Like fashion, beauty trends tend to follow a pattern — what was once in style will inevitably go out of style, but will become sought after again at some point. The latest fad to follow this timeline and make its way back into the spotlight is soft glam makeup.
The timing couldn't be better as we gear up for the holidays and prepare to reunite with family and friends in intimate gatherings. Shop TODAY spoke to makeup artist Katie Mellinger to help break down what exactly soft glam is and how to achieve the elegant look at home.
What is soft glam makeup?
Just a step above the 'no makeup' makeup look, Mellinger described soft glam as "makeup application where there are no hard lines." In other words, beauty products are blended in very well and the look is achieved without the presence of contoured lines, heavy lip or eyeliner, or sharp, filled-in eyebrows.
Despite the absence of heavy makeup, the look isn't completely natural, either. "It's kind of like an elevated version of yourself, but it still looks like makeup, in my opinion," she told us.
Mellinger isn't surprised about the renewed interest in soft glam looks on social media. (The hashtag #softglam currently has over 93 million views on TikTok, for example.) She described beauty trends as a pendulum that goes back and forth, so no matter how far it swings it one direction, it'll always make its way back.
"We [gravitated towards] these heavily drag-influenced makeup looks, now we're swinging back in the other direction," she said. "You kind of saw it with "Euphoria"...playing with makeup like that, having these cool little accents but more on a natural base. Now we're coming around to this makeup that looks like makeup but isn't quite natural."
How to give your face a soft glam glow
When applying foundation, Mellinger likes to apply a little bit at first with a dual-fiber brush then buff it out with a beauty blender. "Depending on your skin type [and] what you're trying to cover, you just want to put it where you need it, which tends to be the T-zone," she explained.
If you're using a heavier cream foundation, she noted that a kabuki brush may be better suited to breaking it down and helping blend out the look. If you need to set with a powder, she recommends keeping it light and applying it around the same area where you used foundation.
She recommends applying a creamy concealer just where you need it. "I wouldn't go too far up to the lash line because you don't want it to be so harsh. When you're applying eye shadow, you're going to want to blend a halo around the eye. If you mix that with the concealer, it can get a little muddy."
When it comes to contouring, try to keep it on the light side since soft glam doesn't call for hard lines. Mellinger recommends using a cream bronzer or foundation that's a few shades darker than your normal color and blending it in really well. "Smile and get to the hollows of your cheeks, but you don't want to see that you really contoured your face," she said. "If you're going along your hairline [with] a bronzer, stipple it with a sponge for no hard lines."
If you're applying blush, she advises to stick to the apple of the cheek. "Smile [to] see where your apples are and use the butt of a beauty blender to stipple it on." Once you've got your blush on, you can blend out the edges with your fingers. If you're in a pinch or don't have cream blush on hand, you can also use lipstick, according to Mellinger.
Finally, for highlighter, she recommends tapping it on with your fingers. "The warmth of your fingers is going to help it blend into your skin," she explained. She also advises to only apply it to a few key areas — primarily your cheekbones, nose bridge and the bow of your lip.
How to achieve a soft glam eye look
Now that your base is finished, it's time to work on the eyes. Mellinger recommends sticking with neutral eye shadow tones to achieve the soft glam look. Depending on the level of glam you want to achieve, you can opt for a matte or shimmery neutral. She also recommends applying a little eye shadow below the lower lash line to create what's called a "drop shadow."
Next, skip the eyeliner and head straight for the mascara. "I would go for something that's volumizing...you don't want to go crazy with a ton of coats of mascara but you want thick, fluffy lashes."
Your eyebrows should also look as natural as possible when it comes to achieving the perfect soft glam look. Mellinger recommends using a fine-tipped pencil and filling in from the arch toward the end with light strokes. Once you've filled in a little bit — but not too much — go back in with a spoolie to soften the color. Once the brow is filled in, Mellinger likes to comb a brow gel directly into the hairs without touching the skin to pull it all together.
How to achieve a soft glam lip look
Now that your base and eye area is done, there's only one thing left to take care of: lips! Mellinger recommends sticking with a neutral lip color, one that's not too far off from your natural shade. Her advice for picking the right lipstick color is to look at the color of your natural lips and go one or two shades darker. If you want to use lip liner, she recommends softening the edges with a brush to get the proper look.
While so many steps may seem overwhelming to nail the perfect soft glam glow, Mellinger has an integral tip for anyone out there who wants to try it out at home.
"Anything with makeup, I always say that it comes off. So if you mess up, you can just take it off," she offered.
