#BizTalk – Makeup Trends and the Pro Artist

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now you visibly contour…
© TL Pascoe for L’Allure des Mots
Makeup Hair by Tania D. Russell
(Click to see larger)

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…now you don’t
G. Vitti for Runner’s World Magazine
Makeup Hair by Tania D. Russell
(Click to see larger)

On Sonia Roselli’s fantastic blogazine Glossible, I read an article she wrote entitled “The One Makeup Trend That Needs to Die”. It was all about the current Highlighting/Contouring obsession and how most of the online discussion is getting it wrong. As you might imagine, the post caused quite a firestorm. Most pros shouted “AMEN!” and most non-pros shouted “Girl is you crazy?!” and what Blog Comments section would be complete without a few unwarranted insults from people who obviously had nothing real to contribute to the conversation thrown in for good measure 😐

I’m not here to talk about Highlighting and Contouring. The topic is just DONE as far as I am concerned. D-O-N-E. There are too many tutorials and Instagram selfie posts, too many articles, too many counter articles, too many products, just too many everything. Everything that can be said has been said, and at this point people are either going to take heed or they are not.


What I am here to talk about is makeup trends and the Pro artist. The one comment that really struck my interest in the Comments of Sonia’s article was this (name ommitted to protect the guilty):

on 4 September, 2014 at 04:20 Reply
You obviously don’t know how to highlight and contour correctly. The girl in the photo that has no highlighting/contouring needs some contouring on her nose. As do you.

This comment really got my goat and I actually made my comment in response to hers. Clearly this falls into the “unwarranted insults from people who obviously had nothing real to contribute to the conversation” category. But furthermore, as I thought about this statement, I realized this is what happens when you learn trends as opposed to learning makeup. I think one of the many reasons a lot of the online makeup I see does not resonate with me is because much of it is just regurgitating the trend du jour, one size fits all makeup. As a makeup artist, you can like whatever you personally like and that’s fine, but what you like is not necessarily what you are going to do on a job. Not only are there about 1 billion ways to go about highlighting and contouring, but what, when, where, why, and how is a factor on every single face on every single job. I can assure you that if I did all this internet contouring on a shoot for one of my lifestyle clients (PBTeen, BCBGeneration, Wal Mart, etc.) I would lose the client and be shown the door, no question. Likewise the multi-colored cut-crease eye with the “ombre” brow, or the hyper-pigmented pastel colored lip. None of that. My executing any of those looks for any of my Lifestyle clients would be an indicator that I have lost my mind and I need to go home and take a seat. That type of makeup is just not appropriate for that type of job. On the flipside, I did a special event TV show recently where I worked on one of the legendary Queens of gospel music. She liked what I initially did to her, but she did ask me to “glam it up” more. Taking into account my client – who is a gorgeous full-grown woman, not a “young thing” – and the medium in which I was working (hi-def TV) I bumped everything up. This was still not the time for an every color in the rainbow makeup statement, however I did bump up the lashes, increase the amount of my highlight and contour, etc. It was appropriate for that client on that job, it looked very good on camera (put the shimmer and glitter down), and everyone was happy. And there are about 1 million other technical questions that go into play when deciding how to approach a makeup:

– is this going to be seen live or photographed? (or even more intense, both, which is why Red Carpet makeup is tricky)

– if this is to be photographed how is it being LIT? (hint: lighting is everything)

– is it going to be still photography or motion photography?

Etcetera, etcetera, and so on. So NO, you cannot just make a blanket statement like “she needs some contouring on her nose”. There are just entirely too many factors at play to make a unilateral statement like that.

As a professionals our job is to determine and execute what is the best look for our client/talent within the context of the job we are working on. It is that last part that separates makeup enthusiasts from working professional artists. If I’m a fan of makeup taking pictures for my blog or shooting a YouTube video, I can do whatever I want. And that’s awesome and these people are expressing their creativity and that’s great. That is very different, however, from what a professional has to do on a job. On a job you have to make someone happy. Be it a bride or private client, or a commercial client who has hired you, or a celebrity, your job as a professional is to use your talents and skills to fulfill your clients needs. Depending on the job or the client, copying trend du jour in all likelihood will not get it done.

