Your Guide to Underpainting: The No Makeup Makeup Look

Your Guide to Underpainting: The No Makeup Makeup Look

Your Guide to Underpainting: The No Makeup Makeup Look

Say hello to underpainting, your secret weapon for achieving that coveted no-makeup makeup look! If you've been scrolling through social media and wondered how your favorite makeup artists achieve such a fresh, dewy, natural makeup look, it’s probably through the magic of underpainting. 

This technique has taken the beauty world by storm, and for a good reason. 

It's all about letting your natural skin shine through while subtly enhancing your features. The trick is something unexpected: applying your highlighter, bronzer, and cream blushunder your foundation for a glowy, lit-from-within effect. 

Stick with us for this fun tutorial, and soon, you'll be exuding those casual, effortlessly chic vibes that make the no-makeup look such a hit. This look is all about letting your individual skin and natural beauty shine while enhancing your assets and giving you a stunning glow… so let’s get right to it!

What Is Underpainting and Where Did It Come From?

Underpainting as a method actually comes from the world of art — which, honestly, is the best place to take your beauty advice from. Painters ranging from old masters to modern-day artists use underpainting to create a base that influences the tones and values of their final piece. 

The tones or colors used vary with the artist and style of art, but it’s basically the first step in creating a dimensional, lifelike work of art.

And just like in art, makeup underpainting is about creating a base that will subtly shine through, giving a vibrant, dimensional look. In makeup terms, this initial layer is a cocktail of concealers, highlighters, bronzers, and blush applied before your foundation or BB cream. You apply these products under your foundation to create a flawless, skin-like finish.

By strategically placing these products beneath your base, you allow their effects to subtly shine through, giving a more dimensional, natural makeup look. 

Why is underpainting so essential? For one, it ensures your makeup doesn't look flat or one-dimensional. When you apply all your color products over your foundation, they can sometimes appear too stark or overly made-up. Underpainting, on the other hand, lends a soft, diffused finish to your contour, blush, and highlight, mimicking the look of naturally flawless skin. 

Moreover, underpainting celebrates your skin tone, embracing all its nuances and imperfections. It's less about hiding blemishes or dark circles and more about enhancing your natural beauty. It's the secret behind the dewy, glowy, and fresh-faced vibes that have become so on-trend lately!

What Types of Products Should You Look For?

Embarking on your underpainting journey means you'll need the right set of makeup products in your arsenal. The key is to opt for light, buildable, and blendable products that complement your skin type and skin tone.

Start with a hydrating moisturizer that suits your skin type, whether that's oily, dry, or combination. It serves as the perfect canvas for your underpainting masterpiece and ensures a smooth and even makeup application

Your concealer, contour, blush, and highlighter should ideally be cream or liquid formulations. These smoother formulas blend more seamlessly into the skin, allowing you to create a natural finish. 

They should also be close to your natural skin color but a few shades darker for the contour and a couple of shades lighter for the highlighter. Blush should mimic your natural flush when you're a bit sun-kissed or have just finished a workout!

Avoid high-coverage foundations and powder products for this look. High-coverage foundations can mask your underpainting efforts, blotting at all of that dimension you worked so hard on. Powder products are also less than ideal for underpainting, as they can be harder to blend and could interfere with the seamless finish we're aiming for.

Lastly, don't forget a setting spray to seal everything in. It ensures your makeup lasts longer and adds to the dewy, glowy finish we're after. It's the finishing touch to your no-makeup makeup look and an integral part of your new makeup routine.

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Underpainting

Unlocking the secrets to the no-makeup makeup look involves mastering underpainting, an art-inspired technique that brings out your natural beauty. With a bit of practice and these simple steps, you'll be on your way to achieving that effortlessly glowing look. Here is your detailed, step-by-step guide to underpainting.

1. Prep Your Skin

Prepping your skin is the first and most crucial step. Good skincare lays the foundation for flawless makeup. Start by gently cleansing your face using your favorite facial cleanser. Opt for a product that respects your skin's natural balance and doesn't leave it feeling stripped of moisture.

Follow up with a nourishing moisturizer. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, or glycerin which are all-around champs when it comes to making your skin feel soft and supple. Hydration is key for a dewy, natural makeup look. If you're going to be out and about during the day, a moisturizer with SPF is a must to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

After your skincare routine, apply a quality primer to fill in any pores and fine lines. This creates a smooth canvas for your makeup, helping it glide on seamlessly and stay put throughout the day. We like e.l.f.’s Poreless Face Primer for this. It smoothes out pores and any other imperfections while giving your skin a hit of nourishing antioxidants to restore and protect it.

2. Apply Concealer

Now that your skin is prepped and primed, it's time for concealer. Use a concealer that matches your skin tone to cover any under-eye circles or blemishes. The trick here is to dab, not drag, the product over these areas, then blend it out using a sponge or your fingertips. 

We're aiming for a no-makeup makeup look, so less is more. Consider using a color corrector for more significant discolorations before applying concealer.

3. Apply Contour

Contouring is all about adding depth and dimension to your face. For this step, use a cream or liquid bronzer that's a couple of shades darker than your natural skin tone. While powder bronzers are great for general makeup application, they’re harder to blend and don’t give you the pigmented color you need to successfully underpaint.

