Natural makeup looks: how to nail fresh no-makeup makeup in minutes

Learn the art of natural makeup looks, from flawless skin to super-full eyebrows

A red haired woman smiling wearing natural makeup looks
(Image credit: Getty images)

We've heard a lot of buzz around natural makeup looks recently. With no-makeup makeup always in style and a heightened focus on skincare, many of us simply want to look like ourselves but better for the stuff of life—from morning meetings to running errands or a bit of polishing up for an evening out.

The beauty of a barely-there face is that it only takes a minimal amount of great product to achieve a flattering end result. Whether it's picking up the best foundation for your skin type or switching from a powder to the best cream blush, nailing that no-makeup makeup vibe is all about the best products and the right techniques—then tying both together, ideally in ten minutes or less.

How could you resist? From glowing skin to fluffy eyebrows, we've pulled together our top natural makeup looks and the star products you need to achieve them, as well as a few expert tips to ace your technique. 

How to achieve natural makeup looks

Most natural makeup looks rely on a few key fundamentals, get these right and the rest is easy: 

  • See-through skin: The first thing you notice with an au naturel look? How fresh the complexion is. Sticking to lighter-wear foundations or even just tinted moisturizer with concealer where needed can be a smarter choice than a heavy base.
  • Brushed-up brows: The ideal texture with brows is that sweet spot between groomed and natural. The trend currently favored by purveyors of no-makeup makeup everywhere is boyish brows, which tend to have a thicker, bushier quality to them easily faked by brushing the brows up after filling them in.
  • Monochromatic color: Playing within the same color family (roses with pinks, peaches with corals, bricks with nudes) for lips and cheeks gives a clean, pulled-together vibe, and makes life easier as you can double up products.

Natural makeup for beginners: 10 looks to try

1. Sheer foundation

Meghan Markle Sheer foundation

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“Lighten up your base for a natural look” is a beauty cliché, but it makes sense: Some of the most sophisticated foundations out there are the sheer ones combining pigment with skincare, and not that many women truly need full coverage anyway. 

If you have reasonably good skin with the occasional tone anomaly that you'd like to cover—pigmentation or rosacea, for example—try a fresh, sheer foundation and spot-treat with a heavy-duty concealer only where needed. The buzzphrase to remember: targeted, breathable coverage. Any higher on the pigment and you're veering into soft glam makeup territory (not that there's anything wrong with that)

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NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 | RRP: $45/£33

NARS Pure Radiant is beloved by beauty editors (justifiably so) for its silky and easily-blended formula, sheer to medium coverage, and glowing finish. Use a damp sponge to lightly tap the product into your skin for that filtered finish.

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Sisley Phyto-Hydra Teint Beautifying Tinted Moisturizer | RRP: $125/£92

A little bit lighter and a good deal more luxurious, this shows how far tinted moisturizers have come. It’s got just enough pigment, a polished finish, and the same antioxidants and hydrating botanicals as the brand’s luxurious skincare, which explains the price.

2. Brow powder

Kate Winslet brows

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It will come as no surprise to hear eyebrows are one of the most important aspects of natural makeup looks. With microblading, brow laminating, and brow tinting all on the rise, it’s tempting to want to find an at-home DIY option. Most women use pencils and gels for easy brow grooming, but you may just be converted by powder formulations. They give soft definition so you can avoid that scary Sharpie look, plus your filled-in arches sit nicely all day without flaking or going gunky. 

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BeneFit Brow Zings Pro Palette | RRP: $39/£33.50

This comprehensive kit might look a bit intimidating, but the vast selection of shades and textures is extremely useful. Press the end of the angled brush into a powder, or combine two for an exact shade match. Flick sharply through brow hairs to bulk them up, then set using the spoolie and wax.

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NYX Professional Makeup Eyebrow Powder Pencil | RRP: $6.59/£5.50

If you prefer the control of a pencil, NYX Professional Makeup Eyebrow Powder Pencil has a soft, powdery nib that offers subtle definition without any messiness. It comes in an unusually large shade range for a brow product—nine—and the bargain price is a bonus too. 

3. Warm eye crayons

Irina Shayk smoky eye

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Eye crayons are everywhere, and no wonder: They’re fun, portable, and require no skill whatsoever—just draw along your upper lid, smudge a bit depending on the look you want, and that’s that. The textures vary considerably, from sheer and sheeny to a more opaque rock 'n roll vibe, so there are truly eyeliner looks that suit everyone. For natural makeup looks, though, we're particularly smitten with warmer neutrals, as they efficiently brighten up the eye area with a few dabs. 

