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

Achieve barely-there natural makeup looks, from flawless skin to super-full eyebrows, with little to no fuss

natural makeup looks woman with fresh barely there makeup
(Image credit: Future)

Your skin but better—we've heard a lot of buzz around natural makeup looks, or what is known as the "YSBB" face these days, with no-makeup makeup having been quite the norm as of late. With low maintenance beauty trending and a heightened focus on self-care (with skincare being a higher priority for most), many of us are turning to more subtle cosmetics for inspiration to get ready for the Stuff of Life: From virtual morning meetings to looking presentable as you run those errands, to even a bit of polishing up for a nice evening out, an au naturel finish that's low-effort yet high-impact has been in much demand.

The good news? We've all got the perfect canvass to start with. The beauty of a barely-there face is that all it takes is a minimal amount of product (we promise!) to achieve a flattering end result. Whether it's picking up the best foundation for your skin type or switching out from a powder to a cream blush instead, nailing that no-makeup makeup vibe is all about the best products and the right techniques—and tying together both, ideally, all in 10 minutes or less.

From glowing skin to super-full eyebrows, we've pulled together the top natural makeup looks and star products we're loving at the moment, as well as a few expert tips to ace the YSBB face in a flash.

How to achieve natural makeup looks

When it comes to a barely-there face, there are a few tenets widely considered to be standard practice: 

  • See-through skin: The first thing you notice with an au naturel look? How fresh and "undone" the complexion is. Sticking to lighter-wear foundations or even just tinted moisturizer can be a smart choice.
  • Brushed-up brows: Visible texture with brows is that sweet spot between groomed and natural. The trend currently favored by models-off-duty and purveyors of no-makeup makeup everywhere, these boyish brows tend to have a bit of a thicker, bushier quality to them easily faked by brushing them 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 bonus, can even lend a faux tan effect—just the thing when gunning for a just-spent-a few-days-in-St. Barths glow.

Natural makeup looks for beginners

It's a well-known fact that so-called no-makeup makeup can often take more time, effort, and products to achieve than an obvious statement style like a bold red lip

But just because there's a bit of a knack to getting natural makeup looks right, that's not to say it's only professionals or those with serious makeup skills who can pull it off. With some clever products and tips from the experts, making a face of makeup appear subtle and flattering can become second nature to anyone. Here are the cornerstone products for a minimalist yet flawless face:

1. Sheer foundation

“Lighten up your base for a natural look” is a beauty cliché, but it makes sense: Some of the most sophisticated bases 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.

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NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30

NARS Pure Radiant is beloved by beauty editors everywhere (and justifiably so) for its silky and easily-blended formula, sheer to medium coverage, and glowing finish. The shade range has been upped to 16, meaning there should be something for most skin tones. Use a damp sponge or Beauty Blender to lightly tap the product into your skin for that almost-Facetuned finish.


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Sisley Phyto Hydra Teint

A little bit lighter and a good deal more luxurious, Sisley Phyto Hydra Teint 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

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

This comprehensive brow powder 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

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

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’s truly something for 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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Bobbi Brown Crushed Shine Jelly Stick

This is every bit as juicy and hydrating as it sounds. It's balm-like in texture but offers a bit more pigment than your average tinted slick. Honey, a pinky-brown nude, 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

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

The age-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. When unsure, however, 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, believe it or not, but thankfully much more subtle this time around) is just as pretty.

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Stila Convertible Color

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


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Dior BACKSTAGE Rosy Glow Blush

This intuitive peachy blush, seen here in Coral (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. Apply with a fluffy blush brush for a chic see-through glow.


5. Rosy lip color

The lip trend pendulum has swung from high-maintenance mattes in the past to (thankfully) 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. 

Natural makeup looks call for lip finishes that can vary with 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

If shiny isn't really your thing, Hourglass Velvet Story Lip Cream (seen here in Indulge, a neutral rose) is an absolute masterclass in a grown-up, yet 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

After something a bit more punchy, color-wise? L'Oreal Paris Brilliant Signature Shiny Lip Stain is just the kind of product you should be seeking out. 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

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. 

Tube 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 what we're going for here, it's a win-win! 

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Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara

Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara 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

This drugstore cult fave does all of the above, 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 of recent years.


Fiona McKim

As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more beauty products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about a brilliant find 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, working under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (clue: learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). 


In a previous life, Fiona studied journalism back home in bonnie Scotland and honed her skills as a features writer at publications including Junior and Prima Baby, with a brief and terrifying stint on the showbiz pages of a tabloid newspaper in between. She's a skincare fanatic who can’t resist adding an extra step to her routine, adores fragrance, has fun with makeup and never turns down the chance to test a new hair tool. Basically, she loves it all.

When not slathering herself in self tan or peering at a tiny ingredients list on a moisturiser, you’ll probably find Fiona enjoying something to do with food - cooking it, eating it, cajoling her friends into trekking across London to try a hyped pop-up in a dirty car park. 


Come to think of it, the hot dinners and beauty products are probably about even.