Movie producers, photographers, Olivia Culpo, and pretty much anyone else with a front-facing camera knows: Lighting changes everything. It's why the flicker of a candle makes your bedroom suddenly feel 10x sexier, or how a dark, smoky bar builds tension on the CW's Riverdale. But setting the mood also comes with its own set of challenges in the beauty department — a fact the show's head of makeup Erin Mackenzie knows full well.
"Depending on the color and tone of [cinematographer] Brendan [Uegama]'s light, which he brilliantly adjusts per scene according to the mood, we find ourselves constantly playing with the makeup intensity and color to translate correctly on screen," she tells Refinery29, adding that finding products to fight shadows and brighten skin has become a low-key obsession of hers.
"In some instances, we use illuminators under foundation to give us a head start, or a combination of cream and powder highlighters to bounce light and fight shadows when needed," Mackenzie says. "It's a fine art of matching tone and brightening darkness without altering the whole look."
Mackenzie's behind-the-scenes beauty tricks aren't just limited to ominous settings like Riverdale, either. Find out her best-kept secrets, including Cheryl's signature red lip, the trick to Betty's glow, and the surprising person who spends the most time in her makeup chair, ahead.
How Riverdale's Beauty Looks Have Changed
Even though the makeup team switches up eye and lip products for every episode ("at the moment we’re shooting episode 214 where Veronica [Camilla Mendes] is wearing our new favorite lip tint, Glossier's Generation G lip color in JAM," Mackenzie says), there is one overarching theme in each of the characters' looks this season. "They are a little more refined than season one," she says. "These kids are growing up fast while they deal with the weight of the world, so I wanted to reflect that by toning things down a little. Less gloss, more realness. Except Cheryl [Madelaine Petsch]'s red lips — those are forever perfect." For the record, that red color is Lime Crime's Red Velvet Matte.
The Products She Can't Work Without
To make each character's skin look ethereal despite the show's purposeful darkness, Mackenzie has a few tricks up her sleeve: "Amarte's Aqua Veil Pure Hydration Serum is my new go-to primer under makeup," she says. "Not only does it leave a silky surface but it acts as a treatment under makeup. But if I’m wanting to create a little more glow — think Betty [Lili Reinhart]! — I use the Shiseido Glow Enhancing Primer with Guerlain L'Or underneath for added radiance."
For fast, heat-of-the-moment skin fixes, she reaches for oils. "Josie Maran’s Pure Argan Milk and Eminence Recovery Oil are both incredible dryness fighters that I use for quick treatments," she says. "And I can’t live without a pure rose water spritz to freshen skin at any point of the day." Then, there are the staples in her makeup bag — like Make Up For Ever's Mattifying Primer for controlling oil during long days of filming, the Clarins Double Fix Mascara waterproof topcoat for those crying scenes, and Anastasia Beverly Hills' fine-point brow pencil.
Her Favorite Moment At The Makeup Chair
Shooting can take place over the course of 14 hours, so it's fair to say Mackenzie spends a lot of time with the cast (one and a half hours of which is dedicated to covering up KJ Apa's shoulder tattoo!). So, she makes sure the chair is a sanctuary for them. "The actor's day starts in the makeup trailer, so it's truly a sacred place. Good music helps us set the tone right — just who gets to choose it is the battle."
Mackenzie has witnessed many moments on set, but there's one that stands out from the rest. "One of my fondest memories from Riverdale would be the lead up to wrapping our last night of season one. We were shooting at FP’s trailer with Betty & Jughead, and there was a huge sense of victory — like we climbed a mountain and looked out on what we achieved. There were plenty of tears." Bet they were all counting their lucky stars for that Clarins waterproof topcoat.
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