Celebrity Makeup Artist Mélanie Inglessis Shares Her Beauty Secrets

Why she thinks most foundations are all wrong, plus the makeup products that never fail her.
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Michelle Villett
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Why she thinks most foundations are all wrong, plus the makeup products that never fail her.
Melanie Inglessis

Celebrity makeup artist Mélanie Inglessis.

If there's one celebrity makeup artist these days whose work I find most exciting, it's gotta be Mélanie Inglessis. If you've been around here for a while, I'm sure you're well familiar with her—she's the go-to makeup artist of the stunning Olivia Wilde, who is almost always my favourite red carpet beauty risk-taker. Other famous faces she's painted include Kate Hudson, Lea Michele, Rachel Weisz, Gwen Stefani and Miley Cyrus.

Born in Montreal, raised in Paris and educated at the London College of Fashion, Mélanie began her career working for Shu Uemura, MAC and Smashbox. Today, she travels to Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles and beyond, working with her celeb clientele; you can also spot her makeup looks in the pages of ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar and Tatler.

As a mega-fan, it was definitely a career highlight for me to pick Mélanie's brain on all things makeup, red carpet and celebrities. Here's what we chatted about:

How would you describe your approach to makeup?

I'm well known for [the way I do] skin. I'm not really heavy-handed; I like to keep a light, glowing, breathing skin, with maybe just a hint of a rock 'n' roll eye or a hit of lip. I do like to make a statement. But I'm mostly known for skin and for smoky eyes.

My makeup philosophy is I'm really trying not to have my client be overshadowed by the makeup. I'm empowering them to walk the red carpet feeling sexy, confident and good in their skin. So it's just a matter of finding the right balance to make a statement with the makeup, but still respecting and understanding the client—what she is and how she represents herself on the red carpet. Makeup is not only makeup; there's more behind it. You have to understand that to empower them and to bring out their best features.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Well, 99, maybe 100 percent of the time, my inspiration comes from the outfit because that's what they choose first. Then, once we know the outfit, it becomes a collaboration between the hair and makeup, the stylist and how [my client] feels. With editorial, it's different, but the starting point of the look for red carpet is always the outfit.

Your "no-makeup makeup" on Rosamund Pike last year was such a bold (and amazing) decision. How did that come about?

Rosamund Pike - The World's End premiere, LA, August 2013

Well, with Rosamund, she's gorgeous. She's like the English rose. She was wearing a black dress that was a little rock 'n' roll; a little edgier. There was very little makeup. But I don't always think "strong outfit with no makeup." I would not have done that for the Oscars, for example. You have to consider where is the party, where is the red carpet, what movie she's promoting. The bigger picture. I thought with the dress she chose, she felt confident, so the makeup could just be barely there. Her natural beauty shining and that's it. It was still makeup, but it took 15 or 20 minutes.

That's an important a little tip—as a makeup artist, when you are successful it is because you don't always have to make a statement. I don't always have to prove my skill or show what I can do.

You've also worked with Olivia Wilde for a long time. 

Olivia Wilde makeup, Her premiere, 2013 (6)

Olivia, she is my friend and she trusts me. Often I have a vision or I want to accentuate a certain feature, and it's perfection. We have a lot of fun.

What's your favourite look to create on your clients?

Olivia Wilde - Rush world premiere, London, September 2013

I do love a smoky eye. The first time I worked with Rachel Weisz, she said, "You are the queen of smoky eyes." But I need to change it up a little bit—sexy, rock 'n' roll is good but you don't want too much smoky eye. I like dewy skin and smoky eyes.

Do you have any tips for those of us trying to master a smoky eye at home?

The average woman can definitely do them. I always advise to use a soft, creamy pencil. I think cream-based eyeshadows are way easier to work with than powders, and now they come in big fat pencils. Sue Devitt used to have an Eye Intensifier that was really nice.

So get a big, soft pencil and what I recommend to women is to just try it—roughly put it near the lashes, and then blend, blend, blend with the warmth of your ring finger. Smudge it and do the same underneath the eye. Try not to go over the crease, or too far out or up; keep it safe within the rim of your eyes.

Maybe start with an earth tone, like brown or gold. Keep it to one colour, an earthy colour. When you feel like you've got the hang of it and know how to do the shape, then experiment with other colours, like greys and burgundies.

What are your top must-have products that you use in your kit?

Cle de Peau Beaute Concealer

Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer: I don't leave without it.

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation. As far as the face, my kit contains all Armani colours. I do not work with any other brand of foundation.

Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer Makeup

Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer Makeup. It's a little concealer pot, an extremely thick concealer that comes in all colours. It's a bit heavier coverage, so I thin it down by mixing it with the Giorgio Armani foundation. This creates a thick, creamy foundation that is really versatile. I use it over blemishes, or to do a full face of makeup if I need to.

What's the best way to find your foundation match?

Well, first of all, I don't understand why there is such a big problem with foundation colours in this industry. Whether it's drugstore, department store or middle of the line, in my experience, 65 to 70 percent of cosmetics brands have the wrong colours. They're all too warm, too pink, too orange. There are only few brands that have a lot of yellow-based foundations. Armani is one of those, which is why it's such a popular foundation. The consistency is great, but the colours are what is amazing. Out of 10 shades, two are red-based and all the rest are yellow-based, which is what most women are.

