Aug 23, 2012 4:42PM

DIY: Barely-There Make-Up

What to buy and how to use it.

Ironically, making it look like you're not wearing make-up when you are wearing make-up is hard work. But with spring well and truly on its way (in Sydney at least — today got up to 29 degrees), what better time to practice your barely-there look?

SKIN
Top: Dolph Lundgren and Grace Jones excel at getting nude.
If you want to pull-off nude, you need to start with a good, natural-looking base. MAC's entire Prep + Prime range is killer, but my current favourite is the Skin Smoother ($49). Applied with your fingers, it glides on to smooth across all those not-so-flattering pores, lines and bumps on your skin. You can wear Skin Smoother by itself — by some sort of mysterious wizardry, Skin Smoother feels just like powder once it sets, so it works well as a mattifier — but worn under foundation your make-up will look flawless and last all day long. 

Stila's One Step Illuminate ($58 at Mecca Cosmetica) bills itself as a "skin tone illuminating serum", and that's just what it does. The bottle contains a fancy triple-helix of primer, brightener and illuminator. It perfects your skin tone while making you look more awake at the same time, which means you might be able to skip the foundation altogether.

One of the best ways to look like you're not wearing make-up (apart from not wearing make-up, of course), is by choosing a water-based foundation. ModelCo Fluid Splash 3 in 1 Foundation ($62) is one of my all-time favourite products. The multiple award-winning oil-free formula is a crazy 50% water, so it leaves your skin feeling hydrated and looking dewy, and allows you to build up to a level of coverage that you're comfortable with. As an added bonus, the lid contains a perfectly matched concealer and eye base, filled with good stuff like vitamin E and aloe vera.

The newest kid on the water-based block (so new that it's not even out yet) is Diorskin Nude Fluid Foundation ($77, available from 27 August at David Jones), a "nude skin-glowing" formula with an all-important SPF of 15. Natalie Portman is the face of the new Dior Nude range, and if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for us.

CHEEKS 

Obviously the idea is to wear as little colour as possible, but if you just can't resist the urge to go a little bit crazy, try a bit of (subtle) contouring or a brown blush. Chanel's classic Soleil Tan de Chanel also comes in a Moisturising Bronzing Powder, available in four shades ($79, shown here in Terre Ambre, the brownest of the four). It's highly pigmented and incredibly finely milled, and, naturally, packaging is perfect as well — the powder itself looks like sand dunes.

Bobbi Brown's Creamy Color for Lips & Cheeks ($30 from the Fall 2012 Desert Twilight collection, out September 9) comes in a beautiful brown called Honeyed Tea, which can be used to contour or give a subtle warmth on the apples of your cheeks. Creamy yet sheer, it's very blendable and (best of all) difficult to go overboard with.

Benefit's Dallas ($51) is a bronzer and blush all in one, so it's the best way to sneak in a hint of pink while staying true to the nude.

EYES

A barely-there face calls for very little eye make-up. A well-defined brow will make sure your features don't get lost in a sea of beige, and one of my favourite new products is ck one's Brow Pencil + Gel Duo ($30, shown here in Crafty Raven). Just like the clothing brand, ck one Color is all about minimalism, and multitasked combines an angled pencil with a clear gel that leaves brows staying put but still feeling like real hair.

It might seem like everyone's banging on about Maybelline's Color Tattoo cream gel eyeshadows at the moment, but that's because they really are amazing. Tough As Taupe ($11.95) in particular is very long-lasting and won't crease at all, and it's great for building a subtle matte-brown smoky eye — you could even use it as a base.

If you're wary of trying a nude look because you have dark circles under your eyes, Clinique have a new product just for you. Even Better Eyes Dark Circle Corrector ($50, available 26 August). It contains active ingredients to gradually lighten the eye area (mulberry and vitamin C), protect against irritation and environmental damage (caffeine and green tea), and promote collagen production (whey protein), all combined with a slightly tinted and illuminating formula and cooling-tip applicator. It's perfect under make-up, or even by itself.

LIPS

The best place to start is at the beginning, and in the case of a nude lip that's with your base. If you've always found it difficult to wear nude lip colours because your lips are naturally quite pigmented, then this is the product for you. Benefit Lip Plump ($39) is like a primer for your lips — it gives you a neutral coat of jojoba oil–infused colour, a much more moisturising method of priming the lips than using concealer or foundation (which you might have tried in a moment of Essex-inspired madness). Post–Lip Plump, your lipstick will appear brighter and last much longer. (The 'plump' in the title refers to the fact that it fills in fine lines and builds up contours, making lips appear fuller — and younger, if that's your thing.)

If you're going for a more subtle nude look, Dior's new Nude Universal Lip Liner ($44, available from 27 August at David Jones) is a game-changing product. It's a completely transparent pencil that can be used as a lip liner and/or base for every complexion and lipstick colour, and even features a built-in lip brush. Worth every cent!

Once you've got your base down there are a few colour options you can go for. Giorgio Armani Rouge D'Armani Sheers ($52 at David Jones, shown here in Pink 503 from the Skin Lacquers collection) are creamy, translucent, and as moisturising as a lip balm — they go on so easily that you could use them on your cheeks. Perfect if want to wear a nude look but are worried about looking washed-out.

For those of you that MUST wear a gloss, why not go all-out with NARS Larger Than Life Lipgloss ($42)? The high-gloss Larger Than Life range features intense, long-lasting colours and a short bristle that allows for accuracy in the tight corners of the mouth, and Tiber is a super-flattering cool beige.

NAILS

Why stop at your face when you can match your nails to your make-up? Illamasqua's Monogamous ($34, from the Naked Strangers collection), is an unusual flesh pink with a matte finish, which looks great on darker skin tones. While you're at the Illamasqua site, why not sign their Fight for a Fair Beauty Price petition? They're protesting against the fact that the global cosmetics giants force the Australian prices of beauty products skyward by up to 61%, and they want to protest in the best possibly way — by lowering their prices. The petition asks you to continue buying their products once the prices have been reduced.

In September Kit Cosmetics will release a limited-edition range of polishes that smell like macaroons (!). Sweet Almond ($15.95) is a pale beige that suits a wide range of skin colours. Did I say that it smelled of macaroons? The only problem is that you'll constantly trying to surreptitiously smell your fingers — not a great look.

I had to stop myself from including everything from the new Dior Nude range, but it would be remiss of me not to show you the Vernis Haute Couleur in Grège, the flagship colour of Christian Dior's 1947 'New Look' ($39, available from 27 August at David Jones).