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No-Makeup Makeup: Here’s Your Full Routine to Nailing the Look Like a Pro

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While we love our glam and bold makeup looks—perfectly painted lips, smoky eyes, pops of glitter eyeshadow, and more—most days we just want to feel pretty and pulled together before heading out the door. That’s where our go-to makeup look for (literally) any occasion comes in. It’s called no-makeup makeup, and its goal is to make you look effortlessly gorgeous with minimal products, in minimal time.

What exactly is no-makeup makeup? “No-makeup makeup is makeup that you wear that just slightly enhances your features in a very natural and minimal way,” says makeup artist Lindsay Katsuk. “No-makeup makeup has many different interpretations, but for me, it’s highlighting what’s already there. For people who want to ‘look like themselves but polished,’ no-makeup makeup is the way to go.”

Wondering if no-makeup makeup is for you? We chatted more with Katsuk, celebrity makeup artist Danielle Roqué, and makeup artist Dillon Peña for their expert makeup tips to create this easy and gorgeous beauty look.

But first, check out our easy tutorial on creating a no-makeup makeup look:


About the Experts:

Danielle Roqué is a celebrity makeup artist based in Los Angeles, California.
Lindsay Katsuk is a professional makeup artist based in New York City.
Dillon Peña is a makeup artist and the Los Angeles-based CEO and founder of clean, cruelty-free, luxury skincare line Leland Francis.

No-Makeup Makeup Steps

1. Skincare Is a First-Step Must

Flawless makeup starts with a good skincare routine, and the same goes for no-makeup makeup. "In my opinion, skincare is the most important step for any makeup look,” says Roqué. “Having fresh, hydrated skin prevents makeup from looking too cakey and unnatural.” Having a good regimen (that you stick to daily) will keep your skin looking healthy without needing to add too much makeup. Make sure you’re checking these off your list to guarantee your glow:

• Exfoliate: For Katsuk, exfoliation is a must: “We want to ensure that the skin is exfoliated, which I will lightly do with a cotton pad and micellar water, and then keep it properly hydrated depending on your skin type.” Peña, MUA and founder of Leland Francis skincare, echoes this step, adding, “You also don’t want to forget the lips. If they’re flakey, carefully exfoliate. Then hydrate with a moisturizing lip balm.”

• Hydrate Well: When it comes to skin prep for no-makeup makeup, Roqué suggests using a hydrating facial spray. We love HUDA BEAUTY Glow Coco Hydrating Mist, which is packed with three different kinds of coconut—water, milk, and oil—to refresh and prime skin.

• Apply Your Skincare: After you're applied a facial mist for hydration, Roqué suggests going in with your moisturizer. Dry skin types can handle rich moisturizers with heavy hitting hydrators (like ceramides, shea butter, and squalane). Oily skin types should opt for lighter moisturizers—here are a few of our favorite moisturizers for oily skin.

2. Finish Your Skin Prep With Sunscreen

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Never. Skimp. On. SPF. Even Roqué agrees that sunscreen is one of the most important steps in your skincare routine—it’s critical for protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. For the best protection, dermatologists recommend reaching for a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Our pick: KINSHIP Self Reflect, which provides broad spectrum protection to shield your skin from the sun's damaging rays.

Want to save yourself a few steps? There are also tons of great beauty products made with SPF, so you can take care of your skin even if you forget the sunscreen. Try combining two skincare steps into one by using a moisturizer with SPF. We love PURLISSE Blue Lotus Essential Daily Moisturizer SPF 30. In addition to shielding your skin from the sun, it also fights free radical damage with the powerful antioxidant properties from its namesake blue lotus. And while it goes on with a white tint, it dries sheer, so it's perfect to layer under a natural makeup look.

3. Primer Is Optional—Sort Of

Primer is a polarizing makeup product. Some swear by it to give makeup staying power, and others find it completely optional. For no-makeup makeup looks, or makeup with minimal foundation, Katsuk finds color-correcting primers especially helpful. “I usually do some color correcting, which you can do at home with targeted primers to bring down some redness, to control oil, and to add a bit of glow if your skin is very dry,” she says.

