If your go-to source for creative beauty inspiration is Instagram, you've probably scrolled through Katie Jane Hughes' profile. The Southport-born, New York-based makeup artist posts her daily makeup looks, using Instagram Stories to offer tips, tricks and advice on how to wear her artistic creations IRL. If you don't follow her (in which case, take a moment to do so now), you'll have seen her work in publications such as Elle, Harper's Bazaar and Glamour, or in larger-than-life campaigns for Alice Temperley, Net-A-Porter and Harrods. A champion of makeup that enhances real, natural skin – embracing pores, freckles and shine – Hughes puts the playfulness and fun back into makeup experimentation. Here, we ask her about the products that never leave her makeup bag, the luxury skincare she loves, and how she first got into the industry.
What first inspired you to pursue beauty as a profession, not just a passion?
My mum was a singer and she would always put on this bright red Revlon lipstick and loads of the Max Factor 2000 Calorie mascara. Because I was watching my mum glam up, I got really good at it. I wasn’t one of the popular kids at school, I was a bit of a geek, and I used makeup to express myself. I wasn’t particularly bold with it at the time, but I definitely used it as a confidence-builder in my teens. My first ever job in makeup was on an Estée Lauder counter in Boots in my hometown of Southport. I was 18 and I hated it because it was in a small town, but I used to put eyeshadow on with my fingertips, just on myself, and then somebody would say, ‘Oh that’s cool’ and then buy it. That’s what made it fun, I got a buzz from it.
I knew I wanted to be a makeup artist at the age of 22, so I looked into makeup school and none of them worked for me because it was all prosthetics, and the people that I followed – such as Mary Greenwell and Pat McGrath – I didn’t really see their path, I just saw that they were in fashion. So I got my foot in the door that way, and assisted in London while working in Space NK.
How do you think the industry has changed since you first started?
I think it’s changed a lot. I’m from a small town, we’re a close family and I’m definitely a talkative and energetic person, and I noticed very quickly that that wasn’t going to fly in the industry at the time. I remember meeting a huge makeup artist when I was working in Space NK. I said to her that I loved her work, and she asked me if I was an artist and I said I was aspiring to be. She said to email her agent with the possibility of assisting her. I did, and after back and forth questions they asked, ‘By the way, do you have YouTube or Instagram?’ I said yes, and she said, 'No, wrong answer.' So this is at a point where nobody knew what was going on with social media. At the beginning, it was very self-promoting and now it’s more of a community. It’s a place where people can go to learn, so it’s totally different. And even now there is that fine line between whether I should show a job that I’m on or not. If I’m on a shoot with a prestigious fashion caddy, with a lot of crew that I’ve known a long time and respect, I would not put it on my Instagram. Not because I don’t want to, but some of them just wouldn’t get it and they’d think, ‘Why is she Instagramming? She’s on set.’
If you had just five minutes to get ready, what would you do/use?
Keeping it simple, I could give my cheeks and lips some colour with Glossier Cloud Paint, have big, spiky lashes with MAC Upward Lash Mascara and a better complexion with Glossier Stretch Concealer. Then, I would use my Ardell Stroke A Brow Feathering Pen – I wouldn’t go out the house without my eyebrows!
Favourite foundation and why?
It would probably be SURRATT Surreal Skin Foundation Wand because it’s a creamy formula that makes the skin really soft and pretty. It’s somewhere between a tinted moisturiser and a full coverage foundation. It makes everything more perfect, but it doesn’t look like you're wearing anything at the same time. It comes in a stick to use it on the go, and I just set it with some powder.
What’s the one product you reach for to take you from day to night?
If I was going to do an eye, I would use Bodyography's Glitter Pigment in Caviar, because it’s a really pretty brown colour that looks subtle. You can get in London at Sally’s. You apply it with your finger and just buff in with the end of a brush, but the fallout is really minimal and you can just get a cotton bud to clean it up. If I was going to do a lip? I would put on NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Mysterious Red and take a little bit with my ring finger and dab it on the cheek.
