You only need 3 products for a perfectly made-up face
— Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA TODAY’s newsroom and any business incentives.
I’m the queen of rolling out of bed 15 minutes before I should board a train to head into work. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it has made me very strategic when it comes to my morning routine. It’s amazing how quickly you can prioritize and get ready for the day when you have zero time.
In the spirit of hastiness, and as the staff beauty writer at Reviewed, I put together three different looks using only three products for each. (Plus, cutting down to just three products can save you money—you’re welcome.) OK, technically four products: Before you begin applying makeup, you must wear SPF. If you’re new to makeup and looking to only invest in a few pieces that will take you far, or if you’re a makeup enthusiast hoping to simplify your looks and declutter your vanity, these are for you.
For a natural look
You certainly don’t need makeup to look and feel beautiful. This trio of products will enhance your natural features without making you look "done."
A concealer to brighten and cover Credit: Maybelline
The Fit Me concealer is a trusted favorite.
The fastest way to look more awake: Dab a little concealer under your eyes and blend out with your fingers, a brush, or a sponge. Instead of using a lighter color than your skin to create a highlighted effect, go with one that’s as close to your skin tone as possible so you can also use it to spot conceal any blemishes or dark spots on the rest of your face. The Maybelline Fit Me Concealer is an old reliable from the drugstore. It’s creamy and gives medium coverage without clinging to dry patches or looking caked on.
Get the Maybelline Fit Me Concealer at ULTA for $6.49
A bronzer to define your face Credit: Benefit Cosmetics
Bronze up with Hoola.
After covering and color-correcting with concealer, your face may look a little flat. To add dimension back, dust bronzer wherever your face naturally has shadows: the hollows of your cheeks, under your jawline, and along the perimeter of your forehead, beginning at your temples and up the hairline. The Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Matte Bronzer is a cult favorite and keeps your look natural, not shiny or shimmery.
Get the Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Matte Bronzer at Sephora for $30
A gel to tame your brow hairs Credit: Glossier
Gel keeps your brows in place.
To finish off this first look, shape your eyebrows and lock them into place with a gel. Groomed brows make you look instantly more polished. The Glossier Boy Brow—which comes in clear, blond, brown, and black—uses a hair pomade to hold the hairs in place while you comb through them with the wand’s small spoolie (that's the word for the brush used on mascara and brow gel wands). If your brows are sparse or light compared to your hair, use a color that matches your natural brow shade, but if you just want to groom your brows, stick with clear.
Get Boy Brow at Glossier for $16
For a glowy look
When you want your makeup to lean toward natural but still have some flare, add dewy products that give your skin a radiant, healthy appearance.
A tinted moisturizer for a radiant base Credit: Laura Mercier
Even out your complexion while still letting your skin shine through.
If you’re going for dewy makeup, you’ll want to start off with a sheer base that lets your natural skin shine through, yet makes it appear more even-toned overall. The much-loved Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer will give your skin a wash of color and a smooth finish that’s neither shiny nor flat matte.
Get the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 at Sephora for $46
A lip and cheek tint for color Credit: Bite Beauty
What can't a multi-stick do?
For a healthy-looking flush, use a multipurpose tint, like the Bite Beauty Multistick. Apply to the apples of your cheeks, blending with your fingers, a brush, or a sponge. Next, dab the color on your eyelids and lips (this will make for a trendy monochrome look, too). The multisticks are matte, meaning they don’t add shimmer or shine, to meld with the sheen of the tinted moisturizer.
Get the Bite Beauty Multistick at Sephora for $24
A cream highlighter for targeted shine Credit: RMS Beauty
Add some shine.
Here’s where the real glowiness comes in! Using your fingers, lightly tap a cream highlighter, like the RMS Living Luminizer on the high points of your face (where the light typically hits and reflects), including the top of your cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose, on your eyebrow bone, and on your cupid’s bow above your lips. To add some shine to your lips or eyelids, you can also dab the highlighter on these spots, too.
Get the RMS Living Luminizer at Sephora for $38
For a glam look
These items help you achieve a more sultry, smoky look for a night out. Contrary to popular belief, a bolder look doesn’t mean layering on different products—it can be as simple as using three versatile ones, like these.
A full-coverage concealer for evening out the complexion Credit: Tarte Cosmetics
Redness and blemishes don't stand a chance.
When you’re adding color to your complexion with eyeshadow, blush, and highlighter, it serves your look to even out the skin first. Start your makeup with a concealer that has enough coverage to brighten your under eyes and hide any redness, dark spots, or blemishes. Apply concealer to your eyelids, too, to prime them for eyeshadow for staying power and so the pigmentation shows up better. A high-coverage formula should also erase any veins or darkness on your lids. This concealer from Tarte is a fan favorite because of its easy-to-blend formula that leaves your skin like a blank canvas for any makeup look you want.
Get the Tarte Double Duty Shape Tape Contour Concealer at ULTA for $27
An eyeshadow palette for more than just your eyes Credit: Anastasia Beverly Hills
Everything you need in one palette.
Never underestimate the power of a top-notch eyeshadow palette. The Soft Glam from Anastasia Beverly Hills, with its 14 shades of pressed-powder makeup, is your one-stop source for eyeshadow, eyeliner, and even highlighter and blush, if you want to go all out. First, start out with your eyeshadow. To keep it simple, dust a color that is a few shades darker than your skin tone in your crease, then apply a shimmery shade all over the lid and blend the two together. From there, using an eyeliner brush or thin pencil brush, pack the darkest shade below the lower lash line or above the upper lash line where you'd put liquid liner for a smoky, smudged-out eyeliner effect. When you’re finished with the eyes, dab a pink, orange, or peach-toned shade (or a mixture of a few) on the apples of your cheeks to create your own custom blush. Then dip your finger or a small highlighter brush into a shimmery pearl or bronze shade and apply it to the tops of your cheekbones, browbones, and your cupid’s bow.
Get the Anastasia Beverly Hills Soft Glam Eyeshadow Palette at Sephora for $42
A mascara that volumizes Credit: CoverGirl / Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar
For dramatic effect.
When you apply eyeshadow and liner, it’s easy for your eyelashes to get overshadowed (no pun intended). To flare out and plumpen your lashes again, choose a volumizing mascara. We love the CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara because the wand gives you control over how much product you apply, the formula adds volume in just one coat, and it’s easy to remove at the end of the day.
Get the CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara at ULTA for $8.99
The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest deals, product reviews, and more.