fan of “no makeup” makeup, that's totally fine. Makeup is all about self expression and creativity, so rock the looks you love no matter what someone else's preferences might be!
Y'all know that I am a fan of “no makeup” makeup. Especially in summer when it's hot and humid and makeup tends to melt/sweat right off within an hour or two anyway. If you also love very subtle makeup, you probably know that it can be quite a challenge to find just the right products and colors to give you that look. I am not ashamed to say that it has taken me YEARS to find my favorite “no makeup” products, and honestly I am always on the hunt for more – you never know when a new favorite will be discovered, afterall. If you've been searching for a long time for your ideal “no makeup” items, don't worry – it does indeed take a lot of trial and error, and there are going to be more “Darn, this isn't what I was expecting/hoping for” products than “Yes, this is it!” products during your search for just the right products to give you the natural look you're after.
In “real life” - aka face to face, in person rather than on the internet – I never get compliments on my makeup when I do one of my “no makeup” makeup looks. What I do get instead is compliments on how nice my skin looks, and how great I look. The compliments I get are geared toward ME, not my makeup. Usually, people are surprised to find out that I am even wearing makeup. “Oh. Well it doesn't look like you have makeup on.” is a phrase I hear very frequently. It's what I am going for when I wear my “no makeup” makeup looks – the whole idea of these looks, for me, is to use makeup in a way that in merely enhances my natural colors and features without it being blatant that I have makeup on.
Here is a little run-down of some of my current (as of the time this was posted) favorite products that I use when I do a “no makeup” makeup look. I'll also share some thoughts in general on “no makeup” makeup, but remember that I am not a professional and this is just my personal opinion. You might feel differently than I do.
Mascara: Forget the crazy doll-eye, super dramatic, fiber-extension mascaras and opt for a basic volumizing or lengthening mascara. If you have naturally dark lashes, a “no makeup” mascara will be a cinch to find, because color is not a consideration for you, as all the standard shades of black and brownish black will suit you. If you have light lashes, however, like me, you will have to work a little harder to find something that works for you. I am a huge fan of Just For Redheads brand mascaras. They come in a couple varying shades of red based browns to look more natural on redheads with light lashes. A couple of these shades do come off as more brown than red, and will also work well for non-redheads with fair lashes who are looking for very soft, natural looking lashes. My favorites are the Mascara Voyage and Mascara Naturelle formulas (both water resistant, not waterproof) in the shades Ginger Auburn and Ginger Cocoa. Both of these shades give my strawberry blond lashes a natural looking boost, without screaming to the world “I have mascara on!” like standard drugstore blacks and browns do. These mascaras are a little pricey and can only be purchased online directly from JFR, but if you are a redhead (or have very fair lashes) and you want natural looking mascara, it's absolutely worth every penny! I honestly do not know of any other brands that offer these sort of colors of mascara. (If you know of another brand with redhead-friendly mascaras, please let me know!) If you aren't up for trying JFR, you can always try clear mascaras, which are available from many other brands such as Rimmel and Maybelline. Typically clear mascaras are used as a brow gel. When used on your lashes, no, it won't do much of anything in the way of adding length or volume. But despite being clear it will add some very subtle definition to your lashes. And as a bonus, if you cry, sweat, or get caught in the rain, you don't have to worry about your mascara running! A final note on natural looking mascara application: ONE coat on the upper lashes. Skip the bottom lashes or use a very, very light hand when applying one coat to the lower lashes. When I do my lower lashes I like to apply the mascara lightly, then immediately gently rub my finger or a q-tip over my lashes a couple times to help remove excess mascara and keep application as soft and minimal as possible.
Liner: Honestly? I skip it. If you do want to add some extra definition to your eyes with liner while maintaining a “no makeup” look, I'd suggest choosing something close to your natural eyelash color (or a very light brown if you have fair/red lashes) and use the tight lining method on the upper lash line only to achieve soft, subtle definition.
Shadow: For natural looking eye shadows, look for shades that are as close to your skin tone as possible, or within about 1-2 shades LIGHTER than your skin tone. I like to go lighter because it adds a little brightness to the eyes without being too obvious it's from makeup. You can also try going a shade or two darker than your skin tone – it's not something I do but you might find you prefer it over going lighter. I like to choose shades with either a matte or a very subtle pearl finish for the most natural look. Sometimes I'll go for something with soft shimmer, but I always skip intense shimmer and glitter when going for a natural look. Some of my favorite “no makeup” eye shadows are L'Oreal Infallible in the shades Iced Latte and Endless Pearl, Hard Candy Single & Loving It in the shade Infatuation, and the lightest shade in the Physician's Formula Matte Collection “Canyon Classics” quad.
