Easy steps to natural beauty—because, really, who wants to look all made up?

By Lisa DeSantis
Updated September 28, 2020
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Christine Blackburne

Follow these steps to achieve a natural-looking no-makeup makeup look that will cover imperfections while still letting your skin show through.

Step one: Face

The real secret to minimalist makeup is well-prepped skin. “Great moisturizer is key,” says Wendy Rowe, an international makeup artist and the author of Eat Beautiful ($30; amazon.com).We like L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal Rosy Tone Moisturizer ($25; amazon.com) because it gently exfoliates and enhances skin’s natural pink tone. Next comes primer. Lorac Light Source Illuminating 3-in-1 Primer ($35; kohls.com) adds luminosity and helps makeup stay put.

If you want a chiseled look, use a cream or stick bronzer right below your cheekbones and on your temples. “Doing so before foundation lets you define features in a softer way,” says Rowe. Pro tip: Stay away from powder bronzers. Creams melt more seamlessly into skin; as Chicago-based celebrity makeup artist Jenny Patinkin jokes, "Nobody has naturally powdery skin."

Follow with a tinted moisturizer or lightweight foundation, like IT Cosmetics Confidence in a Compact SPF 50 ($38; ulta.com), which has buildable coverage and protects you from the sun. If needed, spot-treat with Onomie Bright Concealing Elixir ($30; revolve.com). It covers up dark circles in the short term and helps fade them over time. “It’s pretty concentrated, so you need only a little bit,” says Patinkin, who is also the creator of Lazy Perfection makeup brushes.

A cream blush with coral undertones, like Julep Skip The Brush Crèmeto-Powder Blush Stick in Golden Guava ($24; nordstrom.com), works with a range of skin tones and gives a fresh, slightly flushed look. “Apply it onto the apples of your cheeks, then blend up toward the high point of your cheekbones so it’s not too intense,” says Patinkin.

Step two: Eyes

If you take care of your brows, you can get away with less makeup. "Brows have the power to lift the entire face," says Shannon Pirie, vice president of education at IT Cosmetics. Start by plucking any strays. Follow with Physicians Formula Eye Booster Feather Brow Fiber & Highlighter Duo ($12; ulta.com). Apply the fiber formula to help fake fuller brows, then flip the wand over and apply the highlighter right under your arches; blend in both directions.

Now swipe some neutral eye shadow on your lids to conceal any redness, advises Rowe. Enhance your eyes by smudging a gray or brown line into the lash line; it’ll make your lashes look fuller, too. When it comes to mascara, “apply just a little at the roots,” says Patinkin, leaving the tips au naturel. “This will help lashes look darker, but in a subtle way.” Try Wander Beauty Unlashed Volume & Curl Mascara ($24; sephora.com). Its curved wand gets mascara right at the lash line. Got stubby lashes? Use mascara as you normally would, but stick to just one coat.

Step three: Lips

To find your most flattering tube, take a look at your lip color and then choose a shade that’s a bit darker. Just say no to nudes that appear devoid of color. “Very few people can pull off the pale J.Lo pout,” warns Pirie. Nudes with pink and brown undertones, on the other hand, bring life back to your face. Pirie’s trick: Try on the lipstick and look at your eyes. Do they pop? If so, you’ve found a great complementary lip color. When all else fails, opt for a sheer formula, like Glossier Generation G in Leo ($18; glossier.com). Other picks we love, by complexion: Ciaté Pretty Stix in Vintage Blush for fair complexions ($20; sephora.com), Catrice Ultimate Stay Lipstick in #50, Mauve Your Lips for medium complexions ($4; ulta.com), and MAC Kiesza Lipstick in Dearly Beloved for dark complexions ($17; maccosmetics.com).

Step four: Nails

Want a flattering neutral mani-pedi? It comes down to skin tone, says Tracylee, a celebrity manicurist and nail expert in New York City. If you have fair skin, look for a polish with cool undertones that skews more milky than pink, like Essie Gel Couture Ballet Nudes in Lace Me Up ($12; macys.com). Does your skin have more of an olive cast? A true beige is best. Try Deborah Lippmann x Miraval Brand New Day ($20; deborahlippmann.com). If your skin is dark, opt for a creamy tan mixture with yellow undertones; Smith & Cult Nailed Lacquer in Honey Hush ($18; bloomingdales.com) is a good pick. And if you can’t figure out which category you fit into, try Sally Hansen Color Therapy in Blushed Petal ($9; target.com). It’s a universally flattering combo of pink and beige, plus it has argan oil to treat nails.