Perhaps it’s Darwinian, but there is something appealing about looking fabulously beautiful/chic without looking like you’ve tried. It’s playground stuff. The coolest kids were always the ones that aced exams without revising, who ate burgers and drank full fat Coke and still looked lean, who threw on an outfit and just got it.
For us Brits it’s ingrained in the national psyche: effort is not cool. Which is why we like our icons to look like Kate Moss, Sienna and Alexa. Why Sophia Coppola is sartorially inspirational but Katherine Jenkins isn’t. No, we prefer our beauties a bit unbrushed, a bit just-borrowed-it-from-my-boyfriend or had-a-second-before-the-cab-came-so–experimented-with-some-eyeliner/bright red lipstick/coral blush.
What modern beauty is NOT is tortured newsreader hair, over processed faces and a lot of slap. If you look like you have spent hours in front of the mirror you are missing the point. It’s the anti Kardashian. The reverse Paris Hilton.
But here is the rub; for the best shot at truly effortless beauty the default starting point is skin and hair that’s close to flawless. Beauty editors’ favourite hairdresser Ben Cooke agrees. “You need a foundation of good quality hair,” he says. “Get a decent cut and treat it regularly to masks and conditioning products.”
Stylist supremo Sam McKnight agrees and says it’s essential to shield hair before blow drying (watching people forgo heat protecting products ‘makes me wince’, he says). Skin also needs love lavished upon it, so cleanse, buff and moisturise diligently. Then you’re all set to be what make-up artist Ruby Hammer cleverly calls ‘consciously nonchalant…’
10 Effortless Beauty Rules
1) IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PREP
When it comes to effortless hair Ben Cooke says it’s essential to invest in a product that will add oomph, texture and longevity to any style. For him that product is Sebastian Volupt Spray , £16.15. Skin needs to be in the best condition possible too.
To give it a moisture/radiance/youth boost I am LOVING Espa’s new Optimal Skin Pro Serum, £48. Ruby Hammer can’t get enough of Crème De La Mer’s Moisturizing Soft Cream , £105.
2) DON’T BE TOO PERFECT
When getting tumbling waves (the modern beauty’s number one look surely?), “you don’t want them too bouncy,” says Ben. “Don’t do too good a job. They should be irregular.” He uses wide barreled Diva Hot Tongs, £24.98, from Salllyexpress.com , and advises leaving the ends out of the iron.
3) PUT DOWN THE BRUSH
Once you have styled your hair, Cooke says not to brush it. “It’ll start to separate naturally and that looks great.” Diligently brushed just feels too ‘head girl’.
4) AN UPDO SHOULD TAKE FIVE MINUTES MAX
“Anything longer than that and it’s going to look too done,’ says Cooke. “A half pulled through pony is great. But hair needs to be prepped well (see rule number 1) then maybe do a little back combing at the crown to add flattering volume and texture.”
5) TRY A BRAID
“They’re cute,” says Ben. And they hit the perfect I’ve-made-an-effort-but-not-too-much-of-an-effort note. “Just watch it on the age front,” says Ben. “There is an upper limit.”
6) KEEP BASE TO A MINIMUM
“Don’t overload the skin,” says Hammer. “Heavy foundations are not effortless.” I love the new, sheer, complexion creams (like Olay’s Total Effects Complexion Corrector , £14.99, or Origins Smarty Plants CC SPF 20 , £28) while Hammer suggests sweeping Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder , £38, over the face with a kabuki brush. “It’s so fine and delicate it’s almost invisible. It’ll just make you look polished.”
7) LIMIT FAKERY
We all know the boost a faux glow can deliver, or a half set of lash extensions, or even the added oomph of some (super subtle) hair extensions. But wear them all at once and you’re in glamour model territory.
8) FOCUS ON ONE FEATURE
“Just because you’ve got a bulging make-up bag, don’t feel you need to wear it all at once,” laughs Ruby. “If you’re going to focus on lashes, make it just about lashes. You can go for lots of mascara or individual false ones (she likes Ardell Duralash Natural Knot Free, from £2.79). Ditto strong lips or a smokey eye – they should all be worn with an otherwise bare face.
9) EMBRACE DRY SHAMPOO
“It’s an absolute must,” says A-list stylist Serge Normant. “It’s a quick fix that will add volume and texture.” Oh, and that all-important tousled, mussed up feel. I love Philip Kingsley’s One More Day , £13.50.
10) DO INVEST TIME IN HAIR COLOUR
One area where the effortless look requires effort (and expense). Even Alexa, Sienna, Josephine de La Baume and co spend time in the salon chair.