An A-List Makeup Maven Shares Her Flawless-Face Secrets

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mai-quynh With beauties like Jessica Chastain and Saoirse Ronan relying on her mad makeup skills to get them red carpet-ready, Mai Quynh is clearly doing something right. The celebrity makeup artist — who is known in the makeup world for making skin look absolutely flawless — took some time to sit down with us and share her beauty tricks of the trade, plus the celebrity she is dying to work with, and what beauty move she thinks women seriously need to retire from their repertoire.

How did you get your start in the industry?
"I went to makeup school, and then I started freelance assisting on music videos and commercials. On one of those shoots, I ended up meeting the creator of Stila, Jeanine Lobell, and then started assisting her. I started doing a lot more editorial and celebrity work around that time. Now I do almost exclusively celebrity — not many models pass through L.A., so if I do an editorial, it's usually with a celebrity."

Who are some of your favorite stars to work with?
"I love Saoirse Ronan — I've been working with her a lot lately. I love her personality, her sense of humor. Plus she's smart, super-talented, and we just have a lot of fun together. I like Jessica Chastain because she's really open, and she has such beautiful eyes and lips — she lets me play up either one or both, because her face can handle it. So we can do bright colors or really dramatic, vampy lips — you can go anywhere with her."

Is there someone you would really like to work with?
"Marion Cotillard. She's just so beautiful and talented. I've seen editorials with her where she has done a retro look and then some where she goes really edgy and modern. She's just so versatile."

Do you have a specialty or something in particular you are known for?
"I'm really good at evening out skin — making sure the face and neck is all one color and just getting that really healthy glow. I put on foundation with a brush and then I go over it with a wet BeautyBlender sponge. That takes off any excess makeup, so it's a lot softer and it looks more like skin, not so foundation-looking. That's my motto: Less is more. Because I would rather someone look fresher and more like themselves, rather than a mask."

What are some of your favorite products?
"I love Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer, because it is on the thicker side, so it stays put. It's really great on blemishes. My favorite lipsticks are by NARS, Inglot, and Yves Saint Laurent. I like formulas that have a matte texture, but are also really creamy. If I'm doing lips, I want something that pops, and those brands all make a statement. I love the way Yves Saint Laurent Volum Effet Faux Cils Mascara goes on — it's not too wet or clumpy. I prefer eyelashes to look like amazing eyelashes, not clumpy, spidery, or coated on. For eyeshadows, I really like Dior because they have a really nice palette and shade variations."

What's the biggest mistake women make with their makeup?
"Either they wear way too much or they don't wear enough because they think makeup is a hassle. Many women think they are too busy and they don't have time to apply makeup, but those five minutes make such a big difference. Just a swipe of concealer, a little blush — you don't have to do the full 'powder, liner, lashes.' Just a little bit can make you look polished and awake. Conversely, there are those that do too much — the Kardashians really took makeup to another level. You now have all these women doing eyeshadows and winged liner and a full set of lashes for a normal day — that whole process is a lot of work to me. You don't need that much makeup if you just want to enhance your natural beauty."

Are there any spring trends you are dying to try?
"What's really big for spring are bright, bold colors on the eyes — blue, green, pink, teal — so I am excited to incorporate that for either editorial or red carpet on my celeb clients. We also saw a natural face with hardly any makeup. I think if you are wearing the right outfit, like an intense statement dress, that can be really beautiful because it lets the dress be the focus."

What's the best advice you've ever been given?
"My dad taught me that I should do what I want to do in life, and pursue whatever dreams I had. And that things take time, but as long as you are focused and willing to work hard, it's going to come to you. That was really important to me because when I was first starting out, everyone tried to discourage me. They kept telling me I should do hair or nails in a salon, and that I needed something to fall back on, but I was like, 'No, this is what I am going to do.'"

Photo: Courtesy of Mai Quynh