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One of the best-known faces in the beauty industry isn’t a supermodel or a celebrity, but a makeup artist. Meet makeup maven, Lancôme creative director, and YouTube star Lisa Eldridge as she shares all she has learned from twenty years on the job.
Written By Jess Basser Sanders
Makeup artist Lisa Eldridge visiting VIOLET GREY | The Violet Files | @violetgrey

— MAKEUP ARTIST LISA ELDRIDGE / PHOTOGRAPHED IN THE STUDIO WITH VIOLET GREY

With more than twenty years in the beauty business, makeup artist Lisa Eldridge has touched nearly every aspect of the industry with her well-manicured hand. She has painted faces for celebrities and editorials. She has given creative direction for Shiseido, Boots No 7, and Lancôme. She has created and relaunched products, given television makeovers in the UK, and developed wildly popular YouTube tutorials—her blemish covering lesson alone has amassed more than 2.7 million views. Now Eldridge is tackling the world of publishing with her first book, Face Paint: The Story of Makeup, which delves into the history of the powders and potions we put on our faces.
Her 360-degree immersion in the world of makeup is the result of a lifelong obsession with the stuff. At the age of 6, Eldridge discovered her mother’s stash of vintage ‘60s makeup (which she had saved from her teen years) and was immediately smitten. “I loved the smell of it, the colors and the textures. It seemed so much more exciting than crayons and paints and things. I started drawing and painting [with makeup], and that became my tool kit,” Eldridge says. As she grew older, Eldridge realized she could make a career out of it, and began pursuing makeup artistry with the quiet determination she exudes to this day. Eldridge was among the first to realize the power of online videos, and her YouTube channel now has more than 1.3 million subscribers who delight in her honest—and service-y—approach to beauty.

On a visit to the VIOLET GREY studio, Eldridge, who possesses an enviably cinched waist, spoke with pragmatic candor about her career, the history of makeup, and balancing motherhood with a job she loves. Read on for some of the enterprising artist’s greatest insights. 

lisa’s life
lessons

Makeup artist Lisa Eldridge on what she’s learned along the way to beauty guru status.
Makeup artist Lisa Eldridge visiting VIOLET GREY | The Violet Files | @violetgrey
  • MAKEUP ARTIST LISA ELDRIDGE
  • PHOTOGRAPHED AT THE VIOLET GREY FLAGSHIP STORE
BEAUTY IS A VOCATION
“At age thirteen, I told my teachers I didn’t need to do math lessons anymore because I wanted to be a makeup artist.”
TAKE YOUR TIME
“Charlotte Tilbury and I were assisting Mary [Greenwell, legendary makeup artist] backstage at a fashion show—we were starting out together, so [all the assistants] were, like, fresh. Mary would shout, ‘Come on girls! Get the bases on!’ I remember trying to be really fast because I was thinking, Oh my God, it’s a show, so we have to do the makeup in five minutes! So I threw the makeup on and Mary would come over and say, ‘Slow down, darling, you’re rushing too much!’”
FAMILY FIRST
“I was assisting Mary [and she would say], ‘Don’t do what I did, darling, don’t sacrifice everything for makeup. You’ll end up with no children, no husband, nothing.’ It definitely had an impact on my life choices and I really admired her honesty.”
HAVE IT ALL
“I decided I really only want to work if it’s in London. I started doing more celebrities because that’s nine to five really—it’s so different from editorial.”
 
