I used to think I looked ill without makeup, an admitted delusion I blamed on a beauty-industrial complex intent on selling me a “better” version of my natural face. But around last June, I stopped wearing makeup. And, aside from helping clear up what I thought was unshakeable acne, it made me realize my bare face doesn’t look tired or sick so much as…makeup-less. It just took some getting used to, that’s all.

None of this is to say I don’t enjoy watching people put makeup on for literal hours on YouTube (I thoroughly do) — I just equally enjoy seeing more bare faces around these days. And I get especially excited by trends like face-doodling and glitter eyeliner and matching lipstick to acne that hint we’re ushering in a beauty era for which the impetus is fun instead of “flaws.” Dark circles, spots, redness, puffiness, short eyelashes, neutral-colored lips…these things don’t make anyone look ill (most men have them in spades); they just make us look different.

In the spirit of an increasingly popular makeup approach that’s less “full face” and more “a dab will do ya,” I asked a few MR team members to tell me the one thing they wear when they sport an otherwise bare face. See what they told me below and then give me your answer too. (Bonus points for pics!)


Haley (I’ll go first)

What’s your product and how long does it take you to apply it?

Glossier Cloud Paint in “Haze,” and it takes under a minute to apply. Thanks for asking, self.

Why is it your go-to when you’re wearing nothing else?

Once I started defaulting to no makeup, a little color on my cheeks was the first thing I missed. I wasn’t looking for something dramatic, just the pinch of pink I get after exercising or something. Most of the time, I’m a sheet top-to-bottom; I’ve never been a natural flusher. (Harling hates that she blushes. Grass is greener, I suppose.) Then I got a sample of Cloud Paint at an event and loved it so much that it quickly became the only thing I wore on days that I wanted to look a little extra alive.

What makes this particular brand/product well-suited for this scenario?

It’s a liquid, which I’ve always preferred over powder for anything makeup-related, so it blends in with my moisturizer really easily. I like using blush alone because it makes me look like I just blew in from the cold, know what I mean? It doesn’t make me look like I’m wearing makeup (like say, eyeliner or mascara would), which is what I’m after since I’m usually not wearing any.

Any application tips?

I dole it out in tiny-ass drops and pat it on with my fingers until it looks like a natural flush. It’s really easy to go overboard, though, so be careful. One drop can be enough. The super-small bottle lasts forever. (I love that.)


Erica

What’s your product and how long does it take you to apply it?

Brow pencil. Specifically: Charlotte Tilbury’s Brow Lift Three-Way Shape, Lift & Shade Eyebrow Pencil in “Naomi.” It takes me about three minutes to apply.

Why is it your go-to when you’re wearing nothing else?

I’m assuming it’s because brows frame your eyes and those are the windows to your soul and whatnot. But filled and shaped brows instantly make me look I’m like “ready,” for some reason — regardless of what the rest of my face/hair/outfit/life is doing.

What makes this particular brand/product well-suited for this scenario?

The angular shape of the pencil end makes it easy to shape, extend and fill brows at the same time. I used to use the super-thin brow pencils, and while those are precise, it takes a lot more time and blending to create the final shape. I also love the size of the spoolie on this product in particular, and if you open the pencil in half, there’s a highlighter sponge for brightening under your brow if you’re fancy like that.

Any application tips?

Start and finish with the spoolie! Use it before you start filling to get your hairs going in the right direction(s), then follow up again after you do your drawing to help blend the product and get rid of any harsh lines.


Amelia

What’s your product and how long does it take you to apply it?

L’Oreal Paris Double Extend Beauty Tubes. I have never timed myself putting on mascara, but now I want to! Under a minute?

Why is it your go-to when you’re wearing nothing else?

When I was deep into my eyelash extension addiction, I went to a wedding in Miami without getting an eyelash touch-up. I felt I had wonky cow eyelids without them — you know, a few super-long ones, sparse short ones — which looks sooo lovely on cows but not so much on me. Anyway, in a scene that looked like something out of a mascara or tampon commercial, my friend Roxana was like, “Forget the eyelash extensions. You need to try this mascara. It’s life-changing and will make you look like you’re wearing a set of falsies. Plus, because of the ‘tubes’ technology, you don’t need makeup remover to take the mascara off. You just use warm water and very gently pull off the mascara with your fingers.” Honestly, sometimes I think I like the removal part more than anything. It’s like raking a little zen garden on my face. As for the mascara itself, I always feel much better with big fat eyelashes!!!

