How to Look Like You're Not Wearing Makeup (When You Are but Only a Little)

Updated 03/27/17
how to do no-makeup makeup
Free People

Although in many ways nude makeup is bringing it back to the basics—working with a color palette just a shade or two off from your natural skin tone—perfecting a nude makeup look is no easy feat. Neutrals can quickly veer on the side of coming across bland or washed out, and the last thing anyone wants is a beige face.

For an expert opinion on achieving the perfect nude makeup look, we reached out to celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose. With a client list that includes Brit Marling, Tessa Thompson, and Lupita Nyong'o, Barose has experience working with a diverse range of skin tones to achieve both red carpet and everyday looks. He underscores that nude makeup that makes you look fresh and healthy isn't necessarily going to look nude in the packaging. Along with his step-by-step tips for creating the ultimate no-makeup makeup look, he's provided his top product picks for every skin tone.

 Keep scrolling to read our interview with Nick Barose.

BYRDIE: When is the best time or occasion for a nude makeup look?

NICK BAROSE: Nude makeup is great when what you're wearing is already bold, bright, or busy with patterns, etc. This way it doesn't clash. It's a great way to keep the look in the realm of fashion as opposed to costume. Sometimes you can wear over-the-top fashion or bold accessories, and keep it looking chic and more real when the makeup is more nude and neutral.

BYRDIE: What are the most important things to keep in mind when creating a nude makeup look?

NB: That it doesn't wash you out. "Nude" is a tricky word. Most people think of nude as something beigey, and then it ends up looking tacky like a nude stocking. Nude to me needs to be according to your skin tone. If you're dark, then your nude makeup look might actually be more bronze and berry-toned to look healthy, not flat or pasty.

So it really is not about how the products look in packaging, and texture is key. I like nude makeup that looks fresh, so I always avoid anything too matte and too opaque—it doesn't look alive. Creamy, shimmery, sheen, gloss, and anything that reflects light looks fresher. Otherwise, it all ends up looking like a beige wall, and that kind of color and texture does not belong on the face.

BYRDIE: Step-by-step, how do you create the perfect nude makeup look?

NB: Since it's not a loud color, in order to make the face pop, you still need to decide where you want to make the focal point—eyes or lips—and then add extra drama there. If it's the eyes, you might want to add stronger brows and extra liner or mascara. If it's the lips you want to focus on, then you might want to make them slightly shiny to draw attention.

I usually start with fresh-looking skin using sheer liquid foundation and a bit of bronzer just to warm up the complexion and to help keep the nude palette from washing out.

On the eyes, I opt for shimmery eye crayons or cream shadows that you can dab on the lids or up to the brow bones. Then I define eyes with a dark brown liner just on top—or bottom too, if I wish. Add two coats of black mascara.

Cream or liquid blush helps to add glow, which is key for making the face look alive, especially when you're using such subtle colors.

On lips, I like a bit of sheen using a crayon lipstick in a nude tone—keep it easy and simple. I'm not a fan of darker nude lip liner. It ages you. The key is to keep it fresh and easy. If you need extra pop on the lips, then add a bit of a deeper-toned stain underneath the nude lip color.

Nick Barose rounded up his favorite products below for achieving a nude makeup look for every skin tone.

Light

On fair skin, too much nude can look flat and washed out. Adding a bit of depth with color on the lips makes the look appear healthy.

Koh Gen Do Lip Crayon in Coral Pink $35
Shop

"It reads as a fresh pinky nude," Barose says.

best neutral eye shadow
Nars Duo Eyeshadow in Hammanet $36
Shop

"This has a bit of a fresh peachy tone to it so it reads as a fresh nude," Barose says.

best affordable highlighter
Glossier Haloscope Highlighter in Quartz $22
Shop

"The subtle shimmery ivory tone adds convincing dewiness to fair skin, and makes it comes alive so even if you're on the pale side you'll look healthy and alive, not dull or flat," Barose says.

best blush
Shiseido Luminizing Satin Face Color in RD103 Petal $30
Shop

Medium

On medium skin, play with golden tones to enhance warmth.

best nude lipstick for medium skin
It Cosmetics Blurred Lines Smooth Fill Lipstick in Perfect Nude $24
Shop

"It has a bit of orange tone plus some depth to it to define the lips so your nude lips don't look flat or washed out," Barose says.

best blush for medium skin tone
Giorgio Armani Cheek Fabric in 306 $48
Shop

"This silky blush with its warm peachy tone looks fresh, and it adds a pop of color to the cheeks," Barose says.

best highlighter for medium skin
Chanel Pliss Lumiere de Chanel $70
Shop

"The golden champagne tone adds a candlelit glow to medium skin," Barose says.

neutral eye shadow palette
Neutrogena Nourishing Eyeshadow in Mink Brown $9
Shop

"The warm, bronzy tone defines and adds highlight to the eyes," Barose says.

Dark

On dark skin, avoid anything too brown since it won't do your complexion any favors. Make sure the colors show. It might not look nude in the tube for dark skin but that is key. Sometimes you can pick something brighter and apply with a lighter touch so it pops. Stay neutral, but make sure it doesn't fade into the skin.

best nude lipstick for dark skin
Lancome L'Absolu Rouge in 238 Luxe

"Contouring the coppery warm bronze tones adds highlight and looks like a fresh nude on dark skin," Barose says.

best blush for dark skin
MAC Powder Blush $23
Shop

"This sepia brown with a bit of red tone in it stays neutral but still pops," Barose says.

best highlighter for dark skin
Lancome Click and Glow in Lumiere D'Or Rose $23
Shop

"The coppery bronze tone in it blends in perfectly and doesn't turn ashy on darker skin," Barose says.

best natural eye shadow look for dark skin
Yves Saint Laurent 5 Color Contour Palette $60
Shop

"The matte, fresh plum tone, when applied with a light touch on dark skin, adds the perfect amount of pop and glow to make your nude tones pop," Barose says.

Now that you've read all the best tips for perfecting a nude makeup look, see Nick Barose's advice for achieving a statement wine-colored lip for every skin tone.

Related Stories