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How I #MadeIt: Alex Steinherr, Beauty Director

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If you're a fan of makeup and an avid user of Instagram, chances are you've probably stumbled upon Alessandra Steinherr and her radiant selfies. In the UK, she's one of the biggest names in the beauty biz but Alex began her career humbly on the reception of Marie Claire, before moving onto our favourite tween mag Sugar as an assistant and later joined Cosmopolitan's beauty team, where she stayed for six years. Fast forward to now and Alex has been Beauty Director at Glamour magazine for almost a decade, heading up the beauty content, working on shoots, cover stories and, most importantly, regularly asking the world's most beautiful stars to share their beauty secrets.

We caught up with the makeup guru to find out about those who first inspired her passion, her tricks of the trade and how to contour in a hurry.

When did your love affair with makeup really begin and who were your early beauty influences?
It began really young because when I was a teenager my grandmother was a couturier so I read Italian Vogue and Vogue Paris. More than the fashion I was always fascinated by the faces and the makeup. I was obsessed with all the supermodels at the time like Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington and I was always amazed by the makeup. I wasn’t a regular size, I wasn’t a skinny girl and so I didn’t aspire to fitting into tiny hotpants but I felt anyone could wear lipstick and anyone can try different looks. I thought that was so democratic - you don’t have to be a certain shape or skintone, anybody can try it out and if you don’t like it you just take it off. The transformative side of makeup always appealed to me and how fun it is.

Then it was the era of Kevin Aucoin and Francois Nars and makeup artists became more prominent and I was really into all of that. I found it really exciting to see how the models were transformed and the roles they played. I’d grab my mum and grandmother’s makeup and you didn’t have to spend loads of money on a new outfit. I just found it really accessible.
Your approach to beauty is pretty natural. What's your daily routine and the essentials that you couldn’t live without?
I’ve evolved with the times, especially now with Instagram and YouTube. There’s so much more accessibility and all these incredibly talented people doing massive transformations online. But for me, at the end of the day, every woman just wants to look the best you can look and make the best out of yourself. I don’t do extreme looks whether on Instagram on in real life. I don’t do makeup for social media. I’m not a makeup artist, I’m a beauty editor. I’m just a normal person.

Of course I’m lucky because I’ve learnt tips from everybody you could imagine; I’ve watched everybody, I’ve been backstage and I’ve been on shoots so I’ve picked up the tricks from all these pros but I’m no makeup artist in my own right. My go-to is definitely a soft brown smoky eye, with a tinted lip balm but then of course I don’t want to be boring so I do vary things and try different looks.

There are a lot of women out there who don’t want that overly done look. My brows are pretty natural, they’re not overdrawn. I don’t wear false lashes on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I still wear a lot of makeup but compared with some people out there, especially on social media, I don’t. I don’t want to take two hours doing my makeup; I don’t have that kind of time. The women I hopefully appeal to have full time jobs and a family. They love makeup like I do but they don’t have three hours in front of a camera doing their makeup. This is real.

Your brow game is very strong. Can we talk about your brows? What's your routine?
When I was young I had a monobrow and I got teased massively. When I grew up, thin brows were fashionable and I was really upset about being teased. My mum was like 'don't touch them, one day you'll be happy with them' and that really stayed with me. I don't exactly have the monobrow anymore but I get them threaded at Blink Brow Bar every four weeks and I try to keep them as natural as possible and not too perfect. I do sometimes draw them in and I'll use a pencil by HD Brows called Browtec and normally I use a tinted brow gel. I like the one from L'Oreal Paris called Brow Artist and I always brush them up. Forget about trends, it doesn't matter whether it's big brows or thin brows, it's about what suits your face. I think for beauty especially, trends should be a guide, not a rule. In our jobs we always talk about trends but when it comes to your face... If I had thin brows it wouldn't suit me. People will say "you look great" not "wow your face is so on trend."
Speaking of trends, there has obviously been a massive boom in contouring and strobing over the past couple of years. What are your thoughts?
I'm massively into sculpting. I don't really call it contouring because I do it in such an easy way. Strobing to me is just another word for highlighting. I do think people can overdo it and I think again you have to think about what looks good in a picture versus what looks good in real life. I always want to look good in real life over a picture but that's me.

I think the thing to remember is that the whole idea of contouring all started in still photography. For everyday life, you have to make sure you always look at the sides of your face. When you do it, you tend to look at the mirror straight on so you really have to make sure you turn your face so you can actually see what you look like from the side. I use a powder but sometimes I'll use an eyeshadow in taupe/beige. It's actually a product by H&M called Brown Sugar which I think is really good to use for sculpting if you have medium skin. If you're really pale there's a great product by Burberry, a blusher called Earthy and if you're dark use a bronzer.

The colour needs to look like a shadow and not like a stripe. I suck my cheeks in and put it right where the shadow is, quite low down because I have a round face. I also do it under my chin, below my jawline and then sweep it right across my lid because I like to have that shadow. I'll do that after foundation, before powder or bronzer because that diffuses it. With highlighting, I'm really scared of looking too much. I tend to use concealer to highlight because it's not shiny but if you use a really light concealer, something like Glint by Temple Star and if you use that instead of these glittery highlights it looks more subtle and nice. For pictures use Anastasia Beverly Hills, but for real life concealer is the way to go.

You mentioned the supermodels that inspired you when you were younger but who are your beauty icons in 2016?
I'm always inspired by Jennifer Lopez. She's probably the opposite of what I just talked about but she's a celebrity! She's someone who does makeup amazingly. I love Rosie Huntington-Whiteley because she never looks too much. And I love Bella Hadid; I think she's cool and does cool girl beauty. I don't like people who look fake. I want to see skin. It breaks my heart when I see young girls wearing an entire tube of foundation on their face when they really don't need it. Wear less, you'll look so much prettier! Oh and I love Taylor Hill. She always looks fresh.

Follow Alessandra on Instagram @AlexSteinherr
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