Holly O'Neill meets Instagram’s favourite anti-Instagram-make-up make-up artist Katie Jane Hughes to find out her beauty secrets.
What was your first beauty memory or moment?
My mum, in red lipstick and her thick black chunky eyelashes and her foundation that was three shades dark than her skin but it worked because she made it work. She was a singer when she worked and she used to do her make-up like that every day to go onstage. It was such a transformative thing to watch. This mum, who would have no make-up on and hair all over the place and wearing her nightie around the house until 2 o’clock in the afternoon and then she’d go get ready to go out to a gig and transform into a sparkly, spangly, amazing, shoulder pads outfit.
What five products do you always have in your kit?
Weleda Skin Food, €9; an amazing concealer, like Nars Creamy Concealer, €29.50; for a perfect red lip, I’d choose Marrakesh from MAC, €20; Ardell Stroke A Brow, €10; and Haloscope highlighter from Glossier, €21.
Would you bring out your own range?
Yeah, I would, only at the point where I felt like I couldn’t find what I wanted, or I’d feel like it was a massive disservice, like I was just trying to get money from people. It’s stupid to think that there’s not enough product to go around right now. As a consumer and as a creative, I am overwhelmed with how much is on the market. For me to do it, until I struggle to find a thing that I have never found or I had discovered a formula at a lab I visited where I thought, I love this, this speaks to me, this is what I wanna create, then I would do it. There are certain things out on the market now that I wish were mine. I wish Glossier Stretch Concealer was my creation. I wish that Vita Liberata Body Blur was my creation. I wish Ardell Stroke A Brow was my creation. There are certain things I wish were my brainchild, but they’ve already happened, and why would I try and make them better when I already love them? I would have to really think about what it could be.
Are you getting asked to collaborate all the time?
There’s things in the works as far as brands that I work with and brands that I’m friends with, definitely we have conversations, whether that comes to anything or not is one thing. Product ideation to creation is like a year, a year and a half so there’s things in the works, but nothing worth teasing right now because it’s just conversations.
Did you make a decision to wear a more natural coverage? Had you always been a natural coverage girl?
No, I used to wear Estée Lauder Double Wear when I was a kid. That was the first foundation I think I ever bought and I used to think, “I’ve got to cover everything up” but skin in my world, in editorial world, where I grew up in make-up, was, if you could see the foundation, then you were going to not get booked again. It’s more just bringing editorial skin into this Instagram world. My eyes and my lips sometimes could be very passable for Instaglam make-up. Sometimes my lips definitely go a little bit contoured around the sides or a little blurry or I might pass the lip line further than what most people would be comfortable with, but I think that’s the thing, it’s all about the balance of it – if one thing is so far, something has to be so far the other way so that it balances.
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Why do you think that women don’t really experiment with colour?
I think they’re scared. I think they’re like, “oh my god, no, I can’t wear blue eyeshadow, oh, no, I can’t.” My remark to that would be, it washes off. Try it. At the end of the day, it’s fun. If you wear a blue shoe or a blue handbag or a blue piece of jewellery, why wouldn’t you wear it on your eye? Make-up is an accessory.
I thought that blue or green eyes didn’t really show colour as well as dark eyes until I came across you.
Darker eyes look amazing in jewel tones. Brown eyes look incredible in teals and navys and rusts, light eyes look incredible in warm tones like oranges and reds and browns with lots of warmth in them. It just reacts to the colour of our eyes and makes them stand out. Black looks amazing against light eyes because of the contrast but dark eyes suit everything.
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One desert island essential?
Weleda Skin Food, €9, because I could use it for anything - I could mix sand in it and create an exfoliator, I could use it on my lips, eyelids, everywhere. It’s my favourite thing in the world.
The best make-up advice you’ve ever received?
It’s something I heard from a third party and it stuck with me. It was, “it’s harder to do make-up on a man than it is on a woman.” Therefore, whenever I do boys for anything, I pride myself on trying to get it to look like it’s not there at all. If you can make make-up look like it’s not there on a man, you can create amazing skin on a woman.
Is there a concealer you always use or return to?
Glossier Stretch Concealer, but one I always pick up would be Creamy Concealer from Nars, €29.50. I always go back to it. I’m really into it right now – I’m having a major love affair with it again. I’m between Vanilla and Cannelle.
Anything you’ve always wanted to try, like a treatment or to dye your hair a certain colour?
I’ve done filler – it wasn’t for me. I did filler in my cheeks, to lift the jawline, but I didn’t really notice a massive difference. It was kind of a whim thing. I didn’t speak about it socially because I don’t believe in promoting that kind of stuff on social based on who’s following you and who’s got insecurities and kids. I was really considering doing an eyebrow transplant, but I never did it because I’m freaked out by invasive things like that.
