I had the great fun of being Turner Classic Movies Film Festival VIP Kimberly Truhler’s wing-woman and roomie this year. Kimberly’s fashion-in-film and Hollywood history expertise made her TCM’s go-to presenter for 2 films, A Foreign Affair, and Flying Down to Rio (with Cybill Shepherd as her interview guest).
Well, when I discovered that one VIP perk is getting a pre-appearance “touch-up” by professional Hollywood makeup artist, you can bet I had to finagle a way to get in on THAT!
I convinced Kimberly she needed an “assistant” and Sherpa for her lovely vintage handbag and shamelessly traipsed after her into the holy of holies, the Chinese Theatre VIP Lounge. (Cue angelic chords.) At the end of the long room was the makeup area, glowing with that indefinable aura of Hollywood glamour. And presiding over the mirrored makeup station was a slender, pretty woman who asked us to call her TC (mostly, she explained, because her Greek name was virtually unpronounceable by many—it’s Thecla Luisi). It was instantly obvious that here is a woman who knows how to make her clients, male and female, shine while putting them at their ease. When Leonard Maltin popped over to ask her to “knock down the shine a bit” and she smilingly powdered him, I was impressed with her poise and cheerfulness. Nothing of the diva here! (There’s TC below, working on the lovely Liz Benoit Williams.)
Since TC was so clearly brilliant and knowledgeable, plus warm, funny, and likable, I asked her if she’d share some of her Hollywood secrets with me and she was sweet enough to say yes…and to be enthused about it. (Frankly, we could have chatted all day about this subject!) If you’re wondering where you might have seen her work, here’s a link to her resume—it’s downright amazing. http://makeupbytc.com/resume/ Let’s just say if you’ve seen All My Children (TC’s notes on the photo below: From the AMC makeup room…that’s Melissa Claire Egan in my chair, while her best friend, the super-sweet Chrishell Stause (whose makeup I did as well) is chatting and laughing nearby) or Oprah’s Next Chapter, you’ve seen her handiwork and has worked just every red carpet in town—and then some.
Base Coat Boot Camp
I’ve got to tell you, when two women who adore makeup start talking, watch out. We found we had SO many things to discuss that we finally realized we’d have to take this in stages! So, our first segment really gets down to basics…the foundation of every woman’s makeup—foundation!
KN: TC, there’s a fairly recent study out there that reports that if working women wear not enough or too much makeup, they run the risk of being perceived as less than professional. When I share this info with my clients, the usual reaction is, “Well, great! But how do I know how to do this right?” What are some of the “baseline” how-tos for a professional “neutral” makeup? What’s the first thing to consider?
TC: First things first—let’s talk about foundation. And to do that, you have to ask yourself some questions: What do I want from foundation? Just to even out skintone? Hide the freckles? (By the way, I love freckles…don’t hide them!). So, you have to decide how much coverage you want or need. There are many formulas and weights…but it basically comes down to light, medium or full-coverage. If you’re young or have oily skin, you might not need full coverage. You might be able to get sufficient coverage through a tinted moisturizer or BB cream.
Next decision—what kind of finish do you want? That often depends on what type of skin you have—dry, oily, or combination. Your foundation finish choices are typically: matte (no shine), to semi-matte (a soft glow), luminous (a brighter glow) to full-on dewy (moist, pearly, youthful sheen). Naturally, it makes sense that drier skins like a dewier finish and oily skins prefer matte. If you have oily skin, always, always get oil-free foundations.You probably will want to avoid anything with dewy, luminous, etc; you have your own source of that…your own oils will come up to the surface and create that dewiness.
And if you have dry skin, look for a more emollient (creamier and moister) formula; it’s harder for dry skin to retain moisture.
That takes us to the next decision—what kind of texture do I like? There are liquids, mousse, tinted moisturizer, aerosol, airbrush formats, creams, gels, powder-to-liquid, powder, mineral—and that’s a very personal decision.
Some people love the feel of a rich cream on their face, others can’t stand it. And if you use a powder foundation (the kind that comes with its own sponge)…well, wow, you can wind up with a real mess if you keep doing “touch ups” and building it up; you have to recognize that it has the potential to get clumpy and muddy if you don’t handle it right. Mineral powders are very popular, people really love them, but on an oiler skin, it might not have a lot of longevity. Test one on yourself and see if you like how it wears; a lot of them have reflective pigments, so they might not be the best for oily skins.
And finally, you have to consider your lifestyle. How much time do you spend on makeup tells me how much you’ll do…are you the type of woman who only likes to slap on sunscreen and chapstick and call it a day, or do you enjoy wearing makeup? What’s your personality?
Really, you’ve just got to try things out to know if you’re going to like it. And you’ve got to wear it for a while to see how your skin reacts. That’s why experimenting is so important. Buy your foundations at a store where you can exchange them, if possible.
KN: Wow, that’s a lot to think about!
TC: Yeah, but it’s important to think it thru and see what works best.
KN: Okay, what else do we need to consider with foundation?
TC: Well (laughing), it helps if it matches your skin! You’d think that would be obvious, but it’s easy to miss the mark on that if you’re not careful.