One other thing about trends: As one progresses in their career as an artist, our job increasingly becomes creating, defining and articulating trends, and not just copying them. I have a couple of editorial clients where we’ve been shooting together long enough that they don’t even give me a particular direction. I go look at the clothes and design my look from there. Even if a client gives me a general direction, that’s all they are giving me is a general direction. I take it from there and design an original look to fit the situation. Why? Because that’s what they hired me for. If they had to tell me what to do, I wouldn’t be there, they’d go find someone else. Goodness knows I do NOT mean that I never take inspiration. I have about 1,000,001 ideas swirling in my head from the images I saw of this past New York Fashion Week (I’m writing this right after the SS15 showing). However as opposed to a literal recreation of a look, I will file those inspirations into my makeup memory bank and they will manifest themselves in my original makeup designs. If your makeup business entails working with consumers such as brides, private clients, etc., THEY are looking to YOU to tell them not only what’s on trend, but how to make that trend work for them. Knowing how to interpret trend is important because a 45 year old lawyer isn’t checking for the same makeup looks as a 19 year old college student. But before you say “Well, I only want to work on clients who like style X”, think about which of those two women – the 45 year old or the 19 year old – actually has the money to pay you for your makeup services. Exactly.

So do I follow trends? Of course. I follow the upcoming trends – like those that we will see during Fashion Month (New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks), and the trends that are active amongst consumers, like ombre brows 😐 . I am not saying that any one look is wrong or right (well, ombre brows… ) but I am saying that as makeup professionals we cannot just blindly follow the herd. In fact, we should be leading the pack.

#BizTalk – Temptu Pro Search 2014

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Temptu PRO Search 2014 Winning Images (mine is bottom row, 2nd from left)

So the secret is now out – ya girl won! My photo is 2nd from the left, bottom row and I was the sole winner in the “Flawless” category. (The categories this year were Flawless, Editorial, Bridal and FX)

Many thanks for photographer Kate Szatmari and model Silja (Photogenics) and to Temptu PRO for the selection! And congrats to all of my fellow winners!

It’s a tiny bit of a stretch calling this a “BizTalk” column but here’s the thing: if you are a freelancer, publicity and creating opportunity are huge parts of the game. I’ve never entered any type of contest before, and in fact I entered this one on a TOTAL whim. I’ll tell you who inspired me to enter a contest is my friend and fellow artist Liza Macawili Ramos. You may remember she wrote the article on this years The Makeup Show Los Angeles for us. Liza is an awesome artist and also an awesome lady. One of the facets of her awesomeness is her willingness to put herself out there. She enters a lot of competitions for makeup artistry. She doesn’t always win (she does almost always Place), but she’s in the game. And you cannot win the game if you aren’t in it. By contrast I have historically been too shy to try. Back in the day I could get away with that because marketing yourself as a freelancer was just different. But in today’s Social Media driven world, shy does not work. So I took a risk and entered.

When it comes to freelancing, put yourself out there every now and then. You never know what might happen 🙂

#MakeupMonday – Powder and the Makeup Malfunction

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When Powder Attacks (taken from various AP sources. If images are used in error please let us know…)

Face powder and the Makeup Malfunction. Such a simple product, yet such controversy. Use of face powder goes back to the time of Cleopatra, so it is hardly something “new” in cosmetics. In fact in my previous article on face powder, I described it as a wonder product and one of the most important products in my kit. And it is. So if powder is such a “cannot live without wonder product” I am sure non-pros reading about all of these makeup disasters are wondering the same thing;

What is really going on with all of these celebrity makeup malfunctions?

Well, the issue is not the product so much as the product usage. This is why it is prudent, albeit admittedly difficult, to not jump on every product trend but to learn HOW product works and get what works best for you from there. Let’s delve into why Powder and the Makeup Malfunction occurs. WARNING: Science Ahead!

How is it Used?
Face Powders have been used throughout cosmetics history to even skintone, brighten complexions and give the skin a smooth surface feel. As cream and liquid foundation came into being, powders became accompanying partners in the makeup routine to help keep skin matte and to help make the liquid/cream foundations last longer. Historically it has been applied with a puff or a brush and buffed into the skin, pretty much the same as it is now. As a makeup artist, I can also use it to subtly adjust foundation colors, blend edges, mute overly-bright color cosmetics, etc. Powders are wonderful and versatile cosmetics.

What Is Face Powder?

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Generally speaking, face powders these days are comprised of Talc and/or grain starches (rice, corn, etc.), preservatives and possibly colorants and scents. Some brands may also add moisturizing or other treatments agents. So called “mineral” powders are generally comprised of Mica, Silica, Zinc and Titanium Oxide and then Iron Oxide pigments that provide the color. Let’s take a look at the labels on some of these products.

