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No-Makeup Makeup: 8 Brands That Enhance Rather Than Conceal

Because by "no makeup" we really mean "no-one-will-know" makeup.
Julia Hafstrom backstage at Stella McCartney fall 2016. Photo: Imaxtree

Julia Hafstrom backstage at Stella McCartney fall 2016. Photo: Imaxtree

We finally have proof that not all social media beauty trends are tragic: The #nomakeupselfie and #wokeuplikethis movements have spawned the launch of several makeup brands and capsule collections made to look incredibly natural. With more and more women seeking products that blend and melt seamlessly into the skin and give features a boost in a very "me but enhanced" way, suddenly the choices are multiplying.

Not that the barely-there thing is new, mind you. We've all been running errands in tinted moisturizer and lip balm for years — and no one was patting us on the back for it. But with Sephora's free No-Makeup Makeup classes filling up left and right, the buzz is increasing. Plus, with millennials looking more toward skin-care-and-makeup hybrids that treat complexion problems rather than just mask them, the new buzzwords are "warm up" and "blur" rather than "cover" or "conceal."

There are two major categories here: First, collections that are based on creamy, blendable formulas that can be sheered out to the point in which you don't need a mirror to apply them. These are so subtle, in fact, that some of them are even marketed as gender neutral (like MAC's Brant Brothers capsule collection which leaves shelves this month). And second, there's "athleisure" makeup, lightweight formulas that can be worn before, after, and during a gym visit, specifically made to gently enhance without running or clogging pores. The two are marketed as having different goals, but in the end, they both give you that "I just washed my face and pinched my cheeks" look. In other words, un-makeup.

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If you're feeling relief at this news, you're not the only one. There's a user-friendliness factor here that's a breath of fresh air, even for professional makeup artists. With all the attention going toward the wearability, textures are seeing an improvement over the barely there products of the past. When I checked in with a couple of makeup artists on the topic, they raved. "There is a visual dewiness that gives a new cool appeal to the makeup," says Samuel Paul. And Tracey Levy agrees, noting the sudden push toward a lack of shimmer in highlighting products as a major plus.

A word of warning: These lines tend to be in the mid-priced range. It all comes down to quality pigments and formulas, which often cost a few more dollars. Rest assured, the irony that it takes more money to look like you're not wearing anything is lost on no one. But these products are foolproof. You don't need any instructions on how to use them — most don't even require blending, much less a major game plan. But to help narrow down the field, I took a look into some of these brands and found the hero products that are worth adding to your almost-bare arsenal. 

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