Bobbi Brown Gave Me A Makeup Lesson On Zoom & I Learned So Much

"This is the first makeup lesson I've given anyone on a video call," Bobbi Brown told me as she appeared on my laptop screen. This surprised me considering that the legendary makeup artist has two world-renowned beauty brands under her belt: Her namesake Bobbi Brown, which she sold to Estée Lauder in 1995, and now Jones Road, a brand that became an online sensation the minute it launched at the height of the pandemic. 
The buzz around Jones Road made total sense. Going out less meant that many of us swapped a full beat for easy, natural makeup that made us feel a little more put together at home. Fast forward to 2023 and the trend for minimal, your-skin-but-better results has proven enduring.
As Refinery29’s deputy beauty director, I like to think that I know a thing or two about makeup, but nailing a natural look evades me. How much blush is too much? And can foundation ever look skin-like? So when I asked the Jones Road team if Bobbi would give me a step by step makeup tutorial — and the answer was “yes” — I admit that I let out a little scream.
In just a couple minutes of meeting with Bobbi, I was schooled on how to do effortless makeup the pro way. In fact, I’d say that it’s one of my career highlights. So here’s everything I gleaned from Bobbi herself, including why you might want to ditch your setting spray. 

Your fingers are the best makeup tool

Whether you use your fingers or a brush is up to you, but Bobbi is a “fingers person”, especially when it comes to applying What The Foundation, £42. This foundation recently went viral for all the wrong reasons thanks to beauty influencer Meredith Duxbury, who applied what looked like a quarter of the entire pot in one go — and seemed shocked when it didn’t go to plan. “Just dip your finger in. You don’t need a lot of it,” Bobbi told me. She advised me to start tapping it around my nose, as this is where most people experience redness, then to equally spread the rest onto my cheeks, chin and forehead. “It’s just as though you’re putting on a moisturiser,” said Bobbi. But be gentle. “If you're pulling [your skin], you’re taking it off.” 
Sure enough, it’s the best my foundation had looked in a long while. Working it into my skin like a moisturiser meant that it melted seamlessly and didn’t gather in my creases or leave behind streaks. Though I only used a tiny amount, the coverage was impressive. As for Meredith’s way of application? “Tell that influencer, ‘Thank you very much for making it a humongous success,’” said Bobbi.    

Consider moisturiser after foundation

I tuned into our video call without a scrap of makeup or skincare, thinking that Bobbi would instruct me to apply Light Moisture Cream, £38, or Oil-Free Moisturizer, £36, first. But What The Foundation, according to Bobbi, is moisturising enough (on top of sunscreen, of course). “[Moisturiser] would be overkill and we’d have to use all types of powders to take [the shine] down,” said Bobbi. If your skin is on the dry side (mine is ‘combination’, erring more towards oily), Bobbi has a rather unorthodox tip: “I know it’s highly unusual but I put moisturiser on after my foundation,” Bobbi told me. “Not a lot, but sometimes, I need to put some moisture back into my skin.” Simply rub the moisturiser in between your hands and press it very gently into the makeup for a dewy, hydrated finish. 

How to conceal like a professional

The Face Pencil, £24, is an ‘everything stick’ according to Jones Road, but it’s particularly handy as a concealer. I started by applying two swipes of shade 8: one just underneath the inner corner of my eye and another at the outer corner — but Bobbi questioned my application technique. “I put it everywhere, right up close to the lashes,” she told me. “Then I’m going to have you tap-blend it with your finger,” she said, as she advised me to pay attention to the deep pocket between my eye and my nose. 
This product brightens up dark circles for a well rested effect, rather than lifting or sculpting like most other concealers. It also has a clear base, so won’t look chalky on the skin. Jones Road is soon to launch colour correctors, but in the meantime, Bobbi suggested using a Face Pencil or concealer with a pink tinge (I layered shade 11 over shade 8) to further counteract my stubborn blue tones. 
A dusting of powder (like Tinted Face Powder, £27), will lock everything in place: “I don’t like primers and I don’t like setting sprays,” revealed Bobbi, “but powder gives you a more polished look.” It can also diffuse the appearance of exaggerated pores, she added. Simply apply it where you think you need it. “This is usually around the nose, the chin (where makeup gets rubbed off) and if you’re oily, on your forehead,” said Bobbi. 
Photo: Courtesy of Jacqueline Kilikita

