If you're even remotely interested in makeup, then chances are, you've heard of Pixiwoo. The YouTube channel founded by UK-based sisters and makeup artists Sam Chapman and Nic Haste boasts more than 1.8 million subscribers (yes, million), 200 million views and counting, and a library of more than 700 tutorial videos.
Pixiwoo are also the experts behind Real Techniques, the affordable, pro-quality line of makeup brushes that I'll bet you've also heard of. When I found out Sam and Nic were coming to Canada as part of a Real Techniques road show tour, OF COURSE I HAD TO meet them.
(Yep, this was much more exciting to me than talking to any old Hollywood celebrity.)
The big news for Canada is that Real Techniques is now available at Rexall, Pharma Plus, London Drugs, Uniprix and select Familiprix, Lawtons Drugs and Pharmasave stores. So basically everywhere. Amazon.ca, too.
Now on to the interview. I sat down for tea with the Pixiwoo sisters (how English, right?) and got chatting about products, tips and beauty in the digital age. Here we go!
How did you get started as makeup artists?
Nic: We've both done two years of media makeup straight from school. The reason we went down that route is because our auntie is a makeup artist. She was really, really successful. She used to do Lady Diana, David Bowie and loads of celebrities, and it seemed really, really glamorous. She used to let us assist on shoots. So we both left school, went to college and then went on to working counters and doing freelance as well.
Why did you decide to create a YouTube channel?
Sam: I was heavily pregnant at the time. A friend asked me how to do a smoky eye and I didn't feel like answering the email. So I just figured I'd film it and break it down, because it was so much quicker for me to actually just do a quick smoky eye and film it than it was for me to email it. You can't really even email that. So I uploaded it to YouTube.
Nic: I think then we didn't even know what parts of the eyes were called, really.
Sam: Don't you ever remember when you were a kid and you used to get Look magazine or whatever, and they'd have the breakdowns of the looks. And you'd be like, "How did they get from that to that?" I don't really get it. You didn't show me. So I filmed it, put it on YouTube, thinking that was it. That wasn't it because loads of other people watched it and started requesting more videos. So I uploaded another one, and then Nic got involved and that's how it sort of started. That was October 2008.
You must have been the only makeup artists on YouTube at the time.
Sam: Absolutely. We were the first actual makeup artists to do it.
How did the partnership with Real Techniques come about?
Sam: We started the YouTube channel in late 2008. And then in 2010, Real Techniques got in contact. So we'd been on there just over a year. They got in contact and said that they were looking to create this brand, all based in the social media and YouTube space. Were we interested?
What appealed to you about the brand?
Sam: When we started talking to Real Techniques, I thought, "This could be really good." Because firstly, they wanted to make the brushes synthetic, which at the time—and now—I'm like, "That's brilliant." It's really unique; there's a gap in the market; and synthetic, if you can do it well, is a much more durable and versatile material than real hair. Also, they were very keen on it being global and very keen on it being affordable for all women. That really sat very well with what we were doing in the YouTube space.
Do you have a favourite brush?
Sam: It's hard [to choose], but the Face Brush is probably my all-time favourite. I use it for foundation, blusher, bronzer—basically everything.
I love them all, but this whole set [the Core Collection Set] is a really useful, brilliant set.
Nic: I like the Blush Brush.
I also like the Deluxe Crease Brush [from the Starter Set]. It is an eyeshadow blending brush, but actually, we use it a lot to put concealer around the eyes. It's great for eyeshadow as well.
What other products are you loving lately?
Nic: At the moment, I'm really liking a Bobbi Brown foundation. It's in a little pot. I don't know what it's called. It's a moisturizing one in a little glass pot. I'm going to have to Google it while Sam's talking.
Sam: I'll do mine while you Google it.
I love your makeup bag.
Sam: Thank you! Liberty sent me that. Do you know Liberty London? It's like a big department store. We must have featured something of theirs and the next day, this came through the post for me. I was like, "Oh my God!"
Right, favourite foundation currently is this [Estée Lauder Enlighten EE Even Effect Skintone Corrector].
