No-makeup makeup is an elusive, confusing thing, because 99-percent of the time, it requires way more time and effort than your usual night-out look. Why? Because you’re trying to fool people into thinking your skin is naturally perfect and glowing and magical, and that level of trickery takes time and precision.
But just because no-makeup makeup isn’t for the lazy, it also shouldn’t require three years of cosmetology school to master. Luckily, once you get the hang of it (i.e. applying multiple sheer layers of makeup until you eventually build to a natural-looking finish), you’ll realize it’s actually quite easy and painless. So to get you started, we broke down the five most-important tricks to pulling off the perfect no-makeup makeup look.
Learn the power of concealer
No, you don’t have to have perfect, blemish-free skin to pull off the no-makeup look—although it seriously helps. “With a great skin regimen that keeps your skin looking flawless, you’ll barely need any makeup anyway,” says makeup artist and skin care consultant Karuna Chani. Uh, dreams. But if you’re not genetically blessed, stock up on lightweight, hydrating concealers, like Philosophy Hope for Everywhere for dry skin, or Laura Mercier Secret Concealer for medium-to-oily skin, and apply them in a triangle beneath your eyes, around the edges and center of your nose, across your chin, and on any other red spots or patches. The goal here is to minimize as much redness and discoloration as possible before even adding your tinted moisturizer.
Embrace tinted moisturizer
Sorry, but no matter how awesome your foundation is, it’s never, ever going to give you a no-makeup makeup look, because it’s simply too heavy. “Tinted moisturizers are light, airy, and allow your skin to show through it, so there’s no way you’ll get the ‘cakey’ makeup look,” says Chani. If you have dry skin, pick a tinted moisturizer loaded with hydrating ingredients (like Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream), or if your skin gets shiny by noon, look for a semi-matte formula, like Nars Velvet Matte Skin Tint.
Hide blemishes the correct way
Caking 23 layers of concealer on one blemish is immediately going to destroy your no-makeup makeup look. Instead, pick one full-coverage, yet hydrating, concealer that can cover zits with just a few taps, like Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer. After applying your tinted moisturizer, dab the concealer lightly over the head of your zit, wait five minutes, then gently tap, tap, tap to blend it out.
Ditch any and all powders
The goal here is to have dewy, glowing skin, like you just got 12 hours of sleep in a misty cloud, and powders destroy that entire goal. So swap your powder blush for a cream or gel formula, like Perfekt Cheek Perfection Gel or NYX Cream Blush, and blend it along the apples of your cheeks. But if you’re terrified that your oily skin will turn into a grease slick after breakfast with all of these creamy products, start your makeup look off with a mattifying primer, like the cult-favorite Becca Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector, which will keep the shine at bay without ruining the dew.
Keep the rest of your makeup light
You’ll still want a little somethin’ somethin’ on your face so you don’t look like you just rolled out of bed (this is a makeup look, after all), but don’t go overboard: Brush your brows—“the best shape, here, is a natural shape,” says Chani—and fill them in lightly with a brow crayon, like Maybelline Brow Drama Pomade Crayon, one shade lighter than your natural eyebrow color. Skip eyeliner altogether, or go for a natural look, lining just your top lash line with a copper eyeliner (we like CoverGirl Flamed Out Shadow Pencil in Melted Caramel), then curl your top lashes and swipe on a brown-black mascara. On your lips: whatever the hell you want. We’re partial to a red lipstick (it gives your skin a “this old thing” feel), but a tinted lip balm works just as well.
Now go forth into this bright, busy world with a meticulously applied makeup look that ideally tricks everyone into thinking you put nothing on your face at all!