Tips and tricks for a flawless complexion and makeup in Singapore from Alex Cho, Estée Lauder’s Global Makeup Artist
Face it, many a sacred makeup commandment has been broken; lip liner is used in excess, blue eyeshadow is back in vogue, and textured and fluffy are how we wear our arches these days. Rules are meant to broken, after all — a philosophy the beauty industry is finally embracing in 2019 with transformative and experimental looks aplenty.
It is something Estée Lauder's Global Makeup Artist, Alex Cho, respects and struggles with in equal measure. Having painted the faces of stars Gabriella Wilde, Irene Kim, and Yeonseo Oh, his skill with the brush (and blush) proves unparalleled. While fond — and, no doubt, capable — of both eccentric and uncharted makeup, he'll admit to being a sucker for a good ol' classic.
"Nothing will ever top the red lip," he says. "It's forever. If lipstick is going to be around for future generations, red lips will still be around. There will never be a hue or colour scheme that can replace the iconic red. And I love it." Brimming with delightful anecdotes and quips, we sit down with Korea's top makeup artist to hear more, from the tips and tricks for a flawless face, to the one celebrity he thinks holds a perfect pout (spoiler: it ain't Kylie).
I hear you have a B.A. in Fashion Design. What made you switch to beauty?
The first major I had was actually Economics. But I just couldn't find it interesting enough to pursue it as a career. So I went to the army, and re-took all the tests necessary to acquire a degree in Fashion Design. I soon discovered that fashion wasn't for me, though I did really enjoy my illustration classes, where I spent a lot of time drawing faces. And that's when I discovered that I could become a makeup artist and do drawings and illustrations on faces for the rest of my life. It was a dream come true. [Laughs]
Was that when you began playing around with makeup?
Pretty much! I knew this guy who was a makeup artist in America, and I got to shadow and follow him around in 1996. That really exposed me to the life as a makeup artist, and the rest, as they say, is history.
How did your partnership with Estée Lauder come about?
The same makeup artist — who I now regard as my mentor and teacher — said years back that he could visualise me working for a brand like Estée Lauder. I was freelancing and working for a bunch of other companies when I eventually got to meet some people from the brand. The next thing I knew, they called me up, and I was 100% up for it.
What are your thoughts on some of the latest makeup trends?
I love them. I especially like how bigger, plumper lips are stealing the focus right now. Not a lot of women wear strong eye makeup in Asia, so I feel that this trend of full, thick lips just gives a kind of balance to the whole face.
Who would you say has the most perfect pout in the world?
Oh, this is a tough one. [Laughs] I suppose Gabriella White. She was a model for Estée Lauder, and her lips were just right. Full, but not super big either, you know?
What is the secret behind a great pout?
Your fundamental lip condition. It's not just about plumping, but about shape, hydration and moisturisation too. Lips are something everyone pays attention to, and as you get older, your lips become thinner. That's why I think it's so important to start taking care of your lips early on. I recommend the Estée Lauder Pure Colour Envy Lip Care Collection for that — we have a serum, balm, and volumiser here to prep and prime lips for effortless colour application after.
Speaking of, is there a lipstick hue that is universally suitable for every skin tone, or is that just a myth?
I always recommend a pure red. Not a red that gears towards warm, or cool, but a pure red red, you know. I also think coral is a good bet. Or, anything pink with a hint of coral.
Do you use lipstick, personally?
No. I do use tinted balm, though. This one adjusts to your PH level and produces a custom shade based on it.
If you could develop a lipstick that best represents you, what would it look like?
I have really vivid and defined eyes, so I'm thinking more of a nude, natural sort of lippie. I'd name it something sexy or sensual. [Laughs]
Is there a lipstick hue you'd never put on your clients?
Nope! I'll use all the shades out there. I haven't done black because Estée Lauder doesn't have one in that hue yet. They have blue, though, and I've been using it and the other colours in the range too. I think some people definitely suit it more than others, though.
Are there any lip-related trends you're hoping to see in the second half of 2019?
More volume and also a glossy finish. I want people to start taking care of their lips more. If there's one product I could recommend to everyone, it's the Estée Lauder Lip Potion Serum. It hydrates and revitalises your lips, and can be even applied on to lips overnight as a sleeping mask of sorts. Think of it like skincare. You need to use it religiously to get a flawless visage.
A flawless visage takes a lot of hard work, though.
Yes, but you can acquire one temporarily with makeup! A great tip for concealer-application is to always apply a small amount rather than caking it on. You don't want it to crease. Also, make sure to let it sit for 10 to 15 seconds after putting it on. You want it to dry up a little before blending it out. This ensures better coverage, and helps cover all the flaws you want concealed effortlessly.
Do you have any tips for lipstick application, then?
After prepping and priming your lips, apply a foundation on to cover it up, then put the lipstick over it. Dab at it with a tissue, then apply another coat of lipstick over it so your pout appears more defined and lasts longer. You can also use concealer on the outer edges of your lips so as to define it even further.
Last question: if you could recommend one product for Singaporean women, it would be...?
The Estée Lauder Double Wear Foundation. It provides great coverage but isn't too thick. Korean summers are brutally hot, and women are always just going out there with the Double Wear Foundation on its own — no powder necessary. It's that good.