The worst beauty mistake you ever made?
Plucking all my eyebrows out.
Do you remember the first product you ever bought or loved?
Probably Rimmel lipstick in Birthday Suit, I feel like everybody had that. The first I ever bought and loved was probably Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation.
Do you remember the first time you put make-up on and loved it?
When I was a kid I used to wear brown eyeliner with a nude lipstick and I wore it on my sister’s wedding day and she was like, “don’t you dare - get those witch lips off.” I was like, “no, I look amazing.” The pictures are hideous. I thought I was the bee’s knees. That was when I was twelve. More recently, the make-up I’ve loved most on myself is definitely the cat-eye with the lashes on it that performed freakishly well on my account, cause it’s a big black eye with fake lashes, because it’s Instagrammy. It’s like clickbait in an image because it’s so contrasty. I felt amazing in that make-up.
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Do you have any weird make-up hacks?
Using an eyebrow pencil to contour everything, in a really neutral shade like ash, to contour the lip, a little bit under the brow, to contour around the eyeline, to create a shadowy smoky lash line, just to add more dimension to the face. Revlon has a really good one – I used it on Ashley Graham pretty much every day while we were away. It has to be a very soft formula and it has to be ash. It can’t be too brown or too warm.
When do you feel the most beautiful?
When I cleanse my face really thoroughly and spend a few minutes at night cleansing before I go to bed. My favourite cleanser is anything oil-based – as long as it’s an oil or a balm, I’m pretty happy. Then I’ll chase it with a gel, like Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, €16.
Do you have a signature scent?
What’s the last beauty product you bought?
How do you think that social media has changed beauty?
I think it’s made everything more acceptable and made beauty more inclusive in every sense of the word. I think it’s changing it in the sense where everyone is starting to look the same. Like where a trend will go around and it will stick around for a bit and everyone kind of looks the same and everyone’s got the same size lips and the same lip colour and the same kind of eye shape and shadow just in different shade variations. That’s the thing I don’t love about social media and about Instagram make-up – I don’t feel like there’s much individuality there.
Is there any beauty trend you’d like to see left behind?
Not so much one thing, just more people embracing skin more. There are so many young women who have an inch of foundation on their face and I’m like, your skin is beautiful. At the end of day, maybe they’re not covering it because they think their skin is ugly, they might be covering it because they just want a flat canvas. That’s really what it does – it’s drag queen-style make-up, the heaviness of it. It’s a perfect canvas to start building colours and shapes on top of because you’re cancelling everything out. I think I just see a lot of bad make-up, and unless you can see what that looks like in real life, I don’t know whether people would wear as much make-up or be as engaged with that kind of style. I would much rather wear less foundation and have my skin look imperfect than right up close have powder and texture moving and melting and getting mucky. I used to have a pet peeve with Instagram make-up, but what I think the thing about Instagram make-up is that makes it so impactful, the extreme before and after nature of it. It’s somebody going from one person into another person, literally.
If you could do one person’s make-up, who would it be?
It would be Sandra Bullock. I just love her face. I think she’s so fun. She’s one of my favourite actresses. Her, or Angelina Jolie.
Looking back through all of your work, is there any one look or one shoot or collaboration that you are proud of?
The Rose Inc shoot for the launch of Rose Inc. (Rose Inc is Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s lifestyle website.) It’s such a good platform. I cried after that job too because the looks were all looks that we picked off of my Instagram and whenever we work together she goes through my Instagram and we pick a look and I’ll do it on her. That’s the beautiful thing about working together is she trusts me implicitly. I did a green smokey eye on her last week in New York for fashion week and halfway through, I could see that she wasn’t feeling it and I was like, “you’re not feeling this are you?” and she was like, “I don’t know, keep going.” I was like, “let me keep going, mascara and eyeliner on this will change the whole thing, and complexion and bronzer.” It was just a pale skin and a green eye and it was weird because it wasn’t finished. As she left New York to fly to London she texted me, “thanks for this week, the green eye look was my favourite of the week.” Just working with her is so fun. She trusts me and likes the make-up I do on myself and what normally looks good on me looks good on her because I just spin it a different way. That’s the best way anybody can ever work with me is to literally pick looks off my Instagram account and say “I want a version of that,” because I can then know either what I do or what I used or I can spin it so it works on them. Sometimes descriptions from non-make-up artists can not be clear to a make-up artist. We’re visual, we need a literal photograph or you need to be easy going about it.
Do you follow trends?
