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Commercial Makeup Artist Hilary Jenset Shares Her Beauty Secrets

Her makeup must-haves and biggest beauty pet peeve.

I met Toronto-based hair and makeup artist Hilary Jenset a few years back when I was working on the set of a MuchMusic commercial. Let me tell you something: working on set with live actors is HARD and super-exhausting for both the cast and crew (these shoots sometimes last, like, 20 hours!). Just staying awake is enough of a challenge, but talented girls like Hilary make sure everyone looks just as fresh at the 6am call time as they do for that last take at midnight. Trust me, that's no easy feat.

Hilary's been in the beauty biz for around three years now. She started off in bridal makeup and had brief stints at Sephora and Blo Blow Dry Bar. She now works freelance, spreading her time between shoots at MuchMusic and honing her craft at Blur Makeup Room, a professional makeup supply store in Toronto.

I chatted with her about some of her fave beauty products and tips:

What's your background? I graduated with honours from The School of Makeup Art with a diploma in makeup for TV and film. As a teenager, I spent hours sitting in front of the mirror playing with my makeup, so I always knew I'd eventually end up in this profession. I started off doing bridal makeup while working part-time at Sephora, and then did hair at Blo, where I got to work with a few big Canadian directors as well as Kelly Cutrone, Tanya Kim, Melissa Grelo and Lisa Ray. After breaking my wrist in a snowboarding accident, I had to temporarily hang up my blow dryer and got a job with MuchMusic working on shoots as the key makeup artist. I've since worked on nearly 50 commercial sets with Canadian bands like Down with Webster, Lights, Billy Talent, Midway State and Kay.

What's different about commercial hair and makeup? When you're working in TV and film, you want products that can be applied quickly and easily, and that stay put once they are set. Large particles of glitter are a no-no because glitter shows up on camera and never looks right. A great setting powder is a must to keep things where they belong and to mattify the T-zone.

Makeup artists face a lot of pressure when on set. Perfection is expected and any touch-ups that hold up the production can be very frustrating for a crew of 50 or more people. Some looks—like the dewy look—don't translate well onto film and come across more like sweat or shine. You want to find foundations and concealers that don’t look cakey and have staying power. Some brands I recommend are Graftobian, Make Up For Ever, Cinema Secrets and Yaby. Once you find what works for you, stick with it.

In terms of hair, your biggest concerns are stray hairs and flyaways because they are a nightmare to edit. My job is to create a hairstyle that is clean and can be quickly touched up in between takes. Because you want continuity throughout filming, hair should be as low-maintenance as possible.

How has what you've learned from doing commercial hair and makeup translated into your everyday beauty regimen? Looking through the lens of a camera has trained my eye to see proportions and how strong features like eyebrows can really transform the way you look. Normally, we tend to focus on individual features when we look in the mirror rather than the whole face. A well-groomed eyebrow can really make the difference between looking pulled together, sloppy or overdone.

I've also learned to spend more time on my hair. Like many girls, I'm guilty of throwing my hair into a ponytail or a topknot because it's quick and easy. Taking the time to blow out your hair, focusing on the pieces around your face, can make a big difference. My trick is to dampen day-old hair at the crown and around my face and then blow-dry just these sections. Then I add a little dry shampoo to the roots to clean it up and add a little volume.

What is your beauty philosophy? Less is more and don't hide behind your makeup. There is no need to be fully made-up all the time. Keep it light and simple, and if you're heading out somewhere special, choose one feature to really play up. I've always believed that true beauty starts with the skin, so eat well, exercise and be good to your body.

Who are your beauty icons? Growing up with a head of strawberry blonde hair and more than my fair share of freckles, I found a sense of comfort and admiration in stars like Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore. More recently, I've become a fan of Christina Hendricks and the doe-eyed model Lily Cole.