(I dye my lashes too so that they have some tint when I’m not wearing mascara — and I curl them every day whether I wear mascara or not.)

What makes this particular brand/product well-suited for this scenario?

It makes my lashes long and comes off easily in a way that feels much kinder to my lashes themselves and the area around my eyes. I practically had to use paint thinner and a Brillo pad to get my old mascara off.

Any application tips?

Do not do in a moving vehicle — and apply fast. It dries quicker than the average mascara, so you have less time to get it right.


Leandra

What’s your product and how long does it take you to apply it?

Some version of a tinted lip moisturizer. It takes about three seconds to apply (four, depending on how many times I feel like swiping across my bottom lip). My favorites are Dior’s Lip Glow color reviver balm, Ilia’s lip pen in the color “Dress You Up,” and while this one isn’t a moisturizer, the color is good on an olive-y skin tone: Glossier’s Generation G in “Like.”

Why is it your go-to when you’re wearing nothing else?

For the longest time, winters made my face feel somehow incomplete. I’d look in the mirror and feel like something was missing without being able to pinpoint what it was. I’d put on lipstick but felt like it made me look either too done-up or like I was 10 years older (I also only believed there was one color lipstick among the rainbow of applicators and that its color was red). Then, because I am a very late bloomer, three years ago in Paris, Emily Weiss gave me a sample of a new product she was launching for Glossier. It was a skinny lip pen in a color called “Like.” I put it on and still looked exactly like myself, just slightly more alive. The color — a sort of dusty plum or something — enhanced the natural color in my lips without exaggerating it, and THAT’S WHEN IT OCCURRED TO ME! My face wasn’t incomplete! Facial parts still intact, my dumb lips were just dry and pale!

What makes this particular brand/product well-suited for this scenario?

For Glossier’s “Like,” the actual color just complements the color of my winter skin, which is to say slightly green, slightly dead. The Dior Lip Glow and Ilia colors are great too, but since they’re moisturizing, I like that I don’t have to walk around with cracked-ass lips all day.

Any application tips?

Yes! Blindfold yourself and hope not to miss the slivers of tender skin that separate your chin from your philtrum.


Harling

What’s your product and how long does it take you to apply it?

Joey Healy Brow Lacquer in “Oak” — it takes me about 30 seconds to apply.

Why is it your go-to when you’re wearing nothing else?

I was first introduced to this brow gel when I met with brow specialist Joey Healy for a story about fixing my eyebrow patchiness. It’s so easy to use and makes my brows look 10,000x less sparse, so it’s the least I can do when I’m too lazy to spend more than a minute on my face. Of all my makeup products, this one gives me the most bang for my time’s buck.

What makes this particular brand/product well-suited for this scenario?

The pigment is pretty opaque, so I feel like it does a very effective job of making my eyebrows look fuller without much effort.

Any application tips?

I use it very lightly, just to fill in the sparseness at the edges of my brows. Because the pigment is so opaque, you can’t be too heavy-handed or your eyebrows will look like cartoon caterpillars.


Nikki

What’s your product and how long does it take you to apply it?

W3LL PEOPLE Bio Brightener Stick, and it takes me about a minute to put on.

Why is it your go-to when you’re wearing nothing else?

I like that it brightens my face. I put it on my cheekbones, eyelids (under my eyebrow and on the inner lower lid), and bridge of my nose. It’s one product, but I put it EVERYWHERE. Even if I wake up late for work all groggy, I like to imagine it makes me look awake and glowy.

What makes this particular brand/product well-suited for this scenario?

Since it’s a stick, it’s easy to draw on your face like a crayon — it’s fun! And I feel like it quickly enhances my entire face, not just my eyes, lips or cheeks specifically. Also, it’s natural, which has been a requirement for me since I switched to an all-natural beauty regimen (which you can read about here!).

Any application tips?

Apply, use setting powder, apply again for MAXIMUM GLOW.

Photos by Edith Young. 

Get more Beauty ?