Being natural is incredibly empowering for women because it’s just who you are. You’re embracing all the beautiful things about you from your head to your toes. Because when you mask so much of your natural beauty, people don’t get to see that.
Makeup probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think about minimalism. Whilst you may prioritise decluttering your kitchen cupboards or creating a capsule wardrobe, your overflowing makeup bag is an easily overlooked way in which you mindlessly consume.
In her book You Are What You Wear, Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner highlights that people wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time, and I’d hazard a sneaky guess that our makeup collections fare a similar fate. I know that, in the past, I’ve been 100% guilty of holding on to products I barely even use. Sometimes well past their expiry date!
Why do you end up with so much excess stuff? Well, psychologically speaking, there’s plenty going on under the surface when you purchase a new beauty product. In short, you’re desperate to believe the marketing hype that this little bottle will be the cure-all for your body image gripes, bringing you into alignment with the desired (read: impossible) beauty standard you feel so far-removed from.
Tell me, how has this been working for you? For an alternative way, read on for all things minimal makeup – including the why, the benefits, what you’ll need, and the easy 6-step process!
What Is a Minimalist Makeup Routine?
Minimalist makeup is about being intentional in the products you choose to put on your skin. It’s part of an all-encompassing life philosophy that considers how your actions impact your own health, as well as bigger-picture issues like animal welfare and sustainability.
For me, minimalism is much less about getting rid of things for the sake of it, and much more about defining your values – paring back to those things which really matter to you.
Minimal makeup isn’t just about ease and speed, although these are certainly some of the positive benefits. It’s about embracing your natural beauty in a way that is counter-cultural to messages promoted by the likes of popular reality TV shows like TOWIE or Love Island.
You don’t have to put on a mask to the world every single day to be acceptable or worthy. Think about all the horrible messages this is feeding your subconscious mind!
Moreover, pause to consider the products you’re plastering on your face – many of which will be absorbed by your skin – without knowing exactly what ingredients are in them. By choosing a minimalist makeup routine, you prioritise clean and ethical products that don’t harm you, the planet, or animals.
10 Benefits of a Minimal Makeup Routine
There are so many benefits to a minimalist makeup routine that I struggled to fit them all in! Whether you’re budget-conscious, tight on storage, or just want to free up more time in your mornings, let’s take a look at why you should seriously consider giving it a go.
1. Nothing beats natural beauty
Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom… Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.
I think that this definition from The Minimalists couldn’t be any more relevant to a discussion on the trappings of beauty culture, including perceived guilt over not living up to a completely unnatural beauty standard. You might have to fight negative self-talk several times a day when it comes to believing the fact that your natural beauty is far more powerful than the messages society is leading you to internalise.
Plus, it’s worth remembering that being confident in your own skin and having more going on in your life than your appearance is equally more charismatic and attractive than desperately clinging to your appearance as your primary source of value in the world. ‘Nuff said.
2. A minimalist routine saves on time
When you’re trying to perfect your winged eyeliner at 7am, you can end up wasting more than half an hour on your makeup routine if you’re not careful. And when you add up all those minutes, think about the wasted hours, days, and weeks you spend painting on a mask for the world (only to have to take it off again before bed!). Pretty crazy when you think about it like that, right?!
Your morning routine is precious time in which you can set the tone for your whole day, so I’m a great believer in prioritising this time for the right things. Whether it’s journalling, meditation, or eating a healthy breakfast, there’s so much that you can do with these saved minutes!
For a kickstart to your day, why not build a creativity habit, for example?
3. You reduce decision fatigue
It’s said that the average person makes 35,000 decisions, every single day.
From deciding what to wear to picking out the exact shade of eyeshadow that’s going to complement your look, there are lots of small decisions required of you. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to use up all of your brain power on tiny, inconsequential decisions like this before the day has barely even begun, which means you have less energy when it comes to the important things.
There’s a reason that many successful entrepreneurs and business people have a personal uniform that they wear day in, day out. So take a leaf out of Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, or Steve Jobs’ book. It’s time to take out the guesswork and put your makeup routine on autopilot, too!
4. Minimalist makeup is timeless
Makeup trends can be fun to try out, maybe even inspiring you to experiment with different personas or sides to your character in a creative way. It’s impossible to deny that there’s a transformative power to makeup.
However, stripping things back to the makeup essentials that work for you and your lifestyle not only keeps things simple, but means that you begin to develop your own signature style outside of fad beauty trends.
Rather than wasting hours scrolling through Instagram for the latest hot products or intricate makeup tutorials, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’re comfortable in your own skin. Making time in the process to focus on the stuff which actually matters.
