One night, while we were in Los Angeles, we stopped (for a while) by the place of makeup artist Zara Kaplan for a talk about makeup and skincare. Zara, besides being an artist who draws inspiration from the details around her and the colors that affect her (and from Pinterest, obviously), is obsessed with organizing her makeup kit. Seriously, we have witnessed such an order only a few times!
We chatted with Zara about her favorite products, the secret for perfect (and natural) eyebrows, her epic-fail (which later turned out to be an “epic” motivation for her work), and naturally highlighting her beauty, always. Take notes!
What’s your earliest beauty memory?
I remember trying on my mom’s eyeliner when I was about 11 years old: I looked in the mirror, the eyeliner must have been all over my eye, but I literally felt transformed. That was probably the first time I put any kind of makeup on, and I was like “holy shit, this thing can transform your face.” Amazing. But I don’t remember being obsessed with makeup before I started doing it professionally; I remember my friends used to buy me makeup for my birthday but honestly, my memory before I started working in the makeup industry is so thin. It’s bizarre!
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up and the last one when you go to bed?
The first thing I do is brush my teeth, shower, and then no matter what (even if I’m about to go to bed) my eyebrows get brushed up. I can’t even walk around my apartment with downturned eyebrows so I always have a brow gel ready.
The last thing I do is 100% wash my face and my favorite cleanser is the Oskia gel cleanser: it’s amazing and gentle on the skin – and 3 days a week I use the Clarisonic and then I just go to bed. I apply a moisturizer and my oils. I use Josie Maran for my own personal skincare and I find that really lovely to use. So, I use the face butter and the light argan oil.
“That was probably the first time I put any kind of makeup on, and I was like ‘holy shit, this thing can transform your face’.”
And for the daytime, what’s your skincare routine?
For the daytime, I use the Supergoop SPF 50. It doesn’t break me out at all. I mean, everyone is different, so people might not work well with it but for me that one is perfect. And I use the argan oil underneath it.
When you buy skincare products, do you look for an ingredient in particular?
I like to keep it as natural as possible. That’s why I like Josie Maran because it’s super natural. I wouldn’t say I look for anything in particular but I’m definitely not looking to have any crazy chemicals and stuff in my skincare.
Do you have a favorite facial at home?
Honestly, my favorite mask is The Ordinary. In the past, I’ve used the Aztec Clay mask: that’s brilliant and effective but I would say that the best mask that I’ve used is The Ordinary. It’s so good. And I literally wake up the next morning with absolutely no blemishes and very smooth, re-textured skin. And you only leave it on for 10 minutes and it’s not heavy duty like the Aztec Clay mask is which will literally crack your face if you smile. And my boyfriend always tries to make me laugh so, I kind of had to stop doing that one. [laughs]
In these years, being a makeup artist and working on set, have you learned some tricks or tips that you can spill out to us?
A little red carpet trick I like to do to keep my clients lipstick lasting longer is to blot and layer – it builds the color very naturally. By not doing it in one swipe you actually maintain the colour a lot longer. Really good tip! Also putting a bit of powder on your lips to prime works really well. You can do it after the lipstick, to make it matte, and it just keeps it on really nicely. I like to use a fluffy brush to put on lipstick when I’m working with a client, but If I’m applying lipstick to myself then I like to use my finger and tap it on the lips – I’m into a blotted diffused lip, I think it’s a bit more modern and by using your finger it achieves the perfect lip!
“Also putting a bit of powder on your lips to prime works really well. You can do it after the lipstick, to make it matte, and it just keeps it on really nicely.”
About creativity, how do you work with your clients and what’s your process when you come up with an idea?
If it’s for an awards show or anything like that I always get sent a picture of the dress and I’ll pick up on any pops of colour – even if it’s in the stitching, and I’ll try to come up with a makeup look that brings out those colors within it. I think that’s always the most effective.
If it’s for an editorial or test shoot we’ll put together a mood board and I’ll just scout Pinterest or saved posts or even come across things in nature and get inspired.
