Sometime in the history of cosmetics, bright makeup got a reputation for looking tawdry. Perhaps it’s because the formulas used to be chalky or because some women embraced the trend too enthusiastically. (We’re looking at you, daytime soap stars!) Either way, brights don’t deserve the bad rap. Today’s bold lipsticks, shadows, and blushes have sheer formulas that are incredibly wearable—and flattering, too.
“Adding a pop of color to your face gets that 'Did you do something different?' reaction from people,” Los Angeles makeup artist Brett Freedman says. “You’ll seem well-rested, fresher, brighter.” To appear alluring (not over-the-top), limit brights to one feature at a time. Read on for the best ways to pull off this look.
No need to go Day-Glo—instead, try bright poppy pink, a universally flattering shade, according to Freedman. “It’s fresh and pretty—not too bubblegum or ’80s,” he notes.
How to apply: Dot the color onto the center of your lips, then use your finger to spread it out for a “glazed effect,” Freedman suggests. Do that several times until you achieve the level of intensity you’re comfortable with. If it looks too bright, “sheer it out by rubbing a clear lip balm on top,” Freedman says.
Baby step into bright eyes with a soft blue or green shadow or liner, rather than notoriously hard-to-wear shades like pink or yellow. “Go for a sheer aqua or turquoise,” Freedman suggests. “As long as the vibe is more watercolor than oil paint, any woman can wear it.”
How to apply: “Use a cotton swab or your finger to control where you apply brights, since loosely packed brushes can spread color all over the place,” Freedman says. Smooth the color onto your lids (leave creases and brow bones bare), then blend it along your top lash lines and toward the inner corners of your eyes to diffuse the intensity.
Natural-looking blushes tend to disappear as you blend them, so don’t be afraid to choose a shade that looks pretty bright in the compact. Try apricot, which complements most complexions thanks to a mix of cool pink and warm yellow undertones. Just stay away from shimmer. “The color itself is enough—you don’t need additional sparkle,” Freedman says.
How to apply: Smile and use a brush to apply color to your apples before blending it back toward your temples. “If you’re using a cream, apply it before you apply a sheer foundation or tinted moisturizer,” Freedman says. “It still looks bright, but it’s more translucent.” As for powders, they go on after foundation.