Famed makeup artist and beauty entrepreneur Bobbi Brown shares her must-have products and beauty commandments in an inspiring interview.
Describe your beauty background, or “pedigree”. How did you get your start in the beauty business? When did you decide to make beauty and cosmetics your career?
After getting a degree in theatrical makeup from Emerson College in Boston, I moved to New York City in 1980 to work as a freelance makeup artist. My first big break was doing a black and white exercise story for Glamour magazine that was shot by Bridgette Lacombe. After years of traveling around the world for my job, I got to the point where I wanted to work and be closer to home. I had the idea to create my own line of makeup around the time I was pregnant with my first child. So I worked with a chemist in 1990 to create 10 super-wearable lipstick colors.
Tell us about your first gig as a makeup artist. Was it everything you had been dreaming about, or did you have to reorient your vision of makeup artistry after getting a hands-on taste of the business?
When I started as a makeup artist in the 1980s, many of the shades and formulas I had to work with didn’t look natural. I often had to blend different shades to find one that truly matched skin colors. This void inspired me to create a cosmetics line that looked more natural on the skin. I wanted makeup to complement a woman’s own look, rather than overpower it.
Why is a good beauty routine important? What does makeup do for the individual woman?
I believe that every woman is beautiful, and the key to bringing out that beauty is confidence. Unfortunately, many women have trouble tapping into their own confidence. While makeup shouldn’t be considered a one-step prescription for self-confidence (that has to come from within and be developed over time) – I believe that with the right tools and knowledge, makeup can help all women achieve that little ’boost’ for looking and feeling our best.
"When I look at a woman I don’t see what’s wrong with her, I see what’s right. That’s why I’m troubled by today’s definition of beauty that favors a cosmetic surgery-enhanced, cookie-cutter look."
What influences and inspires your makeup creations?
I draw inspiration from travel, spending time with my family, and from women who I see walking down the street. I believe that women that are confident in their own skin are inspiring. Susan Sarandon and Meryl Streep are examples of women I admire.
How do you keep up with the ever-evolving beauty market?
My philosophy hasn’t changed – it’s evolved. And I think it’s happened as I’ve brought color and texture into the mix. While today, it’s still about makeup that’s pretty, easy and quick –that’ll always be my mantra — it’s also about being stylish without falling victim to trends. As far as foundation, concealer and powder are concerned, I still believe in shades with yellow undertones. They look the most natural, the most perfect on a woman’s skin. That will never change, either.
What are the basic makeup and beauty products that every woman needs?
Concealer: It’s the secret of the universe. No matter how I’m feeling, a creamy, yellow-toned concealer instantly makes me look fresh and well rested.
A good set of makeup brushes: Good brushes are key for applying makeup. And high-quality brushes, if taken care of properly, last for several years. (I’ve had mine for ages.)
Moisturizing balm: My skin always looks better when it’s well moisturized. I love how rich, really dense balms give skin a smooth, plumped up look.
Goody ouch-less hair elastics: I like to be able to tie my hair back when I’m working (and whenever I have a bad hair day).
Blush: A pop of pink on the apples of the cheeks instantly brightens up the face.
Customizable makeup palette: I love customizable palettes – they make it easy to streamline my makeup routine without sacrificing my options. I’ve filled my palette with my favorite eye, lip, and cheek colors.
What is your proudest moment as a beauty-maker?
The launch of Bobbi Brown Essentials at Bergdorf Goodman in 1991 was iconic for me and I remember it like it was yesterday. I sometimes still can’t believe how far the brand has come since that day.
What is one Bobbi Brown product that you use, and can’t live without?
Concealer, it’s the secret of the universe. No matter how I’m feeling, a creamy, yellow-toned concealer instantly makes me look fresh and well rested.
"I draw inspiration from travel, spending time with my family, and from women who I see walking down the street. I believe that women that are confident in their own skin are inspiring."
What is your favorite part of a woman’s face?
When I look at a woman I don’t see what’s wrong with her, I see what’s right. That’s why I’m troubled by today’s definition of beauty that favors a cosmetic surgery-enhanced, cookie-cutter look. Women who look like the ones I grew up admiring (women like my grandmother, Helen Hayes and Jessica Tandy) are nowhere to be found.
Stop obsessing. Instead of obsessing over your “flaws” and the things you don’t like about yourself, look at what’s right. I can’t tell you how many times women come to my makeup counter so fixated on the size and shape of one feature that they overlook everything else.
Bobbi’s 10 Beauty Commandments
- Be who you are. This means everything from learning to love your lines to appreciating your unique features. There’s something incredibly beautiful about a woman with lines in her face and I think we should start using the phrase ‘living’ instead of ‘aging’. Lines are proof that we’ve lived life.
- Wear SPF everyday. Too much sun exposure is a sure-fire way to look older before your time. Sun protection should be a part of your skincare regimen even during the cold winter months.
- Drink water. Staying hydrated is essential to beauty and well-being. When you get tired of drinking plain water, switch to herbal tea. Since it’s caffeine-free, you don’t have to worry about getting dehydrated. Chamomile and Red Zinger are my favorites and they’re equally good hot or cold.
- Moisturize your face. This is the most important step in caring for skin. When skin isn’t well moisturized, it looks dull, tired, and older than it really is. Try a lightweight moisturizing lotion if you have normal skin, and opt for a richer, hydrating cream when skin feels dry or sensitive. And yes, even oily skin benefits from moisturizer – an oil-free formula that hydrates while it helps control overactive oil production.
- Take charge of yourself. Instead of fighting the body you have, accept it and make the most out of it. Focus on being healthy, strong, and fit. Commit to making smart food choices and exercise regularly. This requires work and it’s not a quick fix, but you’ll look and feel better over the long term.
- Reach for concealer first. A good concealer can make the most immediate and dramatic difference in how you look. It lightens up dark circles, brightens up your face, and makes you look well rested. Look for a creamy formula that’s yellow-based and one shade lighter than your skin tone.
- Find a foundation in your skin tone correct shade. It should disappear into your skin when you swatch it on the side of your face. At most, you need two shades – one that matches your skin now, and one that will work in a different season when you’re either lighter or darker.
- Choose two shades of blush – one that’s the color of your cheeks when they’re naturally flushed, and one that’s brighter for a pop of color.
- Find a lipstick that looks good when you’re barefaced. The trick to finding the most flattering lipstick is to use the true color of your lips as the inspiration. Look for a lipstick color that looks like your natural lip color taken up a notch.
- Live in the present. We spend a lot of energy feeling bad that we don’t look like we used to, instead of appreciating what we do look like. I hated my arms when I was a teenager and often wore long-sleeved shirts. Now I look back on pictures from those days and I think that my arms looked fine. I would have saved myself a lot of adolescent angst if I had made the best of what I had at the time. So start appreciating yourself now.
Photos: Courtesy of BOBBI BROWN