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Clinique Chubby Stick Shadow Tint for Eyes | RRP: $23/£18.50

This is so easy to apply and takes seconds to swipe across the lids. It gives a beautiful sheer wash of color and blends out easily. This honey, pinky-brown nude color in Fuller Fudge manages to somehow work on every skin tone, although it's particularly flattering on medium to deep skin.  

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Charlotte Tilbury Colour Chameleon Eye Shadow Pencil | RRP: $29/£19

An absolute classic, this is a firm, chunky pencil that lays down lots of pigment without dragging. The shades, which are mostly glamorous metallics (we're partial to the universally flattering Amber Haze, shown here), are also designed to intensify your eye color and make for a lovely liner—or, if the end’s a little blunt, a smoky shadow.

4. Peachy-pink blush

Gwyneth Paltrow blush

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The old adage is true: The most foolproof cheek color is your natural flush. Cream formulations blended outwards along the cheekbones definitely give you a bit of a dewy highlight as well. If you prefer traditional dry formulas, a powder blush lightly strobed on the cheeks with a slight extension towards the temples (a technique called "draping" that's a throwback from the '80s, but thankfully much more subtle this time around) is just as pretty.

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Stila Convertible Color | RRP: $25/£21

Bright blush is the easiest way to make a tired complexion look perky and youthful, and this iconic lip-and-cheek cream formulation in Stila's famous shade Petunia is no exception. Dab-dab-dab onto the apples of the cheeks (and lips, if you like) and blend to perfection.

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Dior Backstage Rosy Glow Blush | RRP: $36/£29.50

This intuitive blush (it adapts to your moisture levels and adjusts pigment accordingly), is just the thing for natural makeup looks that require a less-is-more approach. Seen here in Coral, apply with a fluffy blush brush for a chic see-through glow.

5. Rosy lip color

Emma Thompson lip colour

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The lip trend pendulum has swung from high-maintenance mattes to easy-wearing glosses and stains—great news for everyone who'd loves natural makeup looks and would rather not check how their lipstick looks on the back of their knife 16 times during dinner.  Finishes can vary depending on your preference. But whether you choose a formula that's juicy like a gloss, creamy like a classic lipstick, or budge-proof like a stain, keep it in the rosy color family closest to your natural lip pigment to stick to a neutral feel.

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Hourglass Velvet Story Lip Cream | RRP: $36/£35

This is an absolute masterclass in grown-up, easy-wearing lip color. The texture is mousse-like, so feels super light and comfortable on the lips, yet the color lasts almost as well as a traditional lipstick. The tapered applicator makes touch-ups easy, and as you'd expect from Hourglass, the packaging is so noticeably luxurious your friends will be dying to know where it's from. 

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L'Oreal Paris Brilliant Signature Shiny Lip Stain | RRP: $10.99/£10.99

After something a bit more punchy, color-wise? This is just the kind of product you should try. It looks like a gloss and applies like one but lasts longer and lacks that irritating stickiness that attracts strands of hair on a windy day. There are a ton of shades to choose from, but Be Outstanding, a sleek dusty rose-mauve, is particularly lovely. 

6. Fluffy lashes

Victoria Beckham Lashes

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Looking for the best mascara for natural makeup looks? It's a subjective and highly personal decision, but in terms of what's happening in the market, the arms race for bigger, faker-looking formulas is over, and there’s a refreshing focus on lash health and subtle flutter. 

Tubing mascara formulas are well worth considering: They work by coating lashes in polymer films rather than loading on wax and pigment. Once set, those filmy tubes are completely smudge-resistant until you wash them off with warm water. The only downside is they can't deliver the bulk and volume of traditional formulas. But seeing as subtle is exactly what we're going for here, it's a win-win! 

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Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara | RRP: $30/£22

Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara (opens in new tab) is one of the best-loved tubing mascaras on the market, offering restrained, natural-looking flutter and not so much as a suggestion of a smudge, even on hooded lids. 

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Maybelline The Falsies Lash Lift | RRP: $8.99/£10.99

This drugstore favorite does it all, thanks to a fluffy, hourglass-shaped brush that gently pulls eyelashes upwards as it coats them in the fiber-infused formula. This balance of lift and flutter without overloading the lashes makes this one of the best Maybelline mascaras (opens in new tab) of recent years.

7. Subtle highlight

Jennifer Lopez

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Healthy skin has a luminosity about it and the most natural way to achieve this look is by using one of the best highlighters money can buy. There are many highlighters on the market promising everything from a subtle ethereal sheen to dramatic kilowatt shine but, if you want it to look natural opt for something glitter-free. 

