“My big obsession is what I do every single day—I’m a makeup artist. It’s really about empowering people by putting their best foot forward, the best version of how they can look. We’re all tired, we all have pimples, we all have whatever. But when you put the right kind of makeup on…that’s what people like. While I was first known for skin, I think I’m now known for making-up women’s eyes. I make a woman’s eye mesmerizing, make the color pop in a way that it never had popped before, or transform that eye shape to make it look sexier. Penelope Cruz has always said to me, ‘You give me the best eye.’
I was brought up in Ibiza. My parents are quite bohemian—my father was an artist, and my mother did production, and they were partly involved in some of the clubs that were opening up there. My mother was glamorous—she wore red lipstick and high heels—but we still lived on an island. In terms of makeup, everyone had a little tan, a bit of lip gloss, and that was it. When I went to boarding school [in England] at 13, I saw that all of the English girls wore lots of makeup. That’s when I discovered mascara. I had fair eyelashes, and I went from having this ‘piggy’ look on my face to suddenly having these thick, black, long lashes. After three months, I went back to Ibiza on a school break, and I was more popular overnight. Everyone was like, ‘You’ve just really matured; you look really great now.’ It was like, Oh my god. This is the power of makeup. It made a massive difference on my face. After that, I never wanted to be seen without makeup ever again. And I made that pact, from that day onwards: I sleep in my makeup.
If I’m on my own, I won’t sleep in it, but my husband has never seen me without makeup. It comes off, and goes back on again. At night, I take everything off my face and moisturize—because you have to let your skin breathe a bit—but then I put everything right back on again: a little under-eye brightener, either the Tom Ford Illuminating Highlight Pen or Bobbi Brown Tinted Eye Brightener, then the eye goes back on, and maybe a little tint on the cheeks. My mother said to me, ‘You always have to keep the mystery alive…’ I made the mistake of showing a boyfriend my un-made-up face once, and it was a big disaster. He was like, ‘What happened to your eyes?!’ And I told him, ‘…No, you’re right, those are my eyes, not these.’ [Laughs]
As far as my routine, I start with a base of my magic cream, which is a secret mix from the lab. It’s a base of a very thick moisturizer—a barrier cream that kind of protects the skin—and also filled with a lot of amazing anti-aging stuff and hydration. It’s my version of a Crème de la Mer; a literal a turn-around cream. When models and celebrities see me and they’re exhausted from doing ten million shows and running around the world doing whatever, this cream totally illuminates the skin as if it’s brand new. That’s why I call it Charlotte’s Magic Cream. Other than that, I like Lucas' Papaw Ointment and Sisley Supremya Anti-Aging At Night Serum, and Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask—it’s not too scented.
Then, I put on foundation over my cream, which I always do with this pat-pat-pat-pat motion. By putting the moisturizer on and patting the foundation or concealer in, you’re livening up the skin and giving it a mini-lift by increasing circulation; the skin does really glow afterwards. I use my fingers a lot for foundation and concealer, because the warmth of your hand helps blend it in.
I normally thin out foundations, or mix them—I don’t want to use a tinted moisturizer. I love this foundation from MyFace, because I want coverage and I want luminosity; I hate skin when it looks thick and cake-y. It’s all about shade and texture. Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Palette is great, too, and I mix it with the MyFace MyMix foundation. For any spots, I love Maximum Coverage Camouflage Makeup for Face and Body by Estée Lauder, which I’m always thinning down with moisturizer. It does not move—it’s a creamier version of Laura Mercier Camouflage Concealer, which can be a bit thick. Then for blush, I use Tom Ford Bronzing Powder or Orgasm by Nars. Putting on some blush on is like putting life back into your skin.
