How To Do Minimal Makeup Without Looking Like a Hot Mess

Looks easy, actually hard.
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Michelle Villett
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Looks easy, actually hard.
Versace Spring 2011 makeup

Quick! What's the hardest look to achieve with makeup?

If you said winged-out liner, or maybe an elaborate smokey eye... then you're wrong. (In my opinion—but hey, Calvin Klein agrees with me, okay?)

It's actually minimal makeup that's trickiest of all to master.

Think about it: You want perfect, even, blemish- and shine-free skin. Long, luscious lashes. Radiant, softly glowing cheeks. And ripe, plump lips. All without looking like you're wearing any makeup. Yikes! No wonder we get it wrong so often. (Raise your hand if well-meaning but etiquette-challenged colleagues/friends have ever asked you if you're sick... when you're not. Just not wearing any or enough makeup. Balls! That's not good for a girl's ego.)

Happily, the models at Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, D&G and DSquared² demonstrate how to get it RIGHT. And I'm going to spill a few of their secrets.

The first thing to remember is that the look starts and ends with great skin. And maybe the best skin I've seen so far on the runways this season is from Versace (see above and below):

Versace-SS-2011-beauty-2

The skin of the moment (because as silly as that may sound, there IS a definite trend) is fresh and dewy, as opposed to matte and/or contoured or highlighted.

Now of course you should be doing all the things they tell you to do regarding skincare—getting enough sleep, not smoking, wearing sunscreen, etc.—because you can't rely on products alone to do the heavy lifting. (And I'll put a small plug in here for cod liver oil again, because it makes your skin glow like you would not BELIEVE.)

But to get that smooth, glowing, and most importantly, POLISHED look, you're going to need a couple of prodz:

1. A great primer. Because primers kick butt at preventing shine, evening out your skin tone and diffusing imperfections. Here are a few that I love.

and

2. A creamy (not powdery) foundation in your perfect-match shade. Test the product on your jaw—not your wrist or hand—to make sure it's the right colour for you. (And don't be afraid to ask for help... I've been corrected many a time by pros when I *thought* I was wearing the right shade.) And definitely give your powder a time out in favour of something with a creamy texture, which is going to look more soft and dewy, like your natural skin finish. If you're afraid of becoming an oil slick, layering the primer underneath should take care of that problem. If you must use powder, I recommend one of these, which won't go cakey.

Next up is blush, and it was nowhere more radiant than at D&G:

DG-SS-2011-beauty

A healthy flush is key to the natural look, because otherwise you're just inviting those "are you sick?" comments.

I know I keep talking about the Blushing Fabric Blush from Giorgio Armani...

Giorgio Armani Blushing Fabric Second Skin Blush

... but I must mention again here because it is simply magnificent: it melts into your skin and is there, without looking like it's there... if you know what I mean. AND! I've just heard the news that it's no longer limited edition—it's a permanent addition to the product line.

YSL also makes a quite nice cream blush. In general, I'd err on the side of creams, not powders, for a more "lit from within" type of flush.

Now let's talk about eyes. Here's the look from DSquared²:

DSquared-SS-2011-beauty

Ignoring the lack of blush and slightly too matte skin, aren't the eyes pretty?

Your best friends here are black or brown mascara and a nice, medium brown eyeshadow applied from lash line to crease, and then underneath the lower lashes.

OR you could do my favourite, favourite trick, which the clever makeup artist behind the Dolce & Gabbana show also knows about:

Dolce-Gabbana-SS-2011-beauty

See how great her lashes look? That's because the liner was applied along the waterline of the upper lid. As in, underneath, NOT above the lashes. (And you can even extend it out a bit at the edges to get the subtle winged-out effect shown here.)

It's a Jedi Mind Trick, this one. Because it makes your eyes/lashes stand out like crazy.. and yet, nobody can really tell why because you can't actually SEE the liner. Genius.

Notice also the lips on all of these looks: they've got a soft, balm-like texture and are never, ever glossy. (If you feel the need for a hint of colour, the most you could do would be a lip stain, perhaps, with your lip balm on top. I recommend Joe Fresh lip stain in Pale Pink.)

So now tell me...

Do you like the minimal makeup look?
Which runway interpretation of it is your fave? (My vote goes to Dolce & Gabbana, obvs.)
Have you ever had the "are you sick?" question when you didn't wear makeup? HOW RUDE. Bet you won't get asked that now. You're welcome.