Roqué tends to steer away from primers for more natural makeup looks. "Primer isn’t important unless you would like a little help with controlling oil," she shares. If your skin isn't oily, then your skincare prep should serve as the perfect foundation for the rest of your no-makeup makeup products. If you do have oily skin and want to mattify your complexion, we suggest a shine-control primer for oily skin, like SMASHBOX COSMETICS Oil & Shine Control Primer. It has clarifying witch hazel, salicylic acid, and zinc, which work together to help minimize oil production, leaving you with an oil-free complexion all day long.

4. Choose Cream and Liquid Products for a Natural Glow

“I prefer cream products, personally,” says Katsuk. “I think they have the most natural and glowing finish. Creams also tend to blend into each other beautifully. For example, when applying a little bit of cream blush to a cream foundation, it blends seamlessly and looks very natural.” Cream and liquid blushes also help enhance your natural features a bit better than powder products (which can mask them), and they’re also easier to use. We love PURLISSE BEAUTY Blush Glow BB Cheek Color in Vivid Coral.

Roqué agrees, "For makeup, I like to stick to cream and liquid makeup products, and focus on enhancing natural features." Hoping to achieve the glowiest skin around? We suggest trying jelly makeup products. They're similar to creams and liquids, though do a much better job at helping you achieve a dewy look that really highlights your natural skin.

5. Go Easy on Foundation

This part is all about personal preference. Some people like to skip foundation with this look, while others opt for a lighter, dewy foundation (one of our top picks: WANDER BEAUTY Nude Illusion Liquid Foundation). Roqué notes that foundation is optional for a no-makeup makeup look, although you can absolutely apply some if you're hoping to start off with a flawless complexion. "Foundation isn’t necessary, but it doesn’t hurt to apply a light layer to even out skin tone," she says.

If you’re wearing foundation, Katsuk says less is more. “Work in very light layers—this is crucial. Building up coverage is much easier than taking it down. This way you can use the least amount of product to ensure the most natural appearance, while still getting coverage you want. Also, start applying where you feel you need coverage the most. Work in light layers, but concentrate it in those areas.”

If you do go this route, Peña advises, “Choose a foundation that matches your face and a concealer that is a single shade lighter than your foundation. Light-to-medium coverage works best for a no-makeup look. Be sure your foundation is not full-coverage or matte.”

Once the foundation is applied, Peña suggests using a brush “to apply foundation in areas where coverage is needed. Press in with fingers or sponge, melting foundation into skin. Don’t apply foundation to the ridge of your nose as this is the telltale sign of full-coverage foundation.”

6. Consider Foundation Alternatives

Your go-to foundation isn't all you can use—here are some alternatives if you still want some coverage but don't want to use anything too heavy. 

BB cream (aka beauty balm) is a great pick for those who want a multitasking product that gives sheer, buildable coverage. This product typically combines primer, moisturizer, SPF, and light coverage in one formula.

CC cream stands for color corrector, and is designed to help with blotchiness, redness, hyperpigmentation, blemishes, dark spots—basically helping with anything “color” related.

Tinted moisturizer was originally designed to be a hydrating alternative to foundation, but many tinted moisturizers now boast additional skincare benefits, like anti-aging properties and fuller coverage. (We love IT COSMETICS Bye Bye Foundation Full Coverage Moisturizer™ with SPF 50+ to cover imperfections seamlessly and leave your skin feeling and looking oh-so-glowy.)

7. Add Concealer Only Where You Need It

Just like foundation, concealer isn’t always critical for this look. We like to think of it as an as-needed product to use if you have to cover up dark circles or blemishes. TARTE™ Shape Tape™ Radiant Medium Coverage Concealer is a great choice because it’s highly pigmented with a skin-like finish, so a little goes a long way. For other options, check out our guide to the best under-eye concealers.

After you’ve applied your concealer, Peña says to step back and look for creases. If they’re present, press in the concealer again. Then use a powder puff to press and set concealer under eye, followed by using a brush or puff to press powder into T-Zone.

8. Boost Your Allover Glow

Just because you’re going for a natural look, doesn’t mean you can’t have a little shimmer. While a traditional highlighter is totally an option, we prefer brightening illuminators for that your-skin-but-better natural look. Illuminators give a subtle lit-from-within glow to your whole face, rather than highlighting specific features, and can even be mixed in with your face makeup for all-over radiance. Check out our complete guide for more info on the difference between highlighter and illuminator.

When it comes to getting a no-makeup makeup look, we love the universally-flattering golden shade of MAËLLE BEAUTY Secret Illuminator. You can apply this creamy illuminator all over your face (and even your body), or onto high points of your face for a more subtle effect. 