Apply the contour on your forehead near your hairline, under your cheekbones, and along your jawline. These are the areas where shadows naturally fall on your face — and by emphasizing them, you'll enhance your bone structure. Always remember to blend well until your contour looks seamless. 

It’s okay to go a little heavier on the application than you normally would, bearing in mind that you will be applying other products over the top of your contour.

That said, don’t go too far. The end goal is a smooth, seamless, natural look, and even though you’ll be applying foundation as your last layer and therefore diffusing the colors underneath, you can still end up with a slightly more intense look than you intended if your application hand is especially heavy.

4. Apply Highlighter

Highlighting brings light to the high points of your face, enhancing your natural features. Use a cream or liquid highlighter to add some glow to the areas where light naturally hits your face: under your eyes, on the top of your cheekbones, in the middle of your forehead, down the center of your nose, and on your chin. 

Blend the highlighter gently with a Precision Sponge so that it gives your skin a glowy, dewy look rather than a severe, choppy appearance. When it comes to smoothing highlighter below your eyes, you’ll want the pointed, smaller end of the sponge to help achieve even application on the delicate skin there. 

This gives your skin a radiant, fresh-faced look that will subtly shine through your foundation, making you look naturally luminous.

5. Apply Blush

Now it's time to bring some life back into your cheeks! Apply a cream blush to the apples of your cheeks, then blend it out towards your temples. This will give you a healthy, youthful glow. Remember to keep it subtle — a touch of color goes a long way.

While cream and gel products have been our go-tos here, we also like L’Oréal’s True Match Super Blendable Blush because it is, as the name says, super blendable. It works well with other products and offers you the buildable coverage you need for a successful underpainting look.

6. Finish with Foundation

Finally, it's time to apply your foundation, BB cream, or tinted moisturizer. Opt for a light, buildable formula to allow your underpainting work to shine through. Use a light brush for application — it can help thin out the foundation, allowing your contour, highlight, and blush to subtly show through. 

If you use a dense brush or a beauty sponge for this step, you can end up with full coverage, which can hide all of the hard work you’ve done up until now.

Neutrogena’s Radiant Tinted Moisturizer is our go-to for underpainting coverage because it gives you the balanced color you need with a finish that looks like your natural skin. And it’s buildable, so you don’t have to worry about covering up the other layers of your makeup. It also includes sunscreenSPF 30, so you can show off your fresh, no makeup makeup look without worrying about sunburn or skin damage!

7. Finish Your Look!

To stick with the no-makeup glam look, opt for some volumizing mascara rather than eyeshadow and eyeliner when it comes to eye makeup. If you apply eyeshadow, stick with something matte in a neutral shade to give your look a dimension without going too cakey or intense.

Instead of a bold lip, a tinted lip balm or lip tint is perfect. Keep your lip color natural. If you’re wanting a little extra coverage on your lips, you can add a lip liner to give them some shape, and a pop of lip gloss for a bit of shimmer. This will still look soft and natural, but add a little extra oomph if that’s your vibe.

Use a spoolie to apply some brow gel to give your brows some shape and keep them in place, and you’re good to go! The key to a no-makeup makeup look isn’t necessarily minimal makeup — it’s about choosing tones and colors that complement your natural look without overwhelming it.

What Are Some Common Underpainting Mistakes?

As with any makeup technique, there are some common pitfalls to watch out for when you're new to underpainting!

Skimping on Skin Prep

Skincare is crucial. The better your skin looks, the better your makeup will look. Be sure to exfoliate, cleanse, and moisturize your skin before starting your makeup routine. Dry skin and breakouts are sometimes unavoidable, but the more you can do to keep your skin smooth, the easier a no-makeup look will be to pull off.

Choosing the Wrong Colors

Selecting the right shades for your skin tone is critical. Your concealer, contour, highlighter, and blush should all complement your natural skin tone for the most believable no-makeup makeup look.

Overdoing It

Underpainting is all about subtlety. If you go too heavy with your contour or blush, it can end up looking unnatural. Use a light hand and build up if necessary.

Skipping the Blend

Blend, blend, and then blend some more. The key to underpainting is making sure all the products meld seamlessly into your skin… if you can see where one product starts and another ends, keep blending!

Not Setting Your Makeup

Your underpainting masterpiece deserves to be set with a setting spray or light dusting of setting powder. This step ensures your hard work lasts throughout the day without slipping or fading.

Beauty Beneath the Surface

By now, you should have a solid understanding of how to choose the right makeup products, from the perfect concealer and tinted moisturizer to the ideal cream blush and highlighter, all designed to complement your natural skin. 

But all of that is whatever without this key takeaway. Embrace your unique beauty and let it shine through! Underpainting isn't about covering up; it's about enhancing and bringing your features to life, brightening your complexion from within. This technique is all about ensuring you still look like you, just a slightly more glowy, vibrant version.

And this guide doesn’t have to be the end of your underpainting journey, nor is it full of hard-and-fast rules. Your skin is individual, as are your tastes and preferences. Keep experimenting with different products and find what works best for you and your skin type. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, whether that’s reaching out to a celebrity makeup artist on Instagram or sharing your underpainting journey on TikTok. 


Moisturizers: Reality and the Skin Benefits | National Library of Medicine

Hyaluronic Acid: A Key Molecule in Skin Aging | National Library of Medicine

What is Color Correction | Tricoci University


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