KN: So, what’s the best way to know what shade of foundation to wear? I’ve heard you’re supposed to match your inner wrist, your jawline, your cheek…?
TC: First, it’s important to understand the difference between shades and undertones. Shade is how light or dark the color is (shades are called fancy names or numbers). Undertone is how much pink to olive (yellow-green) you have to your skin color.
One of the first companies to understand this was Bobbie Brown—she was the first to make foundation with yellow undertones. Before her most companies only offered foundation with pink undertones. Undertones are tricky, but basically, warmer undertones are for folks with more golden skin, cooler undertones are for those with more pink. So, it’s HOW warm or cool your undertone. Some ethnic skins even have blue in their skin. Again, you just have to try it on.
Other color/tone variables to take into account: change of season and if one takes sun or lives in an area where there is a lot of intermittent sunshine. If you use sunscreen, retinols or skin lighteners, these can make your face shades lighter, so, your face might be a different tone than the rest of your body. I call it “floating head syndrome,” when a woman’s facial makeup makes her face several shades lighter. A lot of people wear sunscreen on their face, but not their body. So they need a shade that can harmonize both face and body. .
Oh, and don’t buy foundation at night! You must have natural daylight. Ask the department store counter person if you can take a mirror to daylight.
Another caution: Don’t try to alter your skin color with foundation–it’s supposed to harmonize with neck, chest, hands, so step back and check the overall effect. You don’t want to have to do a full body makeup. You don’t want someone to say “Your foundation looks great!”
For “trying on” foundations, I find applying a stripe of makeup along the jawline is best for seeing if the shade and color works—it should disappear into your skin. (But look at face and throat too, if you’re using skin lighteners or sunscreen, as we mentioned before.) A lot of my clients even have 2 shades, one for spring-summer, one for fall-winter.
KN: Any recommendations of foundation brands you use for your Hollywood clients?
TC: I really like Makeup Forever (a French line)—it has a wonderful array of skin tones, a really great range. Very pigmented, amazing stuff. I’ve found colors that work for lightest to darkest. It has buildable coverage, and because it’s made for HD coverage, it’s not too matte or too dewy. It has silicones in it and blurs flaws—it’s great! I also love the finish and the texture of Koh Gen Do and Armani. You just have to try a few types and see how they work for you.
KN: Okay, let’s assume I’ve finally found just the right foundation. What do I put it on with—fingers, sponges, brush?
TC: Many of these products come with their own applicator, for example, if it’s a powder foundation, then it comes with a sponge. If you use the sponge, know that it’s going to give you a much heavier coverage. If it’s a wet-dry makeup, you’ll use the sponge when it’s wet for heavier coverage, more sheer when you use the brush. These days, no matter what the format, many foundations have buildable coverage. They may start off sheer, but you can add more to build up the opacity—so one product can take care of a lot of issues.
Here’s where the art of finesse comes in! For initial application for liquids and creams, I like to use fingers. I know you see sponges in studios, but that’s for sanitary issues. At home, you don’t have to do that. Remember, sponges absorb. You’re going to go through a lot more product—that sponge will just go through your bottle in no time! Use your fingertips, then blend it out with a brush or a sponge to soften edges along the jawline or hairline and around your eyebrows. Blend, blend and blend some more…you don’t want to see where it stops and starts. Feather it in.
It’s not a mask, it’s just supposed to even out your skin. I see a lot of young women who wear way too much makeup and it’s aging them! (By the way, if your skin is still breaking out a lot, then don’t use your fingers and be sure to use a disposable sponge or clean brush every time.)
KN: Walk us thru the order of application…
TC: Most women have a system—here’s mine. After I cleanse, I put on face moisturizer and eye cream. Now, if you have dry skin, it’s going to–(here, TC makes a hilarious suction noise). Give that moisturizer time to do its job.
Do something else, like brushing teeth or doing your eye makeup. By then, your moisturizer should be into your skin and you can put on foundation (cream or powder). Yes, your foundation should go on after doing your eyes, so you don’t have to clean up any oops from eye makeup.
Once the moisturizer has absorbed, then put the foundation on your face with your fingertips. 5 little dots on forehead, each cheek, under nose, and chin. Spread it evenly. Blend up and out and up into hairline. Then blend, blend, blend, with fingertips, and a foundation brush around the nose, hairline, blending into the brows. Same goes with a sponge, if you prefer that to a brush. Water-based foundations have less “slip” to them, so you might want to do one area at a time—if, you know, you work in a la-dee-dah fashion, the water-based foundation will dry up before you have time to blend.
Next, concealer, which is heavier than foundation, but more emollient, creamier. Blending is the key here, too. So, it’s: cleanse, moisturize, if you wear any eye makeup, your eyes sans mascara, (shadow, liner, brows), then concealer, foundation, powder, blush, mascara, and lips. Lips always last, so you’re not dragging your lipstick all over your face. Got it?
KN: I’ll bet for gals who don’t like makeup—even if they feel they maybe should wear it to create a professional appearance— that’s a daunting list. (Admittedly, that woman is probably not reading this post!) How can we help this gal?
