I have worked in this industry for over a decade. That means I have watched, at a guess, over a thousand makeup demonstrations in one form or another, whether backstage at shows or at cosmetic launches. I'm also happy to dole out makeup application advice here on Byrdie and to my friends and family. The thing is, when it comes to my own makeup, I'll do it in a rush in the back of an Uber or on my morning commute (yes, the Tube). I know what I should do but when it comes to my own face, I'm far more careless than say Charlotte Tilbury would ever be with the likes of Kate Moss. You know how doctors are the worst patients and all that. But I do wonder whether there are any hidden makeup tricks I don't do or know about, that I should? The tricks that will make applying my "face" so much easier, quicker and get me far superior results? It was that thought that spurred me on to book in with Kelly Mitchell, the national artistry and development manager at Charlotte Tilbury's sparkly new Westfield store at White City. Not for Mitchell to apply my makeup, but for me to apply my own makeup exactly how I do it when I'm rushing in the morning (no keeping up appearances allowed) and Mitchell to watch and comment on the results. A little like a beauty version of a driving test. Keep scrolling to find out what tips and tricks I learnt during my session and hear me when I say it was game-changing.
Despite, on paper, doing all the right things when it comes to my complexion where my skincare is concerned, I suffer from annoying bouts of hormonal acne. I'm going through a phase right now so my skin and I are not on the best of terms, which means I tend to go heavy-handed to camouflage everything. After removing my makeup and applying moisturiser, Mitchell handed me a bottle of Charlotte Tilbury Magic Foundation and a brush, "off you go," she said. Weirdly, I got a bit self-conscious. I'm happy to take direction from an expert but then I hoped I wasn't going to find out I was abysmal at applying makeup (the shame!).
I pumped the foundation onto the back of my hand, dabbed the brush into the product and started from the centre of my face working out. "Stop!" said Mitchell. "You're using too much. Where I see a lot of people go wrong is that they put a mask all over if they have one or two spots they feel self-conscious and cover their face in makeup."
"The biggest thing we say to makeup artists when we're training them, and this is what Charlotte does with all of her clients is analyse the skin. You have a great forehead with no spots, gorgeous cheekbones, your nose is clear and your chin is clear so keep those areas really natural then you can get away with adding more coverage where needed.
"The key is to dial up your assets and dial down your imperfections to make the most gorgeous version of you."
With that in mind, I went much lighter blending foundation all over but really just focusing on the areas where I needed to apply it. Essentially I was thinking about what I was doing rather than just blindly slapping it on all over. I then went in with concealer. Mitchell recommended I use my finger to gently tap the concealer onto any spots, where needed. The motion should be quick and delicate so you're not just removing, applying, removing, applying!
"What would you do now?" Mitchell asked me. "Contour," I replied. She looked stunned, I'm not going to lie. "You don't conceal under your eyes?" she asked me incredulously. "Erm, no," I sheepishly replied. I have always found that under-eye concealers crease and make me look almost startled. I'm less fussed about dark circles than I am about unsightly makeup creases to bother. But Mitchell had me apply a layer of under-eye concealer (slightly thicker and more peachy in colour to counteract the blue tones) using a brush and my ring finger to tap and blend. I must admit I did look more bright-eyed, and just like that she may have persuaded me to start using one.
I then finished with a light dusting of translucent powder on the nose, forehead and chin, as well as under the eye and on any spots I'd concealed to set the makeup in place. Mitchell advised me to also add a little where I was about to contour to take away any oil and provide a good base for the colour.
The Contour and Highlight
I'm pretty familiar with Charlotte Tilbury's Filmstar Bronze and Glow (£49) which has a place in my makeup bag already. When doing my makeup, I tend to use a smaller contour brush to apply this and then use a bigger brush to blend. Mitchell said I should switch this, using a bigger brush to add a wash of bronze onto my forehead, down onto my cheekbones and under my chin onto my neck, before using a smaller brush to contour the hollow of my cheekbones. I tend to start at my cheek and work up and out, but Mitchell said I should switch this up too. "The first place your brush is going to hit is going to distribute the most product," she told me, so it's far better to work from the outside in just making sure to really buff the colour into the hairline.
"But I think overall your biggest mistake was not placement, you know where to put it, but you pick up way too much product." And I'm noticing a pattern, I'm a bit heavy-handed. "You want to build this gorgeous, dreamy soft-focus contoured look," she told me.
