For the past decade, makeup artists have had a love affair with light-reflecting products and the youthful, dewy looks they create. Over the course of recent seasons, a new face has emerged; one that’s softly matte, sophisticated and polished without being glossy or overdone.
“Everyone loved that ultra-glittery, J-Lo glam look when it first came out, but after a few years of that over-the-top shine, people were starting to wonder ‘what’s next?'” says Brett Freedman, celebrity makeup artist and owner of Vanity Mark Cosmetics. “We started seeing inklings that matte makeup had made its return on runways around two years ago, and since then the trend has really snowballed – and it shows no signs of stopping this Spring.”
While the very word matte may conjure up visions of thick, pancake-type foundation and chalky powder from past decades -talc was used as a primary ingredient in many formulas as recently as the mid ’90s- the millennial version of the look is anything but heavy.
“The key difference is that newly re-formulated matte products provide a natural, satiny finish, rather than a chalky, opaque one that completely absorbs the light,” explains Freedman. “You’ll get the luminosity without the glitter.” Now, matte makeup is much more wearable and forgiving to women with uneven skin than shimmery products, which can highlight fine lines or blemishes. It may sound counterintuitive, but to get the best results from your matte products, you’ve got to prime your face with moisture first. “This step is absolutely essential if you want to get a natural-looking effect,” explains Alanna Wells, LA-based makeup artist and marketing manager for DermaQuest Cosmetics. “If you don’t properly hydrate the skin first, there’s a good chance that your foundation and concealer won’t go on evenly as you’d like – or the coverage will be heavier than you’d intended.”
Reach for a moisturizing sunscreen like GoClear, which protects against UVA and UVB and fights breakouts, but dries with a matte finish. At night, switch to a moisturizer that contains silicon, suggests Freedman, which helps your skin move easily underneath makeup, and prevents it from settling into pores and fine lines.
Since product buildup can be more obvious around the eyes, he recommends dabbing on cream or gel, such as Shu Uemura Depsea Moisture Replenishing Eye Gel. You’ll also want to hydrate lips, since matte lipstick, while it’s got super staying power, has the potential to dry out lips. Any balm – from Shiseido’s Lip Treatment to garden variety Chap-Stik – will do the trick, giving your mouth a moisture barrier and allowing you to apply the color more smoothly.
While skin is still slightly damp from moisturizer, apply a liquid or mousse foundation that’s as close to your own natural skin tone as you can match it, recommends Valerie Hernandez, head makeup artist and senior educator for Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics. Two great options: Clinique Stay-True Makeup Oil-Free Formula (liquid foundation) and Youngblood Natural Mineral Foundation (powder formula.)
Smooth or dust the product over your face, lids and down your neck with a foundation brush, which will allow you to use less concealer during the next step. Dab a small amount of a stick concealer your under your eyes, in the corners of your sockets and over any visible red marks or blemishes and blend well. Set the look with a dusting of loose or pressed powder (try Clinique Stay-Matte Sheer Pressed Powder) applied with an oversized brush, suggests Hernandez.
Since trying a matte face will be a departure from the dewier look that you’re probably used to, don’t want to switch up your color palate too much, since changing too much can put you on the fast track to feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. When selecting a new blush, don’t choose anything too brown or mauve, which can look muddy or dull on your skin. Instead, go for a matte shade that you might already have in a shimmy version (one to try: Bobbi Brown blush in Nectar).
The same guideline applies when choosing the right eye shadow palate: Stick with a look you’re comfortable with.”The Chanel Eye Shadow Quad is a classic – it provides excellent coverage, especially in the cream and ivory tones,” says Freedman. “NARS and MAC are the way to go if you’re experimenting with a little more color. All three brands provide rich pigments that go a lot further on your eye than traditional drugstore brands.”
To avoid looking overly made up, Wells recommends using no more than two shades on the eye – preferably neutrals. If you don’t want to do an entirely matte face, polish off the look with glossy mascara, like Givenchy Captiv’Eyes.
Round out your look – and add a pop of color to an otherwise neutral face – by sweeping on matte lipstick in a saturated pink or berry shade. Ones we love: Lipstick Queen in Red Sinner and DermaKiss Treatment Minerals in Matrix.
If you’re not entirely comfortable with the idea walking out the door with a matte face on, you can experiment with the look on your nails instead. OPI has paved the way by reformulating several of their most popular shades, like Lincoln Park After Dark and Russian Navy, with a matte finish. “With this kind of polish, you can’t use a base or top coat, since that only adds shine,” says Charlese Latham, a salon owner and stylist based in Orange County, California. “Since matte nails are more likely to chip, you’ll need to apply three coats and have the patience it requires for those coats to dry smoothly.”
Think you’re daring enough to try full-on matte? It may take you a little time to get used to a decidedly less-glossy look, but you’ll probably find it easier to maintain than your shimmery style. Do it right, our experts say, and touch ups will be a thing of the past. We say: Once you go matte – you may never go back.