minimalist makeup essentials

Minimalist Makeup Essentials: How to Build a Clean Minimal Makeup Collection From Scratch (Or Simplify & Declutter Your Makeup Bag)

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Minimalist beauty is having a bit of a moment right now. More than ever, people are turning away from massive makeup bags in favor of a streamlined approach to makeup. And you absolutely can get a beautiful look with just a few well-chosen minimalist makeup essentials to work with.

Whether you’re transitioning from traditional makeup to clean products or just want to downsize what you already have for a more natural no-makeup makeup look, we’ll go over everything you need to know – from assembling a minimalist makeup bag, clearing excess products out of your makeup drawer, and streamlining your beauty routine.

Benefits Of Having A Minimal Makeup Routine

  • Having fewer products means your makeup collection doesn’t feel overwhelming.
  • It simplifies your everyday makeup routine.
  • It makes your makeup bag more portable.
  • A well-made minimal makeup collection actually gives you more options.
  • It frees you of the need to constantly buy new makeup products.
  • It saves you money. Sticking to a few quality essential products means wasting less money on dud products or on products you won’t end up using.
  • It saves time getting ready in the morning, since you won’t have to sift through a huge collection to find what you want.
  • You can get ready and out the door faster in the morning.
  • It frees your makeup bag and vanity of clutter.

Makeup Myths Dispelled

There are plenty of beliefs about makeup that simply aren’t true – surprise surprise, many of them are designed to encourage you to buy more makeup and spend more money on products you might not need. Here are a few common makeup beliefs that might be holding you back without you even realizing it.

More products is better.

The beauty industry encourages people to buy a product for everything. But if you’re using quality products, you won’t need to use as much or as many of them.

You have to constantly switch up your makeup routine.

There are certainly reasons to change your makeup routine – as your tastes change or as your skin tone changes seasonally, for example. But there’s no need to constantly try to catch up with the latest trends or new products. A big part of adopting a minimalist makeup philosophy is freeing yourself of that mindset.

You need a full face of makeup.

When it comes to makeup, no one “needs” anything! There’s nothing wrong with a whole face of makeup. But when it comes to minimalist routines and natural makeup looks, most people only need a handful of products to achieve the look they want.

You have to highlight/contour/color-correct.

You don’t “have” to do anything! Find what works for you and ignore the rest. Trends can be fun to experiment with. And some people love their highlighter and contour palettes. But if you don’t feel like you need it (or if it doesn’t fit into your routine), don’t feel shy about kicking it out of your makeup bag.

What Does Makeup Do/Should Do For You

Before you look through your makeup bag and start throwing things out, take some time to consider what makeup means for you. This is a personal question; makeup means a lot of different things to different people. Makeup can:

  • Highlight your favorite traits
  • Conceal your insecurities
  • Help you present yourself in a certain way (especially in the professional world)
  • Help you match your external appearance to your personality
  • Create a way to express yourself

Determining what you want out of your minimalist makeup bag will help guide your choices as you choose what products to toss and which ones to keep.

What Does a Minimalist Makeup Routine Look Like to You?

A minimalist makeup bag looks different for everyone. Here are a few questions to ask yourself while you’re figuring out what you really want from a minimal makeup look:

  • What’s my goal for my everyday makeup look?
  • How often do I wear makeup? Everyday or on just special occasions?
  • What do I want my makeup to do? Just to cover up or to benefit my skin as well?
  • How many products do I want/need to use on a daily basis?
  • Do I like to experiment with new color palettes, colors, and products? Or do I tend to stick with what I know works for me?
  • Do I have a signature look?
  • Do I have any products I love that I want to keep in my makeup bag? Are there any products I’m not crazy about that I’d rather replace or toss entirely?
  • What do I want the inside of my makeup bag to look like?

How to Create Your Own Minimalist Makeup Collection

Now, time to take a look at your makeup bag. As you look through the products, consider the following questions:

  • Are you looking to simplify a large makeup collection?
  • Are you building a minimal makeup kit from scratch? Maybe your vanity only has sunscreen on it at the moment!
  • Do you want to do a bit more makeup but don’t want to have a complicated routine?
  • Are you looking to transition from traditional makeup products to natural/green/sustainable ones?
  • What items are essential to you?
  • What is your desired look? Natural or no-makeup” makeup?

How To Choose Products For Your Capsule Makeup Collection

One of the biggest shocks to people’s systems when they switch to the minimalist makeup essentials is needing to be more intentional about the products they use. When you’re only using a handful of products every day, you want to make sure those products do exactly what you want them to do. Here are a few questions to consider:

What is your skin type?

