Sometimes the natural look needs a little help.
If you see a fresh-faced model on the runway or an apple-cheeked star on a red carpet, it’s a safe bet that she’s wearing makeup, whether she looks like it or not.
"You want makeup that makes you look like yourself, just brighter and more alive," says Bobbi Brown, who has made her name in the beauty industry on a palette of neutral colors.
There are two different routes to take: nude-colored cosmetics that highlight your natural color, or barely there makeup that uses light and diffusion to more simply give a more flawless look to skin. Either way, it’s all about camouflage, says Benefit Cosmetics founder Jean Ford.
"When all is said and done, and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, you’re looking at the center of the face and that’s where the darkness can be–under the eyes, around the nose, the bridge of the nose," Ford says. "This is where colorless color comes into focus."
The trick, Ford says, is using the brightening agents that you find in translucent, blendable products with a light pink, flesh or white tint. "It’s a youthful transformation that’s not unnatural," she adds.
Still, finding the perfect shade of neutral can be harder than picking a bold, red lipstick, says Brown; there’s more wiggle room with a hue that’s highly pigmented. Trial and error is the best (and really only) way to get the colorless colors right.
Once you find your complementary tones, though, those products will become the easiest to put on, she says. "It’s three-minute makeup max."
As a "corrective tool," Sarah Lucero, head of artistry for Stila Cosmetics, says a dab of a light shimmer shadow on the lower part of the eyelid and a sweep one shade darker in the crease will make the eye appear bigger and brighter. She also likes to use a flesh-tone or white eyeliner just inside the rim of the eye to help make a face look truly awake.
But she warns that shimmer is a highlighter that can draw attention to a particular spot–a good thing with eyes, not, for example, the pores of the skin. "Use it strategically," Lucero says.
Meanwhile, neutral-colored products that are matte tend to minimize the appearance of things, and she always uses a touch of pink somewhere on the face. "You don’t want to look blank or corpselike. Pink is a naturally occurring element. It tops the perfect no-makeup makeup look."
Some colorless choices:
–Bobbi Brown’s Shimmering Nudes Palette. There are seven cool and warm nude-tone eyeshadows to be used for all complexions, offered in flat, sheer shimmer and high-shimmer appearances.
–Benefit’s Powderflage. This featherweight powder is applied with an equally light-touch brush. There’s a hint of light pink in the translucent formula that aims to brighten the skin using light diffusers.
–Sensai Smoothing Water Makeup Base by Kanebo. The company describes this invisible formula as a skincare-meets-makeup product that leaves a smooth surface.
–Emanuel Ungaro lipstick by MAC. The cosmetics brand teamed with Ungaro designer Esteban Cortazar and makeup artist Sharon Dowsett for a runway-inspired collection based on soft, almost-nude shades. The lipstick comes in a super-pale pink or a flesh hue called Freckletone.
–Philosophy: The Present. The idea behind this cream is an airbrushed look that can be worn day or night, with makeup or without.
–Stila Hydrating Finishing Powder. This translucent powder is finely milled and intended to absorb oil while providing time-released hydration.
–DuWop Prime Venom. Lip-pumper Venom already was a key item in DuWop’s lineup, but this version is matte and colorless for those who don’t want shine or choose to pair it with another product.
–Prescriptives Liquid Powder Red Neutralizer. This colorless powder diffuses light with the goal of minimizing the appearance of lines, pores and wrinkles, as well as offsetting redness.
–Laura Mercier Lip Glace in Crystal. As a sheer, clear lightweight lip gloss, there shouldn’t be any issues with feathering or bleeding, but there will be shine.
–L’Homme Yves Saint Laurent Radiant Touch for Men. This men’s grooming product is similar to the brand’s Touche Eclat for women. It uses flesh-tone pigments to camouflage skin imperfections and add brighteners using a pen-brush system.