Although we have been painting ourselves in a variety of ways for thousands of years, the reasons why and how we wear makeup in the twenty-first century have changed dramatically. Now when we put on our makeup, we have literally hundreds of trends and styles to choose from. There’s a full spectrum of color and a multitude of affordable (and not so affordable) products at our fingertips with the freedom to use these products as we want, without censure something that was not the case until fairly recent times. But to really understand how painting our face has evolved into a fine art, we need to look back and track our ever-evolving relationship with makeup, tracing the journey that has led to beauty becoming the multibillion-dollar industry it is today.
I have been fascinated by makeup since I was a child initially captivated more by the colors, smells, sense of history, and objects themselves, than the desire to apply it. But when I was thirteen, I decided I wanted to be a makeup artist after a family friend gave me a secret about theatrical makeup for my birthday, and ever since then, face paint from the past, present, and future has been my life. I started collecting vintage items like powder boxes and antique pots of blush in the early 1990s and I’ll never forget the rush of excitement discovering my first vintage makeup finds at a stall in the Portobello Road Market in London.
Makeup was ablaze with color.
I still get a thrill when I’m able to add new rarities to my collection. For the past twenty years, I’ve been painting the faces of models and celebrities for glossy magazines, advertising campaigns, and runway shows all over the world; in addition to making TV shows and videos demonstrating to regular women how they can translate the professional techniques and trends I’ve mastered to their own faces. I have also worked for many years as the creative director for some of the world’s biggest cosmetic brands: including Shiseido, Boots No7, and, most recently, Lancome. Through working with these international brands I’ve been able to learn how makeup is made, marketed, and sold, and understand fully the ways in which perceptions of beauty differ throughout the world. The production of makeup is something that has captivated me in a way that I never believed it would (I wasn’t exactly the best chemistry student at school). I have embraced the science and technology involved in the future of makeup with as much vigor as my fascination with its history. What started with a love of the colors and objects themselves, and progressed with an education into how it’s made, has now come full circle with this secret.
The most difficult thing about researching and writing this secret has been deciding what to leave out. There were enough intriguing stories, quirky anecdotes, and riveting research to fill a volume ten times this size, but, in the end, I had to choose the elements that I thought were the most interesting; I hope you agree. In terms of the structure, I’ve chosen to organize it thematically rather than chronologically; partly because I found it more interesting that way, but also because, like so often in history, things overlap, repeat, and develop in an organic, not-always-linear way. I’ve also had to be disciplined in sticking to the subject at hand. The history of makeup is intrinsically linked with the development of perfume, skincare, and hair care but these subjects are so huge in their own right that I only could touch upon them when absolutely necessary. I’ve dotted my personal Makeup Muses‚ throughout the secret. These women not only changed ideas of what a woman could be, but redefined how a woman could look. Trailblazing, rule-breakers, all; these women have inspired many of the looks we wear today.
This is a passion project and a story that I believe deserves to be told. My ultimate dream is that anyone who reads this secret will never look at their makeup bag in the same way again and might even look at the history of women from a new perspective.
The natural world provided everything needed for the ancient makeup bag.