When Rihanna personally selects a makeup artist to be part of her Fenty Beauty team, you know he’s a big deal. Not only is Hector Espinal the right-hand makeup man of everyone’s favorite popstar, but he has also worked with some of the biggest names in the world – Cardi B, Joan Smalls, and the Hadid sisters included – creating killer beauty looks both on and off the runway.
Savoir Flair was lucky enough to sit down with Espinal during his recent trip to Dubai where, alongside Priscilla Ono and RiRi herself, he took the stage to show us his skills at the first ever Fenty Beauty masterclass in collaboration with Sephora. From preventing makeup meltdowns to mastering the art of contouring, here’s what the makeup maestro had to say.
What’s the craziest place you’ve done someone’s makeup?
One of my closest friends is also a singer, and I once did her makeup in the back of a car on 34th street in New York City. I just opened up my kit and did her makeup right there in the trunk! You have to be flexible as it’s not about you – it’s about the client and the artist.
Who is your ultimate beauty icon, and why?
Aside from my mom, that’s such a hard one! I would have to say my mother – I constantly look to her for beauty inspiration. I won’t say Rihanna because that’s so cliché, so I’ll go for Elizabeth Taylor.
Is there anyone that you’d love to work with?
Absolutely! Viola Davis, because she’s such a beautiful woman, or Angela Bassett. They’re both strong African-American women and fans of Fenty Beauty.
Makeup can be incredibly transformative. What’s your top tip for using it to add structure and definition to the face?
To create structure, you need to contour and highlight. I think it’s super important, and I really dislike when I see a ‘flat’ surface. I think the most beautiful thing about makeup – and women in general – is how much you can do, right? And when you contour and highlight, that enhances all the beautiful features of a woman. Fenty Beauty has three steps for the face, which I think is good because you get to create a soft matte base that still looks like you, but is so easy: contour, highlight, blot. Done.
Are there any basic rules for contouring and highlighting that women should follow?
Everybody’s face is completely different, so it’s hard to explain one by one. But overall, the standard is less is more when it comes to contouring. Think of contouring like Spanx – you want them on, but don’t want anyone to know it! It should look and feel very natural. I always tell people that if you want to learn how to contour, pop by a Sephora and they’ll give you a complimentary session on how to do it.
The general rules are to start at the top of your ear and take your contour down to the tip of your mouth – that’s ideally where you want your contour to be shaped. Next, apply it along the perimeters of your hairline, the jawline to define it, and the nose if you want to trim it. When you contour, it’s creating shadows to hide and shape what you don’t want. Highlighting then enhances the features you really want to enhance.
Think of contouring like Spanx – you want them on, but don’t want anyone to know it! It should look and feel very natural.
Are there any tricks to make eyes look bigger?
Absolutely! Believe it or not, brown and black eyeliner are a must. I feel like it’s one of those things where you really need to define the eye, and you might think black might shrink them, but it actually makes them look bigger.
Mascara is a must – think about when you were small and had a doll with big lashes that made its eyes look really big. Mascara does that, and it makes such a big difference. Concealer also helps. Apply it under the eye, and then right around the brow bone. It helps create this light that makes everything look bigger and more open.
What about making lips look fuller?
I have to say that it’s all about creating a balance. As a makeup artist, when it’s too much, it’s like, ‘Oh no, she looks too overdone!’ When applying lipstick, a quick and easy tip is to first define the Cupid’s bow, and then go from the bottom up instead of applying it from the Cupid’s bow down. What that does is create volume in the upper lip, making it round rather than cutting it off.
What’s your favorite beauty trend at the moment?
Skin. I feel like it’s back. There was a point when we were baking and adding extra contour and more powder – it was all too much. Now, we get to see skin again, youthful skin with highlight or amazing skincare. Less is more, which we are seeing everywhere. We did it for Fashion Week, we see it on the cover of magazines – we’re really celebrating skin.
On the subject of skin, prepping it before makeup is key. What steps do you think are most important?
Prepping is crucial. You must, must cleanse and exfoliate your skin as much as possible. If you have pigmentation or specific concerns, see a dermatologist to help with that. Moisturizing is like drinking water – you need to do it! Personally, I can’t live without eye cream because I have dark circles, so I keep it in the fridge. And don’t ever go to sleep with your makeup on. If you do that, everything else just backfires!
What’s the biggest makeup mistake you see women making?
Doing too much. More is more doesn’t work for everybody. Also enhancing texture, which is when they apply too much foundation or powder, just because they see it on social media. Another is not being able to support two statement features. For example, if you do a smoky eye, should you do a bold lip?
Not everyone has the personality to pull that off. So balance it out by pairing a smoky eye with soft lips, or a bold lip with soft eyes. Now if you’re a woman who’s extremely confident with makeup and feel like you can execute both – plus hair and outfit – then go for it. I personally don’t like too much.
What do you think will be big in makeup next year?
I think we will still see a lot of skin – it’s all about playing with textures. I do foresee a lot of metallic and shimmers, that whole Y2K millennium-style makeup.
Is there a makeup trend you wish would forever be banished?
Yes! Boxy brows – overly shaped and overly done brows. Natural, beautiful brows with a little bit of natural definition? That, I love.
What are your top tips to achieve bold, natural brows?
First, brush them up with a spoolie or whatever you have – my mom uses a toothbrush! – and see how much hair you have before slowly filling them in. I start with a deep, neutral brown shadow, and love the ‘Henna Sea’ shade from our ‘Moroccan Spice’ eyeshadow palette. I like to softly build that coverage into the brows. If you’re more of a pencil person, there are many great ones out there. Always seal them with a clear gel and, remember, less is more with brows.