Ben Nye is one of the original, old-school powders ever available in the marketplace and its ingredients list is fairly typical* of a loose face powder. These are the ingredients for the Ben Nye Neutral Set Colorless Powder;

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Talc – Talc used to be deemed a dangerous ingredient because INDUSTRIAL GRADE talc had Asbestos which is obviously not a good thing. Cosmetics grade Talc which has been purified and is what is in use in health and beauty products poses little to no adverse health risks. Talc is all natural (unlike a lot of “mineral” makeup ingredients which are actually synthesized) and is the softest of all of the minerals. Therefore talc is used when a silky soft finish is desired.

Aluminum Hydroxide – Skin protectant, adds opacity, may also add color in some formulas.

Methylparaben / Propylparaben / Butylparaben – Preservatives

Sorbic Acid – Not to be confused with Ascorbic Acid which is Vitamin C, Sorbic Acid is another preservative.

Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Powder was the first HD powder I ever became aware of. It is extremely finely milled and goes on nearly weightlessly and invisibly. Its ingredients list is as follows;

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco makeup lessons tania d russell  koh gen do maifanshi face powder makeup malfunction


Zinc Myristate – Is a mineral salt and is used as an anti-caking agent.

Silk Powder – An inorganic pigment powder and filler, Silk Powder is used to give product and the skin a “silky” soft finish, and to give added oil absorption to a formulation.

Sodium Hyaluronate – Salt form of Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic Acid is a “skin-identical” ingredient used in health and beauty formulations as a moisturizing agent. (Hyaluronic Acid occurs naturally in the human body, primarily in eye fluids and in the joints. HA for cosmetics use is laboratory generated generally from bacteria).

Iron Oxides – Iron compounds used for coloring cosmetics products.

So as you can see, the Koh Gen Do powder – which if I did not say before is LE AMAZING – incorporates elements of straight stage powder like Ben Nye, but also some modern formulations found in today’s cosmetics as well as some ingredients found in products marketed as “mineral” makeup powders.

Talc, rice starch and corn starch all share in common the fact that they are very matte and they contain no reflective materials. Therefore when used, they leave a soft, matte overall finish to the skin. The “oxide” family are widely used in the mineral makeup product category and in color cosmetics (eyeshadows, blushes, etc.). Most have reflective properties to them to varying degrees (some low lustre, some sheeny, some high sparkle, etc.). You may be familiar with Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide as physical sunscreens which work by deflecting the sun’s rays away from your skin. Makeup Artists will also recognize Titanium Dioxide as a product to be used with caution for professional photography because the reflective nature of TD can cause a “TD reaction”: That appearance you see in some photographs where the face looks whiter than the body. This is the lighting reflecting off the titanium dioxide back into the camera. This is also common in selfies, snap-shots, etc. where flash photography is common. Cosmetics companies like Oxides in powders, foundations, etc. because the keep formulas from looking too “matte” and they give varying degrees of sheen/shimmer to products which gives a “glow” when applied.

Now. In May 2008 Make Up For Ever introduced a brand new concept into the world of Face Powders when they introduced their High Definition Micro Finish Powder into the marketplace. The HD Micro Finish loose powder contains but one ingredient; silica. Silica’s full name is Silicon Dioxide.

Uh oh. Didn’t you just say that Oxides have reflective properties?

Yes I did. Read on my friends…

What Goes Wrong?

MUFE’s HD Micro Finish Powder is 100% Silica (in the loose powder form. The pressed powder has other ingredients, but the primary ingredient is still Silica). Silica is also well known to most as the little packet that comes in packaging – including some food packaging – to absorb moisture keep products dry. Therefore as a powder it is very mattifying but in a less “cake-y” way than talc or starches can be. Texture-wise, the MUFE HD powder is very very light and very very dry. A light dusting is all that’s needed to mattify the face and provide a flawless finish.

So What’s The Problem?

A 100% silica powder is a 100% reflective powder, so it is not a wise choice for FLASH photography. It’s great for TV, it’s great for film, it can be great for print, it’s great for walking down the street. It is great anywhere there is going to be stationary, set lighting. To the naked eye, it is matte in appearance. However – and this is where the danger starts – when the flashes go off, that OXIDE is going to react and flash that light back at the camera. The second danger element is the fact that it is so dry. As I mentioned in my previous powder article, silica based powders need the moisture of freshly applied makeup to hold onto. The dryness makes silica powder a fabulous SETTING powder because it adheres like crazy and really sets the makeup. However, once the makeup is set and dry there is no moisture for it to cling to, so it just builds up. As you can see, common culprit areas are around the nose and underneath the eyes which are frequent touch-up areas (under the eyes due to concealer slip and around the nose due to natural skin oils). The final danger element is the “micro finish”. The particles of the MUFE powder are teeny tiny. They are not as readily visible as talc and starch based powders. MUFE themselves tout the “invisibility” factor of their HD powder as one of the benefits of the powder and it is a good thing. Normally. However when you have a makeup error such as too much powder building up in one place but you cannot see that too much powder has built up in one place, you are en route to a Makeup Malfunction situation. That is how all these celebs are getting caught out there. The people involved are neither crazy nor blind. Had they been able to SEE that the powder was going to go buckwild and do them wrong, they would have fixed the situation before it happened. However;

Oxide reaction + dry powder buildup + fine particles that are not easily seen = Makeup Malfunction.