It's new. It's very good if you have dry skin. The whole thing is it's an even effect—it evens out the skin tone, but it looks very much like a tinted moisturizer. It's got a little bit of sheen in it. So if you have dry skin, it really gives the illusion of healthy skin, which I love. And I have that in two colours always. I mix them together generally, but at the moment I'm kind of more the Light.
This is brilliant, the Clarins Instant Concealer. It's a really liquidy concealer, which I love.
Nic: Under eyes, it's really nice. It's also great because it's not too much coverage, but it's not too little coverage. It's in between. When you're using something that's light—because we're both using a foundation that's not too much coverage—you can use it on the cheeks or wherever to give you a little bit more coverage if you need it.
And then over the top, I use Maybelline Brow Drama. It's so good, the colours are so brilliant and it's so cheap. I think it's brilliant. I've seen people on YouTube say they hate the applicator, but I just think it's amazing. I can't say enough good things about that.
And then these I love, the Clarins lip balms [Clarins Instant Light Lip Balm Perfectors]. They're really, really good at this time of year. These are lip balms with a little bit of colour in them.
This is a bit more of a luxury product. The By Terry Ombre Blackstar. Those are super-expensive but they are beautiful; they're gorgeous. It's an eyeshadow. I don't know why it's called Ombre. They come in a bunch of different colours and they are amazing. They're so quick and easy to use, and they blend amazing.
So I use that and I just blend it in with the Deluxe Crease Brush [from the Starter Set]. The one that we said for concealer, I use that for the socket.
That's pretty much it. They're my top, top products. There are more things in there that I do love, but they're not essential. Those things are essential. Nicola?
Nic: [My favourite foundation] is the Bobbi Brown Extra SPF 25 Tinted Moisturizing Balm, because my skin seems to be drying out. I love it for when I don't want to have too much coverage.
If I want a bit more coverage, I really like the Hourglass Veil Foundation.
At the moment I'm loving this Becca sculpting bronzer [Becca Lowlight Sculpting Perfector]. It's nice because it's not too orange, and I like the fact that it's cream. It's like a cream bronzer. It gives the skin just a really nice glow without it being too flat. I like to use things that are quite glowing.
MAC Hush Cream Colour Base is my highlighter of choice to give my skin a nice glow.
On my brows, I use the Anastasia Brow Powder Duo.
This [MAC Extended Play Gigablack Lash Mascara] is amazing, especially for your bottom lashes.
On my eyes, it depends on the time of the year and what the day is, really, but this is my go-to. Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow in Beach Bronze. It's been well-loved.
With a little bit of MAC Coffee eyeliner.
I always have to have with me a black gel eyeliner. The Laura Mercier Crème Eye Liner in Noir.
And then I really like this Estée Lauder lipstick that I've been wearing a lot [Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Sculpting Shine Lipstick]. The shade is 310 [Delicate] and it's really nice. I really like that colour, and I actually really like the packaging. It feels really nice and luxurious. It's a really nice texture as well. So that's me.
Sam: I don't know how Estée Lauder still manages to still look old-fashioned. Sorry.
Maybe Kendall Jenner's going to change things.
Sam: You know what I mean? I was just thinking, how did they manage to re-design their packaging and it still looks old-fashioned?
Nic: They wanted to be authentic for their older audience, but their older audience probably aren't going to be around so much anymore.
What do you wish women would start or stop doing with their makeup?
Sam: I wish women would start accepting what they really look like and stop trying to look like what they see in magazines.
That's interesting, because a lot of your tutorials are celebrity-based.
Sam: They are celebrity-based, but you know, we always start with no makeup on.
Nic: It's more of an art, isn't it?
Sam: It's not important to look like JLo, it's just because we like the makeup. We're never going to look like them.
Nic: It's be happy with who you are, but you can do this on a special occasion as well. I feel like everything is Photoshopped and airbrushed now, even brows. It's just everywhere and it's almost not real. What is so attractive about women is that we're real and we're curvy. I think that's all being airbrushed out, on Instagram and things like that. It's quite soul-destroying. It's like, come on... if there's one place you can be real, it's in a photo.