Best soft glam makeup products, according to an expert
Mellinger emphasized the important of properly prepping the skin before applying makeup to get the best outcome. She recommends starting with a hydrating moisturizer like this one from Dr. Barbara Sturm. "It works for anybody," she said.
Mellinger recommends this Bioderma cream for anyone with mature or oily skin. "What I like about the Mat Control is it's more of a natural finish [and] it's not super matte. You don't want to go too matte because then you're going to lose that glowing effect in the skin," she said.
Before applying your moisturizer, Mellinger advises using a hydrating product like this hyaluronic serum from Dr. Barbara Sturm.
"You still want to see a little bit of your natural skin underneath," Mellinger said when choosing the right foundation. She likes this moisturizing foundation from Koh Gen Do.
For an oil-free foundation, Mellinger recommends this pick from Armani Beauty. This medium-coverage foundation comes in 40 different shades and has a natural finish.
Mellinger also likes this lightweight tinted sunscreen foundation from Tower 28. "If you have freckles or anything, [it won't] completely blank out the face," she said.
For a heavier cream foundation, Mellinger really likes this stick option from Hourglass. This full-coverage formula is offered in over 30 different shades with varying undertones.
Mellinger also likes this Tom Ford foundation stick as another option for coverage. One five-star Sephora reviewer said it gives "medium, buildable coverage and blends easily," which is ideal for soft glam looks.
"The NARS concealers are great," Mellinger told us. Available in dozens of shades, this concealer has an option for everyone regardless of shade or undertone.
When contouring, Mellinger likes this cream bronzer in the shade Soleil Tan. It also comes in a bronze and deep bronze option.
"Tower 28 makes a great cream bronzer, although it has a tiny bit of shimmer in it so you might want to be careful with that," she advised.
"I keep bringing up Tower 28, but I just love their cream brushes," Mellinger gushed.
This cream highlighter comes in six different shades but Mellinger specifically called out the "Living Luminizer" shade which falls closer to translucent on the color spectrum. Other shades include more opaque tones of gold and peach.
"Merit's new highlighter is great," Mellinger said of this highlighting balm. Shoppers seem to agree because it currently holds a 4.4-star average on Sephora. One five-star reviewer even called it "one of the most stunning, non-glittery or chunky highlights I’ve ever seen."
Mellinger also likes this highlighter from Glossier. According to the brand's site, the formula includes genuine crystal extracts to give you an all-day glow that isn't glittery.
While this is technically listed as a blush, Mellinger likes to use it as a highlighter. It comes in over 20 different colors and is great for adding an additional pop of color if you want a little something more than a traditional highlighter.
What better way to achieve a soft glam eye look than with the aptly-named Soft Glam Eyeshadow Palette from Anastasia Beverly Hills? Mellinger recommends this palette filled with 14 neutral colors in shimmer and matte styles.
Mellinger is a big fan of this mascara from Jones Road and calls it a "great mascara" for achieving thick, fluffy lashes.
If you want even fluffier lashes, Mellinger likes these individuals from Ardell that come in three different lengths. You can choose the length that suits each part of your lash line to create a custom, fuller look.
Mellinger likes this brow pencil for the triangulated tip that allows for the most precision when filling in brows.
"I really like Kosas' new brow gel because of the variety of shades it comes in," she told us. It comes in 10 different shades ranging from auburn to blondes to browns.
Mellinger called this translucent setting powder one of her favorites. It's also a customer favorite with one five-star reviewer saying it "covers evenly and smoothly without clumping or breaking up."
Mellinger called this setting powder "universal" when recommending it. "It's an invisible powder, so it won't show up — even on darker skin tones. It will just mattify the skin," she said.
"My favorite lip glosses are Tower 28 because they're so nice on the skin [and] they work for everybody, even on people who have sensitive skin. They have such nice colors and shades," Mellinger told us.
Mellinger is also a fan of Kosas's lip oil glosses, calling them "perfect for something like this." They come in eight different shades ranging from neutrals to shades of red.
These glosses from Saint Jane are also another favorite of Mellinger's. Made with botanicals like sunflower, chamomile and aloe, this gloss glides on smoothly and leaves behind a sheer color that is perfect for a soft glam look.
After calling out this lipstick line from NARS, Mellinger emphasized the importance of focusing more on the color than the brand. Taking the extra time to find a color that properly matches your tone will make all the difference in the final product.
"I do like Charlotte Tilbury as well. Her pencils are my favorite," Mellinger said before specifically calling out a versatile shade. "Pillow Talk works on so many people."
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