The Ultimate Italian Makeup Look May Not Be What You Expect

Published in: Face, Guest Post, Just For Fun, Makeup, Makeup Tips/How To, Travel

Italian Makeup Look

“Italians are always well-dressed.”


Who hasn’t heard that one at least once in their life?

It’s one of many stereotypes about Italians and, just like any stereotype, it’s not entirely true…but it does have a kernel of truth to it.

In my experience, people here are generally very concerned with the way they look, and they’ll usually put a lot of thought into what they wear.

There’s also a general sense of decorum that people are expected to observe. For instance, you’ll never see college students go to class in sweats and flip-flops. Here, dressing appropriately and looking nice are real social conventions.

So, what is makeup’s role in a country where most people always try to dress well and look good?

Well, Italians don’t normally use as much makeup as you might expect. A typical Italian look, which I’ve recreated for you today, will usually feature very few products.

Care to know which ones? 🙂

Foundation (often a shade too dark)

Italian Makeup Look

The foundation I’m wearing today is Diego Dalla Palma 2 W. W. Mattifying Foundation in 43 Warm Beige

That’s for two main reasons. The first one is that many people think the purpose of foundation is to make them look tanned, while the second one is that it’s pretty hard for those here with lighter skin tones to find the right color match.

The lightest shade of foundations from Italian brands will usually be my skin tone or darker and, although I’m pretty pale, I’m definitely not the palest. Even international brands will often have a more limited shade range here than abroad.


Italian Makeup Look

KIKO Flawless Fusion Bronzer in 03 Cinnamon dusted all over my face

Most Italians don’t contour very much, but they definitely like to bronze. A LOT.

Side note: Tanning here is like a religion. If you come back from a beach vacation and don’t look heavily tanned, people will comment on that. Unless you look completely brown, the first thing they’ll ask will be, “Why are you not even tanned??”

It goes without saying that tanning salons prosper and bronzer sales never go down.

Simple makeup to enhance the eyes

Italian Makeup Look

I’ve framed my eyes using Maybelline Master Smoky in 625 Scorching Brown and PUPA Vamp! Mascara in 100 Extra Black

A typical Italian eye look will consist of only two products — pencil liner (either black or brown) and mascara. Also, brows will often be left au naturel.

Nude/MLBB lipstick

Italian Makeup Look

KIKO Velvet Matte Satin Lipstick in 602 Natural Rose on my lips

Most Italian women don’t wear lipstick, but if they do, it’s usually in a neutral color. There obviously are exceptions (like yours truly — #brightsforlife), but in general it’s pretty hard to see someone sporting a bold lip.

This is the look an Italian woman might wear to one of our favorite activities, which is andare al ristorante (go to a restaurant). Italians don’t “just go grab some food.” Most of the time, we cook our own meals from scratch at home, so going to a restaurant is a real event, and one that requires dressing up.

If you were to recreate the ultimate makeup look to represent your country, what products would you use?

Carolina Braina

Hey, ladies (and gents), it’s Carolina here, reporting live from Bologna, Italy, to bring you the latest and greatest in beauty from the good ol’ continent! For an extra dose of that timeless Italian glam with a touch of humor and self-irony (because, you know, laughter is the best makeup), come say hi at and Instagram.


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So far, 34 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Actually, this is exactly what I was expecting 🙂 But maybe that’s because we have some Italian girls in our friends group, hehe. It’s definitely true that people tend to generalize and often have a specific (wrong) view of what people from certain nationalities look like/wear.
    Kiss & Make-up recently posted … Review | Sleek Blush By 3 Lace Blush Palette

  2. Strange, I always pictured Italian women to wear red lips on a daily basis. In Germany, a typical makeup would be very neutral, with neutral eyeshadow, mascara, maybe clear brow gel, a nice pink blush and maybe some pink lipgloss or lipstick. Nothing dramatic.
    LindaLibraLoca recently posted … Body image after giving birth

  3. jessica says:

    Oh gosh, tanning is so bad for you… 🙁

    I don’t follow conventions of any sort so I’m a poor choice to represent anyone. 🙁

    Me myself personally, I feel odd without color on my lids! but I don’t really wear foundation, I don’t contour.

    I really enjoy your posts on Italy and culture.
    jessica recently posted … Walking Again

  4. Malvidia says:

    I’m Italian too, and everything Carolina wrote is soooo true! We really don’t use that much makeup, and many, many women use wayy too much dark foundation (I hate that, it’s my biggest pet peeve).
    And there is a general perception that wearing a lot of makeup is not classy. The “too much makeup” threshold is very low, LOL.

  5. sarahc says:

    Thank you, this was so interesting! In America I don’t even know what our makeup stereotype would be, brows, mascara, nude lip, and natural skin?

  6. Silvia says:

    Sorry, but this is not very true…I think is full of stereotypes, like the tan…I’m super pale, my friend are pale as me and we don’t like a darker shade of foundation. My mother loves lipstick, I love eyeshadows and full eye looks in general. Please stop writing that tan is like a religion, it’s like saying Italia, mafia, pizza…very sad.

  7. Susan says:

    In the US, I think “typical” varies by where you live. In New Jersey, typical is usually everything – some type of foundation, eye shadow, mascara, liner, blush/bronzer, & lip product, brows groomed. However, it depends on where you are – if you are out shopping at the mall or at work, or if you’re at the soccer (futbol for you Carolina!) field. Thanks for another insightful post!