Sam: I always think of makeup as enhancing what you've got, not blanking it all out and starting all over again. You can look at any woman and everyone has an amazing feature on their face, be it their incredible skin or their beautiful eyes or their amazing lips or their fabulous smile. Everybody has something. Sometimes we forget that, and we look at pictures of Jessica Alba or whoever and want what they have. We need to pull back on that a little bit.
Nic: We all do it. Sometimes you just have to stop and be like, "Actually, I'm alright with who I am." But to answer your question, moisturize your skin really well. It's probably my number one thing people should do, because everything sits better on a well-moisturized skin. It just looks healthier, it looks younger, it looks better. So that would be my main thing. Make sure you get a good moisturizer that works for you and look after your skin.
Sam: Yeah, look after your skin. Obviously use good makeup brushes. Your makeup's going to stay on longer and it's going to look better if you do layer it, so that is a no-brainer. And don't smoke because that is a killer for the skin.
Nic: Wear sunglasses all the time so you're not squinting.
Sam: But actually from a female point of view, it would be appreciate your own beauty and appreciate the beauty of other people. Being online, you see a lot of woman-on-woman hate crime. There's tons of it.
Why do you think YouTube attracts so much negativity?
Sam: It's not even YouTube. It's any social media, because it gives everybody a voice. Unfortunately, a lot of what they see, they don't realize isn't real either. It doesn't mean that they're horrible people, it's just that they forget that real people are reading it.
Nic: They've also probably been brought up in this. So they're young and they don't know any different. They don't know it is very rude. We were taught not to be like that, but now, [people are] learning that it's acceptable. We're products of our environment and their environment is social media. If everyone is doing it, then you're going to think, "Well, it's fine for me to do it." So it is kind of re-educating people that actually, that's rude.
Sam: The interesting thing is that you very, very rarely see guys doing it on other guys. It doesn't happen.
Do you read and respond to the comments?
Sam: We don't really respond. We do read everything. And actually, we don't get half as much negativity as a lot of other people. Often when you see it on other people's pages, it's upsetting—when you see what people say to other people. Not really so much us.
Is there a pressure to maintain a certain image?
Nic: I don't put any filters on. I don't retouch anything because I am who I am, and if someone meets me, I want to look the same as I did when they filmed the picture. I put this picture up the other day of us before and after a shoot, and the comments were so lovely. They were saying, "Oh my God, this is why I like you, because you're real and you showed us what you looked like without the makeup and how makeup can enhance you, but you don't have to be like that all the time." It got such lovely comments and that's why we don't put things up that are unattainable. People believe that that's what you really look like, and I don't.
Do you think your transparency is the secret to your success?
Sam: We do try to be as real and honest as we possibly can, and I do totally believe in what I'm saying. We both do. It's genuinely how we feel and that probably does have quite an effect with our audience. When we meet people, they often say, "Thank you for doing that because it makes me feel a lot better." We get a ton of emails from people who feel really positively about that.
Nic: We're older as well. We're a bit more grown-up, we've got kids, people can understand what it's like. We don't share too much of our private lives, but we share enough. Like, "Do you know what, I had such a nightmare with my kids today," and they see you're real people. You're not trying to be something that you're not. And we wouldn't. We wouldn't do it. It's really hard to put on an act and we're not actresses.
Sam: There's definitely a benefit [on YouTube of] being makeup artists. It's also good if you believe yes, makeup can enhance the way that you look, there's no doubt about it. But sometimes people go in with this colour-by-numbers approach to makeup and it's a bit like, "You put this one here, you put this one here, blah blah blah." That's not going to work for everybody. I'm much more of a believer that I'd rather walk into a room and someone says, "You look beautiful today" rather than, "Wow, your makeup's amazing." Or, "Wow, how did you get six colours blended across your eyelids?" Do you know what I mean?
How would you describe your makeup philosophy?
Nic: Whatever makes you feel good.
Sam: I do believe in whatever makes you feel good. I don't think that there's a set a rules that fit everybody's face, because everybody is different.
Nic: I think we should really embrace those differences and not be ashamed of them. If you've got a mole on your face, embrace it. Make a feature out of it. Enjoy what you have and don't try to be somebody that you're not or try to make yourself completely different, because when you take that makeup off, that's when you're back to that person. If makeup does make you feel in a different way when you put it on, then I think you should feel that way the whole time.
