Knowing how to achieve the perfect no-makeup makeup – that effortlessly natural yet perfected version of ourselves – is an essential and endlessly useful life skill. It’s a look that never dates and works in a myriad of life scenarios. Yet while nailing the natural look may seem simple, there's definitely an art to it. We sat down with makeup artist Sarina Zoe (psst: find our in-depth chat with her here), who gave us her guide to getting this coveted look – from imperceptible contouring to flawless, dewy skin.



The one product you need for the perfect natural contour? Sarina recommends going for a lightweight liquid or cream bronzer with no shimmer – we’re big fans of Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Contour Wand. Glittery bronzers are out of the question, as Sarina reminds us: “Think of mimicking a shadow just below the cheekbone – shadows don’t have shimmer!” Be creative and repurpose products you may already have in your collection – your summer shade of foundation makes for the perfect contouring product in the cooler months, for example.


To achieve a seamless finish with blush, Sarina suggests cream products (like Sisley’s Phyto-Blush Twist) as they “melt” into foundation. As for application, there are no hard and fast rules. “Blush can be applied on the apples of the cheek – which gives a sort of fresh-faced flushed look – or it can be swept up along the cheekbone for a more structured look,” she says. Contrary to what you might have been taught, your face shape won’t determine 100% where putting blush will suit you best. “I’m not a believer in painting-by-numbers-type rules for certain face shapes,” Sarina admits. “I suggest trying both of these applications and working with whichever you feel works – it can be both.”

There is, however, one firm rule in Sarina’s books when it comes to blush application. “My main advice would be to make sure the blush isn’t too low on the face (as it drags the face down), isn’t too high (as it’s unflatteringly close to the eyes) and doesn’t come too forward toward the nose.” Another pro tip: “I find people tend to use brushes that are too large and they can’t control where they are applying the product.” So stick to smaller brushes to pinpoint your product precisely where you want it.


Forget dramatic Instagram highlighter – a little bit of artfully-applied highlighter can make for a radiant and (deceptively) natural look. But you need to be selective in choosing the perfect product – as Sarina puts it, “it’s a fine line between sheen, shimmer and sparkle.” As for her go-to product choices for a naturally radiant glow: “I love BECCA’s Shimmering Skin Perfector and also rms beauty’s Living Luminizer.”

Sarina finds that liquids and creams are the best textures to reach for, as they blend into foundation best. Sarina recommends applying highlighter onto the high plains of the face – the “shelf” of the cheekbone, the cupid’s bow and the brow bone, while she sometimes even adds a little above the eyebrows and onto the chin for some extra glow.


While dramatic eyebrows have their time and place, there’s something timeless about a soft, full brow. She first fills in any gaps with some eyebrow pencil, such as Benefit Cosmetics’s Precisely, My Brow. Sarina then opts for a tinted brow gel as “it coats each hair for thickness, and tints and sets the brows”. The key to avoiding looking overdone is in where you position the product: “I think applying less product on the inner and outer part of the brow gives a more natural effect.”


The foundation (literally) of a natural makeup look is a perfected base, so spend some extra time carefully concealing blemishes and redness. Sarina says, “I tend to start with a brush and then pat with fingers to allow the product to become part of the skin rather than appearing to just sit on top of it.” She’s not too keen on some of the other foundation application tools on the market. “Sponges just eat up product and aren’t very hygienic unless you wash them each time or replace them,” she warns. “Brushes need to be sanitised regularly, too.” Pick a firm brush like Zoeva’s 102 Silk Finish for a streak-free, imperceptible finish.


We’re all after that my-lips-but-better look – a pout that suggests we are totally sans makeup, yet just subtly perfects our natural lip colour. According to Sarina, the key to a natural lip is in the prep work: “Keep lips hydrated, sleep with a lip balm that’s high in hyaluronic acid and you can use any formula of lip product you like.” If your lips aren’t in great condition some formulas may be better to avoid completely – as Sarina says, “lip stains don’t favour chapped lips as they only enhance the flakiness.”

Sarina’s effortless go-to lip? “A light stain on the lip, which requires no colour maintenance, and then you can just apply lip balm when needed.” Another technique she recommends is to use a lip liner (Sarina likes Hourglass’s Panoramic Long Wear Lip Pencil in Eden) and blend the colour all over the lip, gently fading into the inner section to cheat a fuller pout. She finishes with a slick of lip balm for a perfected yet natural look.

Story by Tess Schlink

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