5. You can pack lighter
If you only have to rely on minimal products, it’s a lot easier to carry the essentials with you for hassle-free top-ups during the day. Whether you’re on the go or like to travel a lot, you’ll thank yourself when you no longer have to trundle a wheelie suitcase in tow every time you want to take your makeup collection with you!
6. Minimal ingredients are kind to your skin
You unwittingly come into contact with many harmful chemicals each day, and makeup is no exception. It can play host to a whole lot of nasties in the name of ‘looking good’. Whilst your skin acts as a barrier, products are still absorbed into your bloodstream regardless.
It makes sense then to do your research and choose clean products with minimal ingredients. This is a form of self-care when it comes to your long-term health, but you may even find it has positive benefits for the overall appearance of your skin, too. By using less ingredients and fragranced products that cause irritation and inflammation, your complexion will definitely be thanking you.
7. You stop wasting money
Honestly, just have a quick tot up of how much money is sunk into your drawer full of makeup you barely ever use. A small selection of makeup in comparison to a bursting cabinet is going to save you money in the long run.
With less to purchase in the first place and less to replace, you can ditch the duplicates and cut through the marketing hype to what you know really works.
8. Fewer products mean you can go higher quality
Leading on from the last point – with all this money saved, you can actually afford to splash out on fewer, more premium products that are made with higher-quality ingredients.
Whilst you certainly don’t always have to spend more money to get a quality product, you will generally tend to find that a little goes a long way. Powders will be more pigmented, or you’ll only need a pea-sized amount of foundation rather than half a tube to get the same level of coverage.
Just like you can invest in higher quality clothing with a capsule wardrobe, spend your money more wisely (and guilt-free!) with a minimal makeup routine.
9. Minimal makeup reduces the need for external validation
By truly taking control of your wardrobe and makeup collection, you will feel a sense of empowerment that goes beyond the simple freedom from physical stuff. You will experience freedom from the pressures and judgements heaped onto your personal appearance by friends, adverts, social media, and culture at large.
When you also start to make more time for healthy habits like eating whole foods or getting enough exercise, you realise that you rely less on your outward appearance and begin to base your worth on more important things.
10. Conscious consumption goes beyond yourself
Last but by no means least, the seemingly small act of opting for minimal makeup products has bigger ripple effects and consequences. Caring more about yourself at a deep level as opposed to a shallow artificial one means that you learn to have more compassion, and develop a deeper awareness about your impact on the world around you.
From the treatment of animals in the cosmetic industry to the masses of plastic packaging that’s only destined for landfill, conscious consumption goes beyond yourself and works towards a better world.
How to Start Your Minimal Makeup Collection
When starting your minimalist makeup bag, you’ll first want to get clear on your why. We’ve already discussed the benefits of a minimal makeup routine, but try to personalise this so that it has meaning to you. You may also want to jot down the answer to a few self-reflective questions:
What do I want my makeup to express about me? Which are the products that represent me best?
What makeup products in my collection do I actually use on a regular basis?
Is any makeup expired or unopened?
Are there any products that I’ve tried that don’t suit my skin type or are the wrong shade?
What products could I get rid of today and not miss?
Once you’ve established the answers to your questions, this should make purging your current makeup collection that little bit easier. Identify the products you use and that make you feel good, then dispose of anything that’s been opened and donate anything unused. The products we’ll use in our 6-step minimal makeup routine below are:
A good SPF sunscreen
BB cream/lightweight formula foundation
Bronzer and highlighter duo
Lipstick (doubles up as cream blush)
You’ll also want to consider your equipment. For instance, do you have some good-quality makeup brushes? They are a game-changer! I find that often, I’m quick to purchase new foundations and eyeshadow palettes, but it’s quality tools that will really help to achieve that effortless finish. I personally use the Zoeva Essentials kit – they wash well and are lovely-quality brushes.
If you noticed any gaps in your collection, now would be a good time to identify these. But remember that you don’t need to go rushing out to replace all your makeup at once. Gradually incorporate higher-quality items from non-toxic, ethical makeup brands that you want to support.
6-Step Minimalist Makeup Routine
For a lit-from-within glow, don’t forget to prioritise your skincare routine as the fundamental foundation for a healthy complexion. After this, a minimalist makeup routine can be achieved in as little as 5 minutes with this quick and easy process.
You’ll begin to perfect it as you practice, and you’ll find out what does and doesn’t work for you. This is also a neutral base on which you can layer extra products or finishes dependent on the look you’re going for. For example, you might want to adjust slightly for special occasions. And equally, it’s absolutely fine if you don’t mix it up at all – that’s the beauty of your signature makeup look!