On my eyes, I always put on eyeliner before mascara. I like to do what I call the ‘feline flick,’ inspired by all of those icons of the 1950s, '60s, '70s. Cats are very sensual, and that elongation—it just immediately says ‘sexy’ to me. I trace the shape I want my eyes to be with Dior’s Waterproof Crayon Eyeliner in Intense Brown and then I go over it with mascaras, plural. [Laughs]. My mascara is a hybrid of four different mascaras, until I develop my own. I might start with either the Chanel Inimitable or Kevyn Aucoin to get separation and definition, and then I might build up a little with the Maybelline Colossal, to add length and make them grow. Once I’ve got that in place and I want more drama, I go over with the Tom Ford Mascara or the Estée Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Mascara. Always in black. And I’ll add even more of the Tom Ford or the Estée Lauder one at night when I’m going out, just to make it even more false-eye-lashy looking. I’m wishing for the perfect mascara; I don’t want to use five. It’s a fucking bore to use five! If only I could find the perfect mascara, the perfect cream, the perfect foundation…
I use eyebrow pencils by Tom Ford or MAC. And on my lids, I love the Tom Ford Eye Color Quad in Cognac Sable. Amazing. I use the Sable all over my eyes, and then I also use a bit of a shimmery one that we’ve got in the palette. I always use brushes for eyes and powders.
For lipsticks, I never do a red. I always do a nude. I just think I’ve got so much already with the red hair, and my lips are a better shape with a paler color…though I do love Ruby Woo Matte Lipstick by MAC. It’s still the same formula as it was [when it came out]. I usually do the Kevyn Aucoin Lip Pencil in Medium. It’s a neutral shade, but for me, it’s just a genius color. Actually, Lisa-Marie Presley introduced me to it when I did her makeup once. I think Bridget Fonda also used it. It’s just that kind of great supermodel color. On top, I might add a Tom Ford nude [lipstick] or mix a few.
At the end of the day, I take off mascara off with Lancôme Bi-Facil. Créaline is good, but I’m wearing a lot of makeup—I have on four different mascaras and waterproof eyeliner—I need some heavy-duty stuff! Also, it’s terrible to pull around at your eyes while you’re cleaning. I always wet the cotton pads with water, squeeze them, and hold them on my skin to let it soak, melting the makeup off. This way I’m not just dragging my eyes around my face, and I won’t end up looking like a bag.
My hair was pretty much like this growing up, and I got the fringe when I was 20 or so—I’ve always been obsessed by ‘60s icons, like Brigitte Bardot, the slight beehive. But I don’t do much to my hair, just wash it and blow dry the fringe with a round brush and blow dry the roots, and then put in a bit of Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray and back-comb it with a Mason Pearson hairbrush, teasing it to get a little bit of height in the back. I’ve never colored my hair. It’s actually gotten lighter—it used to be a rich, dark red, but redheads lose their pigment as they get older. I quite like the fact that it’s going blond, though! [Laughs]
I like being sexy and glamorous. I wear makeup, I wear heels, I wear dresses. I love it. That’s what I’m really into! Because I’ve got big boobs and a small waist, it’s always about nipping-in the waist: pencil skirts, chiffon dresses with belts, and always high heels. Always high heels. I don’t own any flat shoes. One time, I was on a shoot with Kate Moss and I had to take my shoes off. The crew found me in a corner, literally sidestepping, because I felt like I had lost my personality! It’s like, I put a heel on, and I feel alive. On the beach, I wear high-heeled espadrilles by Christian Louboutin. I even found a pair of high-heeled sneakers, and I was like, ‘I’m going to have to buy those if I have to go on a location.’
Makeup literally changed my life. I put on mascara and the whole world’s reaction to me changed. I remember feeling kind of hurt about that. And then I realized, Actually, I’m just like everybody else. I do judge people by the way that they look; we all do. Obviously the personality matters, but that initial moment, if someone walks into a room and they’re gorgeous, you kind of embrace it. Beauty is such a beguiling thing. I see all these models in magazines, and I go, ‘Oh my god.’ I realized makeup is a huge part of really enhancing and playing up somebody’s features to their advantage. Beauty is power, and makeup is something that really enhances that; it’s a woman’s secret weapon.”
—as told to ITG
Charlotte Tilbury photographed by Emily Weiss at the Bowery Hotel in New York on February 12, 2013.