Tonal Makeup


Choosing one shade to use on your lips, cheeks and eyes creates a unified and flattering look. You can go bold with a dramatic colour or keep it more natural with a nude shade, but either way the effect is modern and polished. Follow our step by step guide for colour coordination that puts even Cher Horowitz to shame.


Pick a shade that looks good on your skin tone – you’re going to be seeing it a lot so make sure it really suits you. Anna Priadka, Global Lead Stylist at Nars explains “to make this look work on a day to day basis you need to look carefully at your skin and see what tones and shades naturally exist, and then choose a colour that sits within this range.” Think about whether you have warm or cool undertones – one trick is to see whether silver or gold jewellery brightens and glows on your skin. If it’s silver you’re cool. Gold? Then you’re warm. Or try putting neutral fabric against your face, do you look great in cool black and white? Or are warm ivory and tan more flattering for you? For cool undertones look for shades like grey, mauve and pink. For warmer skin try olive, gold or brown. Once you’ve mastered the look with a paler colour that’s close to your skin tone you can up the ante by opting for a deeper shade along the spectrum. So if you’re default shade is a mid-pink then for a really dramatic party season version, try a bolder shade like neon pink and build-up the intensity.


Decide where you want the focus to be, either eyes, lips or cheeks and then choose contrasting textures of the same shade to develop the look. We love a matte lip with a glossy eye or vice versa – as long as you use the same shade, you’ll achieve a gorgeous tonal effect. Try Kevyn Aucoin’s The Exotique Diamond Eye Gloss in Moonlight or Cosmic on top of your chosen eye shade for an ultra-shiny finish, and for matte lips – Hourglass Opaque Rouge Liquid Lipstick or Nudestix Intense Matte Lip + Cheek Pencil. If you’re feeling really daring try using lip colour on your eyes and lips, the single shade dials down the effect, making it look dramatic but clean.

uk200013696 becca 1


The key to using one shade all over your face is to follow the gradient. Look in the mirror at where light hits your face and note where the shadows fall. It’s true of most makeup looks that following the light will help your features to ‘pop’ but particularly with tonal makeup, as you need to build up areas of light and dark to give your look dimension and prevent it from looking flat.  As celebrity makeup artist, Caroline Barnes says “the darkest part of your makeup will always be the recesses of your face – so the hollow below your cheekbones and the eye sockets.” Always use the darkest shade of your tonal palette in these areas and blend thoroughly to mimic flattering light falling on your face.


Ensure your base is absolutely smooth and matte and take your foundation lightly across lips too. Caroline explains “the key to tonal makeup is to eliminate any red tones from your cheeks and lips. This gives a uniformity to your makeup and allows the true colour of your chosen shade to take effect.” Now buff your tonal colour in a wash over eyes, adding a deeper gradient to the socket line and lash line to define. Then use a small brush to bring a medium wash of your tonal colour just below the lower socket. Anna recommends “adding a highlight to those areas you would like to bring forward – tops of cheekbones, centre of the eyelid, centre of the nose and Cupid’s bow”, but ensure you use a neutral shade, we like RMS Living Luminizer. Using a pink, gold or silver shade means you’ll change the unified effect of your tonal makeup. Next apply your lip colour, if you’ve chosen a matte shade – use a lip liner to even out the shape of your lips first. Finish with a generous coating of mascara.


You can achieve a version of this look with just one lipstick. It may be strange to apply lipstick to your eyes, but just think of it as a version of your creamy eyeshadow, the texture is very similar. To get the look Anna explains “It’s all about balance – which feature do you want to stand out when using the lipstick? Whichever area you choose needs to be where you apply the lipstick with more coverage. Then on the other areas be sure to ‘pat’ or ‘dab’ the colour on for a sheerer effect.” Handy if you’re office to bar hopping with only a small bag.

Black mascara can be a bit harsh with a tonal look as it can contrast too sharply with the rest of the makeup. Caroline recommends “trying a brown mascara with the natural version of this look as it’s often softer and more flattering.”