A gentle glow is what we're aiming for and your perfect formula will depend on your skin type. Oily skins tend to suit powder highlighters as they have better wear time and dry skin types will prefer something liquid or cream-based for an extra boost of moisture. 

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Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder | RRP: $50/£36.50

A cult favorite in the beauty industry, this highlighter gives skin luminous shine without being overbearing. It's full of reflective pearl pigments that catch the light and make quick work of any dewy makeup (opens in new tab) look. It comes in five colors so you'll definitely find one to suit your skin tone. 

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Iconic London Illuminator | RRP $40/£30

If your skincare routine (opens in new tab) isn't doing enough to brighten up your skin, dab a little of this highlighter onto the high points of the face and see your look go from dull to dazzling. This product is effectively liquid luminosity and a little goes a long way so use sparingly. The runny formula is great for dry skin and won't settle into lines. 

8. Sculpting bronzer

Jennifer Aniston

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Intense contouring is not the goal when it comes to natural, easy makeup looks. Instead, you want to aim for a barely-there bronzed glow à la Hollywood's golden girl, Jennifer Aniston. If you already know how to apply bronzer, great! But, if you're weary of looking striped or muddy then start applying your bronzer slowly. 

Build up the color intensity in layers until you're happy and always look at yourself in natural daylight before finishing off. Choosing the best bronzer for your skin type, much like a highlighter, can make all the difference in the longevity of your makeup. Choose creamy bronzers if you're dry-skinned or powder formulas if you're oilier.  

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Benefit Hoola Matte Bronzing Powder | RRP: $30/£27.50

One of the original bronzers that has stood the test of time, for good reason. It's soft, easy to blend, and gives a lovely sun-kissed look to the skin. Dry skins may find it a little too chalky but those with combination or oily skin will love it. 

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Chanel Les Beiges Bronzing Cream | RRP:$50/£43

This luxury, hydrating formula will be a staple in your makeup kit (opens in new tab) as soon as you try it. It blends seamlessly into the skin for a natural-looking glow and now comes in two shades, one for light to medium skin tones and a new darker shade for medium to deep complexions. 

9. Brown eyeliner

Natalie Portman

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For a long time, we've been tricked into thinking that black kohl eyeliner was the only way to define your eyes but, paving the way for subtler definition and a more wearable approach to a smoky eye is the humble brown eyeliner. 

Of course, if you want drama the best eyeliner will be something along the lines of an inky black gel, but for natural makeup looks chocolate or warm-hued brown reigns supreme. Not only does brown eyeliner soften your look, it actually enhances the color of blue and green eyes through its natural red tone. The most flattering eyeshadows for blue eyes are rich, orange-toned browns so why should your liner be any different?

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MAC Eye Kohl | RRP: $21/£16

This pigmented pencil, shown here in the shade Costa Riche, is great for smoking out or adding definition to the lash line. It's soft but long-wearing and the ultimate rich brown shade ideal for all eye colors. We suggest applying it to the upper waterline as this will thicken the look of your lashes. 

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Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Waterproof Eye Pencil | RRP: $21/£16

If your eyeliner tends to smudge, try this one. It's ultra long-wearing and won't slide down your face no matter how watery your eyes get. This shade, Whiskey, is a great shade for all eye colors and makes a far more natural-looking alternative to black. 

10. Radiant primer

Lupita Nyong'o

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Great-looking skin shouldn't be flat, it should have a natural radiance that appears to come from within. Enter, the primer. The best primers traditionally work by smoothing out the skin and keeping your makeup on for longer but, they can do a whole lot more for your complexion. For a juicy glow that doesn't look OTT, go for a primer with light-reflecting particles as well as skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid that keep the skin hydrated and leave it looking fresh. 

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Tom Ford Beauty Illuminating Primer 30ml | RRP: £65


Hydrate your skin while giving it a glowing complexion with this luxe primer. It makes for smooth makeup application thanks to its silky texture and leaves a bright and radiant look in its wake.

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Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Blur Primer | RRP: $52/£29.75

Achieve great-looking skin and natural luminosity with this luxe primer. With shimmering gold flecks, this gel provides dull skin with a shot of radiance, perfect for wearing under foundation or alone. 

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Milk Makeup Hydro Grip Primer | RRP: $24/£20

Quench thirsty skin and leave it looking luminous with this hyaluronic acid-packed formula. It's great for dry skin and keeps your base looking natural for longer.