Mixing black and brown mascara to create the most luscious lashes, applying blush under foundation for that lit-from-within flush, and covering up nail polish chips in an instant — these are just a few of the life-changing makeup tricks I’ve picked up while hanging out backstage during a decade of fashion weeks.
Along with the revelation that makeup is not rocket science. And this is something the top makeup artists have figured out long back! Because when you are dressing up 40 models back-to-back for a fashion show, you’ve got to fall back on simple, functional, and yet super-cool-looking techniques.
Techniques that are less Kim Kardashian glamming up for the Met Gala and more Kate Middleton doing her own makeup for basically everything she attends. (Though even Kim K has been known to pump for some of these quick-fix makeup hacks — like #2!).
So, here is a cheat sheet of the top backstage makeup tips I’ve picked up over the years from experts like Pat McGrath, Bobbi Brown, and Charlotte Tilbury — that are totally relevant in the real world. You can thank me later.
Backstage makeup tips: Laying the foundation (and concealer)
1. Models rush from one fitting to another and are often stuck with late nights. Cue: puffy, lackluster skin. Makeup pros sort this out instantly by placing a stack of aluminum foil in the freezer. Take a chilled sheet and put it on your face for 15 minutes. It will immediately de-puff the skin, tighten pores, and boost circulation for a healthy glow.
2. Another quick pick me up? A spritz of chilled rosewater can rejuvenate the makeup look, breathing new life into a face that’s gone through hours of wear. It’s also a great way to smooth out any makeup that has settled into fine lines.
3. This one’s my favorite among all backstage makeup tips: For the smoothest, most glow-y, natural-looking base, mix one drop of facial oil (most makeup people are partial towards the Charlotte Tilbury Collagen Superfusion Firming & Plumping Facial Oil) into your foundation before applying.
4. If your concealer tends to sit on your skin and highlight imperfections rather than hide them, mix it with eye cream in a 1:3 ratio before dabbing on. This will make it super-creamy and super-blendable, and it won’t sink into those annoying little lines.
5. Complexion getting greasy midway through the day? Don’t pile on additional powder or foundation; it will start looking cakey and patchy. Instead, grab an oil blotting sheet to buff away the shiny spots.
Backstage makeup tips: Blush off!
6. How do you apply blush? Most of us do a back-and-forth sweep from our cheeks to the temples. Makeup pros swirl the blush brush in the loops of an imaginary infinity sign (or a sideways figure eight) from the temples to the cheeks and back. This gives the most seamless finish.
7. And what if you’ve gone overboard with the blush? Don’t try to remove the excess — this will make it streaky and uneven. Instead, layer on some foundation on top. Not only will this tone down the blush, but it will also create a more natural, lit-from-within rosiness.
8. This one comes straight from Olivier Echaudemaison, former Makeup Design Director for Guerlain: 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.
9. When you can’t find a highlighter that’s just the right shade and shimmer, try an eye shadow instead. They come in a far more extensive range; hence, you’re more likely to find something just right!
Backstage makeup tips: Mascara magic and liner lore
10. One of the best backstage makeup tips? A smoky eye need not be complicated. For the fastest track, draw a slanted hashtag at the outermost corner of your eyelid; blend towards the inner corners, and you are done!
11. This one’s a favorite of makeup pro Tom Pecheux, Global Beauty Director for Yves Saint Laurent Beauty: Use brown mascara on your lower lashes rather than black, even if you use black on the top lashes. It 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.”
12. Eyelashes never seem to retain their curl? Switch to a waterproof mascara: It will hold up the lashes and keep them turned upwards much better. Could backstage makeup tips be more simple?
14. If you have wimpy lashes, try this powerful combo: Curl lashes, then apply a coat of volumizing mascara. Let it dry, and follow with a layer of lengthening formula. The combo will fatten and elongate your lashes better than most all-in-one formulas.
15. Audrey Hepburn used the pointy end of a safety pin to separate her lashes and create that wide-eyed ingenue look. You only need a clean spooley brush (makeup artists repurpose them from old mascaras). Sweep through lashes while the mascara is wet to banish all clumps.
16. Makeup artist Laura Mercier calls this “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!
17. Deepen the color of any powder eye shadow by dipping a small, firm brush in water before swiping it over the shade. It intensifies the color and also gives it more staying power.
18. layering white eyeliner under any eyeshadow will instantly make it look brighter and more intense. Try this when you are bored of your sheer palettes and want to make them pop instead. Pro favorite: Dior Diorshow On Stage Crayon Kohl Liner in White.
19. Something most of us get wrong: We swept eyeshadow from one end to the other. Makeup pros dab eyeshadow onto the middle of your eyelid and work outwards on each side. Try this for effortless blending.
Backstage makeup tips: Lip service
20. Think backstage makeup tips are all about complicated steps? Think again. And try this one on for size: For a crisp cupid’s bow, draw an “X” on your upper lip with a matching lip pencil. Then, use this as a guide to apply lipstick. Voila!
21. Another favorite of Tom Pecheux: To give the illusion of bee-stung lips, outline them with a pale gloss, then color in with a darker gloss. Over time, the deeper shade will fade into the paler one, making lips look full and sensual.
22. 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.
23. Nude lips are a perennial backstage favorite, 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.
24. Blot down extra-strong lip color with a wet wipe instead of the regulation tissue. You’ll be left with a softer stain and a touch of glossiness to boot.
25. For a custom-made tinted lip balm, mix Vaseline and some lipstick and store in a little pot or container. This is also a great way to use up your old lipstick!
26. A clean, sharp edge is the hallmark of a professional lip application. A small brush dipped in concealer or foundation is traced around the lips to clean any smudges, creating a crisp and perfect lip line.
Backstage makeup tips: Nails for days!
27. Out of quick-drying nail drops? Dunk freshly painted nails in a bowl of ice-cold water. It will seriously speed up the drying time.
28. Rub some olive oil on the skin near your nails before applying polish (I do it with a Q-tip to avoid getting any on the nails). This will stop the nail polish from sticking to the skin and make clean-up a lot easier.
29. Chips are inevitable. And ugly. But if you can’t swipe them off immediately, camouflage them with textured or glittery nail polish. It does the job perfectly!