What are your top five beauty products? I try to find things that work with my skin and colouring [but] I am NEVER loyal to a brand or a product. I like to switch things up regularly and am always trying new products. That said, here are my top five:

  1. I love face and eye cream. I tend to switch as the seasons change. Some of my favourite brands are Caudalie, Korres, Kiehl's and Chanel. Currently I’m using Embryolisse Lait-creme Concentré combined with Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Water-Light Daily Face Sunscreen and Philosophy Eye Hope Multitasking Eye Cream For Dark Circles, Puffiness & Lines for my eyes.
  2. The Concealer from Yaby, a makeup line created by Toronto-based makeup artist Liz Yu, is a great water-resistant formula that literally will not budge. Liz has worked in the industry for years, so her line is a great go-to for makeup artists.
  3. I'm lucky to have pretty long and full lashes, so I tend to look for mascara with a wand that will help me define and give some extra oomph. It's impossible to pick one, but some of my favourites are Make Up For Ever Smoky Lash, Buxom Lash, L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Mascara and Clinique High Impact Mascara.
  4. Blush and lip balm can be all a person needs to feel put together. I love cream blushes because they glow and look so natural. Fusion Beauty SculptDiva Contouring & Sculpting Blush + Amplifat in Bella is one of my faves.
  5. I have blonde eyebrows, so I rely on my MAC Eye Brows, a retractable pencil. So many women leave their brows out of their routine. Maintaining and filling in your eyebrows should be a top priority to enhance the eyes and provide balance to the face.

The Skincare Edit Recommends

What’s in your beauty bag? My beauty routine is built around a strict skincare regimen. Here's what I carry around every day:

Which beauty products are worth splurging on? Splurge on things that will give you a great base, like face wash, toner, moisturizer and eye cream. Sunscreen that is formulated for the face is also important.

What can you save on? There are some great affordable products that can be skimped on like mascara, cream blushes, bronzers and lip stains. But do yourself a favour and test them out before you buy. You want products to go on smoothly with even pigmentation. If a finger swatch looks patchy, it’s not worth buying.

What was your first fragrance? I first fell in love with The Body Shop’s Leap. It smelled fresh and happy, which was all I needed!

What's your current fragrance? I will always have Chanel Coco Mademoiselle in my life. I love everything about this scent and enjoy hearing my boyfriend say, “Mmm, you smell nice,” even though I wear it all the time. It’s fresh and subtle, but sexy.

What was your biggest beauty fail? I had my eyebrows dyed for my sister's wedding. I said that I wanted to look natural, but the aesthetician chose a dark brown and let it sit for 30 minutes. To this day I am still frustrated when I look at photos of my sister’s special day.

What's your beauty pet peeve? Contouring. It's an art and is not for beginners. Take the time to do your research and buy the appropriate products to sculpt the face. Kim Kardashian has led people to believe that heavy contouring is an everyday activity. Kim spends hours with professionals to achieve her flawless look and would definitely not have a natural look in person.

What's your best beauty tip? Makeup, with a few exceptions, should be used to emphasize beauty, not to cover up a face. Start with a good canvas. Skin problems like acne, dry patches, rashes and irritation shouldn't be ignored and definitely shouldn't be suffocated with makeup on a daily basis. Big stores like Sephora offer a ton of samples that allow you to shop around for products that work best with your skin.

Most people need just the basics. Apply makeup in a well-lit area and always watch for the dreaded jawline mishap. Bronzer should be applied with purpose and not as an all-over face wash of colour. Think of areas where the sun kisses the face and apply with a gentle hand.

What's your advice for aspiring makeup artists? Build your skills as well as a thick skin. YouTube has created a phenomenon where people think that doing their own makeup makes them capable of being a makeup artist. Makeup takes a deep understanding of colour, shapes, angles and proportions and is combined with skill and creativity. Learn as much as you can and be wary of people that want you to work for free (unless you strongly feel the experience is worth it!). Mostly, be humble and look for inspiration everywhere. Don’t be intimidated by the mega-artists out there, but rather, aspire to be like them.

Find more from Hilary on Instagram and Vimeo.

Tell me:

Do you agree with Hilary's beauty philosophy?

Have you tried any of her favourite products?

What's your take on contouring?

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