Yes, it's possible.
Scroll through your social media feeds, and you’ll notice a recurring trend. Instead of full glam, many celebrities and influencers are going for a more natural look when it comes to makeup. The “no-makeup makeup look” goes in and out of style, but right now, it's an internet favorite. If you're not familiar, it’s that effortless “I woke up like this” glow that makes you question whether someone's cheeks are really that rosy or if there's an expertly-applied blush at play.
Contrary to popular belief, this beauty trend often involves quite a bit of makeup, such as tinted moisturizer, lightweight highlighter, and subtle eyelash extensions. However, there are a few ways to get a similar effect without those products (with a little TLC, of course).
If you want to go fully bare-faced, try focusing on your skincare routine. You might be surprised at how much you like the look. Curious to learn how to do it for yourself? Read on to find out.
Prevent (and Treat) Acne
For many, acne can be the biggest obstacle to going makeup-free. Dr. Michelle Henry, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Skin and Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan, says everyone should have acne treatments — like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and a retinoid or retinol — on hand. Whether or not you’re struggling with acne, keeping those ingredients on hand can help prevent future breakouts.
“I love retinol for [acne] because retinol will treat and prevent,” Dr. Henry said. “It also helps to even the skin tone, so it’ll help to get rid of any hyperpigmentation, reduce the appearance of the pores, tighten the skin, get rid of fine lines and wrinkles.”
Choose Your Exfoliant Wisely
If you have textured skin or acne, you have probably tried different exfoliators to smooth your skin. Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at CompletedSkinMD in New York, advises against overdoing it with both chemical and physical exfoliation.
Chemical exfoliation involves ingredients like retinol, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) that gently slough away dead skin cells over time and are a great option to introduce into your routine.
Physical exfoliation, on the other hand, can be brushes or other handheld tools to scrub the skin. “I always caution patients that you don’t need to do both,” Hale said. “If you’re using retinol or tretinoin, that’s enough.” Hale adds that if you want to try physical exfoliator tools, don’t use retinol or other ingredients simultaneously. Over-exfoliation can actually cause more acne and irritation.
Even Your Skin Tone
If you struggle with hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, a good, light-coverage foundation may be your best friend. However, Henry says an antioxidant, like vitamin C, can help calm your complexion, too, when used over time.
“It helps to keep the skin tone nice and even,” Henry explains. “It’s going to help prevent damage to your collagen and inflammation from external aggressors.”
Under-eye bags can be a major problem area for people. After all, who among us hasn't found themselves packing on concealer after a late night? According to Dr. Henry, sleep and diet are important factors here, so getting enough rest and reducing salt intake can help reduce puffiness and inflammation.
Along with prioritizing sleep and eating lots of leafy greens, Henry recommends using a product with caffeine to treat the area. “Caffeine helps to constrict those blood vessels and get rid of some of that swelling that makes it puffy,” she explains. Henry recommends Clinique’s All About Eyes, Kiehl’s Avocado Eye Cream, and L’Oreal’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum as ideal products to help reduce the appearance of under-eye bags and swelling.
Cultivate a Dewy Glow
Everyone wants the glowy finish that the best makeup primers and setting sprays help create, but there are skincare ingredients that hydrate your skin for a naturally lit-from-within radiance as well.
Hale cites hyaluronic acid and niacinamide as two key ingredients to look for when you're seeking a healthy glow. “Those are two ingredients that really hold onto moisture in the skin and provide that glowy, dewy photo-finish look by hydrating,” says Hale. “Fine lines and imperfections are more apparent when skin is dehydrated.”
Dr, Henry adds that products with ceramides and squalene can also be great for hydration. But if you have oily skin, stick to oil-free products to keep your skin hydrated without becoming too shiny.
Protect Your Skin With SPF
If you want to ensure your skin stays even and clear, sunscreen should be a top priority. According to Hale, as much as 90% of the signs of premature aging are caused by unprotected sun exposure.
According to Hale, UVA and UVB rays penetrate year-round. “Those are the ones that break down collagen and lead to wrinkles," she adds. "They also cause hyperpigmentation and skin cancer.”
Natural Color and Contour
Tools like jade rollers and gua sha stones are often used to sculpt and contour the face but proceed with caution if you use them at home. “Some gentle massage with stones or jade rollers can be helpful to stimulate circulation, but I want to caution people not to overdo it and irritate their skin,” Hale says.
Self-tanner can also be a solid replacement for contour, according to Hale, as you’re still using SPF. As an alternative, she recommends using tinted sunscreen or bronzing powders with SPF to get that warm and shape while protecting the skin. A brush-on product with SPF can be a great way to reapply easily and add a bit of color.
While improving your skin is a journey, there are ways you can achieve quicker results. Hale said if you want a quick solution for a problem area, it’s best to see a board-certified dermatologist to discuss options like procedures and injectables. Hale said her office also offers blue light therapy, which can kill acne-causing bacteria, and there are at-home devices you can try.
The Bottom Line
Your journey to glowing skin begins with the right routine. Top off your no-makeup look with your favorite lip balm, and you’re good to go. When someone asks you what foundation you’re wearing, you can honestly say your look is all-natural.
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