Makeup can be a fun way to get creative with colors, shapes, and different looks, but for many women, a simple workaday makeup look is an everyday accessory. For an easy, quick routine, it helps to find the best beauty ROI—return on investment. But what is the routine with the best return on investment, the one or two elements that do the most to level-up your look?
There is no single answer, because, of course, it depends on your face and preferences, but here are a few strategies for finding a minimal routine with maximum effect.
01. Set goals or parameters
Figure out how much time or money you are willing to spend on makeup in the morning. Be realistic! You may love doing a full face, but if you don’t have the time, you may need to find a simpler routine or find a way to go to bed earlier. Whatever you decide, it should be based on what works with your schedule, season in life, budget, and priorities. A lot of beauty bloggers call faster looks a “lazy” routine; this assessment might apply for some people who work in the beauty industry, but for most people, it’s not “laziness” but a matter of priorities. You control your schedule and what fits into it. Don’t let beauty bloggers or anyone else tell you how much time you should or should not spend on your makeup.
(Simmy Goraya focuses on brows and cheeks.)
02. Analyze your face and preferences
First, identify the elements you like best about your face so you can emphasize them. You may have many parts of your face that you love, in which case choosing what to focus on is more a matter of style. For example, a red matte lip generally reads more retro than a bit of eyeliner (unless it is winged eyeliner). Additionally, if your focus is your eyes, you may choose to make them look bigger, focusing on the roundness, or to make them look longer by focusing on the width.
(Dominique Sachse films her two-minute routine, saying, “It’s. . . nice to be true to who you are, and refine it just a bit and call it a day.”)
Sometimes, especially as we age, there may be one or two small things we’d like to minimize, as well. Instead of applying a full face of foundation, consider dabbing a bit of concealer on the parts that bother you the most. For me, it is the circles under my eyes that aren’t so noticeable in real life but look quite dark in photos. I find that just a little concealer there can make a big difference and also lets the rest of my skin breathe. (Of course, it helps to get at the root of the problem as well, whether that is stress, lack of sleep, reactions to food, or irregular skincare routine. When I can get enough sleep, I feel less of a need for that concealer!)
(Roxette Arisa focuses on brows and glowy skin.)
03. Experiment with adding and subtracting
If you wear very little makeup right now, try a new technique for a few days each month to see if you like it. Wearing the same look for more than one day can help you get used to how it looks. That way, you can determine whether you truly don’t like it or whether it is something you do like but found surprising to see in your reflection at first.
(Maya Galore applies most of her makeup just around the eyes, with brow pencil, eyeliner, and lashes. She says, “Adopting a good skincare routine is imperative to be able to do something like this.”)
Lots of women feel great going out the door with just lipstick in the morning! It adds a bright pop of color that, they say, makes them feel ready for the day. (I’m allergic, so I focus on my eyes, instead!)
If you wear more makeup and want to simplify, try removing a step from the process every few days to see how you feel about it. The beauty industry tries to sell all sorts of products for different things, and sometimes they are useful, but it is good to remember that the industry is built on telling women that their faces and bodies are not good enough as they are. After gradually subtracting products and techniques, you may find three or four elements you’re “supposed” to include that barely make a difference in your overall look : not enough return on your investment!
(Cydnee Black’s slightly longer, five-minute routine focuses on brows, eyes, and cheeks.)
(Valeria Lipovetsky uses a thick pencil for both eyeshadow and eyeliner in her five-minute Parisian-chic smokey eye video.)
If fashion is the latest thing that’s sold on the runways, and style is how you choose to express yourself, the same thinking applies to makeup. “Beauty” is what is sold to you, but style is the way you make those products work for your face. Apply your favorite lipstick as a blush, skip the brows, mix products—find what makes you feel good and focus on that.