The ingredients to natural makeup
I’m not going to be talking about the Western version of natural makeup, as compared to the Asian approach to it. I’m making this distinction because I find the intents of the two styles of makeup very different. Western natural makeup is about wearing as little makeup as possible. Asian natural makeup aims to make you look like you’re not wearing much makeup at all – and there is a difference between the two. Asian natural makeup usually uses a lot of products, but is applied so skillfully (or at least, it’s supposed to be) so you can’t tell just how much stuff has been applied on the face.
Living in a hot humid climate means that it’s just not practical to cake on lots of foundation everyday the way tutorials showing how to get that Korean pop-star look. When I do my daily makeup, I always attempt to use as little product as possible.
Tip: Always use highly pigmented products in order to order to apply a minimal amount of product on the face. Picking products with rich pigments – or at least, product that gives you the exact colour you want in one pass rather than multiple passes – is a must. Bold colour can be easily muted down with a little powder, but piling on layer after layer of product is frustrating, and the makeup will never last long.
Another tip: I’ve written extensively on this here, but either use a face primer or a moisturizer on the face, never both. This is a rule for all climates. The two products do pretty much the same thing anyway, primer just has lots of silicon in it to get the smooth silky feel on your face. Putting that many products means that nothing gets absorbed on the face and the layers all just sit on top of one another. That will neither feel comfortable or look good. So just pick one and your makeup will last longer.
Below are the key ingredients you’ll need to look fresh and pulled together, but not overdone. ie. The natural no-makeup makeup look.
This is where you should skip over both heavy liquid foundations and powder. As great as these products are for creating flawless bases, there is a certain artificiality in flawless polished skin. Just look at air stewardess’ makeup – no matter how skillfully applied the makeup is, that face doesn’t look natural. This is why makeup artists try so hard to create a natural dewy glow with foundation; matte skin often looks too powdered down and mask-like.
A tinted sunscreen or BB cream is usually enough. I’ve written a more extensive post on the difference between tinted sunscreen and BB cream , but basically BB cream has very slightly heavier coverage than the former. Both products will not completely cover up blemishes. While they’ll reduce redness and even out your skin tone, your freckles and your natural blush will still show. These “imperfections” will only make it look like you’re not wearing makeup at all, though there would definitely be a difference before and after applying makeup.
This is the kind of difference BB creams can make to your face – it brightens you skin, without it looking too unnatural.
The great thing about liquid makeup products in general (and this also applies to liquid foundation) is that they don’t just sit on top of your face. Like moisturizer or facial creams, they do get absorbed into the skin. That’s why (so long as you haven’t applied too much product) it’s hard to go wrong with liquid based foundations even if you don’t use a stippling brush to buff it into the skin. If you leave it alone for about ten minutes, most of the initial streakiness will be gone. This is why I like to let my foundation sit on my face for a bit before I apply a powder blush or a finishing powder. You also avoid over powdering by accident because you’re not trying to hide the streakiness.
It helps if you warm up the product before applying it to the face. (This applies to almost all cream and liquid products: foundation, moisturizer, pencil eyeliners, cream blush, lipsticks, lip pencils, etc.) When I apply either moisturizer or my BB creams to my face, I squeeze a little product on my hand and rub it between my fingers a little, then apply it over my face. It never ends up looking streaky. For pencils, I roll the pencil between my hands before I apply. It will creamier and won’t tug your skin.
I don’t have any tinted moisturizers to recommend as I don’t use them, but I’ve reviewed Maybelline’s BB Watergel and Bobbi Brown’s BB Cream, and use both pretty often. They work well on me, even living in Singapore, where its hot and humid all the time.
Putting a tiny amount of concealer in strategic areas can make a huge difference to your face. These areas are:
• the dark circles under your eyes
• the redness around your nose
• the redness beneath your mouth, on the chin
If you have good enough skin, you can skip the BB cream/tinted moisturizer altogether. I got the tip about the redness around the nose years ago from a Michelle Phan video, and it really does make a huge difference.
For the eyes
• Pencil/kohl liner
I prefer a pencil liner over either gel or liquid liner when doing natural makeup as I find the latter two a little harsh for natural makeup. I prefer to use either a dark brown or grey pencil rather than black too, so the line drawn doesn’t look too stark on my pale skin. Go ahead and use black if you want to, but remember there are variations of black. Compare Urban Decay’s Zero and Perversion – Perversion is significantly darker than Zero.
Kohl pencils are richer in pigmentation than the standard pencil, but also have a greater tendency to smudge. They are also non-waterproof, so the can be used on the waterline (never ever use waterproof pencils on the waterline the waterline is wet and the pigment will not go on!) Pick either according to your needs.
• Brow grooming tools
These are: one clean mascara brush, one brow pencil/eyeshadow and angled liner brush, petroleum jelly
For those with patchy or non existent brows, use an angled liner brush with some eyeshadow, or a brown pencil. Lightly fill in the eyebrows and set with petroleum jelly.
See what a huge difference filling in your brows can do?
For those who don’t need to define your brows, it helps to set your brows anyway, to make you look more polished. Use a clean mascara brush to comb petroleum jelly on your eyebrow. This will set the hairs in place (I do this just about everyday).
Also don’t overdo filling them in when doing natural makeup. You don’t want them to look to heavy in contrast with the rest of your face.
I use NYX’s brow pencils to fill in my eyebrows. They’re cheap and they work well. Otherwise, I’ve been using Urban Decay Bewitched (cool brown) for a natural brow colour.