To pick the colour, department stores are the worst. If you can, walk outside with a mirror in the daylight. I've even made mistakes before, where it's a totally different colour. Their lights are not made for makeup shopping. So I would say if you can, go outside, use your mirror, look at it in daylight. Always put the foundation on your jawline to check the colour—I should never have to blend the neck.

How do you recommend applying foundation once you've found the right colour?

Start at the middle of your face and blend it out. By the time it goes to the jawline, it will barely be there.

When you're trying to blend it to the neck or chest, that's a problem. If you need to warm it—let's say if you're pale—then you should still choose the right colour for your skin, then warm it with a bronzer or a loose powder that's soft and gentle. Don't buy a foundation that's two or three shades darker than your own skin, thinking it will warm the skin up.

Is there anything that's good from the drugstore?

There are a few things actually from Revlon [that I discovered working with Olivia Wilde, a spokesperson].

PhotoReady Skin Lights Face Illuminator

Their new PhotoReady Skin Lights Face Illuminator comes in four colours; mixed with a little foundation, it gives a really nice, dewy look. You can also use it with moisturizer on the legs and arms or on its own to highlight, illuminate and bring light to cheekbones and collarbones. It's a really fantastic product.

Revlon PhotoReady Kajal Intense Eye Liner & Brightener in Carbon Cleopatra

All their pencils—including the PhotoReady Kajal Intense Eye Liner + Brightener in Carbon Cleopatra, which is a double-ended black and white kajal—are phenomenal. The consistency is great.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Super Natural

They have some great nude lip glosses and nude lipsticks. They're the perfect beige, not too much orange or red.

Revlon Lash Potion Mascara

And Lash Potion Mascara. They have a lot of great products for sure.

What are your thoughts on false lashes? 

I tend not to use them. I do use lashes on my clients for sure, but I would rather not. I feel it's more modern. But it depends on who it is. If one of my clients has holes in her lashes, or really demands them, okay. But on a day-to-day basis I like a more natural look. For example, with Olivia on a press day in Toronto, I don't think she needs huge lashes. Or when I work a lot on a lead, I play with colours—beautiful colours on the lid—but with lot of lashes, you kind of lose that. All you see is black and the lashes, not the colour.

There is something to be said for individual lashes, though—they have a '60s, retro feel. But if i do a strong smoky eye, I think a lot of lashes could take it to the other side of glamorous.

What are the best mascaras?

Mascara is a tricky thing; I'm not going to lie. I do have in my kit that Revlon Lash Potion.

Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Mascara

I also like Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Mascara. And the Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara with a small brush, for the little corners. Chanel has a brown one and I do like it when it's kind of older and drier—I do a lot of brown underneath on bottom lashes. When I use brown, I don't mind if it's a little dry.

Yves Saint Laurent Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils Luxurious Mascara in 4 Fascinating Violet

For coloured mascara, YSL has a bright purple—that's amazing when you have beautiful skin and purple mascara or a purple-black. I'm also into dark burgundy mascara; if you have green eyes, that's gorgeous.

Do you have any favourite pencils or shadows?

I actually have a lot of pencils. I have at least 300 pencils, and that's what I work with. When I travel, I could travel with no eyeshadow, just soft pencils—they're so easy.

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in Chaos

Urban Decay just came out with amazing pencils in such a wide range of colours. I also use Sue Devitt and NARS.

Laura Mercier Caviar Stick Eye Colour in Plum

Laura Mercier Caviar Sticks are amazing and so easy to blend. They've become the new eyeshadow.

Yves Saint Laurent Pure Chromatics 4 Wet & Dry Eye Shadows

In eyeshadow, I'm a YSL fan. They just work well and the colours are great. I also use a lot of the Chanel Illusion d'Ombre pots—I use a lot of creams.

What are the biggest makeup mistakes you see women making?

When the balance is off between an eye, a lip and a cheek, I wish they would stop. That's when I feel everybody wears everything in the middle all together.

Also the wrong foundation colour happens a lot. And not powdering the T-zone. You can have dewy skin all over, but you cannot have dewy around the nostrils. With flash on the red carpet, it picks it up on the nostrils, and then they look like they're sweating. So even if you want dewy skin, use a powder to mattify the T-zone so the flash can't pick it up. When I see sweat on middle of the forehead, it's just that the makeup artist didn't mattify. You really have to understand the flash. My makeup has gotten better as I look at the pictures and see mistakes. I understand what I need to do to prepare my clients.

How do you think that Nicole Kidman white powder situation happened?

I have no idea. I'm so close to my clients' noses that I don't understand how that powder did not show up physically. How they didn't see a change in texture even if the colour wasn't visible. I can see every pore on Olivia's face.

Maybe it was a brand new product. You have to be careful. If I go to Saks and buy a brand new powder, I probably would not use that first-hand on my client. I would use it on myself, take a picture with flash and see. I just would not use a brand new anything—a cream, eye cream, eye mask—without testing it on myself or a friend. We are all creatures of habit and sometimes we want to shake it up a bit, but unless I know the results it going to give me, I won't use it on my client.

Do you have any tips for aspiring makeup artists?

Have persistence. Know your industry. Be knowledgable. I started in London, where it's a little different. I went to school and did a four-year BA in makeup. The good thing that brought me was a broader knowledge. Sure, makeup is about applying makeup. You can do foundation and concealer. But being a true artist is when you have an understanding of your industry.

Isn't Mélanie the best? Find more from her on Twitter and Instagram.

Have your say

What do you think of Mélanie's approach to makeup? Have you tried any of her favourite products? Do you agree with her views on foundation and false lashes?