After more than 20 years as a trusted editorial and celebrity makeup artist, Charlotte Tilbury knows ALL the secrets.
The premise of her eponymous makeup and skincare line, which launched in the UK in 2013 and arrived in Canada (at Holt Renfrew) just a few months ago, is to give those secrets away—to us!
That's right; the sought-after British makeup artist, who has worked with countless A-list beauties including Kate Moss, Jennifer Lopez, Penélope Cruz and Rihanna, wants her products to help demystify the entire makeup process. The goal? Empowering women to look and feel like their best selves.
Charlotte was in Toronto for the Canadian launch, and I got the full scoop on her must-know products and unique approach to makeup. Honestly, I don't think I've EVER met someone so glamorous...
What is your makeup philosophy?
I don't think makeup should ever wear the person. I think the person should just look amazing. It should be like, "Wow, you look great." Not, "What eyeshadow are you wearing?" It should always be about you.
How did you first become interested in makeup?
I discovered makeup when I was 13, and it changed my life. I started wearing mascara and overnight, everyone from seven to 70 reacted to me in a very different way. I was more popular and I felt more confident. At first, it seemed like a depressing realization, but I soon learned that makeup is powerful—it's every woman’s secret weapon.
Why did you decide to create your own makeup brand?
When I decided to do this brand, I was like, "I'm going to give up all my secrets. I'm going to give up what I used to really covet." A lot of makeup artists in our industry, they don't give that stuff away. It's all about holding it in. I thought, "No, you know what? I am really obsessed with making women look like the most gorgeous version of themselves."
As makeup artists, the reason we get flown around the world and get paid an absolute fortune to do what we do is because celebrities and models understand that if they put the best, most beautiful version of themselves forward, then they can monetize that. They can get bigger contracts, better deals—whatever. I'm sure that it also affects their love lives; I've seen it everywhere.
I was very passionate about taking that out of just the VIP world and giving it to everybody. That's why I wanted to create this brand; that's the heart of it. Being able to do myself out of a job, so people can do it on their own. They can get that red carpet perfection and have eyes that mesmerize and killer cheekbones. I was prepared to give up my secrets to create this brand.
Do you think makeup has the power to help a woman become more successful?
Makeup can give you the confidence to get that husband you’ve always wanted, change your job, move abroad, get a pay raise. It literally can make up your destiny. Ever since that epiphany moment at 13, no one has ever seen me without makeup on. I definitely wouldn’t have the life and career I have without it.
We did research and discovered that 50 percent of women do not engage in makeup, which is very, very high. But we also studied the perceptions of women with and without makeup, and people would say, "I don't trust her. I wouldn't hire her." Other people find that terribly shocking, but to me, it's not shocking at all. Because that's what I do for a living.
What are some celebrity beauty secrets women should know?
Celebrities are no different to the rest of us. They all have their days when they've got bags and pimples, and their faces are dehydrated or whatever.
I realized what a lot of celebrities do for a week or two before red carpet events is that they are having lasers and seeing facialists for lymphatic drainage. There is a whole skincare regimen that happens before you put the makeup on.
Then you put the creams on them, and you put on the makeup magic, and at the end, they look in the mirror and they are transformed. They are transformed into the most beautiful version of themselves. They look more lifted and dewy, their eyes sparkle, their colour pops, their lips look luscious and their skin glows.
That's all part of skincare and makeup magic. Celebrities understand how to monetize that, and I want every woman to have that opportunity. So many women don't, because they find makeup intimidating, they don't know what to choose, and because some products just aren't good enough.
How is your line different from other makeup artist brands?
I wanted to do something truly different. I wasn't just like, "Oh, I'm a really great makeup artist, I've got loads of celebrities and models." That wouldn't be worth it. What was really important to me was to make it easy.
People think that women should just naturally know how to put on makeup when they come out of the womb, but actually, most women don't know where to begin. I want them to feel safe to play and to help them understand exactly where each colour goes. We're showing you how to apply lipstick, how to apply eyeshadow, how to apply blush.
Why did you organize your organize your line around 10 signature looks?
I wanted to come up with this makeup wardrobe. I realized that beauty, much like fashion, is cyclical, and that there is a library of 10 looks and inspirations that I return to again and again.
When you do Kate Moss today, you're doing Brigitte Bardot, the Rock Chick of the past—it's not that different. Or the Golden Goddess, Ursula Andress and Gisele Bündchen. You think of the Ingénue, which is Mia Farrow in the past and today, Kate Bosworth. Or you think of the Uptown Girl which is Gwyneth Paltrow or Kate Middleton, and in the past, it's Grace Kelly.
All of these looks haven't changed that much. They might be tweaked in a slight direction, but ultimately, they haven't moved very far. These are the archetypes that women are drawn to.
What if you can't decide on just one archetype?
