Shake Up Your Make-Up

27th November 2015

You’ve bought a new dress, you’ve had your hair done, but what about your make-up? If, like Lisa Botwright, you’re worried you might be stuck in a beauty rut this festive season, read on...

We are in the middle of a good old gossip about make-up. “Have you seen just how small Victoria Beckham’s eyes really are?” the man I’m chatting with tells me conspiratorially. I’m enjoying our impromptu tête-à-tête, especially as there is a purpose behind it: I’m here for a make-up lesson and make-over from James McKnight, a top make-up artist with more than ten years experience, whose sole purpose for the next hour or so is to make me look gorgeous. This is no mean feat, I can tell you: in my Twitter profile, I describe myself as a haggard working mum. But James is the master of illusion, just like Victoria Beckham with her huge feline smoky eyes, and I’m planning to glean as many top tips and tricks as I can.

As I lean back, ready to soak up the experience, I wonder why I’ve never treated myself to a make-up lesson before. We Brits spend a fortune on beauty related products. We have facials that teach us about skincare, manicures to learn how to tame pesky cuticles and the benefits of a top coat, plus expensive haircuts and blow-drys that we try to replicate at home with our expensive GHDs. Considering that most women wear make-up every day, why shouldn’t we enlist the help of a make-up artist to freshen up our look and learn what suits us?

With the Christmas season coming up, I am booked in to learn how to apply an evening look: the full-on party shebang. But basically, all I really want to know is how to do the smoky eye thing without looking like a panda in a boxing ring... “The mistake people make is to assume they need to use black and grey. It’s okay to experiment with softer shades,” James explains, as he begins to apply a mid-brown all over my lids. His brush seems to gently push the colour onto my skin using a patting motion, rather than sweeping. When I apply eye-shadow, I manage to get more on my cheeks than my eyes, and James tells me that’s why he always starts with the eyes – so that any mistakes can be neatly wiped away without ruining your base.

Selecting a darker shade, he works it into a v-shape: “the darker colour must stay towards the outer corner of the eye to avoid making it shrink; the aim is always to elongate the eye.” Next he bring out a gorgeous little pot of gel colour, a trio of three different shades; I’m taken by surprise when he uses it to draw inside the rim of my eye, as well as along the top lashes. Apparently it’s a favourite product of his and longer lasting than a kohl pencil. And more importantly, as far as my lack of skill is concerned, the brush that it comes with is angled to help create the perfect trendy cat’s-eye flick. James uses the exact width of the brush to measure a gel line from the edge of the bottom eyelashes upwards, then draws another line across the top and fills in the gap in a triangle of striking colour. It sounds tricky – but suffice to say that it looks very polished, and I feel more confident that I might even be able to try it out at home. “If you make a mistake,” James reassures me, you can use a cotton bud or edge of a wipe, to get the crisp line back.” James now applies “a good mascara that grabs every single lash” but just along the top lashes for now – the bottom lashes will get their turn later, once he has finished the base and the rest of the look; he has some serious work to do to hide the big, dark circles under my eyes first...

Primer is very important for us ladies-of-a-certain age: “It’s a veil over the skin”, I’m told romantically, and to “stop the foundation settling into our lines and wrinkles,” he elaborates less romatically. As he lets the primer settle (for about a minute or so, but ensuring it stays tacky) he mixes foundation – for coverage and longevity –with tinted moisturiser, for luminosity. “A little bit of a glow is more forgiving,” he tells me, and I don’t disagree. Again he surprises me by using a blusher brush to apply the foundation blend, but I’ve never had much success with a traditional foundation brush in the past, and this approach seems to make much more sense to me. He uses the soft round bristles to push the make up onto my face – a stippling effect; only using his fingers at the end to blend and soften the edges.

Next he tells me to suck in my cheeks and look down into a hand mirror: I’m about to get a quick lesson in shading. “Follow the hollow” is the mantra, which basically means making the shadowy bits darker – James uses a concealer in a darker shade – and the higher, more prominent bits, lighter. A highlighting concealer, in a shade lighter than my skin-tone, is applied along the tops of my cheekbones and the bridge of my nose, whilst the darker concealer is used along my jawbone to lift my face and hide my jowls (I know, lovely), then subtly under my cheekbones to give the illusion of Angelina Jolie-esque bone structure.

The artistry doesn’t stop there, as James moves on to create a Jolie-style pout to match. He pulls out a flesh tone eyeliner and follows the contours of my top lip, then does the same with the bottom lip, but in a darker shade than before – he uses a nude lip pencil this time. Once he has also applied a flattering pinky-nude lipstick all over, with a matching dollop of gloss brushed generously into the centre of my lips, I’m staggered with the selfie-ready-bee-stung-pout this all gives me. So this is why celebrities only ever air kiss.

I’ve quite forgotten that I only have half my eyes made up, but luckily James hasn’t. He pats concealer gently under my eyes (use a water-based concealer, rather than a cream, he advises) and blends well. He uses the same colours, following the same principles (i.e. the mid brown shade all along the bottom, and the same darker shade at the most outer edges). “What you do on top, you must always do along the bottom,” is the general rule, it appears.

A good brow line is essential too; a thicker, more defined brow is very fashionable at the moment and James pulls out his favourite eyebrow pencil, a neutral colour that he tells me suits everyone, and in short delicate sweeps defines them just so. He then sets them with another clear waxy pencil. When I tell him I always tame my eyebows with a clear mascara when I’m going out, he pauses for a moment to gather the words to explore this travesty. “Ugh, but don’t they go crusty?”

James always leaves blusher to last, after the eyes and the lips are finished, to balance the two elements and to pull the whole look together. He asks me to give my best fake smile to bring the apples of my cheeks to prominence, and dusts a pretty coral onto them. But it’s the finishing touch that speaks directly to my inner princess. He shows me a beautiful powder compact, inset with swirls of pink, bronze and gold, and after sweeping the metallic glow over my cheekbones and bridge of my nose, he steps back and tells me, “There, now you’re lit from within.”

And I think I’ve fallen a little bit in love, but whether it’s with James, the experience, the make-up or my new found confidence, I’m not quite sure…

James McKnight is Brand Ambassador for New CID Cosmetics:

To book in for a New CID make-over, contact:
Maria Elena, Rickmansworth on 01923 896117
or Style, Harrow on 020 8206 1909

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