What is soft glam makeup and how to achieve it, by pro makeup artists

Your soft glam makeup masterclass—get inspired by our top looks and buys

Penelope Cruz wearing soft glam makeup on the red carpet
(Image credit: Future/Getty images)

Few beauty descriptors are as evocative as soft glam makeup. This popular beauty look is—just as it sounds—glamorous but quietly so. A bit more than no-makeup-makeup, a lot less than all-out glam, soft glam is that easy, polished look most of us are aiming for on a special evening or day out. 

''Soft glam is that lovely hybrid look, it enhances and brings out the features but in a balanced way,'' explains celebrity makeup artist and founder of Skin in Motion, Gia Mills. ''It's something you can wear at the office then on to a relaxed evening out. You can tell that there is makeup on and it gently pops the eyes, lips, or cheeks but not in a super powerful way. Essentially it is a chic 'done' look.'' 

The trick to getting this easy makeup look right is restraint—so you might try a smoky eyeshadow look, or master how to contour makeup for sculpted skin—but the overall effect should be diffused. "It’s done in a way that feels softer, so glowing skin, fluffy brows, well blended shadow and soft-focus cheeks and lips," says Bobbi Brown Pro Artist, Aimee Morrison. While Dominic Skinner, Global Senior Artist, M·A·C Cosmetics explains, "Think of it as full glam but with the volume turned down to a three or four. It's sexy background music." Sounds nice, doesn't it? Allow the pros to lead you in this soft glam makeup masterclass with Beauty Editor-approved buys to inspire your shopping. 

Soft glam makeup looks and how to achieve them

1. Naturally perfected base

Penélope Cruz

Penélope Cruz

(Image credit: Getty images)

Creating a soft glam makeup base takes a little more than just picking the best foundation and slathering it on. You're aiming for flawless-looking skin, of course, but crucially it must still look like skin. "Ensure the skin is prepped and a smooth canvas, so hydrate and apply a hydrating primer," advises Mills. The best primer for this usually includes soft-focus, radiant particles and has a smooth, grippy finish to help your base last.

"What I find works well is to put a light coverage on the face to blur imperfections, then I look at the face and decide what needs denser coverage, e.g. under the eyes, blemishes," continues Mills. "Then I will go in with a concealer to build up coverage where needed. That way you don't put a mask on the face, you allow the skin to show through where you can."

Our beauty editor recommends...

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind 4-in-1 Skin Perfector | RRP: $10.99/£13.99

A brilliant multitasker that can be worn alone or under makeup as a primer to create a smooth, glowing and glamorous base. 

Skin In Motion Work It Tinted Moisturiser | RRP: £25 (UK only)

Ultra-light, non-comedogenic and breathable, this is ideal for layering up with primers and concealers to create that perfected yet natural-looking base. 

2. Subtly sculpted cheeks

Naomi Campbell

Naomi Campbell

(Image credit: Getty images)

Even the best highlighter and contour attempt can look 50 shades of silly without the right technique (hello glittery disco cheekbones and ghostly grey hollows) But, done right, a soft sculpt really puts the 'glam' in your soft glam makeup look. "Most people use darker skin tones or bronzers to contour but that can look mucky" advises Skinner. "The best way is to mimic the color you see in the shadowy areas of your face like under your jawline. These tend to be cooler than a bronzer, so look for that in a contour palette. Always start lighter than you think, you can always add more."

As for application, it's all In the blend, explains Morrison. "Gone are the days of drawing lines all over your face, Instead take a concealer brush to a creamy contour product and then apply it onto your skin, you will always get a seamless blend and you won’t have to buff hard to blend away lines. I love to blend out a lighter concealer to highlight with my fingertips for a natural finish."

Our beauty editor recommends...

MAC Studio Fix Sculpt and Shape Contour Palette | RRP: $41/£36

A one-stop-shop for creamy, natural-looking contour products. The palette comes in two shade ranges with light and dark creams to cover all tones, all of which can be mixed together seamlessly.