We all have different facets of our personality and different outfits. In the summer, when I'm in Ibiza, I might be the Golden Goddess because I'm wearing a caftan wandering around a beach. This is what celebrities do as well. They show you their outfit: "I'm in New York and I want to be the Uptown Girl." Or: "I'm going to wear this Versace dress to the film festival in Rome." It depends on your outfit, and then you change your face.
Celebrities do it more because they have experts like myself doing their makeup. But I do think people can change their makeup a little bit with the different seasons and their outfits. Celebrities are just more extreme because they can be.
How do you think you've revolutionized the way we shop for makeup?
I wanted a way to formulate these looks and make it really easy for somebody to go, "Oh, actually I CAN change my makeup, because I see the eyes that go with the cheeks that go with the lips." We have that all the time on the runway—designers showing you how to wear the season's latest look. Like, this is how you put the scarf, top, shoes and belt together. But no one had ever done that in makeup. Or at least, nobody had made you feel like it came from an expert rather than a marketing person sitting behind a desk.
I really felt that if I packaged it in this way, that would change the dynamic. Making it easy to choose, easy to use, easy to shop. I didn't want people to come along and only have the part to create amazing eyes. It's like a painting. If you don't have the gorgeous primed canvas, then you're not going to have an amazing painting.
Also, a lot of my friends were asking me over and over again, "I want Penélope Cruz's look," or "I want Kate Moss's look." As a result, it's been a hugely successful way for women to shop makeup. It did start a revolution. It's been pretty much an overnight success. We even have a lot of men gifting it. Sometimes women are like, "Well, I didn't really think of myself as a Bombshell, but obviously my husband does." It's so funny how they see you, or how they want to see you.
Beyond the packaging, what makes your products stand out?
Ultimately, it is all about results. Obviously, the results have to be amazing. Beyond anything else, that is about the formula.
I hate to say it, but the quality of the formula has to do with how much you spend. A lot of people will say to me, "I can't work with eyeshadow, I don't know what to do." But part of the time, the problem is the eyeshadow, because the particles are not finely milled enough. So they're getting it patchy and then people feel dismayed, because they feel like they can't do makeup. But actually it is the quality of your eyeshadow. Trust me, even as an expert, if I had that eyeshadow, I would have problems.
It is about how finely milled it is, how many emollients are in there, and all the rest of it—so that when you go to put that eyeshadow on with the right brushes that make it easy for you, suddenly, you can do a smoky eye. It's hilarious. I'll never forget Kate Moss one time, I gave her a palette and she was like, "You made it look so difficult. It's so easy!" It was the formula I gave her, and the brushes. Suddenly she was like, "Okay, I can do this."
Is it true you wear makeup to bed?
From The Skincare Edit Archives
I'm really passionate about makeup that is good enough to sleep in. I wear makeup every day, and I also wear makeup every night to bed. My husband has never seen me without makeup and he never will.
All of this comes off and then the eye makeup goes back on. There's nothing on my skin. It's just the bedroom eyes. I draw on a feline flick, the mascara goes back on, a little soft smudge. I also wear my Magic Cream and Wonderglow to bed. It has a soft-focus effect. So you can go to bed with your husband and he doesn't think, "I went to bed with one woman and woke up with another."
How important is skincare to you?
I'm obsessed with skincare. I love getting older, I just don't like looking older. I'm quite anti-injections, but I want to look as fabulous as I possibly can. So the skincare is key for that.
I put skincare benefits into everything that we have, as much as the technology is available to me—so everything will include things like almond oil or peptides. I want to try to make it as good for you as I possibly can. And we are actually as successful in skincare as in makeup.
As a makeup artist, what's the biggest issue you notice with women's skin?
What I see 80 percent of the time is dehydrated skin. A lot of the time, people think that they're aging and it's not that. It's all dehydration lines, because of the air conditioning and the heating systems. The minute you put the water back in, your skin is changed.
Toronto, my God is this town dry! It's total dehydration.
What's in your skincare routine?
I've got super-dry skin that is very reactive and very sensitive. When you cleanse your skin, it's important not to strip the oils out of it. I wash my face with the Multi-Miracle Glow Cleanser, Mask & Balm every single day. You put it on all over, and what I do is get my Clarisonic and massage it in with water. Then I get a hot flannel and wash it off. But you can just put it on, lather it up, get a hot flannel and wash it off. It just removes all the makeup. You could do your eyes with it, but I have my Make-Up Remover that I use.
The cleanser is also fabulous as a mask. If you're feeling really dehydrated and exhausted, you can put that on and go to sleep in it. You can also use it as an SOS balm on any dry part of your skin, whether it's your feet or elbows.
Mud is not only healing, but it also cleans out your pores. If you have a bump, it reduces the inflammation. I went to the labs and we mixed almond oil and rosehip oil into a clay mask, and also added a peptide to it. I put it on for five minutes and it feels like your pores have had a massive drink of water. It's almost made me worse, knowing I've got this skincare at home—I might have that extra glass of wine, and an hour later, maybe have that cigarette I shouldn't have had. But then I know I've got the magic clay mask.