What’s the best way for people with problem skin to cover up blemishes without looking like they’ve caked on the makeup?
I used to suffer from cystic acne, and tried so many things. I was like, “I can’t be a makeup artist with really bad skin!” One thing I learned is that you need to let your skin breathe. Are you doing the right treatments? If you are, don’t wear a lot of makeup. A great way to cover with makeup is to use more natural-based brands, and use a damp sponge when you apply. What this does is mimic the skin’s texture, rather than adding to it, which is important. Then use elixirs to really melt that makeup into the skin.
Bright colors are huge right now. What’s the best way to start introducing color into your makeup look?
Color is something that, even as a makeup artist, I’ve always been a little hesitant to do because women are so reactive to it, so I always start with lips when it comes to introducing color. When you apply a bold lip, your eyes will naturally pick up that undertone and look brighter.
If you want to add something to the eyes, I’d start with a soft, smudgy colored eyeliner, like a lavender, which is universally flattering. A soft gray, believe it or not, looks gorgeous. Blue is a little more challenging because it’s not the most wearable, depending on how you apply it. I would do an effortless, smudged liner first for an effortless wash of color – you can then build up to a colored shadow or blush.
Are there any rules in terms of which colors you should wear according to your eye color?
I think there are common color theories that all women should know, like primary and secondary colors will complement, but I feel like there’s so much you can play around with. There shouldn’t be rules. Just play around. If you like it and I like it – but we have different eye colors – why shouldn’t we both wear it? And if you don’t like it, wipe it off and try another color! It’s makeup, it’s not permanent.
Fenty Beauty ‘Moroccan Spice’ Eyeshadow Palette
Women in the Middle East have to contend with hot, humid weather. How can we stop our makeup from melting off and keep it looking fresh?
Well, the ‘Pro Filt’r’ foundation is the foundation for such weather as it’s humidity-proof. Our founder is a performer, so it had to be approved to last under all the lights and with all that sweat. I think a primer is very important, so make sure you apply a good amount of primer, especially to the T-zone as it’s the area that gets really oily.
If the perimeter gets oily, that’s okay since it looks youthful, but the T-zone should be matte. Most important is to blot throughout the day, not set with powder. Women often think putting more powder on is the best option, but blotting actually eliminates excess shine, which is better as it won’t create more coverage and texture.
What’s the best way to find your perfect shade and type of foundation?
I’m obviously going to recommend Fenty Beauty, and that’s because we have 40 options! But it’s not that we have 40 foundations – anyone can do that. It’s that we have four families: light, medium, tan, and deep. So once you work out which ‘family’ you’re in, you have ten options that are based on your undertones – whether you’re cool, neutral, or warm.
A great way to find out which you are is to press down on the back of your wrist, let go, and check what color you first see. Is it yellow, pink, or olive? That’s your undertone, which is very different from your surface tone. It can be confusing, but your undertone is what’s really important, and we have so many that you can work through. Your true color, as far as I’m concerned, is your chest. The neck will always be too light as there’s shadow.
We’re moving away from matte, and it’s all about glowing skin now. How do we achieve that radiant complexion?
It’s very important that when you apply highlight, you go back to that T-zone being matte, because that ‘glow’, plus your natural glow, becomes one big glow – and not in a good way! So create that contrast by strategically applying your glow where you want it. If you mattify the center of your face, the rest automatically becomes shinier. You can then apply your highlighter to the high points – the cheeks, the bridge of the nose, a little bit on your Cupid’s bow – maybe a little on the tear ducts. That’s it.
What three makeup products will we always find in your kit?
Concealer, mascara, and powder.
Fenty Beauty ‘Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation’
The classic cat-eye look is a staple – what’s your top tip for creating it flawlessly?
I love this look, it’s a classic that will always be on trend. Use your lower lash line as your guide as the upper lash line tends to go down, so it will bring your eyes down. The lower lash line always goes up. Start from the outer corner of your lower lash line and mark out where you want your cat-eye to stop. Make sure you step back in the mirror and really take the time to look.
Then, you go from the inner side of the eye slowly along the upper lash line to the end, on both sides. Next, from the tip in the corner that you’ve marked, you create a little triangle that you connect to the line and fill it in. It can be hard, and it takes time – but you’ll get there. You can always start with a pencil and then go over it with a liquid.
Makeup is supposed to make you feel confident. When you put rules on confidence, what happens? You become insecure.
What’s one beauty rule made to be broken?
Aye, aye, aye – for me, all of them! There has been so much “don’t do this” and “don’t do that”, but makeup is supposed to make you feel confident. When you put rules on confidence, what happens? You become insecure. You start doubting things, you don’t know if they can work.
You think, ‘That model can pull it off, but I can’t wear it because she’s a model.’ Who says that? No! If you feel confident wearing a pink eyeshadow and purple lips, and you exude confidence, good for you. You look hot! And that’s what makeup is about. It’s supposed to make you feel and look like a better version of yourself. When there are rules, it becomes boring – because who likes rules?
If you could invent a beauty product, what would it be and why?
Oh wow, that’s so impossible! I mean, you have Fenty Beauty that has everything – only kidding! But I would have to say a concealer that doesn’t crease as it’s impossible. You apply it to a moveable area! Or an eye cream that actually illuminates dark circles. Can someone please do that?
What’s your favorite beauty look to create?
A brown smoky eye. I think it’s classic, it’s sexy, it’s confident – and it’s a statement. Definitely brown though, not black.
Complete the sentence: To me, beauty is…