Foundation: Depending on how well my skin is behaving, I'll choose to skip foundation entirely for “no makeup” makeup. Sometimes I need some coverage, though. Obviously, the usual rules for selecting your shade apply – find what matches your skin tone as closely as possible. This is probably the most difficult makeup item to match correctly, and it's made more difficult because the shade we need tends to change over the course of the year. If you can, get professionally color-matched both in summer when you have a tan and in winter when your skin is at it's fairest, so you'll have a better idea of what shade you need no matter what time of year it is. You might need to mix shades to get a good match and during those “in between” months of the year. If you can't get professionally color matched for whatever reason, have a friend you know is going to be honest with you help you find your ideal shade(s). Some friends won't tell you when your foundation is off – choose your most brutally honest friend for this job. If you only need sheer coverage, BB or CC creams might be a good option in lieu of traditional foundation, or for the sheerest of coverage consider a tinted moisturizer. You can DIY a tinted moisturizer by mixing a small amount of your foundation with your usual daily moisturizer if you don't want to have to buy an additional product or if you simply can't find a TM that you like or that is the right shade. My favorite foundation – and the only drugdtore brand foundation I have found that works for me almost year round – is L'Oreal True Match in the shade W1/Porcelain. Rimmel Stay Matte in the shade Light Porcelain is also a good match when I have a tan; it is a bit darker and more pink based than the L'Oreal True Match.
Blush: Choose a shade of blush that mimics your natural blush. Yeah, this means you need to keep a mirror handy and take a peek the next time someone or something makes you blush. Or you can put on your workout clothes and have a good workout session – the flush you get from working out will also tell you what kind of shade of blush to look for. When selecting a blush, remember to not be intimidated by shades that look very bright in the packaging – most formulas can (and should) be applied in very light layers to build up the color to the level of intensity that you're after, so even something that looks bright in the pan can typically be applied with a light hand to get a soft, natural flush of color. When you apply your blush, use a small amount and blend blend blend. As for blush placement, when you're checking out your natural flushed hue in the mirror to get an idea of what shade to look for, make note of where your cheeks are flushed. That's where you'll want to apply your blush. Or you can go with the old stand-by rule of “smile, apply to the fullest part of your cheeks”. Just remember to keep it very soft, and blend it out well. It should be a barely there kiss of color when you're done. Again, opt for shades with a matte or soft pearl finish, and skip intense shimmer or glitter. A couple of my favorite blushes for a natural look are Ulta Cheek Color in the shade Girlie and Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush in the shade Pink Plum.
Bronzer, Highlight, Contour: SKIP 'EM ALL! I know what you're thinking but one of the most important things about “no makeup” makeup is it truly uses very little product. Don't get all full-face crazy and use every product you have in your stash – you don't need it!
Concealer/Color Correctors: Use these sparingly only when and where needed: for instance a peach corrector to cover under-eye darkness or a touch of green corrector for redness etc. Remember to use light layers and blend blend blend!
Liner: Again, skip! The exception is a colorless liner, like Too Faced Borderline Lip Pencil. These kinds of lip liners are great because they work the same way a standard colored lip liner does to help lock your lip color in place and prevent feathering, but because they glide on clear, they will match every lippie in your arsenal and they are absolutely perfect for subtle makeup looks!
Color: This has been the hardest product for me to find just the right shades, even harder than finding suitable foundation shades. And I am still looking! While I have yet to find the one perfect shade I'm after, I've managed to find several that are close enough to make me happy. When looking for your “my lips but better” (MLBB) shade, you're going for something that will resemble the color your lips are after some serious smooching with your honey. If you're too young for that method to be a good comparison (or if you currently don't have someone to smooch), here's an alternate way to see the natural hue you want to replicate as closely as possible: exfoliate your lips! Exfoliating stimulates bloodflow and will leave your lips with a (temporary, of course) flushed appearance. You can exfoliate with a store-bought lip scrub or a homemade sugar scrub, or alternately just rub with a wet wash cloth or scrub with a soft toothbrush. Whatever method you choose remember to be gentle, your lips are more delicate than you might realize and if you over-exfoliate you'll leave them raw and sore, not soft and smooth. Alternately, for a more subtle look opt for a shade similar to your natural lip color sans smooching/exfoliating, but maybe a shade or two lighter or darker depending on your skin tone and preferences. Some of my favorite “almost MLBB” lip colors are Revlon Just Bitten Balm Stain in the shade Honey, Revlon ColorBurst Matte Balm in the shades Sultry and Elusive, and Milani lipstick in the shade Dulce Caramelo. Note that for some of my (almost) MLBB lip colors I apply them with a light hand to achieve the look I want, and if applied more heavily they are much bolder colors.
Gloss: Skip the ultra-glossy, sparkle-laden glosses. In fact, skip gloss completely; I opt for colorless lip balm instead. But if you really want a little gloss, try to find a lightweight formula that lends just a hint of shine. Apply it lightly, then blot a couple times if necessary to remove some of the gloss so it leaves just a slight shine on the lips rather than a very wet glossy look.