"I’ve lived in Manhattan since I was 17 years old. In those days, you could be 17 and have a roommate and share an apartment on 87th and 1st for $145 a month. I was a secretary, but probably the worst one in the world because I was always in the back doing everyone's makeup. It was the '60s so everyone wore miniskirts, false eyelashes, and black eyeliner. And girls didn’t know how to do it, so I started teaching them. I think fashion magazines drew me to doing makeup... My mom subscribed to Glamour, Seventeen, and Vogue. She was always an inspiration. When I was 16 painting my face, she never told me to wash it off. I was heavy on the eyeliner and the eyelashes and she said, 'Can you do that for me?'
I worked on 55th and Park for an architectural design firm. It was a beautiful company, but I didn't want to be a secretary. College at the time wasn't required. Some people were going, I wasn't really interested. I wanted to be a makeup artist, but you couldn't be one at that time. What you could be was a salesgirl at Bloomingdale's, so I did that. I worked for Mr. Kenneth's tiny little makeup company there. It was so much fun! I wore hot pants to work and tights and platform shoes—you could be yourself. And when Mr. Kenneth visited one Thursday, I said, ‘If you ever have an opening in your salon, will you use me?' I was 20 at the time, and he hired me.
So, there I am, working in the salon [doing makeup]. One of the hairdressers worked on the crème de la crème and she used to send me all of her clients—one day, she sends me Jackie Onassis. I went to the little table to grab liner and I went to draw her eye and she yelped. I had forgotten to sharpen the pencil, so it'd hurt her. But she just gave me the go-ahead—just to show you what kind of person she was. I knew she liked the makeup because I wrote out a little face chart, and one of the girls at Bloomingdale's said she bought all the products.
Around 1974 is when I met Shirley Lord, the beauty editor at Vogue who introduced me to Polly Mellen. I was booked immediately for shoots with Irving Penn, Avedon, Bob Richardson...it was a really fun time. I used to do the models' makeup in the closet and get in a van with five girls and Deborah Turbeville and we'd go downtown to Soho. I did that bath house shoot! I didn’t get what the whole controversy with that was, though. It wasn't all easy, you know... It came to a head with Avedon once where he didn't think I knew what I was doing, and I went home crying. But fashion at that time was transitioning—in 1977, it turned into disco. The makeup was genius! All wet and shiny and shimmery and vibrant. Studio 54 and Debbie Harry. But celebrities weren't influencing makeup. Isabella Rosselini, Gia, Patti Hansen, they were 'it.' After I left the Kenneth Salon, I went to go work at my boyfriend's salon—which was a mistake—and I lived with him for four years. I wanted Helmut Newton to do photographs for the salon and I got Patti. The pictures are crazy. I think disco turned the gears on makeup, because companies started making these palettes and artists started playing with multiple hues. Everything was taken to the max.
There was a no-makeup period in the late '80s, which was awful. You would open up Bazaar and the girls dressed would have nothing on them! But Meisel brought it back in the '90s... He'd do eyeliner and lashes and lined lips. I worked on Estée Lauder ads, and I continued to do editorial. Then I met Lois Joy Johnson at Ladies Home Journal and every time she had a woman in her 40s, she'd have me do makeup. I remember my agent saying, 'There are no other makeup artists who want to work on women over 40. You're it.' Interesting, right? Makeup artists didn't find it glamorous, so I started developing a look that would be flattering on older women. Lancôme approached me to work on their Absolue line of makeup, I got that contract. Makeup is my love—I'd never do anything else. As we're talking, I'm getting older and older, but I'm working. The thing is, you have to keep moving.
The first stick of makeup I got was a very dark pink lipstick by Hazel Bishop from the five and dime store. It was a bad choice. The second thing I got was from Max Factor and it was an iridescent blue mascara. That worked! Everyone told me how cute I looked, and when you get complimented, you go for it. And I had a whole bathroom full of makeup from my mom. Now, I always have a full face on. I'm the only makeup artist alive that never went to work without anything on, but I never show up half-faced.
