Although I’ve been working in the beauty industry since I was 17 (where I started off on a makeup counter in my local Boots), my approach to makeup has been a long and winding path. Since my early teens, I’ve stopped off at some seriously questionable locations (cc: my overly plucked, drawn on eyebrows at age 15) before landing at my final destination: no-makeup makeup.
While my infatuation for colorful smoky eyes was intense but fleeting and I had a brief dalliance with heavy contour, my love for no-makeup makeup has endured the past few years without fail.
And it’s not just me; although the name might sound counterintuitive, this style has taken over as the modern-day makeup ‘goal’. Intrigued? Read on…
What is no-makeup makeup?
Though it’s tricky to pin down its exact source, the no-makeup makeup look started to take off around the time that Glossier was gaining its die-hard fanbase in the mid-late 2010s. Since then it’s evolved into different iterations, including the most recent ‘clean girl’ aesthetic on TikTok.
No-makeup makeup involves using makeup products (shocking, I know) to achieve a natural, fresh look that to the untrained eye looks like you’re wearing minimal-to-no makeup and really, really great skincare. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, there’s a little work to it…
How to achieve the no-makeup makeup look
Getting this look down to a fine art has been a process of trial and error, but I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.
Firstly, your skincare is what’s going to make the biggest difference to how your no-makeup makeup looks. I tend to go for skincare products that give me as much of a glowy base as possible; our skin is always secreting oils and therefore nobody’s complexion is naturally matte.
I also almost never use a powder, and if I do, it goes on sparingly. Looking airbrushed or matte isn’t the goal for this look, however if you do have an oilier skin type, use a hydrating setting powder in specific places to minimise excess shine.
To that end, I use almost exclusively cream and liquid makeup products, even when it comes to blush and bronzer. Cream products tend to have the most skin-like finish and I find are much better for layering in harmony with one another, so you can avoid dry patches and that dreaded pilling.
When it comes to achieving the no-makeup makeup look, these are the 6 products I can always rely upon to give me my desired glazed-like-a-donut finish.
The primer: Vieve Skin Nova
Primers never really made it into my makeup routine until I tried this for the first time. It was love at first swatch; the golden liquid feels more like a skincare product than a primer (probably because it’s infused with skincare ingredients) and lights up the skin as soon as you apply it.
I think of this primer like golden hour in a tube. It’s a bit on the pricier end, but it makes you look like you’ve had a facial without having to fork out hundreds.
The base: Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint
This skin tint was one of the first things I bought from Glossier and what kick-started my conversion to the no-makeup makeup look. Lighter than a tinted moisturiser, the formula applies almost like a water-based serum; it’s super sheer so won’t provide much coverage but it does leave the skin with a healthy all-over glow which has me hooked. For places that need more coverage, I’ll spot conceal before blending the Skin Tint over the top.
The lashes: Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, £9.99
When I’m not using at-home lash extensions (which are perfect for the no-makeup makeup look but can rack up a bit of an expensive habit if you’re doing them all the time), this is my go-to mascara and has been for years. I’ve tried the most expensive mascaras, the TikTok viral budget ones, and every waterproof mascara in-between, but none can beat the natural, fanned-out lashes that this one gives me.
The lipstick: Sann Beauty Nourish + Tint
This lipstick has been one of my best beauty discoveries of the past year. It’s a solid lip serum which glides onto the lips for a subtle, hydrating hit of colour. My favourite shade, Morning Dew, is the most natural neutral colour I’ve found for my skin tone, which gives a natural blush pink and pillowy, moisturised lips.
The blush: Morphe Blush Balm Soft-Focus Cream Blush
Up until fairly recently I never wore blusher. My pale skin made me fearful of putting any colour on it, worrying I’d end up looking like some terrifying garden gnome. After trying a cream blusher for the first time however, I was converted.
Morphe’s Blush Balm is a super creamy blusher which melts into the skin like butter and delivers a soft flush of colour. As mentioned, I find you can always judge how much you’re applying better with cream products vs powder, and they always end up giving a more natural finish.
The contour: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Mini Duo Amber
Incorporating contour into my daily makeup routine has truly changed my life. Where I used to apply bronzer all-over, I’ll now forgo it for a quick swipe of a contour stick in the middle of my cheekbones (the Kate Moss trick) and a bit along my jawline. I can’t overstate how much creating a bit of shadow and definition on your face can change your whole look, and without having to spend hours on it.