TC: Well, that’s very challenging–maybe it helps to think of it this way. It’s like understanding that you wear business attire and not your PJs to work to project a more polished, put-together image. I find most of these clients have problems with feeling anything on their skin and often touch their faces, eyes, etc—they’re just not used to wearing makeup, so it is a whole new world for them.
What they REALLY need, bare minimum, to achieve that polished-but-not-overdone look is: foundation, concealer, a touch of powder, a hint of blush, brows, lashes, a sheer lipcolor—really, that’s it. If they’re willing to give it a go, they don’t need more than that. Of course, you know you don’t have to wear a full “mask” of makeup. You can just spot-apply foundation where it’s needed. A strategic approach might be more comfortable or appealing for some.
If you want to take it up a notch, then you can add eye shadow, heavier eye liner, lip liner, and lipstick, but you don’t need it for an everyday look. TC Tip: Everyone can benefit from a peach tone shadow on their eyelid; it takes down blueness or redness. Tone it to your skintone; fair skins need a very pale one, medium skin tones, a bit darker, etc. Matte is a great base; you can always add shimmer later—it neutralizes and evens out the skin tone. MAC Cosmetics has a good variety from lighter peach to darker tones. (Kay note: After hearing TC saw this, I hustled over to my favorite Laura Mercier counter and asked for a nice peach and the perfect one for my pale skin is called Ginger…it’s MARVELOUS!) Oh, and a groomed brow is a must. It frames the face. I’m a brow frau!! (Kay: That’s another post, I promise. Meanwhile, you can enjoy this gem from the Movie Star Makeover vault: Just Browzing.)
KN: Primers seem to be everywhere today…are they a necessary pre-foundation step?
TC: Here’s the deal. There are always going to be new products out there, but just because it’s a trend doesn’t mean it’s right for you. But primers do have a place; their purpose is to mattify skin, make pores look smaller, and make foundation last longer. If you have really oily skin, a primer can help absorb oil so there’s less need for touch-ups. For drier skins, primers can help makeup stay on and even out pore size, too. But, primer doesn’t need to be spread over the face like a mask. Be strategic. For folks with really large pores, it can be real beauty aid. If you think this is something you might use in your routine, try it. See if you like the results and if it’s worth the extra step.
KN: How about BB creams? What are they and can they really take the place of primer/sunscreen/foundation, etc?
TC: BB creams got their start in Asia as Beauty Balms or Blemish Balms; they became popular in the 1980s. The updated BB creams are basically multi-tasking products that offer treatment, sunscreen and some kind of foundation coverage, from sheer to medium. Some even have primers. They are great, I find, for people who are on the go, someone on vacation who wants to take less product, or a woman who is more comfortable with the bare minimum of makeup. I just wrote a blog post about BB creams that goes into more detail. (Editor’s note: Click here to read TC’s terrific blog!)
KN: Other words of wisdom from your vantage point as a Hollywood makeup artist?
TC: I like to remind women that it’s not the best idea to compare yourself to images you see in magazines or on screen. Remember, actors and models have an advantage: they’ve got is a great director, photographers, incredible lighting, professional wardrobe and makeup, so comparing yourself to these images is not really realistic. In a typical commercial or magazine advertising shoot, there’s an average of over 1,000 shots taken. Out of all that, one image is picked—and THEN IT’S RETOUCHED!
I’m telling you, even the colors have been altered by photoshop sometimes. So, if you are looking for an exact color of foundation or lipstick, you might be looking for a color that doesn’t exist. It’s part of the magic, an illusion.
And, I want to remind readers that the days of a full-on, mask-like makeup are over—by the 60s, you see more and more ads advertising makeup that “looks like skin,” not makeup.
Today, good foundation should look like real skin—only you and I both know it’s been smoothed it out with foundation. And more and more, that’s really what everyday makeup is geared for, a fresh face. Good makeup enhances, not detracts…it works in harmony with your face. It enhances your good features, downplays the flaws.
KN: What gives you the greatest sense of satisfaction in your work?
TC: I have the opportunity to work with charity events or causes where I do makeup for everyday people who don’t normally get to have makeup done by makeup artists. I get a lot of personal satisfaction in helping somebody find and realize their personal beauty. I don’t know if there’s anything more rewarding than seeing that “ordinary” person look into a mirror and get a big smile. They’re seeing themselves as I see them, beautiful. Looking good and feeling good go hand in hand. If you’re feeling good, it shows. There’s so many things you can do to enhance your inner beauty. I just love that!
KN: Thanks, TC! I know just what you mean. Hey, when we visit again, let’s talk about blush. I’ve just discovered cream blush and I’m dying to talk about it.
TC: It’s a deal! This has been so much fun to do with you, Kay!
Want to keep in touch with TC? Of course you do! So, hop right over to her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MakeupByTc and stop by her webpage to read her latest blog post: http://makeupbytc.com/
Note: The marvelous vintage makeup ads I used to illustrate this blog post do not indicate an endorsement by either TC or me–they’re just a fun look back at some of the ways makeup has been advertised and promoted through the years. I hope you love them as much as I do!