Celebrity makeup artist Mai Quynh on beauty lessons and La Prairie's new compact foundation

Celebrity makeup artist Mai Quynh on beauty lessons and La Prairie's new compact foundation

More than a paint job

Text: Renée Batchelor

Find out the secrets behind Mai Quynh's success as a makeup artist and the real differences between applying foundation with different tools

The name Mai Quynh is one that has gained currency in the makeup world over the past few years. Earning her stripes as a M.A.C counter artist, Mai has risen through the ranks to become a top makeup artist boasting a portfolio that includes collaborations with Patrick Demarchelier and Annie Leibovotz, and work that has appeared in publications like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Influenced by the glamazon supermodels of the 1990s, some of that influence can be seen in her playful, creative makeup.

Peek at her Instagram, and you'll see her quirky-cool celebrities like Chloë Grace Moretz, Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza dotting her squares. Newly christened a La Prairie complexion artist, thanks to her specialty in creating beautiful skin on her clients, find out what makes this talented makeup artist tick, and what she thinks about the new La Prairie Skin Caviar cushion foundation.

Tell us about your background. How long have you been a makeup artist and how did you start in the industry?
When I was younger, I would paint and draw in my free time. I grew up in the '90s, the Supermodel era, so I was fascinated with their chameleon-like abilities. They were breathtaking! After high school, I decided to go to makeup school. I could'nt believe makeup had such a big part in fashion.

Once I finished makeup school, I worked at a makeup counter and was able to practice on many people of different skin tones and ages. While working there, I began to assist other makeup artistson music videos and commercials. After a few months of assisting, I decided to go all in and freelance full time. It was then that I met a celebrity makeup artist. I assisted her and saw how it was to work with actresses on photo shoots as well as movie premieres. I was hooked. That's when I realised this is what I wanted to do!

From where do you get your inspiration?
I'm inspired by fashion, music, movies, architecture, travel, nature. Basically anything that moves me. I love seeing and working with different textures and using references from photos or stills of movies. Anything character driven, someone with a story or background and layers.

Who are some people that have inspired you throughout your career? Why?
I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to so many incredible artists throughout my career. If I had to pick two that have been my inspiration I would say Stephane Marais and Pat McGrath.

Stephane because studying his work has taught me that the world of film has so much to offer in terms of inspiration. I know he often refers to cinema when working because he loves the idea of creating characters. I think I like to draw from this concept too — the clients I work with whether models or actresses, are all trying to say something and tell a story, and I feel that I can play a role in that with my work.

Pat McGrath because, well, she' s Pat McGrath! In my opinion, no one has done more for my generation of makeup artists, than Pat. Her work is so unique, innovative and the word 'adventurous' always comes to mind when I think of her. I think with what we do, there's sometimes an element of risk-taking and Pat is always brave. She has such an incredible instinct, and has worked with the most iconic faces, photographers and designers. She has always truly been a trend-setter in every definition of the word.


What does makeup mean to you?
Makeup is magical. It creates courage and confidence. It can uplift your spirit and make a statement. It's such a beautiful medium to use to make one feel extraordinary.

Can you tell us about your collaboration with La Prairie? Why did you accept this collaboration and how do you relate to the brand?
I have always been a fan of La Prairie. As a makeup artist in the industry I am constantly striving to find the best and most innovative technology out there. I'm fortunate in my career to work with some of the world's biggest icons and influencers, and I have to be very careful about the products I use on them. Knowing that since 1931, La Prairie has its roots steeped in catering to the highest echelons of society — from world leaders and artists to anyone in-the-know —gives me the confidence using it on my faces.

Working with a heritage brand offers me the comfort of know ing that time after time, the productsare going to deliver. The brand is the most luxurious on the market and I tell my clients, that for abrand to have been supplying the most innovative skincare technology for almost a century, they've got to be doing something right!

What is the most important part of any skincare routine?
The most important part of a skincare routine is staying consistent. Whether you're too tired to take off your makeup at night or too busy in the morning to apply sunscreen, it's so important to find the time because that's when you'll see long-lasting results.

What role does skincare have in achieving a perfect complexion?
Skincare plays a huge part in having a perfect complexion. Because if your skin is healthy and hydrated, you won't need to use as much makeup and your natural skin and beauty will shine through to allow you to have a perfect complexion.

La Prairie Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation

When applying foundation, how important is the technique? What are some of your best tips when it comes to applying foundation? Does it differ from liquid to powder foundation?
Technique is very important when applying foundation because it will translate the exact desired finish and coverage that you're trying to achieve. When applying foundation, we must ask what kind of coverage is desired. If you're applying a liquid foundation and want more coverage, then apply with a foundation brush. If you want lighter coverage when using a liquid foundation, apply it with a damp sponge. When applying powder foundation, use a loose powder brush to apply it, if you'd like lighter coverage. For heavier coverage, apply powder foundation with a dense powder brush or a dry wedge sponge. If you want fuller coverage, layer a liquid foundation and then brush on a powder foundation on top.

How would you describe La Prairie's Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation compact? What do you like about it?
The Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation compact is very chic and sleek. I love the delicate amount of foundation that is distributed on the sponge, when I press down on it. Because of this feature, it stays clean, pure and immaculate.

How would you describe your signature look and what is it about your style that sets you apart from other makeup artists?
My signature look is all about the skin. I pride myself in giving women a healthy, fresh glow from within. From there, I use color to help interpret whichever look we're trying to achieve.


How do you prepare the skin before a photoshoot or special event?
If time permits, I love using a sheet mask, while my client starts the hair process. If there is not enough time, I have learned that layering Skin Caviar Essence-in-Lotion, a serum (Skin Caviar Liquid Lift) and then Skin Caviar Luxe Cream will always give skin an instant hydration that will show through the makeup. I'd definitely will apply these products after the sheet mask is removed as well.

As a makeup artist, what are the major differences between a makeup look for a shoot, or for a red carpet? Or even for an everyday casual look?
Makeup for a photoshoot can be very different than red carpet makeup because of the lighting and photography. Sometimes the lighting for a shoot, can be very s hadowy, which the makeup shouldbe a little softer, because the lighting will add so much dimension to the face already. If the lighting is brighter and poppier, then soft makeup might be washed out, so depending on the look you're going for, you can add more makeup or leave it be. Red carpet makeup is usually a little heavier, because of all the flashing lights. Also, for a premiere or carpet, there's usually a ceremony/movie and then a party after, so makeup should stay on longer, therefore more coverage is usually needed.

As for as an everyday look, I think it's all about the individual and their preference. Some people don't like to wear a lot of makeup, whereas some people feel naked without. There'no wrong answer. It's up to the person.

Can you share any celebrity secrets that all women could incorporate into their routines for an A-List complexion?
My client Ginnifer Goodwin taught me to not over-dry my skin by washing it in the morning, just rinse with water. Because we're just waking up from sleeping, and there's no need to strip or clean the face again cause you just washed it before bed.



What products do you think should be a staple in every woman's clutch?
Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation and Cellular Luxe Lip Colour in Rouge Clair.

What's the most important lesson you have learned in your career?
To be able to adapt. As far as personalities, work environments, locations, as well as direction. I've learned to ask many questions, as well as using photos as references. Just so we're all on the same page. I may do a makeup look on someone and it doesn't work out, so I have to change it. Either it doesn't look right with the outfit or the outfit has changed last minute. Or for a shoot, the lighting has changed so the makeup looks different in the photo compared to in real life. Nevertheless, to be willing to change and be gracious about it, is key.