What's the story behind your famous Magic Cream?
I actually started mixing it myself in my kitchen [to use on models backstage]. A lot of the time, you try these basic creams, but they don't work fast enough. That's why I mixed this one myself. It not only has actives in it like peptides and hyaluronic acid, but it also has this great texture because of the rosehip oil, camellia oil and frangipani oil. It really puts more water back in the skin and plumps the collagen. When you put makeup on top of it, the skin already feels more plump and more dewy, and the foundation goes on like a dream.
I couldn't do makeup without my magic cream. It was my secret and I wasn't giving it away. It became known as Charlotte's "Secret Magic Cream," and all the makeup artists and celebrities were trying it.
When we launched to the public two years later, it became this instant overnight success. It does give you instant results, and that's why people love it. When we launched it in America, it sold out in like seven minutes or something; it was just nuts.
What are the other products you're most proud of in your line?
I'm incredibly proud of my foundation. When you put it on, it's very luminous and sheer, but actually gives you quite good coverage. It's super-breathable and it's quite light. It gives you that really gorgeous, luminous, perfected skin.
Wonderglow is what we call "Gisele in a jar." As a makeup artist, I'm always thinking about how I can steal DNA. How I can make your skin look like Gisele's? This is a breakthrough technology that scatters light all over your face, making you look instantly more beautiful and healthy. Plus it has hyaluronic acid in it, so it puts more water back into the skin.
I literally don't know anyone who is a friend, celebrity, model, superstar, whatever, who does not have Filmstar Bronze & Glow in her makeup bag. Everyone loves this product. If you look at Jennifer Lopez and the way she facially contours, I wanted to come out with that look for real people, so that they can do contour without looking like they've been punched. It's a way to sculpt your features in a soft, forgiving way, and the highlight shade is like dripped-on candlelight. We are coming out with a darker colour later on.
Supermodel Body took years to develop. Backstage at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, when I used to do those girls with amazing bodies, they wanted to highlight their limbs, so they would look leaner and longer and more shimmery and desirable. There would be a whole palaver of powders and creams to make this happen. We would actually have a whole set of makeup artists just doing that bit.
So I wanted a product that would give you that longer, leaner celebrity limb. It's that Brazilian skin. If you have any freckles or age spots, it smooths everything out. It looks fabulous on black skin and on a pale person, too. On people like for instance Katie Holmes, she always has that tanned skin, but in the winter it might go a bit grey or green. You put Wonderglow on her face, and this on her body, and it immediately makes her go gold. It switches out the green and grey tones and just brings out the gold in your skin. That's been a massive hit.
Which makeup look do you wear yourself?
The Dolce Vita is the eyeshadow palette I use most days. It’s done with a palette of molten copper, chocolate and garnet shades, which suit and enhance all eye colours and skin tones. The neutral combination can be dialled up or down. The way you use it is almost like an old-fashioned telephone—you prime, enhance, smoke and pop. Prime all over the eye; then enhance in the socket, the corners and underneath the eye. Smoke makes it more smoky for evening. Pop is a bit of shimmer.
I wear it with a pale nude lipstick named Penelope Pink, which I created in homage to Penélope Cruz. It’s a colour I used to custom mix for her.
With my green eyes, I also use the Colour Chameleon Eyeshadow Pencils in Amethyst Aphrodisiac and Bronzed Garnet. You can do a smoky eye in one minute.
How do you feel about lip liner?
I believe that no matter what size your lips are, you need to perfect your lips. None of us are symmetrical. Like with my lips, I've got pigment to a certain point on them, but if you go down further, the pigment is sort of white. By having that lip liner, it just makes them look a bit more perfected and bigger. But you don't want to have lips like a drag queen; you need a lip liner to match the lipstick to match the gloss. So you don't end up with an overdrawn mouth.
What do you see in the future for your brand?
It’s all about giving the secrets away. It's been an amazing journey. I've been doing this now for years and I have also studied, studied, studied in order to become a complete expert. My brand goes right across the board, from 18 to 80 years old. The results have been so huge and exciting.
That whole glamour of how you used to get makeup in the past—with beautiful compacts and lipsticks—all of that had been taken out of the industry. It had become very black and modernized and industrial. For me, it was quite sad. I have these vintage compacts and I wish it was like that again. We all have these beautiful handbags, so I think, why not have your gorgeous compact to take out of your bag?
Sharing the power of makeup with women is what drives me. I think when you want to be disruptive, when you want to do something differently but the industry is set in a certain way, it can be quite a journey—or for want of a better word, fight. Because you're trying to change things up, and that can be uncomfortable sometimes.
I feel like if I can't find something that is a little bit different or a little bit more revolutionary, then I'd rather just not do it.
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