Makeup Artists Suggest Unusual Application Ideas

In 1996, the makeup artist François Nars was working on a shoot for Harper’s Bazaar. He used his bronze Tangier lipstick on the model Carolyn Murphy’s lips, then applied it to her eyelids and cheeks as well. This monochromatic look became the inspiration for the Multiple, the multiuse product that is one of his line’s best sellers.

Professional makeup artists love working off script, pushing the boundaries of what even constitutes makeup. For the fall 2014 runway shows, the makeup artist Pat McGrath painted layers of latex on eyelids at Dior. At Alexander McQueen, she applied feathers individually to the lashes and brows “to emulate a black feathered fringe,” she said.

Sometimes a little makeup improvisation can be a challenge, albeit a rewarding one. Hannah Murray, who consults for Topshop’s line of cosmetics, once found herself on a shoot in Paris missing half her makeup kit after an airline lost her luggage. “I had a very beautiful French actress in front of me, but I had no bases or concealers, so I had to make something out of cream and powder eye shadows and a touch of moisturizer without anyone noticing,” she said. “Somehow it worked.”

There are practical reasons for going rogue: Most women lack a professional’s arsenal of products and colors, so finding a new use for lip gloss or blush makes good sense. But perhaps the real appeal of thinking outside the (makeup) box is the play. Ignore the rules, and you’re revisiting your 6-year-old self, smearing your mother’s makeup on your face in the bathroom mirror. Or the sullen teenager displaying a healthy disregard for authority.

“I always work off script,” said Ayinde Castro, a makeup artist who works with Jennifer Lopez. “You achieve the best results when you drop everything you learned in preschool and stop coloring by the numbers.”

Civilians are advised to begin with casual experimentation. And for the at-home makeup artist, Wende Zomnir, the executive creative director of Urban Decay, has one piece of advice: “Try out a new look right before you go to bed,” she said. “I often look like a complete freak around 9:30 p.m. You’re not going anywhere, and you just wash it off.”

• “To give eyes a glistening ’30s screen-siren effect, I use lip gloss or a thick balm like Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream,” said Pati Dubroff, who has worked with Miley Cyrus and Natalie Portman. “I’ve also used a dark lip gloss over a smudged eye pencil for a sultry look. The lids look wet. The stuff slides around, but it looks great.”

• “One of my favorite things for clients with unruly eyebrows is a product from göt2b that kids use to spike their hair,” said Jo-Anna Lynn, a makeup artist at Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger. “I use it on a mascara spool.”


Credit James C. Best, Jr. for The New York Times

• Kathy Jeung, who does Rita Ora’s and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s makeup, creates the illusion of a fuller brow using eye shadow blended with a bit of brow wax or mustache wax. “My favorite product for this is Stila matte powder eye shadow because it has a dense yet silky formulation that has great grabbing power,” she said. “Use a shade lighter than your brow color and apply with a stiff angled brush in the same direction as your eyebrow’s growth pattern.”