Chanel Retractable Dual-Ended Concealer Brush | RRP: $42/£42

A very useful brush for, of course, concealing, but also buffing in your contour as per Amy Morrison's tip. The retractable head helps keep the bristles super clean and unfrayed for easy cheekbone-sculpting. 


3. Ultra-polished nude lip

Halle Berry

Halle Berry

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The perfect nude lipstick is right up there with the best mascara in the league table of all-time makeup essentials. But how to elevate your go-to nude lippie into soft glam territory? By making it the most precise, well-prepped, and beautifully finished nude lip look of your life, that's how. 

We'd advise using proper lipstick with a lightweight feel for a soft glam look, they offer a bit more polish and longevity than gloss or balm. Next, think about shape. "Start by applying a lip liner that matches your natural lip shade, this will let you create a naturally fuller lip," advises Morrison. Now apply like a pro with Mills' technique. "Take a creamy lipstick and use your fingers rather than applying straight from the bullet. Press and pat the color into the lips, that way you get a level of pigment that looks more natural. Sometimes I like to go over, after applying the lipstick, with a light touch of nude lip liner, feathered around the lip to give of definition."  

Our beauty editor recommends...

Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat Lip Liner | RRP: $24/£16

One of the best lip liners (opens in new tab) of all time, this is moisturizing and smudgeable yet stays put wherever you draw. Great shade range too.

Sisley Phyto Rouge Shine | RRP: $60/£39 

New and ultra-luxurious, this creamy, sheeny lip color is ideal for creating a natural soft glam makeup look. We love Sheer Nude and Sheer Blossom for a perfected nude lip. 

4. Groomed fluffy brows

Lily James

Lily James

(Image credit: Getty images)

Brushed-up eyebrows are a perfect example of soft glam makeup. They're sophsticated yet easy to achieve and as far away from hard-looking overdrawn arches as candyfloss is to a stick of rock. 

“Although this trend looks effortless, you still need to create a solid structure and shape to your arch to define the brows and tame the brows,” advises brow expert, and CEO of Rubis tweezers, Fides Baldesberger. “Pluck the hairs that grow outside the shape of your natural arch. Once you have the shape, take a spoolie and brush the hair outwards in the direction the hairs grow, then take a bar of soap or a brow gel to fix the hairs into in place.”

Our beauty editor recommends...

Rubis Classic Slant Tweezers | RRP: $43/£23.95

Neat eyebrow shapes (opens in new tab) are the basis of any fluffy brow look. These ones are ultra-sharp so you can be sure to create precise definition. 

Lurrose Eyebrow Soap Styling Kit | RRP: $6.99/£4.99
This will grab onto brow hairs, set them in place and not let them go anywhere. Perfect for creating a brushed up fluffy look that lasts.

5. Soft glam smoky eye

Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren

(Image credit: Getty images)

What could be more glam than a smoky eye? Soften it up by switching sooty black shadow for warm, burnished tones. "I absolutely love a soft bronze eye look, it compliments everyone," says Morrison, who advises using, "Bronzer in the crease and smudged under the lash line, a subtle sheen pressed onto the center of the lid then paired with black liner to tight line and lots of black mascara."

Skinner explains that learning how to apply eyeliner cleverly can also create a cool, fuss-free soft glam eye. "My favorite look that’s been seen on a few red carpets is the two pencil, one shadow eye. Start by lining the waterline with a dark brown pencil, then draw around the eye with a medium brown pencil and smudge it with a fingertip. Finally, sweep a pearlescent skin-colored shadow (or highlighter works) lightly over the eyelid. Not only is it a super quick and effective smokey eye, but it lasts all night as well."

Our beauty editor recommends...

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in Skyward | RRP: $30/£25

An absolute classic eye product in a glam new shade. Simple swipe it on and smudge it around for a soft diffused smoky eye look.

Maybelline Tattoo Liner Smokey Gel Pencil Eye Liner | RRP: $8.99/£5.99

This long-lasting and eminently blendable liner is an absolute steal. Use the smudger on the end to smoke it out, the color never transfers or budges once it's set


woman&home thanks Gia Mills, Aimee Morrison, Dominic Skinner and Fides Baldesberger for their time and expertise 

Fiona McKim
Fiona McKim

 As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.