Trends come and go, but accentuating your authentic, natural features never goes out of style—which is precisely where minimalist makeup comes in.
“To me, minimalist makeup means using less product in a smarter way to have more impact,” says Jason Hoffman, veteran makeup artist and vice president of beauty and product experience at Amyris (the parent company behind efficacious clean beauty brands from Rose Inc to Biossance). Think skin-perfecting tinted moisturizers, foolproof brow gels, and multitasking color pigments to achieve a natural-like glow perfect for daily wear, sunny days outside, or simply when you’re low on time and energy.
Over the past decade, we’ve seen iterations of this across runways, on our favorite stars, and even in our social feeds. “The minimalistic look will definitely be here to stay,” says makeup artist Alexx Mayo—the pro behind Lizzo’s beauty moments. “It’s quick, easy, and great when you just want to look like you and get a boost of confidence.”
And thanks to the entrance of minimalist makeup brands like Merit, Westman Atelier, and Saie, it’s that much easier for anyone to get their hands on an high-performance formula that encourages them to depart from a full face. Though Hoffman encourages wearers to reflect on what minimal means to them: “Coverage is subjective. Full coverage to one person could be sheer to another. Minimal implies less product, so if it’s less than you would normally wear, that is minimal for you.”
With that, our experts break down the seven quintessential steps to nail an effortless, your-skin-but-better makeup look to sport this summer and beyond. All signs are pointing to embracing the skin you’re in.
Skin Is In
“Proper skincare is a must,” notes Hoffman. “The skin should be hydrated and exfoliated, which will enhance any product you put on the skin.” And as Mayo puts it: “Well-prepped skin gives you a beautiful hydrated glow in return helps you use less product.” Thus, like preparing for the Oscars or Met Gala, it’s clear that skin prep is the most important step to achieve the look. We’d reach for the SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel—a hyaluronic acid-infused serum crafted to replenish and retain skin’s moisture post-cleanse, or the Tata Harper Illuminating Moisturizer—a silky formula infused with diamond dust to improve luminosity and plumpness. With this pair, you’ll have a lit-from-within glow even before step two.
“Next, I would even out the complexion—using the least amount of product to get the desired coverage,” says Hoffman. So, swap that medium-to-full coverage foundation for a lightweight formula like Ilia’s Super Serum Skin Tint, which earns bonus points for its featured SPF 40. You certainly don’t have to use a tinted option all over, though, as Mayo notes, you can spot correct or conceal any areas of concern instead—even if you want to veil eye bags, rouge pimples, or dark spots. “The best way to hide areas of concern is to use a color correcting concealer with a small precise brush to specifically target any problem areas,” he says. Clé de Peau Beauté’s option or your favorite clean concealer will definitely do the trick.
Masks on or off, perfecting your brows is always a must, and step three of minimalist makeup. While Mayo recommends a clear brow gel, you can definitely opt for a tinted formula or fill in sparse hairs with a brow pencil. There’s Rose Inc’s gel to fluff, lift, and set brows while conditioning them without a hard, flaky hold. On the other hand, give Glossier’s beloved Brow Flick a try to subtly etch faux hairs and add fullness.
Next up is enhancing your natural lashes. For Mayo, that means incorporating “a clean mascara, one that leaves the lashes separated and volume at the root,” rather than a clumpier formula or faux lashes. Ilia’s Limitless Lash is one of our favorites to lift and lengthen, or there’s La Bouche Rouge’s formula for glamorous length for that french girl aesthetic.
Soft Focus Cheeks
While you could certainly stop there, amp up your no-makeup makeup look with a gentle wash of color to the cheeks with a liquid or cream blush. Saie’s Dew Blush offers six creamy water-based gels which melt into skin despite its vibrant pigment. Otherwise, Chanel’s multitasking lip and cheek balm is infused with red camellia flower to nourish skin whilst delivering a healthy flush.
“I’d finish by adding one accent to the face,” says Hoffman, who might go for a subtle highlight. With a creamy formula like Westman Atelier’s Lit Up stick or Rare Beauty’s Liquid Luminizer, you can customize your glow to be as luminous as you’d like. Just remember: the goal is to make it look like it could be your skin. Mayo recommends setting the area with a light touch of powder for all-day wear.
Contrarily, you could apply a tinted balm or oil for a statement-making lip moment. Whether it’s Merit’s Shade Slick oil or Bobbi Brown’s classic Lip Tint balm, these formulas offer hydration benefits and no-fuss pigment to the lips with just one swipe.