For the past two or three years, my top beauty goal has been to eliminate the need for makeup, which may sound odd considering this is a post about makeup. You see, I’ve adopted the French philosophy of cultivating skin as beautiful and healthy as it can be, thereby eliminating the need to “cover up” with makeup. I’ve always been a less is more kind of gal, so while my day-to-day makeup consists of very few products to begin with, the idea of even fewer appealed to me. The first step in achieving a perfectly done up face then is as close to flawless as possible skin. Click here to read the first post in this series, which is all about caring for your beautiful face. With that out of the way, let’s get to the business of how to do fast, easy and natural daily makeup.

Once you’ve buffed, polished and moisturized your skin to a healthy glow it’s primed and ready for a little makeup, a lot or none at all, the choice is yours, because you are a grown woman and can do whatever you like with your face. If your skin is still a bit uneven in tone or you have a blemish or two (it happens to even the best complexions), apply a light foundation, tinted moisturizer or BB (beauty balm) or CC (color control) cream.

On a side note, I prefer using my (clean) fingertips to apply most makeup, but makeup sponges and brushes are effective tools. If brushes are your bag, invest in a good set. Bobbi Brown brushes are made of natural hair and last forever. They are a bit on the pricey side at $65 to $190, but well worth the investment. If that’s not in your budget, once again Target to the rescue with a 15-piece-set, $39.99, by Sonia Kashuk . Clean your brushes and sponges once per week, either with a special makeup brush cleanser or a mild dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn. Place hair side up in a cup and allow to air dry.

The latter are great choices for those who want to streamline a bit, because they do more than just cover up. A BB cream is designed to serve as a moisturizer, primer, sunscreen, skin treatment (for anti-aging components, exfoliants, skin tone enhancers and light reflectors), concealer and foundation. A CC cream does many of the same things, but offers more hydration (albeit less coverage). While it’s a bit heavier, I prefer BB cream, especially when I’m prepping for a night on the town, a public appearance or on-camera work, because of the primer qualities and because studio lights can make even a porcelain complexion look tired, uneven and aged. In my experience, even the tres inexpensive Maybelline Dream Fresh BB 8-in-1 Beauty Balm Skin Perfector with SPF 30, which is all of a $6.29 at Target, keeps my face looking fresh all day or all night with just minimal powder touch ups. Spend as little or as much as you’d like, but personally I’ll take the effective bargain version any day.

Once your skin is primed, it’s time, if needed, to add concealer. If you have a blemish, dip a cotton ball in alcohol and dot on the offending spot. This will help dry it out. Apply a tiny dot of concealer with your (clean) pinky or a tiny clean makeup brush and blend. Your concealer should always be a tad lighter than your actual skin color. It’s also a nice touch to put a little in each corner of your nose and, in the case of dark circles, under your eyes beginning at the inner corner. Again, blend it in and make sure you are well moisturized under your eyes, to avoid the look of the product settling or clumping in the dry areas. I prefer a fluid and light concealer and have been happy with Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin 3-in-1 Concealer For Eyes Broad Spectrum SPF 20, which again at Target is $8.39.

As you may have noticed, I opt for multitasking products. This one acts as a concealer, eye cream and has a 20 spf, so it’s a win-win-win. If you prefer a concealer stick or a thicker cream, go for it. Experiment until you find the one that works for you.

By now, your skin should look smooth and radiant. Set your foundation and concealer with a bit of your favorite loose or pressed powder or, for heavier coverage, a powder foundation. Most days, I’ll skip the BB cream and head straight for a powder foundation. It gives surprisingly good coverage and eliminates a step. Lancome’s Dual Finish, $38.50, feels silky and light, as does Neutrogena’s Mineral Sheers Compact Powder Foundation, $8.99 to $11.99.

Women of a certain age, be wary of powder. It can become the enemy by proceeding directly to fine lines and wrinkles. Be realistic and give up your powder if this is happening to you. Try to become one with a dewy look. If it still feels too shiny, blotting tissues are a fine solution.