Step 1: Start with SPF
What is the number one beauty truth that should be everyone’s mantra who cares about their skin?
Answer: sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!
As we’re going minimal, I could easily have lumped this in with a foundation that includes SPF. However, this step really isn’t one to skimp on. Remember that minimalism is about paring back to what matters, not cutting things out for the sake of it. Sunscreen deserves a dedicated product with at least SPF 30 and a 4* UVA and UVB protection rating. This will help to maintain the elasticity of your skin and give it a youthful appearance, as well as preventing the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
Make sure to start with skin that is cleansed and moisturised, before applying a liberal layer of SPF. And don’t just reserve this for especially sunny days – sun damage can occur all year round, so it’s essential skin prep for any minimal makeup routine.
For my pick of ethical and sustainable UK skincare brands, take a look at my dedicated article here.
Step 2: Even out your skin tone
The problem with full-coverage foundation is that it can all too easily appear cakey and cracked, particularly if you have dry skin. Whilst it may feel uncomfortable exposing some of your flaws, I’d recommend lighter-weight base products that are hydrating and allow your skin to breathe.
If your skin is relatively clear with just some pores and pigmentation to even out, then opt for a tinted moisturiser to wake up your complexion and give you a healthy glow. It’s also helpful to determine your skin’s undertone (cool, warm, neutral?) and texture (dry, oily, combination?) so that you select a shade and formula which works best for you. Alternatively, choose a lightweight foundation that will give you a dewy glow with minimal effort.
Optional extra: Add a touch of concealer if you want to hide dark circles beneath your eyes.
Step 3: Add definition
Once you’ve evened out your base, you’ll then want to add some subtle definition to your features. A quality bronzer/highlighter duo will help you to contour your facial features. Sweep bronzer across your forehead, in the creases below your cheekbones, and down your neck slightly so as to blend your makeup look seamlessly. You’ll be thankful for a good set of brushes at this stage!
Once you’ve added some shadow where it would naturally fall (bronzer), move onto highlighting those areas that you want to add radiance. Think the tops of your cheekbones, down the centre of your nose, and above your cupid’s bow. This will easily elevate your look to the next level.
Step 4: Frame your face
This may be a step some would skip in a minimal makeup routine, but I’m all about the brows! Well-defined eyebrows help to frame your face.
Use a suitable shade of brow pencil to flesh out any sparse areas with natural, thin strokes. If you want to set your brows, you can use a duo product that has a brow gel at one end.
Step 5: Make the eyes pop
Mascara is your holy grail product here, but don’t forget to add definition to your eyes first.
Rather than purchasing another unnecessary product in the form of eye shadow, a more natural look is to use your bronzer as a base for your eyelids. Then, simply pop some highlighter beneath the arch of your eyebrows.
I used to go for thick black voluminous lashes (which couldn’t help but look spidery). What I’ve come to appreciate is that I was going far too heavy on the eye makeup for my pale complexion, and applying a lengthening brown mascara gives my eyes a much softer appearance.
If you’re in the habit of layering on thick eyeliner, try skipping the cat eye for a quick routine that has the added bonus of looking more natural, too.
Step 6: Finish with a healthy flush
Finally, opt for a neutral your-lips-but-better rosy shade, which can also double up as cream blush on your cheeks (tip: a little goes a long way, so don’t overdo it!). Not only does this approach save time, but it also ensures a consistent finish that looks effortlessly natural.
Lipstick can be a fun way to instantly vary your look (perhaps a bold red lip for the evening, or a deep cherry during the winter months), but stick to neutrals for a day-to-day lip that will complement any outfit choice.
Start Your Minimal Makeup Look Today
As with many things in life, you’re bombarded with messages that you always need more – to spend more money on beauty products, to add extra products into your routine, or to spend hours perfecting the extra details which will make you feel pretty.
The truth of the matter is that you don’t need any of these things. Studies have shown that being suckered into buying aspirational beauty products actually has the opposite effect of making you feel worse about yourself in the long term. When you buy products because you believe you need fixing or that you’re lacking, you may get a short-term dopamine hit, but you’re never going to find lasting self-esteem in a bottle.
Self-esteem comes from being intentional and living by your core values. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look and feel good – this is a crucial part of self-care – there is a level to which you should care about your outward appearance (read: stop obsessing!).
Don’t forget to let me know how you get on with your minimal makeup routine! What products do you swear by? What brands do I need to know about? And most importantly, what intentional things are you spending all that reclaimed, well-earned time on?