I really, really want to stress that MUFE HD powder is a fantastic product and when used correctly looks absolutely gorgeous. This article is not intended to bash any given product. Also, a lot of brands are now making their own knock-off versions of the MUFE HD powder, surely of varying ingredients and varying overall quality. In all likelihood none of us were there when these makeup malfunctions took place, so we do not even know for sure what product was used. Lastly, I also want to shout-out all the makeup artists who have had clients appear in the “What Were They Thinking” columns the day after an event. Any artist who works in these situations knows that you do not know what the client is going to do once they leave you to go to their events. We’ve all read plenty of stories of celebs getting their awards show fast food fix on (this article says “after” but trust me I know of several “on the way there” stories). Therefore I am not going to speculate who did what, when or why. I am merely writing this article to educate artists and consumers on how this particular phenomenon happens.

Bottom line – I, Tania Russell, makeup artist, would just not risk using silica based face powders at all for these types of events. If you want to make sure that you look your best in your snap shots at parties, etc. or that your client looks their best at any type of live event, stick to the tried and true of talc/starch based powders. If you are worried about the “cake” factor, apply with a skilled hand and you will not have that problem. I used Ben Nye powder on at least 90% of the photos on my website. If you DO choose to use a silica based powder, please know what you’re doing. Knowing how to use the product and, first and foremost, knowing the conditions under which the powder is going to be seen makes all the difference between a makeup malfunction and a makeup masterpiece.

Sources: Temptalia.com, Ponte Vedra Soap Shop, MakingCosmetics.com, Paula’s Choice, Skinacea.com, Environmental Working Group, WebMD, American Cancer Society, Human Touch of Chemistry.com, Wikipedia.org,

* there are countless cosmetics formulations in existence, this is just provided as an example.

So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist 10 – Avoiding Bad Makeup Classes

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The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

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me in action teaching Airbrush makeup.

As you may know, in addition to being a working artist, I am a makeup educator.

I started with my own private lessons which grew into workshops and then I began teaching in schools, first at a school in Los Angeles and now at a school in San Francisco. I actually very much want to resume teaching my own lessons and workshops but there is one thing hindering me: the rise of the bad makeup classes. It seems to be a cyclical phenomenon where sometimes there are lots of classes and sometimes there are hardly any. Right now the class/workshop/school situation is at Full Tilt. Some of them are by all accounts excellent, like Erica Carr’s Hairstyling courses which I am interested in attending myself. But some… ????? Seeing some of these workshops and schools makes me wonder WHAT exactly people are looking for in education and HOW are they vetting those to whom they are giving their hard earned money. Here are my suggestions for avoiding bad makeup classes and upping your chances of finding quality education.

– Do Not Shop Price
Do not be dazzled by an over-the-top high price thinking “oh it must be good”, and don’t shop the discount bin hoping for a bargain. Do your research and find out what you are getting for your money. Good classes will not come cheap. In fact I have a #BizTalk Friday MTG post coming entitled “Why I Can’t Teach You Makeup for Free”. NO good instructor will. Classes are expensive to produce, our knowledge is valuable and we deserve to be compensated fairly for our time and skill. Save up your hard earned $$$ for quality instruction. Good instruction will pay for itself quickly. If a class is too cheap or crazy expensive, keep looking.

– Find All About Out Who Is Teaching The Class
Real Talk: credits are very easy to find. A simple Search should pull up all types of credits and references for any actually working artist. Frankly one of the first things that should come up in a Search is a professional website with current work as any working artist would readily have (or an agent’s site if the artist works exclusively through an agent, or an IMDB profile if they work primarily in Production).

Even more frank, this info should be detailed prominently on the website for the school or workshop.

A working artist who does the work they say they do has nothing to hide. If you have to hunt, peck and squint to find out anything about the who is teaching the class or who is running the school, let that be a Red Flag.

– For Real Though – WHO Is Teaching???
There is an online advert I saw recently listing a workshop from a “celebrity makeup artist”. Not only is there no link to an artist’s portfolio of any kind, there is NO NAME listed. Yeah, no. I see this a lot, actually, particularly with a lot of these fakey schools. A potential student cannot possibly make an informed decision about a school or a class without knowing who is teaching and what is that teacher’s professional background. This information should be readily available. You shouldn’t have to search for it, you should not even have to ask for it.