“I kind of think you can have everything in life, but not all at the same time. For me, I wanted to pick up my son from school, so I made choices and adapted my career, but still kept it going.”
GO BIG
When she was tapped to create a makeup brand for Shiseido, “[It] was whole new learning curve for me because I’d never done cosmetic science before…. They let me do the repackaging, all the formulations, all the colors. It was launched within eighteen months, and it was just for the Far East market, so it was great because culturally I learned so much about the difference between what they wanted in China and in Korea. You [go from] being on shoots all the time to then learning a completely new thing from scratch, you know—straight into the deep end.”
MIX IT UP
“Going from Shiseido, where I was designing a [high-end] brand from scratch, to doing creative direction for Boots, which is a high street brand, was a change. The Boots archive was this messy room full of papers on the floor, and I was like, ‘My God, you’ve got all the old advertising, boxes of the 1930s launch.’ I left them with a really good archive!”
Makeup by Lisa Eldridge | Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley | The Violet Files | @violetgrey
MAKEUP BY LISA ELDRIDGE
  • LEFT: KATE WINSLET AT THE LONDON PREMIERE OF STEVE JOBS, 2015
  • PHOTOGRAPHY BY BEN STANSALL / GETTY IMAGES
  • RIGHT: KEIRA KNIGHTLEY AT THE 2014 BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS
  • PHOTOGRAPHY BY TRISTEN FEWINGS / GETTY IMAGES
SAY YES ANYWAY
“I got asked to do a reality TV show on UK television [Ten Years Younger], and I thought, that’s a bit funny, but I like challenges and I like to do things [where] people say, ‘Oh you shouldn’t do that, not if you’re in editorial!’”
BE SUBVERSIVE
“While the show was on, I was getting hundreds and hundreds of hits on my website, so I thought, I need to create a destination. I’d get letters that said, ‘I saw you on the show last night and I’ve got these problems and I wanted to know if [your techniques] will work for me.’ And I thought, I can’t answer all these questions, and I like what’s happening on YouTube so maybe I can do something there. I thought it was really subversive. I was from a world of smoke and mirrors, working on million-dollar mascara campaigns with top photographers and supermodels and then really sticking on two sets of false eyelashes.”
NO ONE WILL NOTICE
“I started making videos at home really quietly and never told anyone that I’d done them because I knew the fashion industry would be quite snobby about them. And again I had that rush of excitement and fear…I had a lot of celebrity clients by then and I thought, Oh God, what if the publicists say, ‘We can’t book Lisa Eldridge anymore because she’s on YouTube.’ So I thought, If I never tell anyone, actually they’ll never see it because none of these people look on the Internet, and it was true. It took about three years before anyone noticed.”
TRUST YOUR VISION
“I think in the beginning I planned to make a couple [of videos] and answer all these questions and that would be it. But just by word of mouth people would come up to me all the time...and the momentum just built. It was nice because it was such a conversation with people. I’d spend a day on a really high fashion or advertising shoot, and then at night I’d be home replying to comments. It became this real thing.”
LOVE WHAT YOU DO
“I feel like I’ve done all these things and it’s slightly compartmentalized in a way. It’s been like, a manic bit of traveling, and a manic bit of editorial, then a sort of slowdown around the time I became a mother.... You know, I’ve been able to be very happy because I’ve never been in a situation where I feel like I’m not enjoying this anymore or I want to be at home or I don’t want to travel so much. It’s worked.”
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
“When I go into the lab now for Lancôme, more so than I did before, I [can] say, ‘Women don’t want that, they want this...I’ve got 30,000 people telling me that.’”
TAP YOUR COMMUNITY
“I had a meeting a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about mascara. I’d put up a post on my Facebook page the night before [where I asked], ‘If you could have your dream mascara, what would it be?’ I woke up to 600 comments, and they were detailed. It was great being able to say ‘Well, you know, seems like everyone has this problem, even with the top-selling mascaras. Why can’t we do something [to fix it]?’”
TO EACH HER OWN
“I’m not really big on the dogmatic approach to makeup. I’ve gotten to this stage now where I think that if you don’t want to wear makeup, it’s absolutely fine. If you know someone who wears red lipstick every day and false eyelashes every day and she looks good and she feels good, [that’s great too]...I think you should be doing whatever makes you happy.” 

Eldridge
In Action

A sample of Lisa Eldridge’s video magic, as she demonstrates how to achieve natural-looking, perfect skin.

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Face Paint: The Story of Makeup by Lisa Eldridge
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