What does “feeling comfortable in your own skin” mean to you?
Feeling comfortable in my own skin is about not having to hide behind too much makeup. I don’t think I wear too much and it’s because I always try to make myself feel as good as I can without adding a lot of stuff. I don’t want to get eyelash extensions or anything like that, because I don’t want to become too attached to seeing myself in my most natural state. That’s always been what I’ve tried to do, fight the urge to add things and just try to embrace who you are and not wear too much makeup.
“I always try to make myself feel as good as I can without adding a lot of stuff.”
What’s your go-to makeup look?
Actually, this one I am wearing. It’s the Roén 75° eyeshadow palette with a tiny bit of a cat-eye. And I love a dewy highlighter. I do also love a colored eyeliner. It changes: I either go for the glittery Roén look or I go for one of the Glossier Play eyeliner pencils. I think they look so cool. Very unique colors. I’ve got most of those colors and I like to play around with my eye and just add very simple colored eyeliner, mascara, dewy skin and walk out the door.
Bath or shower?
Shower in LA, bath in London. I took baths every single day in London. But in LA I just shower, I think it’s just too hot. I want to get in the bath when I’m freezing cold outside all day and that’s not the case here.
What’s the product you always have in your purse?
What’s your favorite hair styling product or tool?
The Curl Enhancing Smoothie from Shea Moisture. A lot of people find it too heavy for the hair, but I feel like I’ve always used creamy products. It’s really good. I’ve always used different things of the same textures, but this is the one I’ve been really loyal to since I moved here.
“I’ve always used different things of the same textures, but this is the one I’ve been really loyal to since I moved here.“
Do you have a favorite fragrance?
My favourite fragrances are by ‘Strange Invisible Perfumes’ – my lovely friend Alexandra makes them and my favourite scents are ‘Shadows in the Garden’ and ‘Fair Verona’ – so beautiful and completely natural so you’re not spraying any chemicals all over yourself!
What was your first beauty product obsession?
The By Terry eyeshadow sticks, I used the caviar ones. I used to work in Space NK in London and I was just surrounded by By Terry, Nars, Kevyn Aucoin, like all of these lovely brands, but my absolute obsession from the very start has been the By Terry caviar sticks.
Is there an item on top of your beauty wish-list right now?
If I am honest, I need to get a new light. A beauty light. So that’s an absolute priority.
“My absolute obsession from the very start has been the By Terry caviar sticks.”
“I used to work in Space NK in London and I was just surrounded by By Terry, Nars, Kevyn Aucoin, like all of these lovely brands.”
What do you have too many of?
I have too many eyebrow pencils. So many. I’ve got an extra makeup drawer and there are literally countless eyebrow pencils. And I actually want to through them all away because I am never going to use them.
What’s the secret for your eyebrows?
I don’t put too much product. I like to just brush them up and make them look like there is nothing in there. If I can see product in your brows, then I think there’s too much in there.
What’s your jet-lag beauty cure?
I always use Weleda Skin Food (light) when I travel! It’s the most incredibly hydrating cream and I also take my Goldfaden MD Bright Eyes cream with me. The combination of the two is magic.
What’s the bravest thing you have ever done?
Well, moving to LA. It’s been two and a half years.
“Moving to LA.”
What would you love to see more and more in the beauty world these days or in the future?
I love that we’re seeing more diversity, I am sure everyone says the same thing but that’s a huge thing. So that’s brilliant. And I’d love to see more real skin: there are more and more brands like for example Glossier and all these things that really on their billboards promote no retouching and all that kind of stuff, but I do think there’s a big movement coming of normalizing skin. So, I’m liking where things are going basically.
Have you ever had an epic beauty fail?
Absolutely yes. When I first started working at Space NK I started doing someone’s makeup and they asked my friend to take over for me and that was a pretty big fail. Epic. After that day I was like “I don’t want to do makeup anymore,” yet because of that moment I started not caring and I actually became good because I stop putting pressure on myself. So, thank you, past me, for failing so epically.