9. Rethink Eyeshadow

Roqué reveals that she doesn't use much eye makeup for no-makeup makeup looks. Instead, she likes to swipe a little cream bronzer on for a more subtle and natural pigment. “If you want to add something to the lid, bronzer looks the most natural,” she tells us. “For a no-makeup makeup look, I always recommend staying very subtle with eyeshadow.” TRÈSTIQUE Color + Contour Bronzer Stick in Brazilian Bronze makes swiping on a flattering shade super easy.

Peña suggests using eyeshadows that closely resemble the color of your eyelid, or a sheer-light reflecting shimmer on the lid. We love the range of neutrals in both shimmer and matte finishes in the OFRA COSMETICS Signature Luxe Palette.

Want to define your eyes a bit? “A good mascara is a great help for that,” adds Katsuk. “But, if you still want a bit of definition, I would line your lid with an eyeshadow. Not a liner. We don’t want any harsh lines for a natural look. Keep it soft and subtle just to define the lash line.”

10. Add Blush to Your Cheeks and Lips

Blush is a great way to add warmth to your complexion, and cream blush will diffuse and blend into your skin more naturally than a traditional powder will. “For cheeks, I love, love, love combo products,” says Katsuk. “I love to use cream blushes on the eyes as well, and a lot of brands are making products that you can use on the cheeks, eyes, and lips. This is a really beautiful way to create a natural flush to the face and keep it simple.” As far as application goes, Roqué recommends starting off lighter and building from there. "When applying blush, start off light, and then build it up if you need to. If you apply too much, go back in with a little bit of your foundation and blend it out.”

Aside from making your cheeks appear a little rosier, Roqué notes that blush can even be used on your lips for a pop of color. MILK MAKEUP Lip + Cheek in Werk is the perfect choice for all-over color.

11. Show Your Natural Brows Love

An often overlooked step, Roqué stresses the importance of grooming your brows. "Don’t forget to brush up your brows," she says. "Brushing up the brows makes the biggest difference for no-makeup makeup looks."

Any sort of brow gel or generic hair gel will work to keep your brows in place all day long. Just swipe the spoolie wand up and outward to smooth and shape your arches. BENEFIT COSMETICS gimme brow volumizing fiber gel is a fantastic tinted option for those who want to add fullness to their eyebrows.

12. Apply Mascara (If You’d Like)

Mascara is the finishing touch to make eyes pop in just the right way. Choose from a volumizing or lengthening mascara to make your lash line seem defined without needing eyeliner. A cult-classic Ipster fave: THRIVE CAUSEMETICS Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara™ in Brynn. For more tips to hack your mascara game, check out our guide to lifting your lashes without extra products.

That said, Roqué mentions that mascara isn't super necessary to use for a no-makeup makeup look. It's all up to your preference. You can even do something as simple as brushing your eyelashes out with a clean spoolie and calling it a day.

13. Apply Lip Liner and Lipstick (or Gloss)

Depending on just how no-makeup-y you want to appear, you may opt for a clear or lightly tinted gloss, or a subtle lip shade. If you opt for the latter, Peña suggests using a liner that matches closely to your natural lip color. Then take a creamy, non-matte lipstick and blot-apply to the lips. We recommend MISCHO BEAUTY for a silky liner, followed up with one of the KCO COLORS cream lipsticks—which come in 60 different shades.

14. Lock in Your Look With Setting Spray

Now that you've worked through all the steps, it's time to keep your no-makeup makeup look in place with a setting spray. Roqué tells us this is the best way to complete a natural makeup look, rather than using powder, because it can cause your face to appear cakey. Instead, you want a dewy, radiant complexion, so stick with a setting spray to achieve that. We even rounded up the very best setting sprays for every type of skin concern, so you're sure to find one that suits your needs. A dependable classic is the MORPHE Continuous Setting Mist.

Now that you’ve got your no-makeup makeup routine down, you’ve gotta scoop up your products! Want in on all the IPSY fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own IPSY beauty subscription. Already an IPSY member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

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About the author
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Ashley Locke
Ashley is a Long Beach-based freelance writer who loves sharing beauty and skincare hacks with her fellow “lazy girls” out there. When she isn’t writing, you can find her crying while listening to The Maine or watching "The Office".
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Article Last Updated January 8, 2024 12:00 AM