From my Urban Decay Theodora palette. Bewitched is the last colour on the first row.
An intensively volumizing mascara isn’t necessary. One that gives your lashes a little length and a natural looking curl will be enough. Sometimes, a couple of coats of mascara is all you need to complete the eye. I like my Painted Earth Superlash mascara.
Eyeshadow is probably the least essential product here. However, some people (myself included) with flat eyes like to have just a little shadow to add dimension to the eye. Those with deeply set eyes and lots of lid space can usually skip this because there would already be a natural shadow
Matte eyeshadows are key to keeping the look natural. A matte brown eyeshadow can be applied on the lid and blended out to just below the brow bone, imitating the way a shadow would fall on your lid if you have deep set eyes.
Some people might want a slight shimmer to the eye to give the look a bit more oomph. In which case, I’d suggest using a cream eyeshadow with a subtle sheen to get that effect. Like the matte eyeshadow, you can just apply this directly to the lid and blend it out with a finger.
When it comes to applying natural looking makeup, I like to skip the four tone eye I talked about in this tutorial, where different colours are used for the inner third of the eye, the middle, the V, and the highlight colour on the brow bone. One colour is usually sufficient, applied on the lid and blended out to create an ombré effect (darkest at the lashline, and lightest just under the crease). Eyeliner can be added to complete the look. I usually use an eye pencil of a darker colour than the shadow, and then blend that out after applying, which adds to the ombré.
Suggestions for matte eyeshadow:
– The Urban Decay Naked Basics palette is a good place to start
MAC Mulch on the left is a satin red brown
MAC Bronze is a lighter golden brown
I also like using Beware and Broken (the first two shades on the top row)
Suggestions for cream eyeshadow:
– MAC Paint Pots in Painterly (matte pink beige) and Bare Study (frosty beige with gold pearl)
– Maybelline 24 Hour Colour Tattoo in Audacious Asphalt, Bad to the Bronze, Tough as Taupe (matte dark grey, satin bronze, matte brown taupe)
Like liquid foundation, cream blushes don’t just sit on top of your skin, they’re slowly absorbed as the day goes on and will look more natural than powder blush. Cream blushes are also great as you can just massage them back into your skin if you start sweating (which is bound to happen in Singapore). Powder blush will just run down your face, and will either disappear or leave streaks behind.
The thing about cream blushes is that they have a natural dewiness on the skin that powder blushes cannot achieve. Oftentimes, powder blushes are glittery or metallic, which looks lovely, but may not be the effect you want. Google “80s makeup” and that beautiful flush on the cheeks is all thanks to the power of cream blushes.
Remember: Never, ever apply cream blush on top of a powder foundation. This will destroy the polished natural finish of your foundation, and will just look awful. Powder blush can be used on top of liquid foundation, so long as you’ve given the foundation a little time to settle on the face (5 -10 minutes, depending on how much you’ve applied).
I like using Bobbi Brown Pot Rogue in Raspberry when I’m looking for that subtle flushed effect (though the colour looks a little scary in the pot, it’s easily sheered out). Cream blushes are still a little hard to find in Singapore, but here are some brands you can look at:
Sara from the movie Labyrinth. Look at those cheeks. Image from http://labyrinth.wikia.com/wiki/Sarah_Williams
MLBB stands for “My Lips But Better”. This is basically that – a lipstick that looks like your natural lip colour, but better. What’s the purpose of it then? It helps to even out your natural lip colour, which will always be slightly patchy.
It makes the kind of difference to your lips as the right nude nail polish will for your hands. The right MLBB shade can tie an entire look together without making you look either overdone or incomplete.
You want a “nude” colour for your lips. (There are a lot of racial and social implications about using “nude” because they often just refer to beige but never mind that.) Just remember, your MLBB lipstick should never ever be your skin colour, some flat beige or brown. Our lip colours are a lot more complex than that, and the best MLBB lipsticks have that same kind of complexity. There are beige shades sometimes (like Urban Decay’s Naked Supersaturated High Gloss Lip Colour) but there are pink, mauve and brown undertones in it. These kinds of undertones is what brings warmth to your lips, so you don’t end up looking like a corpse.
If you find lipstick is too heavy, try either tinted lip balms or lip stains. Both give sheer or medium coverage that allow your natural lip colour to come through, while still evening your lip colour.
Some suggestions for MLBB lipsticks:
– MAC Angel (warm pink)
– Revlon Creme Brûlée (transluscent warm brown)
– Revlon Pink Truffle (pink brown)
– Bobbi Brown Heather Pink (pink brown with mauve undertones)
– Bobbi Brown Nude Rose (pink brown with mauve undertones)
– Urban Decay Super Saturated Lip Colour in Naked (this one’s a lip pencil, not a lipstick)
– MAC Mehr (matte dirty pink)
Here, I’m wearing Revlon Rosegold lipgloss. See https://natzisstash.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/at-the-beach/ for more photos.
Here, I’m wearing Jordona Lip Pencil in Tawny, with just a little pink gloss in the centre of my lip. https://natzisstash.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/day-3-makeup-ootd-at-yale/ for more info.
So here’s the tl;dr version
- Use tinted moisturizer or BB cream as a base for a natural finish
- A little concealer in strategic areas make a world of difference
- Groom your brows!
- Use an eye pencil, not a gel or liquid
- Use matte or satin eyeshadows, nothing too frosty (eyeshadows are completely optional though)
- Don’t overdo the mascara. A little curl and definition is enough.
- Cream blush.
- A MLBB lipstick to complete the look.
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