There's a reason "French girl" beauty, beachy waves, no-makeup makeup, and lived-in hair have become buzzwords in my brain. Each time I see those descriptors, I stop, click, and thoroughly read every detail. It's a look I can't help but covet—that je ne sais quoi "I just woke up like this" type of beauty. It's an effortlessness that I crave in both my hair and my makeup look, even if I have to put in a lot of effort to achieve it.
So I started to think of how best to pull an effortless look off—as well as the telltale signs of an overdone one. I reached out to some of the best hairstylists and makeup artists in the business to get their opinions as well. Luckily, they were willing to spill all their incredible secrets. Keep reading for all the dish.
Who: Matt Fugate, Kérastase consulting hairstylist
Clients: Karlie Kloss, Jaimie Alexander, Rashida Jones, Teresa Palmer
His Advice: "Effortless, to me, means 'whimsical and undone,' so this really all comes down to how you finish your hairstyle. That doesn't mean you shouldn't spend time on it—although sometimes that does the trick as well. You can still curl, set, or blowout your hair with precision but instead of trying to keep it perfectly in place, you want to free up the style. Run your hands through your curls or shake out your blowout. Then, the key step and my expert tip is to embrace the imperfections: Allow flyaways to dance around, let teased sections be seen a little (think Brigitte Bardot). Finally, put away the hair spray and embrace volumizing powders like Kérastase's V.I.P Dry Volumizing and Texturizing Spray ($37)," Fugate says.
Another great tip? "Do all your sectioning, gathering, and deconstructing with your hands! Don't use a brush. This will allow everything to look much more effortless. Your parts should be less precise and your hair shouldn't be brushed out perfectly like Veronica Lake. The perfection is in the imperfections."
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Who: Wes Sharpton, lead hairstylist at Hairstory Studio
His Advice: "The key to really effortless hair really comes down to having good products, but the trick is that it shouldn't look like there's product in it. It's not crunchy '80s gel or super-hard hair spray. I think every girl I know wants that 'lucky girl' hair—the hair that looks like you just rolled out of bed with it. Effortless hair, to me, is not super styled, overly coiffed, or epically blown out," Sharpton says.
"For shorter hair (which I describe as anything above the shoulder), I recommend using a little bit of Hairstory's Hair Balm ($36) on damp hair, working it through with your fingers, and letting it air dry. The trick to this is not to touch it while it dries. This product is great because it dries soft, not crunchy like a gel would be, but because it has a good amount of hold, it will retain a sense of separation—the key to making it look effortless and not forced."
He continues, "For those with naturally smooth, long hair, of any texture—from curly to straight, to wavy—I suggest going for a look that's a little more French and lived in, a bit Virgin Suicides. For this, I recommend taking your hair, wet or dry, and spraying in a little of Hairstory's Undressed ($38). This will add a bit more lived-in texture which could be considered a little bit beachy, or sexy, but the reason I love Undressed is because it actually creates hair that's soft and touchable. Often when I've used salt or texturizing sprays in the past, the hair would look great, but feel crunchy and full of product."
"Then there are those who've always been blow-dry girls. They're complete pros at giving themselves an epic and perfect style in 15 minutes but are trying to get away from it. These are the women who have a system down that works for them or are just a little too scared to venture out and try something that might come across as messy. I call this group the 'weekenders' because they're the ones who might experiment with their hair over the weekend when the risk is lower.
"For this group, I recommend doing your usual blow-dry, but afterward, try spraying just a little Undressed on from a distance, which will enhance a lot of those nice little messy details that create a more lived-in texture. It’s a great way to get an effortless look without feeling like you may ruin something that you're already comfortable with. The trick to remember: The farther away you hold the product, the more distribution you'll get, and the finer the mist will be. This is important because holding it farther from your head will create less reversion (the tendency that your hair has to revert when dampened). I suggest misting over the outside layer of your hair or spritzing a few sections in front for a more interesting detail around your face.
"Whenever you venture into something new, ask yourself, what is my hair like? If your hair is naturally more frizzy and a little crazy, you probably need to smooth it out a bit more to find balance, so Hair Balm is great. If your hair is really smooth, you probably need to rough it up and add a little texture to it, Undressed is helpful for this. It's really about understanding what you're working with, and finding a balance with your natural texture."
Who: Azra Red, New York–based makeup artist
Clients: Rosario Dawson, Fabiola Beracasa Beckman
Her Advice: "For a more effortless look, use fewer products! Opt for BB cream so you can prep, even out, and protect your skin all day. I love Laneige BB Cushion Compacts ($34). Then, use your favorite mascara, and brush out clumps with a clean brush. Try Tarte's Gifted Amazonian Clay Smart Mascara ($21); it's perfect for volume and will never flake. Skip filling out your brows, and use tinted brow gel instead to save time. Then, if you want a touch of color, use Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia ($5)," Red says.
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Who: Tommy Buckett, Garnier stylist
Clients: Ashley Olsen, Sienna Miller, Rachel McAdams
>His Advice: "Typically effortless style is usually just that—effortless. Healthy hair looks effortless. Garnier's Whole Blends Smoothing Leave-In Conditioner with Coconut Oil & Cocoa Butter Extracts ($6) will give great shine to air-dried hair and leave it feeling effortless and organic.
