Updated: May 30
As a makeup artist, I often get clients that bring photos of neutral makeup looks as inspiration photos that actually want natural makeup. While these two terms may seem interchangeable, they actually represent two distinct approaches to makeup application.
Natural makeup, as the name suggests, is all about enhancing one's natural features and creating a look that appears effortless and fresh-faced. This typically involves using sheer or lightweight formulas, such as tinted moisturizers or BB creams, to even out the skin tone and create a subtle glow. The emphasis is on using makeup to enhance one's natural beauty rather than to completely transform it. For example, a natural makeup look would use a more sheer foundation formula (so as not to cover the skin completely), mascara to define the lashes, a liquid or cream blush to add a healthy flush to the cheeks, and a pinky-neutral lip color that complements the wearer's natural lip color. The eyeshadow would be blended out but applied sparingly in warm neutral shades and the liner would be either brown or charcoal.
(The pictures above are our work and are property of Makeup by Chelsea & Co.)
On the other hand, neutral makeup is all about creating a balanced, harmonious look that complements the wearer's skin tone and features. This typically involves using a combination of warm and cool tones, such as beige, taupe, and brown, to create a look that is neither too bold nor too subdued. Neutral makeup often includes more pigmented products, such as full-coverage foundations, contouring creams and powders. The emphasis is on creating a cohesive look that defines the features.
(The pictures shown below were taken from Pinterest and Google.)
It's worth noting that the terms "natural" and "neutral" are not mutually exclusive. It's entirely possible to create a natural makeup look using neutral tones, or to create a neutral makeup look using sheer, natural-looking products. The key is to understand the desired outcome and to choose products and techniques that will help achieve that result.
As an example, consider the makeup looks of Kim Kardashian. While many people assume that Kim's makeup is "natural," it's actually more accurately described as "neutral." Kim often uses full-coverage foundations, contouring powders, and neutral lip colors, but she balances these more intense products with neutral tones and subtle shading to create a look that is cohesive and flattering. Her signature contoured cheekbones and bold brows are far from "natural," but they work well with her overall look and enhance her features without overwhelming them.
Some things to consider before your makeup appointment that will affect the end result of your ideal look are:
Do you want your natural skin or freckles to show through?
Do you want a matte or dewy finish to the skin?
Do you prefer brown or black eyeliner?
Do you like winged liner?
What is your daily makeup routine? Do you want to do something similar or try something different?
Do you like the look of makeup?
What is your skin type?
We go through an exhaustive list of questions prior to the makeup application and below is a visualization of our thought process (generally) in determining whether a client would prefer natural makeup or neutral makeup.
In conclusion, the difference between natural and neutral makeup comes down to the desired outcome and the products and techniques used to achieve that result. Whether you prefer a fresh-faced look or a more polished, chiseled aesthetic, there's a makeup look out there that can help you achieve your desired outcome.