"When it comes to contouring, women should look at their faces. If you already have defined cheekbones too much contouring can make you look too severe. Or if someone has petite features and tries to contour it's not always right. Not everyone has to contour." The key again is to look at your face and think about what do you really want to enhance? Mitchell told me I don't need to contour my jawline because it is already defined (why, thank you) but I would want to contour to enhance my cheekbones which are apparently quite high (who knew?).
When it comes to highlighter you can use a small contour brush to highlight on top of the cheekbones. "Use a feathering motion to sweep the product onto the cheekbones, the key is not to have a sharp line like women did in the '80s". For smaller areas down the nose, brow bones or Cupid's bow Mitchell confirmed what I already knew, that you want to use a fluffy eye shadow brush and then use your finger to highlight the inner corners of your eyes.
A little pop of blusher on my cheeks at a height that is just "between the contour and highlight" finishes off my face and gives it a pretty glow.
Mitchell told me, as she passed me a brow pencil, that she noticed my brows first. "There is this study that Charlotte is really interested in. Basically, researchers did a test that looked at the power of the brow in facial recognition. They had pictures of about 50 famous faces, from Richard Nixon to Winona Ryder, and in the first image they took away their eyes and in the second they took away their brows. They then showed the pictures to different people. Turns out more of the famous faces were recognisable without eyes than they were without eyebrows."
The study reads: "We find that the absence of eyebrows in familiar faces leads to a very large and significant disruption in recognition performance. In fact, a significantly greater decrement in face recognition is observed in the absence of eyebrows than in the absence of eyes."
"Brows are such a key pillar of people's facial framework," Mitchell tells me. "Therefore, if you go wrong with your brow, you draw them onto too severe or too low or too sharp or too high that it can make you look angry, surprised, older or get it right and they can make you look gorgeous and lifted.
"Your brows should look natural, Charlotte is very inspired by that gorgeous '80s supermodel boyish brow that's more natural."
Mitchell told me that my brows were almost right but that I should apply a little less brow pencil on the inner part of the brow (near the bridge of my nose). I had my brows threaded recently and the therapist cut my brows too short. "Make sure when you get your brows threaded, that you don't let them cut them, when the brow is too short you can't achieve that natural bushy look. Also, it can in the worst case, make you look angry. You want your brows to look lifted and more open and those long hairs in the centre will lift your whole face."
My usual routine of brushing up my brows, and only filling in any sparse areas is right, but she advised I switch the pencil on the inner part of my brow for a clear or softly tinted gel instead.
The eye makeup is where I pretty much had everything down pat. I apply my eye shadow using a fluffy brush and a windscreen wiper motion from the lashes up to the crease and blur the edges. If I'm going out, I'll use a smaller brush to add a darker colour into the outer edge of my socket line blending along the lower lashes too. And maybe a little sparkle on the inner corners.
I never wear eyeliner, ever. I don't have large enough eyelids, so if I apply liner onto my lids it makes my eyes feel squashed. If you're like me, Mitchell suggests using a kohl pencil and tight-lining the upper lashes. This involves pressing the pencil into the top lash line from underneath, between the upper waterline and lash roots. This makes me feel squeamish and it tickles, but the end result is remarkable. My eyes look defined and have the effect of a lined eye without my eyes feeling overwhelmed. I often feel if I wear liner it makes my lashes disappear (there isn't room enough on my eyelids for both to shine) but this means I can rock the best of both worlds. Jaw-dropping.
Again, as with my eyes, I have this on lockdown. Mitchell just suggested instead of lining the Cupid's bow first and drawing down to the outer corners, I should start at the corners and draw up. Essentially, every motion on your face should be upwards, as we want to fight gravity with our makeup to achieve a lifted makeup effect "like a facelift."
I always apply liner all over my lips, as it helps my lipstick stay on and Mitchell agreed this was the best way to do it. She then suggested, since my lips were coloured in just to tap the lipstick on with the bullet for daytime, then come evening I could layer by properly slicking it on from the bullet or using a lip brush.
So how did I fare? Pretty well. I hope that if this was a driving test I would have passed with just a few minors. But I certainly learnt to be less heavy-handed and spend a little more time thinking about what I'm doing rather than rushing to get my face on and get out of the door. "It won't end up taking you much longer, I promise," Mitchell assured me. And peering at my flawless new look face in the mirror, I don't really care if it takes me all day.