We’ve already established that celebrities seem to possess a gene that allows them to be confident without an ounce of makeup on. But what about those of us who don’t wake up feeling like a newborn cherub? We, too, want to feel good—even when the reality happens to be eye bags the size of small countries and skin that looks as hungover as we feel. One answer, in this case, is simple (and no, it’s not Facetune): your makeup bag.
A world without makeup would probably be less interesting, and it would definitely be less fun. Though we might be biased, we love the ability makeup has to transform a face, as well as the more low-key ability it has to make us appear chipper and wide-awake even when we’re anything but. No-makeup makeup isn’t going away anytime soon (see: many, many runways past), but it can be trickier to pull off than you’d imagine.
To help guide us, we tapped celebrity makeup artist Erin Ayanian Monroe and asked her exactly how to add a few finishing touches to bleary eyes or tired skin. Check out a step-by-step tutorial on how to nail the no-makeup makeup look.
When it comes to a natural-looking complexion, we were a bit shocked by what Monroe suggests: “I love to forego foundation altogether for everyday life,” she reveals. Instead, she suggests smoothing and brightening your complexion with a gentle exfoliant, like Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant ($59), and then finishing with a matte, oil-free sunscreen (she loves the Neutrogena Dry-Touch line because it works well under makeup).
Monroe says the trick to a fresh, even complexion lies in your choice of concealer brush. “A small, flat, brush [with synthetic bristles will] spot-conceal any blemishes or redness,” she says. For dark circles, however, she suggests patting it in with your finger: “Then just finish with a light dusting of translucent powder in your T-zone and you’re good to go with color!” Unlike foundation, concealer is best suited to targeted application.
Choose Cream Eyeshadow
“For bright, wide-awake eyes, start with a cream eyeshadow in a shade as close as possible to your skin tone,” Monroe says. “It can have a touch of shimmer or not, depending on your taste.” Monroe says to blend the shadow up from your lash line, fading as it gets closer to your brows. Creams tend to wear more naturally throughout the day, plus they are so easy and quick to apply.
Monroe’s tried-and-true trick to instantly open up your eyes? Applying a lighter shade in the inner corners. We love the Laura Mercier Caviar Shadow Stick in Moonlight—a subtle, slightly shimmery champagne beige hue that’s easy to apply wherever and whenever. Popping a color like this on the tear duct and blending in toward the center of the lid will wake you up faster than a shot of espresso (on the outside, at least).
Groom Your Lashes and Brows
“A good eyelash curler is a must!” Monroe says. “The best ones are by Shu Uemura and Suqqu.” As for mascara, she suggests adding a coat to the top lashes only, and brushing your brows up and away from your face with a spoolie or clear brow gel like Anastasia Beverly Hills’ Clear Brow Gel. (Speaking of which, here’s a simple guide to getting the best brows of your life). This will make your brows look fuller without needing to fill them in with a pencil, which can appear heavy when paired with light makeup.
Brush Up on Your Blush Technique
Monroe suggests reaching for a cream blush instead of powder to get a natural-looking glow. “You can apply it with a synthetic bristled brush or your fingers—whatever you’re more comfortable with,” she says. To nail the natural look, Monroe suggests imagining where your face flushes after exercise and using that as your guide. Glossier Cloud Paint is an amazing option for no-makeup makeup; it’s a highly pigmented gel-like formula that blends right into your skin.
Start at the apple of your cheeks and blend back and upward toward your hairline, keeping most of the color in the front of your face for a youthful look
Don’t Skip Highlighter
“A dab of pearly highlighting cream on top of your cheekbones is gorgeous,” Monroe says. It’s also one of the quickest ways to liven up the complexion. A creamy formula that melts into the skin instead of sitting on top of it and leaving a trail of glitter the way some powders do is best for minimal makeup days. Monroe’s favorite? Tom Ford Illuminating Highlighting Pen [Note: this product is sold out; we’re partial to Maybelline Strobing Stick, a true drugstore gem]. Check out more of our favorite budget-friendly highlighters.
Swipe on a Lip Tint
The last step to complete your natural-looking makeup look? Adding a tint of color to your lips. “A gorgeous, natural way to go with lip color is a tinted balm,” Monroe says. She’s obsessed with Clinique Chubby Sticks ($19) and Burt’s Bees’ Tinted Lip Balms. “They deliver the perfect amount of color straight from the tube—nothing could be easier!” A tinted lip balm or waxy stain requires way less effort and upkeep than your average bullet lipstick, but still brings color to the face.