How to Nail the No-Makeup Makeup Look

Updated 09/06/19
@lilyaldridge

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. 

Meet the Expert

Erin Ayanian Monroe is a celebrity makeup artist based in Los Angeles, CA. After assisting Kevin Aucoin and Pat McGrath, Monroe became known for her minimal makeup aesthetic as seen on celebrities like Elle Fanning, Kate Bosworth, and Zoë Kravitz.

Below, find a step-by-step guide on mastering the no-makeup makeup look once and for all.

Step 1: Forget Foundation

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen $11
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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).

Step 2: Conceal (Smartly)

Becca Aqua Luminous Perfecting Concealer
Becca Aqua Luminous Perfecting Concealer $32
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Monroe says the trick to a fresh, even complexion is your 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!"

Step 3: Choose Cream Eyeshadow

RMS Eye Polish
RMS Beauty Eye Polish $28
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"For bright, wide-awake eyes, start with a cream eyeshadow in a shade as close as possible to your own 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. 

Step 4: Brighten Up

Ilia Silken Shadow Stick
Ilia Silken Shadow Stick in And She Was $28
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Monroe's tried-and-true trick to instantly open up your eyes? Applying a lighter shade in the inner corners. We love the Ilia Silken Shadow Stick in And She Was—a subtle, slightly shimmery champagne hue that's easy to apply wherever and whenever.

Step 5: Groom Your Lashes and Brows

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel Clear
Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel in Clear $22
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"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 to brush 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.)

Step 6: Brush Up on Your Blush Technique

Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Cheeks
Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Cheeks in Scintillate $88
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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.

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.

Step 7: Don't Skip Highlighter

Maybelline Master Strobing Stick
Maybelline Master Strobing Stick $7
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"A dab of pearly highlighting cream on top of your cheekbones is gorgeous," Monroe says. Her favorite? Tom Ford Illuminating Highlighting Pen ($54). We're partial to Maybelline Strobing Stick, a true drugstore gem. (Here are more of our favorite budget-friendly highlighters.)

Step 8: Swipe on a Lip Tint

Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm
Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm $6
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The last step to complete your natural-looking makeup look? Adding a tint of color to your lips. "A really 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!"

Pin the image below so you'll always have your no-makeup makeup essentials on hand.

no makeup makeup look

Want more no-makeup makeup tips? Here's what our editor learned during Sephora's free class on no-makeup makeup.

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