  8. Lorraine says:

    Fascinating! I have to admit, I think I subscribe to a stereotype when I think of Italian glamour/beauty. I was picturing Sofia Loren or Dolce and Gabanna print models with a red lip and dramatic cat eye. The look you have pictured here is GORGEOUS… more Alessandra Ferri than Gina Lollobrigida. I prefer this look much more- it enhances natural beauty and anyone could pull it off. Perfection! Thanks for an illuminating post.

  9. Estefania says:

    So pretty, your eyes look great. Here in Mexico a lot of people uses very brigh eye shadows and very colorful lipsticks haha but I guess we also follow the trends

  10. Erin says:

    When I was in Italy, both time, all the older people really dressed up. Things seemed more relaxed with the youth. I did notice the trends you are talking about, which makes the whole look for most women a little 90’s as for what was here in the USA. I could almost always pick up non natives even if they were speaking perfect Italian by there look. Most of the ones I found out through conversation were either Russian/Ukrainian or Dutch. I did notice every woman in Venice who was a local was dressed to the hilt, including towering heels, and full but soft makeup. Tuscany and Lazio seemed more relaxed in overall style, with the exception of middle aged people and older folks. I don’t think I saw a single man outside of field work over 30 who wasn’t dressed quite nicely. I loved watching people stroll after work because those older gentlemen were quite snappy.
    Erin recently posted … Granite Coast Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay

  11. Rachel Runyan says:

    In the US it goes more by state or even parts of a state. I live in Oregon, which I LOVE, but most women are extremely casual and wear little to no makeup. A typical Oregon makeup look, even for professionals, even for fancy events: Moisturizer. Clear lip balm. Put on one coat of a “natural look” mascara on upper lashes only. Worry if that’s too much. Feeling really daring or fancy? Put on a tinted lip balm or lipstick in a nude or MLBB shade. Goes with all your best jeans, baggy sweaters or Tshirts, knee high boots (or Nike tennis shoes, or Birkenstocks, or flip-flops), and infinity scarves. 😉

    I know I sound snarky. It’s a fine aesthetic if that’s what one loves to wear. I just enjoy dressing up and putting on makeup, and I always look overdressed, even at the ballet or a fancy restaurant or social event like a wedding. (Yes, people here wear shorts and jeans to weddings and funerals unless…maybe…specifically told not to.) I guess I just needed to vent. It’s hard having New York Style but still loving living in a casual, outdoorsy state.

  12. Agata says:

    Carolina, your posts are amazing, I really enjoy reading them and thank you for bringing a little piece of Italy to us!

    I am from Poland but I am not sure if there is any typical “Polish makeup look”. If there was, it would be similar to the Italian one, nothing too crazy.
    Agata recently posted … Laura Mercier Daring by Day Eye&Cheek Colour Palette Review

  13. Katherine M says:

    Oh, definitely true on the bronzer. I totally agree with the fact that my people are completely focused on the tan. And also, makeup is generally meant to accentuate features there. Pair accentuating makeup with a classic perfume and you’ve got it down to a “T.” I’m half southern Italian (Sicilian and Calabrese) and the other half is Irish/German (immigrant relatives). My skin is pale but with olive and rosy tones, and I have freckles. I tan pretty easily. I have dark hair with greenish hazel eyes. It is actually really hard to find a foundation that works with that skin tone and mixed ethnicities, so I usually use BB cream. And a ton of bronzer 🙂

  14. Lauren says:

    I’m living in my 3rd country in less than a year. I’m in London currently, and I’ve noticed a lot of bold looks. Dark eye makeup, brows and lips. This look you have is identical to my stunning friends makeup…she’s from Italy! 🙂

  15. Chris25 says:

    What a cool and interesting read!
    Chris25 recently posted … Amrita Singh Jewelry Haul II

  16. Floz says:

    Wow, I like this look, it’s natural but stylish looking… Just like how I imagine Italian women to be!

    In England, I think makeup has a bit of a relation to class and age) at least in general – certainly not in all cases!)

    ‘Chav’ type girls are well known for orangey makeup, which is often true – dark cakey foundations with the wrong undertones, too much bronzer and contouring (often using shades that are too dark) and heavy eye makeup with black liquid eyeliner on top, big mascara and dark smokey eyes and fake lashes, with a bold or very pale nude lip colour. It’s the kind of style I imagine would work best on a night out, but it’s popular for all times and occasions. I’d say that the reason undertones and shades are sometimes wrong is that the drugstore shade ranges are much more limited, generally.

    Meanwhile, the middle class college kids I see on my bus favour a natural-but-polished-looking base with light strobing, a simple but clean eye with just slightly winged liner and mascara, and a MLBB lip colour most of the time.
    A lot of older women tend to go for more colourful eyeshadows and bright pink or berry blush and lip shades, and a matte base.

    The wealthier women (including professionals etc., I see these women most in London) seem to have the most diverse style – presumably because cost isn’t such an issue, they have access to a greater range of brands and therefore shades, formulas etc.

    For a classic English look, I’m really not sure what that would be… I think we mostly follow the trends!

  17. Astrild says:

    That’s so similar to the average makeup look in Spain :-). That must be the Mediterranian vibe. The “tan” problem is real. Even SA tend to sell you a shade or two darker than your complexion. WHY????

  18. Amber Taylor says:

    this is a really interesting topic and was fun to learn about!

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