  • Dry skin
  • Oily skin
  • Combination skin
  • Sensitive skin
  • Mature skin

You should always consider your skin type when shopping for makeup. Most products are made with a certain skin type in mind, so choosing products that play well with your skin type will set you up for success.

Determine your values

If you have any deal-breakers or preferences when it comes to where your makeup comes from, you want to identify that up-front. If you’re reading this, you probably want your makeup to be sustainable, green, or natural in some way.

Identifying specifically what traits matter most to you will guide what brands you shop. It’ll also help narrow down your search. And it’ll save you time. If you only want to wear vegan products, you can skip shopping any brands that aren’t vegan.

Identify Your Must-Have Minimalist Makeup Essentials

This is important for two reasons….

First, most makeup-lovers have at least one product they hate to leave the house without. Identifying what that is for you indicates the one thing you absolutely want to keep when you start eliminating unnecessary products. It also tells you what might be worth splurging on.

The second reason this is important is because you might realize you feel this way about a number of products. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, you might want to rethink your priorities if you’re creating a minimalist makeup bag, but check off every item on this list.

  • Full-coverage concealer
  • Tinted moisturizer
  • Corrector
  • Foundation
  • Bronzer
  • Mascara
  • Multi-purpose sticks for the eyes, lips, and cheeks
  • Eyeshadow
  • Eyeliner
  • Blush
  • Powder
  • Eyebrow filler or pencil
  • Lip gloss/lip balm

Essential Items – The Bare Minimum

Now that you’ve evaluated your priorities and identified your personal approach to makeup, it’s time to start assembling your minimalist makeup arsenal. Remember, these are just guidelines. If you see something on this list and think “eh, I can live without that,” then you probably can!


Okay, fine, this isn’t technically makeup. But since it’s the only product we count as truly essential, we’re including it – especially since lots of makeup products like foundation have SPF built-in.

Foundation or Concealer

Not everyone needs or wants foundation. But most people who wear foundation wear it every day. If you use foundation, consider it part of your essential items and take the time to find the perfect shade and formula for you. A full-coverage liquid foundation might feel like too much, but a light powder can even your skin tone and give a polished natural look while feeling like you’re wearing nothing at all.

If you never wear foundation, then a good concealer is essential. Everyone wakes up with blemishes every once in a while, so it never hurts to have a great spot concealer on your side.


Mascara makes you look more awake and draws attention to your eyes, making you look more polished even if you’re not wearing anything else. A good minimalist mascara doesn’t look like you’re wearing anything at all.

Keep in mind that with most minimalist looks, black mascara might look too harsh (unless you have dark hair). If you have lighter features, consider switching to a softer brown shade.

Brow Filler or Pencil

A brow filler is the unsung hero of just about everyone’s makeup bag. Your brows frame your face and can completely change your look. When you’re working with fewer products, filling in your brows can do wonders to add dimension and shape to your face and highlight your bone structure.

Keep in mind that if you’re scaling back from a more full-coverage look, you might want to ease up on the brows. Defined, heavy brows can look great with full glam looks, but that same shade might look overwhelming on an otherwise-bare face.


Much like your brows frame your face, your cheekbones highlight your bone structure. A good blush will help shape your face, brighten your features, and give you that sought-after “just woke up” look. Make sure you find a shade that doesn’t look too harsh (this is especially important if you’re skipping foundation) and has a formula good enough to last all day.

Lip Balm (Tinted or Otherwise) with SPF

Remember, lip color is always optional, but sun protection is not. A tinted lip balm in a natural color is an easy way to play up your natural coloring without the trouble of a lipstick.

The Extras


A few carefully-placed swipes of bronzer can add a sun-kissed glow to your face, especially during the winter months when everyone’s a little paler than usual. It can be nice to have, but most people can go without it.

Contour Palette

Contouring can either be the hero or downfall of a minimalist makeup bag. On the one hand, a contouring palette can accomplish a lot of what most people rely on concealer, foundation, brow filler, and blush to do. But if you’re already using the rest of those products, contouring can be an unnecessary weight on your makeup bag.

If you’re attached to your contouring palette, we recommend looking for ways to pare down the rest of your makeup routine to make sure you don’t have any redundant products. When in doubt, we say let it go.


Color-correcting sticks and palettes can be a life-saver if you often have redness or discoloration. But if your foundation or concealer are up to the task, you can generally let color-corrector go.

