My Big Unglamorous Backstage Beauty Diary From London Fashion Week

Photographed by Meg O'Donnell
London Fashion Week is one of the most exciting, glamorous events to hit the capital. Unless you're a beauty editor.
Unlike the immaculately dressed fashion pack posing for photos outside, those who work in beauty are almost always rocking beaten-up flats and are ushered into the venue's backstage area (often makeshift, always absolutely boiling and foggy with hairspray fumes) via a secret door. This door is manned by burly security guards. If your name isn't on the list, you aren't getting in. And if it is? Well, good luck in there.
Here's everything that went down backstage in 24 hours at LFW SS20.
This is a relatively late start seeing as I got up at 4.30am earlier in the week to catch Illamasqua's director of artistry, Pablo Rodriguez work his makeup magic at Mark Fast. I look and feel exhausted, so I reach for Ciate's Extraordinary Foundation, £28, and MAC's Strobe Cream, £25, for fresh, dewy skin and L'Oréal's Signature Liquid Eyeliner in Burgundy, £8.99, for a more artistic take on my signature feline flick. Later, in 26°C heat, the only mascara that won't melt off my face is Tom Ford's Emotionproof Mascara, £38.
My first stop is Preen. Google Maps makes me walk through Vauxhall for 25 minutes, only to tell me that the address of the venue doesn't exist. I find myself down a cobbled slip road and spot a girl with insanely long legs. I decide she must be a model and follow her. Suddenly, we're met by an armed police officer. Erm. I'm not sure whether he's patrolling the venue (a disused warehouse) or the flats opposite so I just continue to follow the model nonchalantly and finally find my way backstage via the portaloos.
Sam Bryant is on makeup for MAC Cosmetics and the look is very minimal but super pretty: a dab of blush and brushed-up brows. I go to take some pictures and realise that my storage is full. Certain I freed it up for this very moment, I scroll back through my snaps only to discover that my boyfriend has secretly taken loads of silly selfies on my phone. FFS.
I sort that, get what I need from Sam and hound hairstylist Eugene Souleiman for details on the hair look. Even though he's industry-renowned and has styled for Prada, Alexander McQueen and Maison Margiela, he pulls us over like we're all old friends and explains each style in detail. The hair here is very individual. Models with afro hair are given slick braids and those with wavy or straight hair have it washed for softness and then air-dried. It's casual but cool and I feel stupid having woken up at the crack of dawn to wash, blow-dry and straighten my hair. Effortless bedhead is officially in.
On my way out I trip over a hairdryer cord.
On to Victoria Beckham now and the venue is the Foreign Office. Obscure choice, but the building is stunning. Outside, I’m met by around 30 security guards. It takes me a while to get in as I have to prove who I am, and I panic that I might miss the ultimate beauty queen Pat McGrath on makeup. 
I’m finally in to see Pat use eyeshadow from Victoria’s new beauty collection to fashion a single blue or burgundy line in the crease of the eye. I feel very on-trend in my matching liner. She keeps the skin fresh, clean and natural. Caudalie is on skin prep and each model is given a good spritz with the Caudalie Beauty Elixir, £12.
Next stop is the Royal Albert Hall for Emilia Wickstead with Oskia Skincare and Code8 Beauty, both luxe beauty brands I love. I have time to kill, so instead of getting back on the Tube I decide to take the bus but accidentally get on one going in the wrong direction. I zone out and end up somewhere in Wandsworth, so I panic and Uber it all the way to South Kensington. My poor bank balance.
It's lunchtime and it's a Sunday, so there's only one thing for it: pub. I order sausage and mash (very glam, very fashion), sticky toffee pudding (obviously) and a glass of wine because it's the weekend and I'm working hard, thank you very much.
At the Royal Albert Hall (an amazing venue for a fashion show) I share the elevator with a beautiful, tall model. I'm five foot nothing and full of mash.
This is one of the most efficient backstage areas I've stopped at all week and there are snacks! In five minutes, Oskia facialists achieve the models' fresh, glowing skin and let us in on the secret ingredients: the Super 16 Pro-Collagen Serum, £20, and Super C Smart Nutrient Beauty Capsules, £62.
Makeup artist Lucy Bridge then explains the bold look in detail and unveils Code8's new Matte Velour Lipstick, £45, exclusive to Net-A-Porter. She applies the zippy red colour directly from the bullet and uses a fluffy brush to press the pigment into the lips, employing a cotton bud to clean up any mistakes. While I'm milling around the makeup artists' stations, I spot lots of great skincare products, including Herbivore's Orchid Facial Oil, £22, Kiehl's Creme de Corps, £28, and on the more spendy side, Sisley's SisleYouth Anti-Pollution Moisturiser, £138. I make a note to stockpile all of these products when I get home.
My last stop of the day is Ashish, who always serves up great makeup. I check my phone for the address and see that it's at...a leisure centre on Edgware Road? WTF? The whole place smells like chlorine and I'm transported back to when I nearly drowned rescuing one of those hefty black bricks from the bottom of the pool during a swimming lesson as a kid. I feel anxious.
I'm finally inside hair and makeup and oh my god, there's air-con. I know this look is also going to be cool. MAC Cosmetics makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench ditches the usual bold colour palette inspiration that Ashish has requested in the past and opts for jet black, kohl-rimmed eyes. She uses MAC's Kohl Power Eye Pencil, £15, layers a touch of eyelash glue underneath the lower lash line and presses on a little black glitter. Last weekend I fell asleep in my makeup and unwittingly created this same effect. Pat myself on the back for being on trend.
The hair is striking, to say the least. Sam McKnight pinpoints the inspiration as "the wild", as though models have slept outside for a couple of days. I nod enthusiastically. Twisted braids and plaits are adorned with shells and other trinkets and lots of texture spray is used for a lived-in feel. By the end of the talk, I'm totally inspired, then I catch my own sweaty locks in the mirror – they definitely look lived-in.
I've been standing up all day and it's only when I sit down on the Tube that I notice my feet are covered in blisters. I also realise that the bag of popcorn I nabbed from the models' buffet earlier has exploded in my bag. Ugh.
When I get home, I have absolutely no energy left. The only thing I can be bothered to 'make' for dinner is a Pot Noodle. I wolf that down in about 10 seconds, take my makeup off and set my alarm for 4.30am, ready to do it all again the next day.

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