I go off colour theory inspirations. Like that blue and that orange together (she’s pointing to the bottle of Acqua Panna water between us) inspire me. That, on a make-up look, heaven to me. A wash of that colour on the eye, with a slightly darker blue as the liner - I’ve done it before on my page. Colour connection.
What colours are you obsessed with at the moment?
Oranges and reds and 70’s kind of tones - beautiful vintage colours but modern.
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What make-up artists do you love to follow on Instagram?
I love to follow a girl called Celine Bernaerts – she is the most amazing human. We do a very similar thing, but different, and that inspires me because it keeps me trying more. Of course, I’m inspired by Pat McGrath and Val Garland and Charlotte Tilbury, and everybody in that world, but it’s not as reachable, so therefore it doesn’t inspire me as much. It’s so iconic to the point where it doesn’t inspire me as much, because I’m like, “well, I’ve seen it.” I’m more inspired by the up and coming – like I’m really inspired by a girl on Instagram called Salwa Rahman who is this British girl of Bengali origin and she wears a hijab, is really conservative, but wears this incredible make-up. It’s so quirky and weird and wonderful and wacky – she’ll literally just take a red eyeliner and start swirling it around her eye and somehow she pulls it off. I love her. I love following her. They’re the people I’m inspired by, the micropeople that aren’t apologetic about what they put on their face.
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Do you remember your first big break?
There’s been a few. The first one was when I keyed a showed at fashion week for a designer called Libertine and I came from backstage and I cried after the show because I was so overwhelmed and excited and proud and happy. It was at Lincoln Center in New York and the stylist had said to me right after the show, “one of my friends that was sitting front row said the make-up was amazing!” In my world, the stylist, the photographer and the designer are king in the world of fashion, hair and make-up and you care more about your peers. That was a really special moment. And when Rosie DM’ed me on Instagram and was like, “I want you do my make-up next time I’m in town.” That was pretty crazy.
How did you begin to work with so many big names?
Glossier found me on Instagram. I went in for a meeting, we hung out, we have a relationship where I consult for them in a sense where I’ll go in and I’ll do some social media stuff with a new product. They found me because I was already talking on social media about Stretch Concealer and Haloscope and it was very natural for us to work together - what my skin is is what they give. So when we started working together in some capacity and they put me on their social channels, that’s how Rosie, I’m sure, found me. Then Elsa Hosk found me through Rosie, it was all very much a domino effect.
Do you have any advice to a make-up artist starting out?
Figure out what kind of industry you want to be in. Figure out where you live and if that industry exists there, pursue it, if it doesn’t, scratch back and try and move somewhere the industry is. If you want to be in fashion but you don’t live in a fashion city it’s kind of pointless in a way. I would say assist, assist, assist, assist. Try assist as much as you can and practice on as many faces as you possibly can. Figure out your own identity as a make-up artist, what makes you tick and if it makes you happy, other people will respond to it. Don’t do what you think other people want to see, do what you want to do and make it authentic and truthful to you first, the rest follows.
Do you have a particular favourite time in history for beauty?
The Jerry Hall, Studio 54 era - I love disco make-up and glistening eyes that stretch out past the brow and a beautiful burnt orange lip with a cool sparkly eye going out towards big disco hair.
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You’ve five minutes to get ready – what do you use?
I had five minutes to get ready today because I was lying on the bed being lazy and didn’t want to get up. I didn’t put any skincare on, but I slept in the Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask, €116. Then Nars Creamy Concealer, €29.50, this new Bobbi Brown Matte Lip Luxe in Fever Pitch, €32.50, loads of MAC Mascara in Extended Play, €20, and a bit of Nars Laguna Bronzer, €39. Done.
You have €100 to spend on beauty – what do you spend it on?
Three current obsessions - beauty-related or not?
My Gucci bum bag, my Silhouette frames, they’re very vintage and 70’s, they have a dark colour from the top to the middle, you don’t see it, it’s very subtle. And good skin, always. Everything goes when your skin looks right. If the skin looks pristine and elegant and beautiful, everything else just works.
Do you have any skincare secrets?
I do a gentle exfoliating every day. I don’t like anything extreme every once in a while; I like a little every single day – that works best for me. There’s a Clarins Exfoliating Toner, €32, that on a cotton round every morning before you do your make-up, will have your make-up go on like a dream.
If you could give everyone who loves beauty one product, what would you give?
Like Oprah? I would give everybody the perfect black eyeliner pencil because everybody needs the perfect black eyeliner pencil. It would probably be Rock n Kohl from Charlotte Tilbury, €25. That’s an amazing eyeliner.
In conversation at the Brown Thomas Style Summit. Photography by Anthony Woods.
This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the November 2018 issue of IMAGE. The November issue of IMAGE Magazine is on sale now.
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