Sam: Makeup is fun and it's frivolous and that's what it is. You shouldn't take it too much more seriously than that, you know? If it makes you feel good, and if you want to wear it every day, then wear it every day. You know sometimes when someone comes into the room and everybody's like, "She looks ridiculous, look at her makeup." I always think, "Yeah but look at her. She feels great. You can't knock that."
Nic: We should look at ourselves before we judge others. We get deep, don't we?
Sam: I was thinking about this duchess. I don't know if you know this Spanish duchess who just passed away [Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart]. She was kind of a funny-looking lady, I don't know whether she had quite a bit of work done or whatever, but she was incredible. She was the life and soul of the party. She just passed away at, like, 90 years old. She just got married two years ago to a guy who was half her age. When she got married, all her kids were furious, so in order to get away with it, she just gave them their inheritance early and he signed a thing to say he didn't want any of her money. She had this amazing wedding, and she's a 90-year-old woman and she's on the dance floor doing Flamenco. I looked at her and I'm like, you know what? You can't put a price on it. That's amazing. She's beautiful.
If someone doesn't know much about makeup, where should they start?
Sam: We do have a basics section. I think a good place to start is basic brows or basic foundation for your skin type.
Nic: We talk through a lot of different foundations on there as well, so find what works for you. If you are someone who doesn't want a lot of makeup, go to one of the natural makeup tutorials. We have something for everyone—there are, like, 750 videos on there. There is something for every single person. Guys as well!
What are your biggest beauty pet peeves?
Nic: Foundation that's the wrong colour. It doesn't really bug me, but I just think... match it. Because there are other ways you can put the colour back in. It doesn't bug me; I just would say, "Can I show you how you can actually get the right colour and put some features in afterwards?" Add the colour after, rather than the colour in the foundation.
Sam: I don't really like eyelash extensions because I think they're damaging to eyelashes. Things like that I'm not keen on. But it's not really a beauty pet peeve....
Nic: My beauty pet peeve is those really fake eyebrows, when they're just so drawn-on. You're not born with brows like that. No one is. It's not even like it's straight from a magazine. It's a Sharpie brow. It's like it's straight from some sort of drag show. It's just not feminine at all. Everyone seems to want it at the moment, and I cannot stand it.
Sam: I just did a brow tutorial about how to fill your brows in nicely. And then I had a bunch of comments from people going, "You're not filling them in properly!"
Nic: It's the same as what we were saying earlier—that's how people are getting trained. Just like people don't realize that they're being offensive, because that's all they know. What are these poor young people going to do when they see someone without makeup, if they've only ever seen that? They're going to freak.
There's a whole other idea on YouTube of what looks good, separate from trends or magazines.
Sam: It's funny, isn't it? It's really amazing. It takes all sorts of people to make the world go round. And right now, Anastasia Beverly Hills must be cleaning up. Like, her days have never been so good.
Nic: If you look at her feed, it's all brows like that. She's very nice though.
Sam: This isn't a pet peeve either, but I think there's a lot of miseducation about what foundation is good for you. Sometimes, you have a bunch of people online saying a foundation is good, but that doesn't mean it's going to be good for you. You have to choose what kind of foundation is suitable for your skin type. When you find a blogger that has similar colouring and a similar skin type, that's when you're going to get the best recommendations.
What differences have you noticed between beauty in the UK versus North America?
Sam: I think definitely in America there's a hugely different look to it.
Nic: It's different in different places in America, too. LA is totally done, like every single part of you. New York is like London, not really done at all—where you couldn't even be bothered. It's really interesting.
Sam: The UK I would say is probably a little bit more like you guys [Canadians]. A little bit more understated.
Nic: It's the same with characters as well. You guys are really mell0w. I think the English are quite the same. Americans in New York, you have to turn it up to 11 every time. If we do TV in the States, they're like, "Can you turn it to 11?" We're like, "You're lucky if you get three from us." Three is the max we can do. I think that's very similar to Canadians.
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Are you a Pixiwoo fan? How do you feel about their approach to makeup (and social media in general)? Have you tried any of their favourite products?