Forget what you know about blush

For blush, Bobbi advised me to go straight to the bestselling Miracle Balm, £36, in Tawny (the shade she uses herself), but you must break the seal with your fingers to uncover the magic of the tint, which doubles up as a blush and a lip balm. Bobbi does this with her middle finger and forefinger and she applies the product with these fingers, too. She advised me to smile so that I could concentrate most of the tint on the apples of my cheeks for a juicy glow. “Using whatever is left on your hands, gently touch your forehead and rub it down your neck,” advised Bobbi. “This product is moisturising and feels great, but the tinted colour makes everything blend together because your body, face and neck are often different colours.” If you prefer powder, try The Best Blush, £26. So punchy and long-lasting, it made R29’s roundup of the best beauty products of 2022

How to apply bronzer the makeup artist way

“Oh my god, that’ll get you into trouble,” remarked Bobbi when I mentioned I’d seen TikTokers decanting bronzing drops directly onto their skin from the bottle. The result may look good on camera, but it doesn’t translate well in real life — and it’s a little wasteful. Bobbi’s way is entirely different to what you may have seen online: “I like applying bronzer on bare skin, rather than on top of foundation, otherwise you have to think more about how you’re blending it. This way, you might not need as much [base] makeup.” A little bit goes a long way, said Bobbi, who likes to put a pea-sized amount of Gel Bronzer, £32, on her finger. Tap that onto your forehead, nose and chin, where the sun actually hits you, and whatever is left over, pull it down your neck, Bobbi advised. In the spaces in between bronzer, you can apply a little foundation or concealer for coverage. “If you need more bronzer, add more.” The key to nailing a convincing sun-kissed look? “Always do your makeup in natural light,” advised Bobbi. 

There are no rules when it comes to lip liner

From oval-lining to the viral Mary Phillips technique, there are so many trending lip liner hacks. When I asked Bobbi how to line my lips properly, she set me straight. “You’re not gonna wanna hear this but it doesn’t matter,” said Bobbi. What she isn’t keen on is over-lining the top lip, which she says can look messy. She applies a little Miracle Balm first and scribbles the lip liner into the centre of her bottom lip. “I smack my lips together and this gives me a guide of where I might need to line next. Typically, I start at the bottom. I don’t go over the lip line.” Instead, Bobbi traces her lip line closely to make her lips a little more defined. Tawny Nude (what I’m wearing here) is Bobbi’s favourite shade, but there are eight others to choose from.

Eyeshadow should be effortless

A subtle wash of eyeshadow can open up your eyes, said Bobbi, who invented Just A Sec, £25 — a cream-to-powder eyeshadow — for her hooded eyes. “Put it on your finger and [swipe it] across your lids,” Bobbi told me. No brushes here. “It’s very sheer; powder with a brush isn’t as easy as this.” I used Cool Brown and popped Baby Pink in the inner corner. “This gives eyes more of a glow,” said Bobbi. “It’s like when you wear rhinestone earrings; you just notice it right away.” 

No eyeliner? No problem

If, like me, you’re over the fiddliness of eyeliner, the way you apply your mascara can mimic a subtle wing. When I was done wiggling The Mascara, £24, through my lashes from root to tip (this helps separate the hairs, so that you don’t need to go in with a lash brush), Bobbi suggested tilting the brush vertically and coating the lashes on the outer corner of my eye with the very tip. Sure enough, it gave my eyes definition, all without having to clean up any mistakes. 
The key to achieving long lashes that are believable is all in the type of mascara, too. “I prefer ‘thickening’ mascaras rather than ‘lengthening’ mascaras,” Bobbi told me. “The latter just make lashes ‘spidery’ — and it’s not my look. I do one to three coats, but it depends what mood I’m in.” Bobbi doesn’t wear mascara on her bottom lashes, though. “I like to smudge a pencil or eyeshadow underneath the lower lash line instead.” Brow gel is the finishing touch. “It’s like instant polish,” said Bobbi, who likes her brows to be squared off and fluffy. I used The Brow Gel, £23, in Brunette.
I couldn’t end the call without asking Bobbi what she thinks about the vast array of makeup tutorials online. “They are incredible, but is it real life? No. It’s very much entertainment,” she said. Bobbi adds that she has nothing against them — and likes that social media helps beauty enthusiasts launch their careers — but she prefers easy, practical tips over complicated hacks and trends. “I’m always late; I have too much on my plate; I have kids. I need something I can do quickly so that I feel good and look presentable. It’s why I didn’t contour or change you,” she told me. And she’s right — I simply look like a well rested version of myself (even if I don’t always feel it).  
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