Can you remember the first beauty product you bought in your teens?
Probably some cheap eyeliner from a market, or something shimmery from Rimmel.
What’s the one product that you have repurchased the most over the years?Professionally and in my kit, I would say Bioderma, but that’s obvious. The other one would probably be Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Concealer. It’s one of those concealers you can do everything with because it's very malleable. If somebody’s got a pimple, it’ll get rid of it, if someone’s got interesting skin texture, I would put a layer of Weleda's Skin Food underneath it and buff the concealer over the top. It's like the Estée Lauder Double Wear, which I've been talking about recently because it’s quite thick and opaque. If you can only take a few things with you, I believe they should all be dense, opaque versions, because you can always shed them down with a cream.
Personally, I think it’s the Lip Definer Pencil from Chantecaille called Nuance and it’s the prettiest, perfect nude that’s not too brown, not too peach, just a perfect blend. When I don’t know what lip to wear, especially if I’ve done a lot with my eye, that one goes with everything.
What’s the most expensive, luxury beauty product you own?
I think it might be La Prairie's Skin Caviar Absolute Filler or La Mer Moisturising Cream. Everything from them definitely feels a certain way on the skin, it’s smoothing and pore-filling and I love that. I slept in La Mer for a couple of nights and my skin felt amazing when I woke up. It looked more perfected and even in tone, almost like I had a good foundation on.
What’s your most trusty high street makeup product?
I think it’s any foundation by Bourjois. They look really expensive on the skin, they’re good to the skin, and they're really easy to use, they're not dry and chalky. The only downside is the shade range is very limited.
Can you remember your biggest beauty faux pas?
Definitely over-plucking my eyebrows when I was younger – there's no going back. I really wish my mum had hidden the tweezers. I vividly remember me and my friend Tamsin, as kids, taking a pair of tweezers and pulling out five or six hairs a time. We were absolutely murdering our eyebrows and I can’t believe no one ever stopped us from doing it.
On my sister’s wedding day – she probably wanted to kill me, I’m sure – I had black eyeliner pencil on my lips with a nude lipstick on the inside. She was like, ‘Get those witch lips off’ and I was like, ‘No they look amazing’.
Favourite mascara and why?
MAC's Upward Lash because it looks like Twiggy lashes in a bottle. It gives you that editorially spiky lash. I’m wearing it in 95% of my posts on Instagram, it’s my favourite mascara.
Favourite lip product?
Right now I’m well and truly obsessed with NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment, I’ve been using them almost every day, they’re so good. I just wish they had a few more neutrals.
Which is the one, transformative beauty product that makes you feel your best?
This is going to sound so counteractive to what I say on social media, but I would say foundation, because it changes how everything looks and feels. You always need a bit of complexion, whether it’s a tiny bit around the eye or a tiny bit around the nose. I could spend an hour on an amazing eye, but if I don’t put anything around the eye, even just to neutralise a bit of pink, it’s not going to have the same effect. Even on a day where you don’t want to wear colour, and you don’t want to wear eyeshadow or lipstick, a little bit of foundation can really make you feel better. And it’s not necessarily that you look better, but you look more polished; it’s like ironing a shirt.
What's your favourite beauty look for AW17?
Everyone needs to try a glossy eye this holiday, whether it’s in the form of a shimmery thing that looks glossy, like the Bodyography Glitter Pigment, or whether it be an actual eye gloss, like the Kevyn Aucoin one. Also, glitter is always welcome on the holidays, it’s the perfect time to try it. Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadows are really cool. I'd also say Studio 54 is coming back, with a purple eye and red lip – think of Adwoa on the cover of British Vogue.
Who are your beauty icons?
Mary Greenwell, she just gets it. I’m not a creative painter, but people like her are. A face that I love, and would love to paint, is Sofia Boutella. She was a dancer in a Madonna music video, and she is just the most beautiful and cool-looking. I love those faces that look unusual, with or without makeup.
Follow Katie on Instagram @katiejanehughes