Want the secret of those women who look so great, they don't have to wear makeup? Here it is: They are wearing makeup--they just know how to apply it. And now's the time to learn their tricks. Studies show that cosmetics can improve others' perceptions of your trustworthiness, how healthy you seem, and even your income bracket (in one study, women who didn't wear makeup were 12% more likely to be perceived as low earners or unemployed than those who did). No matter what your excuse, we'll give you a reason to master makeup so everyone else will wonder what your secret to looking beautiful is.


Your Excuse

"It looks too obvious when I'm wearing it."

To avoid a visible layer of makeup, put a few drops into your palm and warm it up by rubbing it gently with your ring or middle finger before applying, suggests San Francisco-based makeup artist Emily Kate Warren. "The heat of your palm melts the formula so it has a more liquid consistency and sinks into skin more easily when you put it on," she says.

Face Makeup Matters

Multiple studies confirm an even-toned complexion is a key attribute of health and attractiveness. And women who regularly wear foundation tend to have younger-looking skin. "The makeup's added layer of daily protection shields skin slightly from aging elements like dry air and sunlight," says NYC makeup artist Tina Turnbow.

Your Excuse

"It feels heavy on my skin."

Face makeup ranges from barely there to full coverage, but tinted moisturizers and lightweight foundations that list water as their first ingredient are your best bet. These tend to be on the sheer end of the spectrum, so they feel light and "won't cake into fine lines," says Turnbow. Plus, they tend to match a wider range of skin tones--so it's easy to pick the right color.


Lip Color Matters

Your pout gets drier with age, but tinted balms and lipsticks add back moisture. Plus, when you create contrast with cosmetics, such as using lipstick to heighten the color difference between your lips and the skin around them, you're judged more likable and trustworthy, reports a study from Harvard University and CoverGirl.

Your Excuse

"The color is too bright."

You don't need a bold color to impart all the benefits listed above; look for a shade that's close to the color your lips turn after you rub them gently with your finger for a few seconds (to increase circulation). "Rose tones are foolproof because they bring together two colors that suit most skin types: brown and pink," says Warren. Try (1) CoverGirl LipPerfection Lipcolor in Rich ($6.50; drugstores).

Your Excuse

"It feathers into the lines around my mouth."

The slippery ingredients that help glosses and some lipsticks go on smoothly also make them come off more easily or travel into fine lines. If that's your issue, pick a lipstick or lip crayon with a matte formula, such as (2) Bite Beauty High Pigment Pencil ($24; sephora.com), which is more likely to stay put.

Your Excuse

"Lip products feel goopy."

If lipstick feels heavy swiped right from the tube, "scribble it on your middle finger, then press it onto your lips, building up the hue layer by layer for a veil of color," suggests Warren. Still too much? Use a lip balm tinted with primary red, a universally flattering shade. Try (3) Fresh Sugar Passion Tinted Lip Treatment SPF 15 ($22.50; fresh.com).


Eye Makeup Matters

Large eyes and high brows are considered to be more feminine, and women with these traits are often seen as more attractive, according to Nancy Etcoff, PhD, author of Survival of the Prettiest. Born without those characteristics? You can fake them: Women wearing cosmetics such as eye shadow and mascara are perceived to be more attractive, according to Etcoff's research.

Your Excuse

"Mascara smudges too easily."

If you're wary that mascara will leave your lashes clumpy or smear beneath your eyes, stick to waterproof formulas or try a long-lasting lash tint. These breakthrough products aren't as thick as mascaras, but they do darken lashes to provide smudgeproof definition up to 24 hours--or until you gently wipe them off with makeup remover.

Your Excuse

"It stings my eyes."

Skip glitter shadows (their mica particles can drift into eyes) and volumizing mascaras, which have tiny fibers that may flake off and irritate. Instead, define your eyes with a waterproof eyeliner such as L'Oreal Paris Wear Infinite Waterproof Eyeliner ($8.50; drugstores). "Work the tip between the roots of the lashes to add definition," says Jemma Kidd, a makeup artist in London.

Your Excuse

"It's too complicated to apply."

Forget makeup charts that look like topographic maps; just even out the hue of your lids to make eyes appear larger and brighter. The easiest way to do it: Blend foundation over your lids. Better yet, do the same thing with a cream shadow or tinted eye primer in champagne or bronze.

"The metallic sheen has extra brightening benefits," says Turnbow.

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