Skin-enhancing makeup for complexion perfection

Skin Perfecting Makeup Essentials

The goods you need for a naturally flawless look

marie claire / October 18 2017

Never has the state 
of beauty 
on social media been as divergent as it is today. On one end, you’ve got contoured faces devoid of visible pores and shellacked to drag-queen levels of perfection. Then there are women who snap wake-up and workout selfies of their glowy mugs, with nary a stroke of maquillage. For these women, beautiful skin is a more powerful indicator of cool than Sunday morning snaps of avocado toast captioned #blessed.

“It shows you’re original and novel amid the artifice,” says Emily Weiss, founder of Glossier. “In the past, women wanted to be seen as their most glamorous, fancy selves; today, to be true to yourself is the new aspiration.” Stunning skin speaks as a status symbol, implying an air of easy elegance and savoir faire.

That said, in today’s pinch-and-enlarge world, looking “natural” usually requires assistance – which is where this batch of skin-enhancing and natural-looking makeup comes in. With the latest wave of primers and foundations, it’s easy to get spring’s most covetable accessory: a smooth, glowing complexion. 

What does great skin actually look like?

#1 / It’s dewy without being greasy
“Some shine is good and it appears smooth and hydrated,” says Dr Whitney Bowe, US dermatologist.

#2 / It’s not matte
“If you prefer a matte look, add some sheen for it to look believable,” says makeup artist Fiona Stiles.

#3 / There is tone differentiation
Dr Bowe says it’s natural to have colour variation, whether it’s pigmentation or redness.

For the minimalist

If you’re not into the feel of heavy products and want your skin to look real (but better), stick to creamy textures that blend invisibly and beware of powders, as they catch on the tiny hairs that cover your face, blotching the finish. Applied in lieu of foundation, “blurring” primers and creams make pores less noticeable, mask uneven texture and can even act as a colour corrector, depending on the formula.

Do this: To conceal pores or fine lines, dab on a blurring formula enriched 
with light scattering cosmetic microspheres for a smoothing effect.

Tool kit: Youngblood Mineral Radiance Moisture Tint; L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Golden Age Day Cream; Becca First Light Priming Filter; 3CE Pore Silky Stick; The Ordinary High-Adherence Silicone Primer

For a night out

Extra effort is required 
for after dark or a big event. That said, you don’t want to look like you’re wearing 
a mask. Pigment drops are concentrated doses of skin-matching colour that can be added to existing products for customised coverage. For a sheer base, add one drop to your moisturiser; for more, use two or three drops with moisturiser or your regular foundation. Not a fan of the customised approach? Full-coverage foundation has improved considerably.

Know this: A perfect colour match is essential for an uber-pigmented base, so take time to find the right shade.

Tool kit: Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup SPF 10; Clinique BIY Blend It Yourself Pigment Drops; Hourglass Vanish Seamless Foundation Stick; Cover FX Perfect Setting Powder; Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation

For the selfie addict

Incandescent skin looks brilliant 
in photos, but don’t get carried away with shimmery foundations or highlighting products. “It’s all about bringing light into the centre of your complexion – don’t do the whole face!” implores Stiles. Instead, apply your makeup as per usual, then dab a luminiser from between your eyebrows to halfway down your nose and across your cheekbones.

Do this: Swap your usual base for a more radiant formula to give skin an all-over glow (just spot-powder areas that tend to get oily).

Tool kit: CHANEL Les Beiges Healthy Glow Gel Touch Foundation; Urban Decay Diffusing Highlighter Brush; Too Faced Love Light Prismatic Highlighter in Blinded By The Light; Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Microfinishing Pressed Powder; Rimmel London Wake Me Up Concealer

For the office

Lighting doesn’t get any more unforgiving than overhead fluorescents. Your best bet is a foundation that offers buildable coverage (so you can use the minimum amount necessary) with an airy formula that floats above lines and pores. Cosmetic chemist Ginger King’s test: “Smear the product on your palm rather than the back of your hand. If the tiny lines are less noticeable, it’s a keeper.”

Know this: Ensure anything applied over your foundation shares the same texture so that the two layers blend seamlessly, suggests Stiles.

Tool kit: Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Cushion Foundation bareMinerals Original Foundation; Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Aging Serum Foundation; Givenchy Eclat Matissime Beauty Blender; Garnier Skin Active BB Cream


If you want to get in on the multi-tone makeup stick trend, here's everything you need to know.

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What products do you love using for a flawless, natural makeup look? Share with us in the comments.

Main image credit: Edward Urrutia