Lip Gloss or Lipstick

Most people don’t think of lipstick when they imagine the minimalist makeup essentials, but a natural-looking nude can add a bit of polish to a no-frills look. A clear or lightly-tinted lip gloss can add a touch of shimmer and fun as well.


Eyeliner isn’t usually necessary for everyday, but can add a bit more drama when the occasion calls for it. However, traditional pencil or liquid eyeliner can be too bold for a minimalist look. Instead, try using a brown or gray eyeshadow and a tight, angled brush. Apply it along the lash line to add some dimension without being too harsh.

Here is a very quick and easy minimal makeup tutorial for you.

The Right Tools You Need For Your Minimal Makeup Collection

Blush Brush

Don’t be fooled by the name; blush brushes are fantastic multitaskers. You can use them to apply bronzer, blush, highlighter, and powders.

Kabuki Brush

Kabuki brushes are excellent for applying foundation, powders, or blush. They’re a great alternative to a blush brush if you want a little more coverage without more work.

Eyeshadow Shader Brush

Use a shading brush to apply a consistent wash of color over your eyelid.

Eyeshadow Blending Brush

Eyeshadow blending brushes do exactly what it sounds like – blend out eye color for a soft, diffuse look. Which is exactly what you want for a minimalist look.

Eyeliner Brush

Like we said, eyeliner is often too harsh for most minimalist makeup looks. But if you want that defined, dimensional look that eyeliner generally offers, a bit of eyeshadow applied at the lash line with an eyeliner brush will do the trick.

Beginner-Friendly Tips for That Flawless Minimalist Makeup Look

By now, you probably have a solid idea of what goes into creating a minimalist makeup look. Now, it’s just a question of translating that into your routine. Follow these tips to help make the process a little easier.

  • Take the time to try and find your top products that work best for you.
  • Invest in good high quality products that will not only make you look good but will also nourish and benefit your skin.
  • Before you buy a makeup product, question if the product is worth it. So you are not wasting all your money on beauty products you will never use.
  • All your essential items should fit in your makeup bag.
  • Find your core products that can give you a few different looks.
  • Look for multi-purpose products.
  • Buy from brands that make makeup products that are safe for you and the planet.

Check out this video for more simple and minimal makeup tips and tricks

Suggestions For Paring Down a Large Makeup Collection

Got stuck? Try these tips to streamline your minimal makeup routine:

Look for expired products.

Then toss them! This is an easy place to start. If your makeup bag is overflowing, chances are you’ve had some products around longer than you should. As you get rid of each item, ask yourself if you liked it enough to purchase again or not.

Do any items seem to mostly just take up space?

Toss ‘em! As Marie Kondo says, if it doesn’t spark joy, thank it for its service and send it on its way. We’re looking at you, Sephora free samples that aren’t in your shade.

Try going makeup-free for a few days.

If you’re having trouble detaching from a lot of your makeup bag, taking a break can let your skin breathe and help you get comfortable with the idea of using fewer products. It’ll also give you a chance to see what products you miss and which ones you can skip. You might be surprised to find you don’t rely on foundation as much as you thought you did!

You don’t need a mountain of makeup that you will never use to make you feel confident and beautiful. A simple easy makeup routine can give you that natural look with minimal products.

So, appreciate your natural beauty, accept your imperfections and let your natural beauty shine.

Clean Makeup Brands

After purging your makeup bag, now it’s time for the fun part: finding your new favorite products to replace the ones you just tossed. Here are a few fantastic brands to start with.


This vegan makeup brand is clean and cruelty-free. They also keep their ingredient lists short, never using more than 10 ingredients per product. That makes it easy for you to know what you’re putting on your body. Their multi-use Balmie sticks won Byrdie’s 2021 Eco Beauty Award. These crayons are designs to multi-task, perfect for use on eyes, lips, and cheeks.


Saie places peak performance, sustainable packaging, and current style at the forefront in everything they do. Their cream-balm bronzer is one of their bestsellers.


Kosas makes makeup that your skin won’t just tolerate; it’ll love, thanks to the ingredients that offer skincare benefits and feel comfortable to wear. They also ban over 2,700 ingredients from their formulas.


Ilia sees skincare and makeup as one and the same. In service of that, their product line prioritizes your skin’s health. Their Super Serum Skin Tint, one of their best-selling products, has SPF 40 built in.

RMS Beauty

RMS Beauty has been a frontrunner in the luxury clean beauty space since 2009. They’re known for their luminizer, an easy-to-wear highlighter for a natural glow.

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