Inside My Makeup Bag: Laura Mercier

Whether it’s the cult Secret Camouflage concealer, hero Translucent Loose Setting Powder or award-winning Tinted Moisturiser, chances are you’re familiar with Laura Mercier products and rely on them as part of your daily makeup routine. But you're probably less familiar with Laura Mercier, the legendary woman behind the international beauty brand, launched 21 years ago.
The pioneer of the 'Flawless Face', a world-renowned makeup artist and international businesswoman, Mercier was raised in Provence and began her training at 17 at a painting school in Paris. Mercier soon shifted her focus from the canvas to the face, specialising in skincare and makeup, before becoming a freelance makeup artist and moving to New York in 1985 to work with some of the most esteemed fashion and beauty magazines in the business.
Just over a decade later, Laura Mercier Cosmetics was launched, grounded in Mercier’s philosophy of creating a naturally flawless complexion, designed to benefit women of all ages and skin types. Now, the brand is one of the most loved and respected beauty lines in the market, adored by women in countless countries. (I can vividly remember the first time I tried Secret Camouflage, six years ago; it has become one of the most frequently purchased products in my makeup bag.)
To coincide with the announcement of Suki Waterhouse as a new Mercier Muse, we caught up with Laura Mercier herself (and yes, she’s just as inspiring, knowledgeable, vivacious and beautiful as you might imagine) to discuss building her brand and her must-have makeup products.
What first inspired you to pursue beauty as a profession, not just a passion?
I went to art school and was obsessed with doing something artistic. That was my primary love and aesthetic was my second love so by associating both I became an aesthetician. Combining the two was the perfect scenario to get into the beauty industry, which I basically did without knowing where I was going. It just happened. After the aesthetics school I was asked to be a makeup artist for a company called Carita. After that I became a freelance makeup artist and my career… it was one shoot, after another shoot, after another! You learn and work with different people and the next thing you know is that you have a career in that field. You think, “Oh actually, I like it!" It’s art and it’s skin. It just fit me. Now we’re here, 35 years later!
Social media has really impacted the industry over the past few years. Which of the other ways it has evolved excite you?
The last 10 years have been quite quick at changing. Social media is definitely the big deal. People taking videos, becoming vloggers and bloggers and influencers, which is wonderful because you have this impartiality that didn’t exist before ­– now it belongs to everyone. Everybody is entitled to speak for it, sometimes not in the most expert way, which is the bad side of the story. But sometimes with a very candid and objective look which is very interesting, giving different interpretations that a brand might not think of. This is real people talking about it. It will never go back. That for me is the biggest change. Even people who want to pay an enormous amount on advertising campaigns, that’s not going to make the thing become successful, just because of that.
Technology is now so advanced on every single ingredient. It’s getting better and better. Every single day we discover that one ingredient is less or more good for you. People take it more seriously. Products are way more stable than before and they’re also not bad for you, which is a big deal, too. Back in the ‘70s that was not a concern.
Apart from campaign star Suki Waterhouse, do you have any other beauty icons, past or present?
Loads! It would be the iconic actresses of the time. This is an era that is very inspirational for makeup artists in general. I’m not the only one who has this answer. The glamour of Hollywood has always been inspiring. I love individuality, that is why I keep talking about it in my philosophies. Beauty is everywhere. Everyone has the potential of looking better so that’s what is interesting and fascinating in the beauty world.
Speaking of transformation, is there one product that makes you feel the best?There are different products that could give an immediate transformation. An illuminating primer that gives you an instant glow or a tinted moisturiser that immediately makes you look like you’ve come back from a weekend in the sun. Bronzers in general – it’s very French by the way, looking very tan. We’re obsessed! A colourful lipstick adds an instant oomph to your face. The magic of makeup is endless. When you know what to do that is priority for you… if I do dark pencil in my lash line (with my allergy I don’t have so many lashes anymore), then it immediately gives you a va va voom. It wakes up the eye and you look more confident.
What do you do/use if you have five minutes to get ready?
Even if I don’t do any mascara, lash line, brows and I would say a little bit of colour, brown, reddish on the cheeks. As a matter of fact, I have a kit of priority products that I get for the weekend. It’s a very small bag that has one black pencil, mascara (but I don’t even put on mascara all the time), brow pencil and a reddish lipstick. That’s it. And Secret Camouflage of course!
What about your routine for an event?That’s a different story! You have an hour ahead of you. You do the whole nine yards! I will choose whether I do my eyes or my lips. I will not do a red lips and a smoky eye. Either way it’s going to be a statement. The eyes are going to be smoky with kohl inside with defined brows, or it’s going to be subdued [eyes] with a matte, red lipstick.
Is there a product you discovered years ago that you still use now?
Camouflage! It is trendless. Endless. It’s the best kept secret, truly.
Of all the products you’ve ever created, is that the one you’re most proud of?
Yes, I would say so. There are others, primers and a tinted moisturiser, but this one is definitely my baby. It’s the reason why I did this brand. I thought it was needed on the market. I thought it would be something that would not be so popular because it’s challenging to sell, challenging to demonstrate and challenging for people to understand. However, it’s such a great, magical touch.
Products aside, are there any other career highlights that you’re really proud of?
Making my brand was a big turn for me, it was harder than I expected in terms of workload. For many years, I continued being a freelance makeup artist and doing the product, and doing the promotion of the brand. However, I don’t regret it and looking back I am so lucky and privileged that I have been able to create my own product. I’m more proud of the actual work done rather than just having my name on a product. If it had been another name, I would have not cared. The most important thing is that I was involved in the making of it, which was a different learning experience and a different way to express myself.
When do you feel your most beautiful?
Feeling healthy, tranquil and confident. That’s when I feel the most together and therefore beautiful.
Your beauty empire is massive. But is there anything else you'd like to achieve?
I think I've done everything I wish for with the brand. The versions and textures of colours you could do is a lot of fun. The next step in life would be to do something that's good for the environment, good for the planet and good for the people. Through charity we are able to give back and I think every brand should do that. Then it's being innovative and creative to do something good. We'll see!

More from Celebs & Influencers

R29 Original Series