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What’s a good holiday makeup look? Ask the Kit

“I’m not sure how to wear ‘going out’ makeup anymore! I’ve been concentrating on makeup that looks good on Zoom, and I’ve focused on my eyes and eyebrows (above the mask), but I haven’t got a clue how to do a ‘full face’ anymore, or how to keep it looking good when it’s mask on, mask off, all night. How do I make myself feel sparkly and more special but keep it modern?” — Clueless in Oakville

Makeup remains a romantic mystery to me, despite how many fashion sets I’ve been on and how many galas I’ve dragged my sore feet to over the years. Left to my own devices, I can manage sheer tints that I apply with my fingertips. What I do know for certain, though, is that makeup artists are very talented humans and well worth the investment for special occasions. I also believe in makeup lessons.

The best MUAs (internet short form for makeup artists) do so much more than paint your face. There is something incredibly soothing about having a makeup look built up in layers. The temperament of an MUA involves an ability to instill calm and confidence, to foster small talk that sneakily adds up to something uncannily profound.

I took this reader question to Ashley Readings, an artist with Plutino Group who has been in the business since she left art school 15 years ago. “I grew up loving makeup but didn’t realize it could be a job, a career,” she says. “I grew up awkward and makeup helped me engage with the world; it was a way to start a conversation.”

She went on to work at the CBC with Steven and Chris, then transitioned into fashion and commercial work. Coming out of the pandemic, she says, has had her looking more closely at the why of certain trends. Here, follow her recommendations, and I assure you this is a list to clip out (or copy and paste) and take to the store with you.

“I’ve been watching red carpets,” she says, “and there is a cleanness to the look right now. Personally, I think it’s a lot more sophisticated seeing a little less makeup everywhere and letting one element shine.” This, she says, is a response to having our skin breathe for so long while we’ve been at home.

She still uses foundation, just sparingly. But first, moisturize! Her favourite serum is a drugstore find, Vichy Mineral 89. Then it’s on to primer. Because of the damage masks do to a makeup look, primer is a necessity, says Readings. She likes Charlotte Tilbury Setting Spray, which you use both before applying makeup as a primer and after to set it. “It’s a little sticky and gives makeup something to hold on to.”

For foundation, she uses either Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish pressed powder “pressed right into the skin with a wet beauty blender to give a glowy look.” Another favourite brand is Canadian, Nudestix, whose Tinted Cover liquid foundations come in a range of 15 colours.

The traditional wisdom to balancing the face is to choose either face or lips as a focus. The two major trends Readings is seeing are silver for the eyes and bold red lips. There is a way to make both of these looks happen at once, she says, if you make the eyes more subtle.

“Silver, I feel like we haven’t seen in some time, so it feels fresh. The look had been warm and rose gold for so long. I still can’t get on board with a silver eyeshadow, but I love the look of a silver pencil, like the Fenty Flyliner in Moon Dunez shimmer or Chromewrecker matte. I also like Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner in Disco Daydream.” If you have a darker skin tone, she recommends you go for a bronzier tone. Readings says you could do any combination of upper and lower lash and waterline, or you could do something she has been loving lately, just a bit of silver applied like a halo around just the tear duct. “It draws attention to the eye and brightens everything up,” she says. “Plus it looks dramatic when you’re wearing a mask.”

As for the red, red lip, Readings says this is a look that’s going to stay. However, you have to be wary of mask transfer. So while she loves the drama of looks as seen on TikTok with Dior 999 and the return of classic Valentino red, she advises you go for Maybelline SuperStay Ink Crayon in Know No Limits or Hustle in Heels. “It comes with a built-in sharpener,” she says, “so you can apply a crisp line at the edge and be assured it will not smear all over your face when you mask on and off.”

If you want a natural lip, her go-to is Nars Afterglow balm, something “I always have in my own makeup bag when I’m out,” she says.

The heavily mascaraed look is on the wane, Readings says, and she recommends freshness over fancy price tags. “Drugstore mascara is the best mascara because you don’t hang on to it so long. You need to throw out your mascara every two months and that is hard to do if you’ve spent a lot on it. I use a lot of L’Oreal Voluminous and I love Maybelline Rocker Volume.”

So for the big question, are skinny ’90s brows making a comeback beyond supermodels’ Instagram pages? “I think people are working with what they have more these days,” says Readings of the overall more natural look. “No more unnaturally filling in if you have something more sparse.”

See, just talking to a good MUA has made me feel more in control of my panic when I leave the house. Sometimes a boost of holiday confidence is as simple as a new silver eye pencil and a hot red lipstick.

Shop the Advice

This story is filled with some great and very specific makeup tips and makeup-artist-vetted products. But here are the essentials to restock your holiday makeup bag.

Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray Duo, $35, SHOP HERE

Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray Duo, $35

Tilbury is the legendary British MUA to celebrities everywhere. This spray is great way to mask-proof your makeup look. It can be used after moisturizer and before makeup, or to set a finished face, or both!

Nudestix Tinted Cover Foundation, $43, SHOP HERE

Nudestix Tinted Cover Foundation, $43,

This is Readings pick for a versatile foundation. She applies sparingly, only where needed to cover redness or discoloration, to let natural skin glow come through.

Fenty Beauty Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner in Moon Dunez, $29, SHOP HERE

Fenty Beauty Flypencil Longwear Pencil Eyeliner in Moon Dunez, $29

Who to go to for a dash of the season’s freshest colour story? Why Rihanna, of course. Fenty Beauty’s Flypencil will stay up dancing as long as you do.

Maybelline SuperStay Ink Crayon in Know No Limits, $10, SHOP HERE

Maybelline SuperStay Ink Crayon in Know No Limits, $10

As for lips, the big trend is back to a classic bold red statement. Set yours and forget it — yes, even with a mask! — with this drugstore staple that does it all, even drawing in liner with its sharpener edge.

Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Serum, $42, SHOP HERE

Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Serum, $42

Another top recommendation from our expert this week, this serum is a dependably great — and reasonably priced — hydrating base to build your makeup on top of with confidence.

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