>"Mousse is one of the most underappreciated hair stylers," Buckett continued. "While it might have gotten a bad rap in the '90s, it's fantastic to add body and volume. I love to use a palm full of Garnier Fructis's Style Sky-Hi Volume Mousse ($3) on damp hair—always apply it evenly throughout your hair. Next, I use a diffuser to blow-dry and finish with Garnier Fructis's Sleek & Shine Anti‑Frizz Serum ($5). It will give you a volumized, frizz-free look that will last all day and doesn't look too 'done.'"
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>Who: Edward Tricomi, co-founder of Warren Tricomi Salons
>Clients: Minka Kelly, Hilaria Baldwin
>His Advice: "The easiest, effortless look is a chic slicked-back chignon. Just pull your hair back, twist, and then tie and pin it. You can use a styling cream or just wet your hair a little before pulling it back. This look requires almost no time or products—just finish it off with a little hair spray. I like Warren Tricomi's Flexible Hold Hairspray ($26) for a more refined and put together look.
>"Use styling cream, like Warren Tricomi's Finishing Cream ($26), and scrunch it into your hair to re-moisturize and make it look fresh. It takes no time but makes a big difference. If you'd rather use a styling tool, try grabbing the curling iron for a quick 'ponytail curl.' I do this all the time," Tricomi says. "The look only requires a few simple steps and is really time effective. Pull your hair back into a ponytail. Split the ponytail into four equal strands and curl each one. Then, take out the ponytail, and the hair will set entirely. Finish off with some spray and you have a quick, easy, and effortless curled look."
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>Who: Nate Rosenkranz, Alterna Global House of Experts creative stylist
Clients: Julia Stiles, Anna Chlumsky
His Advice: "After curling your hair with an iron, use your hand to put light tension on the hair while pointing a medium to hot blow-dryer towards the ends of the hair. This will soften the curl, and give it a more lived-in, effortless style."
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Who: Suzy Gerstein, NYC-based makeup artist
Clients: St. Vincent, Christy Turlington-Burns, Millie Bobby Brown
Her Advice: "First of all, exfoliate. A smooth, even canvas means you will need less makeup to look effortless. I am obsessed with Lina Hanson's Global Face Trio ($70) for getting rid of flakes and giving a smooth, glowing quality to your skin that makes makeup optional. Instead of a full face of foundation, try applying a smooth concealer product that you can pat in with your fingertips right over a serum. I love applying Glossier's Stretch Concealer ($18) right over the top of their Super Bounce Serum ($28) and also mixing the concealer with their Perfecting Skin Tint ($26) for customizable coverage. Now, if you must wear foundation, separate a two-ply tissue and press it onto your face to take the edge off, and set makeup without lots of powder (which can look heavy and contrived in the wrong light). Then, rub your palms together to generate some body heat and bring them along the tops of cheeks, pressing several times. This boosts circulation while the warmth from your hands makes the foundation look more like skin. I also like pressing Honest Beauty Magic Balm ($18) onto the tops of your cheekbones to soften any lines and add a dewy finish. Then, mist with a hydrating floral water to make skin look even more effortlessly luminous.
"Instead of lipstick which can look, well, lipstick-y, oftentimes I will dip the tip of a great neutral lip pencil like Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Bahama ($26) or Kevyn Aucoin Flesh Tone Lip Pencil in Medium ($25) into a dot of Aquaphor and sketch over the entirety of your lips. Then, add a dab more Aquaphor and pat in with my fingertips to really make the finished look natural and effortless—like it belongs there.
"Also, sometimes powder eye shadow can look overdone and makeup-y. Lately, I have been loving Gressa Eye Tint in Obscur ($29)—a deep brown with plum undertones. This shade works on just about everyone and has a rich cream-to-powder finish that looks so chic. Either dip a clean fingertip into the product and apply from lash line to crease, or take a small liner brush and apply to top and sometimes bottom lash lines. Think of the color mimicking a shadow that your lashes would cast, so blend away any harsh lines with a clean fluffy brush or cotton swab."
Gerstein continued, "In lieu of liner, l like to apply mascara right into the base of the lashes—think of actually blinking into the wand as you hold it horizontally and wiggle it from root to tips, really concentrating on the roots. A skinny wand like Lash Star's Full Control Lash Sculpting Mascara ($35) really lets your get right into the base of the lashes. It provides the same contrast as a liner would but in a more subtle way. I am really into cream blushes because of the way they melt into and become one with the skin. Sometimes I'll even apply them to bare skin and smooth the edges with a good moisturizer, then spot conceal only where needed.
"Under the eyes, skip heavy cream concealers and instead pat on a color-correcting salmon or peach hued liquid concealer that counteracts dark circles while still letting skin look like skin. Set it with Tatcha's Aburatorigami Japanese Beauty Papers ($12) and it is undetectable—it just brightens up the eyes in a very believable, natural-looking way."
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Who: Daven Mayeda, NYC-based hairstylist
Clients: Shay Mitchell
His Advice: "Try using creams and lotions to add texture to air-dried hair. My favorite is Bumble and bumble's Grooming Cream ($15). Air dry your hair and work a small amount of this cream in and scrunch. It will help to create texture and effortless bends in your hair."
Mayeda adds, "Whenever pinning hair up, leave pieces out to give the illusion that your hair has been lived in. If you're not exactly sure how to do this, finish your updo and use a blow-dryer on high, focusing on the hairline. This will help create 'windblown hair.' I like Enzo Milano's Elio 2 Blow Dryer for all my heat needs. It has an amazing technology and doesn't damage the hair."