Our day-to-day life certainly lacks the whimsical, romantic quality of, say, a black-and-white movie or a commercial for a diamond store, but who doesn’t want to feel outrageously (and maybe even uncharacteristically) sexy from time to time? You don’t necessarily need to spend a ton of money or undergo a total movie star makeover to work a little bit of that magic into your life. These 20 simple, sexy beauty tips will have you well on your way to stunning them like you were meant to in no time at all.
1. Trade in your bright red lipstick for something subtle and a little shiny. Red lips can be alluring, but they’re high-maintenance, and we all know what happens when lipstick comes in contact with, well, anything. Instead, try a rosy, “your lips but better” balm or lipstick with a creamy natural finish.
2. Blend a shimmery lotion or highlighter into your décolletage. The word is shimmery rather than sparkly, which can read as tacky or cheap—the point is to draw the eye to that part of the body, not to make it look like a disco ball. You can even use a few drops of oil to add supple shine.
3. Focus your mascara application on the outer lashes. This lends a gorgeous wide-open, doe-eyed effect that makes eyes pop without fussy false lash application.
4. Even the most fine, flat hair can get some va-va-voom with this technique: Rub a dime-sized amount of a texturizing cream in between your palms and scrunch throughout the lengths of hair, then massage the remainder into your roots. Take your hand and brush hair back away from your forehead and flip your part in the opposite direction of where you normally wear it. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you can hit it with the blowdryer for longer-lasting volume.
5. Dab highlighter into your Cupid’s bow. Just a pinhead-sized dab of a liquid highlighter blended into the small divot above your upper lip will draw attention to your lips, making them look larger and more defined with little effort.
6. Choose a subtle smoky eye. Like red lipstick, an over-the-top Kardashian-style smoky eye gives off a high maintenance vibe, but there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of depth and dimension. Try smudging a black or dark brown eye pencil into your lash line and blending well for smoldering definition without tons of makeup.
7. Spritz fragrance on the nape of your neck—and only the nape of your neck. It’s easy for perfume to become overwhelming, so employ the tactic of holding the bottle about eight to 10 inches from your skin and spraying just once. Your skin’s warmth will diffuse the fragrance, but the intimate area keeps it subtle, not in-your-face.
8. Apply a neutral matte lipstick, then dab gloss or highlighter in the center. This is one of the best ways to give your lips a sexy, plumped appearance: A creamy matte lipstick in a rosy nude shade will boost their natural color, while a bit of incandescence blended into the middle will create a fuller look.
9. Use a cream blush for a lit-from-within flush. Powder blush can appear chalky on skin, while cream blends beautifully into the skin for a dewy effect. Smooth it into the apples of cheeks for a pop of color, or blend it up toward your temples for a more sculpted look.
10. Skip the heavy foundation. Even those with blemishes or other skin woes they’d rather not reveal can even out overall tone and add light coverage with a tinted moisturizer or BB cream, then go back in with a heavy-duty concealer and a brush to really cover everything. This technique provides the look of a perfect complexion while still letting your actual skin shine through.
11. Exfoliate your lips. Whether you use an old toothbrush or a gentle sugar scrub, exfoliation doesn’t only give lips a smooth, kissable texture that’s perfect for both lipstick application and going bare, but the friction creates a naturally plumped and flushed appearance.
12. If you’re wearing an updo, loosen pieces around your face for a soft, romantic effect. You can also tease at the crown for volume and a bit of mussed-up texture—as a general rule, anything tousled and “undone” reads as infinitely sexier than anything too perfect. We suspect it hearkens back to the appearance of a roll in the hay.
13. Go nude on your nails. We don’t discriminate against polish colors, but there’s something about a nude, almost flesh-toned lacquer that makes hands and feet look like a better, clean, more polished version of themselves. It’s understated, but it still shows that you make an effort.
14. Try the “just bitten” lip look. No actual biting required, it’s similar to the “just sucked on a cherry Popsicle” look, but a little more grown-up. Berry-tinted lipsticks, lip stains, balms, or even cream blushes are all suitable for scoring this look, provided the color is pressed on with your finger and blended in such a way that the edges are soft and natural rather than sharp or severe.
15. Give your liner a little flick. It is a truth generally acknowledged that a flirty cat eye is the sexiest makeup look to be had. Don’t believe us? Ask Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, or Anna Karina. Use a black liquid or gel liner to get the look—you can extend it just past the eye for subtlety, or pull it outward for something a little more dramatic.
16. Use a large, fluffy brush to swirl soft peach and pink tones all over your face for the most realistic flush of color on all complexions. Combined, the two shades have a subtle bronzing effect that warms the skin and gives a sun-kissed glow.
17. When you’re doing your hair, use your fingers rather than a brush to comb strands into place to allow for soft, natural texture that looks touchable. A brush tends to flatten and cut down on volume, which is rarely the goal when you want a sultry look.
18. Glow in all the right places. The bridge of your nose, the tops of your cheekbones, the center of your chin, your shoulderblades, your clavicle—dust some powder highlighter on them all for an ethereal luminosity that takes your sex appeal to the next level.
19. Dab shimmer only on the center of your eyelid and blend. A pearly shadow in a champagne or gold tone will enhance any eye color, and the technique adds subtle definition in a way that looks soft and natural.
20. Go for a deep side part to add an air of mystery. There’s something very film noir detective about a deep side part that hangs over half of the face, with the other side tucked behind your ear. Combined with big, fluffy texture, it adds an irresistible je ne sais quoi.
Read more: Top 20 Big & Sexy Hairstyles