How to Create a Simple Makeup Look That Still Stands Out

Swap your graphic liner and contour powder in favor of mellow, sink-into-your-skin makeup that's fit for any occasion.

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Simple makeup look
Photo: Nina Manandhar/Getty

The makeup philosophy today: Go low-key. Use a less-is-more approach, blend until you think you're done, then blend some more.

"The goal is to not have any separation between products," says Patrick Ta, a consulting makeup artist for Clarisonic. In order to create a simple makeup look that still grabs attention on the street, think of each formula gently melting into the next. "The point is to enhance what you have rather than use makeup trickery to look different," celebrity makeup artist Kira Nasrat says.

Ready to mellow your makeup? Follow this guide from the beauty experts. (Then, steal these Euphoria-style makeup ideas for your next party.)

How to Achieve a Simple Makeup Look

1. Start with the skin.

Before loading up on concealer and blush, you need a smooth, clean canvas to achieve a simple makeup look. "I always exfoliate to remove any dead, roughly textured skin, especially around the nose, mouth, and eyebrows," says Ta. He uses the Clarisonic Mia Smart (Buy It, $169, ulta.com) with the Sonic Exfoliator attachment (Buy It, $39, ulta.com).

Next up: moisturizer. "I massage the face as I apply it to boost circulation, so the skin looks healthy and flushed," says Nasrat. She loves Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (Buy It, $16, dermstore.com), which also acts as a primer for foundation. "The consistency helps makeup go on smoothly and evenly and then stay put throughout the day." That means you can apply less makeup overall.

2. Use a lightweight foundation (plus a few tools).

A lightweight, natural-looking foundation like Nasrat's favorite, Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture Foundation (Buy It, $77, dermstore.com), can even your tone and create that natural, your-skin-but-better effect that's a must for a simple makeup look. Apply it with a brush—Ta likes IT Cosmetics Heavenly Skin Bye Bye Pores Brush #701 (Buy It, $58, sephora.com)—then follow up with a damp Beautyblender sponge (Buy It, $20, ulta.com) to push the product into the skin and up to the hairline so it looks seamless.

Next, dust a translucent powder like Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder (Buy It, $39, ulta.com) across the T-zone with a fluffy eye shadow brush to set your work. (Still need help applying foundation? Look to this how-to video)

3. Diffuse your eyes and tidy your brows.

There are lots of ways to create a gorgeously blended eye fit for a simple makeup look, but the key to all of them is a great brush, says Nasrat. Try Dior Backstage Small Eyeshadow Blending Brush No. 22 (Buy It, $25, nordstrom.com). Use it to smudge a kohl eyeliner pencil into the upper lash line, then blend it a bit past the outer corner of the eye for a blurred cat-eye effect. Ta likes to buff a bronzer like Maybelline New York City Bronzer (Buy It, $10, ulta.com) into the lid's crease before applying it under the lower lash line to make eyes appear more awake.

As for brows: "Hair spray is better than any brow gel," says Ta . Spritz it on a spoolie wand, then brush it through the hairs after filling any sparse spots with a thin brow pencil, like CoverGirl Easy Breezy Brow Draw & Fill Brow Tool (Buy It, $11, ulta.com). Finish the eyes with a lengthening mascara like Burt's Bees Nourishing Mascara (Buy It, $13, ulta.com).

4. Add a rosy glow.

A pretty pink flush on the cheeks and lips ties the simple makeup look together—think of it as the radiance you have two minutes into a workout. A cream blush gives the most natural finish. (Try Nudestix Nudies Bloom in Sweet Peach Peony or Cherry Blossom Babe, $32, ulta.com) Apply it with your fingers, so the warmth of your skin helps it melt right in.

If you have oily skin, opt for a powder formula (try Charlotte Tilbury Cheek to Chic in Pillow Talk, $40, sephora.com), pressing it into the skin rather than sweeping it on in wider strokes, says Ta. Start on the apple of each cheek, blending down into the hollows instead of up toward your temples. "When we blush naturally, we blush downward," says Nasrat. (

5. Enhance your lips.

Now fill lips in with a lip liner that's closest to your natural shade, like Marc Jacobs Beauty Poutliner Longwear Lip Liner Pencil (Buy It, $26, sephora.com). "To make sure there are no harsh lines, soften the edge of the liner with your ring finger," says Nasrat.

Apply a velvety lip color like Revlon Super Lustrous the Luscious Mattes in Wild Thoughts or Shameless (Buy It, $6, ulta.com) on top, and blot with a tissue for a blurred effect.

And voilà—a natural-looking simple makeup look, no Instagram filters needed.

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