Chat with a Pro: Interview with Makeup Artist Maria Lee

Amazing makeup starts with good skin.

From luxury bridal sessions to horror special effects, Maria Lee has done it all. Her artistry goes beyond the trifecta of MUA success (skincare, product, technique)– she is a makeup artist who truly loves the industry. Sure a lot of girls love makeup and modeling, but her passion translates into a focused talent that has made her one of the most sought-after MUAs in San Francisco. I’m pretty sure if you cut her she’d bleed BB cream.

Maria Lee

CP: How long have you been a makeup artist? How did you get into it?

ML: I’ve been a professional makeup artist for 11 years but I’ve been doing makeup on friends and family for a lot longer. I got into doing makeup because it was always a dream of mine to become a makeup artist. Sitting behind a computer all day for years doing graphic design became tiresome so I decided to pursue my true passion in makeup. Working behind the Laura Mercier makeup counter at Macy’s was my first job in cosmetics. I knew I had to start somewhere but I didn’t realize where it was going to lead me! Looking back, I embarked on a verrrry interesting journey.

maria and blake

CP: What’s one of the biggest mistakes you see women do with their makeup or skincare? Or models is photos? Any makeup from hell stories?

ML: The biggest mistake I see women do with skincare is use harsh face cleansers which strip their skin from its natural moisture.

CP: Ugh. I used to do that.

ML: Skin needs to overcompensate by producing too much oil and is the reason why they often complain of having super oily skin. I have met some women who do not use any moisturizer because they think their skin doesn’t need it. Also I encounter some women who don’t know what exfoliating is and have never done it before. They wonder how to get smooth, bright skin. Exfoliation 2-3 times a week is extremely important to achieve such results. Amazing makeup starts with good skin.

CP: Agreed. So… any client horror stories?

ML: A client didn’t want me to touch her face with my bare fingers for fear of breaking out and she wanted me to wear plastic gloves. WHAT??!!

CP: Scary. Moving on… what about your top splurge products? Everyone has a few.

ML: My favorite high-end products are:

1) Yves Saint Laurent Lisse Expert: an anti wrinkle lip and eye treatment which I use on the lips as a primer for prominent-colored lipstick. It works great in preventing the lip color from bleeding into the perimeter lip lines.

2) NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils—try on top of the Lisse Expert for amazing staying power. My fave red color is “Damned”.

3) NARS blush in “Desire” – a beautiful, bright pink. Budget products: L’oreal Voluminous Mascara and NYX eye shadows

CP: What is always in your set bag? Do you have a tool or go-to product that you cannot do a professional shoot without?

My set bag always contains Make Up For Ever All Mat primer, Senna highlighting and contouring cream colors, Face Atelier foundation, Make Up for Ever Aqua waterproof eyeliner pencils, NARS blushes and Velvet Matte Lip Pencils. I cannot do a shoot without setting powder from Dermacolor or Laura Mercier to cut the shine.

Fashion shoot

ML: I love those Nars lip pencils. So what about new models? Do you have any skin tips? Should they bring anything on set with them? (EX: Sometimes I’m asked to bring mascara, or come with foundation on…)

New models should find a good, gentle cleanser and exfoliant. Shu Uemura and NARS make amazing cleansing oils which remove all makeup and cleanse the face in one step without having to use any cotton balls or q-tips – just need to use fingertips! Laura Mercier makes one of my favorite exfoliants called “Face Polish”. Good, supple skin is the easiest to work on. Dry, flakey skin is the most challenging and looks terrible under makeup.

CP: You’re famous for your organic spray tans (BTW: LOVE). Any skin tips for someone coming to see you for a first spray down?

ML: Don’t wax right before getting a spray tan because the pores can still be left open which can result in a spotty tan. The solution works with the dead skin layer, so don’t over-exfoliate — otherwise the tan solution won’t have anything to work with if all the dead skin cells are gone.

I can’t wait to shoot with Maria Lee Makeup when I get home. You can see her work here.


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