The first thing I put on is my eyeshadow base. I use the Lancôme La Base Paupières Pro in Nude, and I do it so that my eyeliner will go on smoothly. I use Lancôme's Crayon Khôl in Black Coffee, and today I blended it and went over it with Lancôme Artliner—I might also use Tom Ford's Eye Defining Pen. If you want to do liquid liner and you aren’t confident that you can really do the perfectly straight line put a pencil underneath it first. Then the liquid is very forgiving and it’s not stark and if you make a little mistake. Today I used Nars Mousson as my eyeshadow because it matched my skirt and jacket. I love color.
I always suggest curling lashes too—Kevyn Aucoin makes a great lash curler. He makes a great mascara too, and I think the Lancôme Grandiôse Mascara is sensational. Then I fill in the brow with Lancôme Sourcils Definis, which is new, or Troy Surratt Expressioniste. I have to give him props for his brow pencil, it's good. Brows are youthful. When I fill in a lady's brows, she looks younger. Then I do something that I recommend to everybody—I take Lancôme Effacernes in Ivoire or Buff and I put it in the inner corner of the eye.
My products switch around a lot but right now I found this foundation called Nude Miracle in Buff C and it’s fabulous on my skin. I feel like I don’t look like I’m wearing a lot of makeup and it matches my skin perfectly. And I love blush! I really like Lancôme Miel Glace. It goes on nude-pink, not bright pink, but I'll go anywhere with blush. I’ll wear bright pink! I don’t care. Kevyn Aucoin's Tansoleil Cream Blush is also great. After that, I might put on a scary lip. You know, I really look good in every lip color. [Laughs] Right now I'm wearing Lancôme L'Absolu Rouge Rose Amnesia. I used to wear MAC Malt back in the '90s—they've finessed it since then, I think.
The Renergie Lift by Lancôme is my day cream. I'll use that or alternate it with the Bienfait Aqua Vital, which I use on all of my clients. When you put it on the skin, it has a fresh feeling to it. Then, under my eyes, I use the Bienfait Multi-Vital because the skin there needs a little bit of a boost. I use the Lancôme Eau Fraîche Douceur in the morning to cleanse, it's fabulous! If I have a little residue of mascara under my eyes it'll get rid of it. But I don’t think you need to cleanse every morning. At least for me, I still have a little cream on from the night before—I don't want to wash it off. I used to go to the Mario Badescu spa down the block for facials, every now and then. He has a fabulous Drying Lotion if you ever have a pimple.
My dermatologist is Dr. Patricia Wexler—I met her through a client of mine. I was like, 'Your lips are so nice and full,' and she said, 'You should see Patty!' She gave me her card and I called the next day. I did her makeup, she did my lips! [Laughs] I've been seeing her since 1994, and she's a genius. Imagine being an older makeup artist—it's not easy looking at 20 year-olds all day. You accept a lot, but you just want to look good for your age. She was really instrumental in that regard. I also work with a dermatologist at Lancôme, Dr. Macrene Alexiades. They're both great.
Rita Hazan does my color, and Juan Carlos Maciques, at her salon, does my cut. And she has a beautiful line of products—I just use her True Coor Shampoo and Conditioner. I wash my hair every day—guilty! I don't think I could go a day without washing it. If I absolutely have to, I put a little conditioner on the ends and I blow it out. But it's not as good as when Carlos does it. It's also naturally curly. In the summer I’ll leave it like that, but after a month or two, it won’t look [very good].
I have a theory about nails—Quick-Dry doesn’t work. They keep putting it on my nails and it makes them split. I think I’m slightly allergic to the remover, because it dries them out. I know if I leave my nails alone and I’m not using nail polish remover on them, after a month, they look so much better. But I like color on my nails. Playful colors, no beiges or nudes. This is a beautiful one that I’ve been using for a couple years—Chanel Turban. I think as you get older, your hands don’t look so good, so using a colorful polish just makes you feel better."
—as told to ITG
Sandy Linter photographed by Tom Newton at her home in New York on May 27, 2016.