This Product Equation Creates the Ultimate No-Makeup Makeup Look


Whether it's because we've spent most of our time at home the past few months or it's because of the unrelenting heat, we've been leaning toward no-makeup makeup and the best products to achieve said no-makeup makeup.

Even though the premise of the aesthetic sounds easy enough, finding a spot-on product equation in terms of the texture of your formulas, the shades you reach for, and even the order of application can make no-makeup makeup more complicated than the more robust routine we may be used to. In fact, after I interviewed celebrity makeup artist Mary Phillips a while back on the topic, I realized there are actually a lot of important tips and tricks to keep in mind as you execute a more minimalist look. You can read the full feature with all of Phillips's advice here, but we'll also be sharing some of her tips below in conjunction with the best no-makeup makeup products my Who What Wear beauty PIC Courtney Higgs and I swear by. 

Keep scrolling for a step-by-step product walk-through of the ultimate no-makeup makeup routine. 

Step 1: Choose a Moisturizer-Primer Hybrid


(Image credit: @aimeesong)

I've talked to enough makeup artists over the years to know the way in which we prime and prep our skin can make a really huge difference in how our complexion looks and feels. (Especially, if we start adding layers of makeup on afterward!) As Phillips told me, hydration is paramount when executing a minimalist makeup look.

"Healthy, hydrated skin is the best place to start for any makeup look, especially a minimal, no-makeup makeup look," she explains. "I'm a firm believer in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and drinking plenty of water along with following a skincare regimen to keep skin looking and feeling its best. If your skin is in good shape, you'll need less coverage, and your products will go on so much more smoothly."

If I'm in a rush, I've found using a primer-moisturizer hybrid can come in extremely handy. Not only is it more time-efficient than layering serums, creams, and primers, but most of these products are designed to yield flawless, photo-finish results. 

Step 2: Choose Your Base


(Image credit: @court_higgs)

It might seem obvious, but if your goal is to create a natural and believable no-makeup makeup look, it's just not the time to reach for a heavy, full-coverage foundation. The key is finding a formula that's lightweight but has the agility to effortlessly layer for more coverage.

"Use a foundation with buildable coverage so you can apply to areas that need more coverage without overdoing the whole face," Phillips confirms. 

Step 3: Concealer (If You Need It)


(Image credit: @tobimakeup)

Depending on how aggressive your dark circles are or how much coverage you crave, you might be able to totally forgo this step. That said, I for one never have beef with giving my perpetually tired under-eyes an extra helping of brightness. And sometimes, (depending on how sour or sweet my breakout-prone skin has been) I need a little extra love to help camouflage any friends or residual scarring sitting on my complexion. Similar to your choice of base, something that spreads and blends easily and has a light but buildable coverage is recommended. 

Step 4: Bronzer (If You Want It)


(Image credit: @aysha.sow)

I don't always use bronzer within my no-makeup makeup routine, but if I have a little extra time and want to warm my face up a bit more—or create a little more definition with some contour—I'll swing a buttery formula around my jawline, hairline, cheekbones, and nose. Below, Courtney and I are sharing our favorite formulas. She typically prefers contour sticks, while I like powders, which strategically also help me from getting too oily.

Step 5: Apply a Lip + Cheek Stain


(Image credit: @claire_most)

I've never forgotten the following tip from Phillips: "For a seamless no-makeup makeup look, I always recommend using cream-based products that will adhere and blend more naturally into the skin."

Therefore, when approaching blush (which instantly makes you look perkier and more vibrant), it's a good idea to reach for cream or liquid-based picks when you're executing a less is more makeup aesthetic. Plus, they can do double duty on your lips!

Step 6: Tap on Some Glow


(Image credit: @gigihadid)

There's a fine line when it comes to no-makeup makeup looks and highlighter. If you find the right formula, highlighter can amplify your complexion and your natural skin texture with a pretty touch of healthy glow, but with the wrong formula in your hands, things can get really wet, strobe-like, or glittery, which kind of defeats the point. Both Courtney and I have found multi-use sticks and highlight serums are best for creating hints of radiance all over the face. We recommend tapping your cheekbones, eyelids, and nose, in particular. 

Step 7: Mascara


(Image credit: @erin_jahns)

Mascara is pretty self-explanatory. It's the fastest way to make your eyes pop, and if you find a tube with the perfect mix of length and volume perks, your lashes will look fluttery and defined but still natural. Courtney and I actually agree on our two holy-grail favorites! (Tip: Curl your lashes before you start whisking your wand through.)

Step 8: Groom Your Brows


(Image credit: @joannacoops)

Everyone has a different beat when it comes to their brows—some people like color and definition even on days they aren't wearing makeup, and some people just want something clear and quick to swipe through for a sleek holding effect. (I definitely fall into the latter camp!) Alas, Courtney and I have concluded that the following four formulas are all great options no matter your aesthetic.

Beauty Director

Erin has been writing a mix of beauty and wellness content for Who What Wear for over four years. Prior to that, she spent two and half years writing for Byrdie. She now calls Santa Monica home but grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and studied writing, rhetoric, and communication at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and spent a summer in L.A. interning with the Byrdie and Who What Wear family. After graduating from UW, she spent one year in San Francisco, where she worked as a writer for Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen before moving down to L.A. to begin her career as a beauty editor. She considers her day-to-day beauty aesthetic very low-maintenance and relies on staples like clear brow serum (from Kimiko!), Lawless's Lip Plumping Mask in Cherry Vanilla, and an eyelash curler. For special occasions or days when she's taking more meetings or has an event, she'll wear anything and everything from Charlotte Tilbury (the foundations are game-changing), some shimmer on her lids (Stila and Róen do it best), and a few coats of the best mascara-type product on earth, Surratt's Noir Lash Tint.