Mixing black and brown mascara to create the most luscious lashes, using hairspray to define the brows, applying blush under foundation for that radiant, lit-from-within flush… these are just a few of the life-changing makeup tricks I’ve picked up while hanging out backstage during fashion weeks across the world.
And the biggest revelation has been that most makeup artists do not carry every single item to cover every single situation on hand. Many, in fact, work with less than what I have sitting on my own dressing table. The trick lies in knowing how to squeeze the last drop of benefit from every single pot, pan and bottle.
So, read on for more surprising backstage makeup secrets that are totally relevant in the real world.
Backstage makeup secrets: Face facts
1. Before starting on the makeup, almost every single backstage artist mists the model’s face with a chilled rosewater spray. This gives skin a fresh glow and helps calm down any irritation.
2. For a flawless effect, mix concealer with moisturiser in a ratio of 1:3. You can use it around the eyes, the nose – anywhere. It blends easily and makes the skin look perfect.
3. Out of concealer? Mix a bit of translucent powder with liquid foundation to make the texture more opaque.
4. To give skin a beautiful, natural looking luminosity, most backstage makeup artists apply highlighter before foundation.
5. Similarly, applying a cream blush under tinted moisturiser or liquid foundation gives cheeks that lit-from-within glow. Dab (rather than stroke) on the foundation to prevent the blush from rubbing off.
6. Before dabbing concealer on your skin, warm it in the palm of your hand – the heat will soften the texture, allowing for smoother coverage.
7. Powder is the only makeup applied with a downward motion – you do this to smooth down facial hairs.
8. Complexion getting greasy midway through the day? Don’t pile on additional powder or foundation as it will start looking cakey and patchy. Instead, grab an oil blotting sheet to buff away the shiny spots.
Backstage makeup secrets: Blush well
9. This one comes straight from Olivier Echaudemaison, Makeup Design Director for Guerlain: For a sun-kissed look, take a bronzer that’s one shade darker than your natural skin tone (never go darker than this!) and draw the number ‘3’ on both sides of the face – starting with the forehead, then the cheeks and finally the chin.
10. Blush should hit the middle of your cheekbone: If placed higher, it will make your eyes appear red; if placed too low, it will make you look tired.
11. To fake sun-kissed skin, backstage makeup artists apply bronzer, then follow with a rosy blush on the apples of the cheeks. The reason? Cheeks naturally get a pink flush when the skin is tanned.
12. The right shade of liquid highlighter leaves only a glow on the skin, rather than depositing colour. As a general rule, this means silvery pink for fair skin, golden tints for olive skin and bronze highlighter for dark skin.
13. For the most natural glow, smile and dab liquid highlighter just above the apples of the cheeks, blending it upwards and outwards, towards the temples in the shape of a Nike swoosh.
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Backstage makeup secrets: Mighty mouth
14. Nude lips are a perennial backstage favourite and makeup artist Lisa Butler traces them with an eyebrow pencil rather than a lip liner. This creates a more distinct contour and keeps them from looking flat.
15. Make an opaque, pigmented lip gloss last longer by layering lip pencil underneath it (all over your mouth) as a base. Even if the gloss starts fading, you’ll still have the colour.
16. This one’s a favourite of Tom Pecheux, Creative Makeup Director at Estée Lauder: To give the illusion of bee-stung lips, outline them with a pale gloss, then colour in with a darker gloss. Over time, the deeper shade will fade into the paler one, making lips look full and sensual.
17. To apply a dark lipstick, begin by lightly dabbing the colour on to your lip (with your finger) to create a stain. Then build up with a matching liner, followed by the lipstick itself. This will layer and fix the base, giving even coverage and the perfect pout.
18. Turn a traditional lipstick into a lip stain by applying three coats of a deep shade, leaving it on for a few minutes, and blotting it with a tissue so only the pigment remains.
19. To make lip gloss last longer than 30 seconds, backstage makeup artists blot the mouth with a tissue or a dry cotton swab first: The wetter the mouth, the less likely the gloss will stick.
Backstage makeup secrets: Lash rites
20. Another Tom Pecheux favourite: Use brown mascara on your lower lashes rather than black, even if you use black on the top lashes. This gives the lashes a good contrast and opens up the eyes. Also, too much black mascara on the bottom “can just drag the eye down”.
21. Here’s another backstage makeup trick that Pecheux uses almost every time: To boost the intensity of black mascara, stroke a bit of brown mascara on the inner and outer corners of the upper lashes. This brings out the smaller lashes and makes them appear more lush without overwhelming the eyes.
22. Celebrity makeup artist Hannah Murray is famous for the spiky, Twiggy-inspired lash look that’s so on-trend right now. Her backstage makeup secret? Curl first, then immediately apply waterproof mascara as it holds lashes up much better than a regular formula. Follow with 2-3 coats of black mascara, wiggling the brush through. Murray prefers a slightly dried out mascara: “I leave the lid off for a day or two to get the right texture – it makes all the difference.”
23. Want to make lashes even more lush? Use 2 different mascaras: apply a fat-brush volumizing formula first, then a lengthening formula on top.
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Backstage makeup secrets: Eye openers
24. Makeup artist Laura Mercier calls this one “the best trick I ever learned”: To create a smooth line along the upper lashes, start at the outer corner and draw a series of dashes with an eye pencil, as close to the lashes as possible. Then connect the marks. Simple!
25. To cover dark under-eye circles, use the ring finger to pat concealer in place; this is the weakest finger, so you won’t tug or pull the skin. To get the best coverage, place 3 dots of concealer from the inner corner to the middle of your eye, then pat (don’t rub) them to blend. This will merge them flawlessly with the rest of your complexion.
26. Deepen the colour of any powder eye shadow by dipping a small, firm brush in water before swiping it over the shade. It intensifies the colour and also gives it more staying power.
27. Similarly, if you want to tone down bright eyeshadow after application, stroke a colourless loose powder over the eye with a rounded fluffy brush. This “soft focus” will give a good pop of colour without it being too strong.
28. Backstage makeup artists brighten their model’s eyes with a dot of pale gold cream shadow at the inner corners to make them look wide open and impactful.
29. For an easy smoky eye, rub a chubby kohl pencil on the back of your hand to warm it up, then dot it along the upper and lower lashes (don’t worry about making a straight line). Dip a cotton swab in eye cream and use it to smudge the lines.
Backstage makeup secrets: High browed
30. The best eyebrows are not the exact same colour and strength throughout – they start light, become dark in the middle (arch) and then become lighter again at the end.
31. Use hairspray rather then gel to keep unruly eyebrows in check. Spray a strong hold spray on to a disposable mascara wand and comb through the brows. It’s much finer and will last all day.
What’s your top makeup secret? I would love to know!