Now it’s time to add a little color. I’m a fan of powder blush, but again, experiment with the cream and powder and decide which one gives you the look you prefer. The key here is to blend, blend, blend, so that you don’t end up looking like a clown or a member of the French court at Versailles. Bonne beautéDo apply it to the apples of your cheeks. Don’t go too far up toward the hairline.

My relationship with eye shadow is on again off again and mainly relegated to special occasions. When I do wear it, I have a light touch and use natural, neutral colors. It’s a matter of preference; so if you are into heavily made up eyes and lots of color, go for it! There are myriad tutorials online and at every cosmetic counter, so for the purposes of this blog, I’ll focus only on my quick and easy method for natural eye shadow. Apply a light, neutral taupe from eyelashes to brow. Swipe your darker brown or a deep purple or maroon in the crease of your eyelid, then blend. With your (clean) pinky, dab the highlight color on the inside of your eyelid, near your nose. Use the same color to highlight your brow bone. Pro-tip: Well-shaped brows will change your face. Whether thick, thin or somewhere between, keep those brows groomed either via a professional or at home. Click here for a tutorial from Elle Magazine.

As with eye shadow, I reserve mascara for special occasions. When I do wear it, I use what the pros favor: Maybelline Great Lash (in the pink and green tube). Curl your eyelashes, swipe a coat onto the upper eyelashes, then apply another coat, comb out any clumps and repeat for greater effect. Bonne beautéNinety-nine percent of the time, I end up with some on my lid. Just lightly moisten a cotton swap and gently wipe it off. Eyeliner is something I rarely if ever use, but if you are a lover of it, Total Beauty has a comprehensive tutorial here. It’s a great way to open up your eyes, create drama and highlight your eye color. Have fun with it, but if you are playing up your eyes, play down your lips and vice versa.  

At any given time, I have no less than five lipsticks or lip glosses in my purse. In fact, my friends sometimes ask for a purse check to count the tubes and poke fun at my “addiction.” I joke back that it’s not a problem and I can quit any time! Which is of course a lie: I am addicted to my lip color and I’ll never quit! Why would I, when it’s the fastest way to switch up my look? Also, I have a hard time committing to one color for an entire day.

This is the one area in which I really play with makeup. For day, I waffle between high-pigment glosses in myriad shades of pink, purple and wine. I’m partial to Loreal’s lip glosses, but also am a fan of Lancome and Chanel. At night, I switch to deep wine colored cream lipsticks. For lipstick that stays on for hours, dab a little foundation on your lips; line the outside with a neutral lip liner or one that’s a shade similar to your lipstick or gloss; fill in the entire lip with your liner; apply liner or gloss; press lips together and tap on a tissue; apply another coat and press lips together again. To keep lipstick off of your teeth (as long as no one is around), put your index finger in your mouth, close lips on it and remove. Almost every time there will be a little ring around your finger. Wipe off and go! Etiquette tip: The only make up you should ever apply at the dinner table is lipstick and only if you can do it without looking. Reserve any and all other touch ups for the powder room.Bonne beauté

Even with foundation, concealer, powder, blush, eye shadow, mascara and lipstick, this routine takes as little as five minutes (if I don’t do eye makeup) and as much as seven to 10 (if I do).

All of that said, this week I finally felt I had achieved the close to flawless skin toward which I’ve been working so hard. Monday and Tuesday, the only makeup I wore was lip gloss and blush. It’s a strangely liberating thing — perhaps especially for a Southern woman, because you know it’s practically a sin to leave the house without makeup. Today, I’m celebrating with a professional facial. It’s a little thank you to my skin and a reward to me for treating it well, inside and out. Maybe I’ll even buy a new tube of lip color.

In the next installment of this beauty series, I’ll reveal tips for great hair and nails and share my battle to reclaim shiny, healthy locks after turning 40.