– Do The Pictures Look Like Work You Want To Do?
No? Keep walking. Just as a client shouldn’t hire a makeup artist whose portfolio looks like mine expecting that they are going to do Alexis Vogel-style makeup, if a school or workshop is not posting images of the kinds of work you hope to do, keep looking. And if all they have are amateur/snapshots/Instagram photos, definitely keep looking. OH and make sure the photos are really theirs as well. Photo theft is rampant in the industry nowadays. If they have a bunch of bridal photos and then all of a sudden a photo of Beyoncé, one of these things is not like the others…

– Not All Credits Are The Right Credits
As great as my classes are 🙂 I focus on media makeup because that is what I do. Hence if you are looking for a great Bridal course, my classes would not be for you. Particularly if you want to learn the ins and outs of building a Bridal business. I don’t know the first thing about it, I don’t do Bridal. THAT SAID do not look to a Bridal artist to learn about being a freelance media artist. Unless they do both – which some artists do – someone who does Bridal exclusively or primarily does not know the ins and outs of my world. Likewise; do not take an editorial makeup class from an artist that primarily does TV, do not take a theatrical class from someone who primarily does clean beauty, do not take an FX class from someone who does not have a strong FX portfolio and background, etc. These things are all different and you should find someone whose work reflects what it is they teach. AND let me add this – anyone claiming to teach celebrity makeup should be a celebrity artist themselves. This is where the trade shows are great because they afford one access to that top tier artist whose schedule often does not permit too much time for teaching (The Makeup Show NYC*, for example, just had Troy Surratt and Nick Barose as Keynote speakers). Being a “celebrity makeup artist” does NOT mean an artist who did one random reality show person one time.

– Beware of False and/or Unsubstantiated Claims
Anyone who actually works will tell you that becoming a working makeup artist is NOT easy. It takes time and a LOT of work. I believe it was Forbes magazine who recently ranked Makeup Artistry #6 most difficult profession to enter versus how many people want to do it. It is not Mission Impossible, but it is mission difficult (to paraphrase Sir Anthony Hopkins character in MI:2). Therefore any place that talks about how you’ll be working in a week or this or that is just a scam straight up. Also I was reading an ad for a class that claimed all students would receive a Certificate that would allow them to get cosmetics for 60% off. :-|. First of all, a sheet of paper from a one day workshop is meaningless. Here in California, for example, Schools must be Accredited. Becoming Accredited itself is not easy, a course outline must be defined and approved by the appropriate governing body, courses must be a certain number of hours, etc. Therefore most Workshops are not even eligible for Accreditation. Secondly, no cosmetics company gives a Pro Discount of 60%, cosmetics companies are in business to make money. Most companies set their Top Tier at 40% and to get said discount, you have to prove that you are a WORKING artist, not just that you took a class. Shenanigans like these are why more companies are starting to charge for the Pro Discount, but let me not digress right now. A good course does not need to make things up, the value of the course is in the instruction itself. When it sounds too good to be true, it is. Run don’t walk in another direction.

If a potential student does their research, there are a lot of very good schools and workshops out there. If your plan is to be a professional makeup artist, then you should be a professional from jump. Do not become starry eyed and fall for the first handsome suitor that looks your way. Research and make a potential school or class earn your business. You owe it to yourself and your career.

And if you’re wondering, yes, I learned all of this first hand the hard way. A zillion years ago I paid a good sum of money (I want to say maybe $1500) for a class that promised I’d be working once I completed the course. I took the class without researching the instructors or the owners (who it turned out were sued several times for similar scams) or doing any kind of vetting whatsoever. Of course I never got any work out of it, in fact I did not even receive what most people would consider a complete class. Lesson learned.

Previous Installment: So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist Revisited

You Might Also Want to Check Out: So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist – Good Instruction

*CORRECTION: I originally posted that Troy Surratt and Nick Barose were Keynote speakers at IMATS NYC. This was an error on my part, they were speakers at The Makeup Show NYC. My apologies for the error.

The “So You Wanna Be A Pro Artist” series is original content conceived and written by Tania D. Russell, all Copyrights reserved.

#MakeupWerks – Bisous Magazine Metallics Editorial

You speak, I listen. Amongst the requests I get most often for the blog is to see more of my work. As most freelancers I am all about shameless self promotion so I am happy to oblige! ;). Let’s start with a breakdown of my Bisous Magazine Metallics Editorial, currently in the Spring 2014 edition.

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© K. Szatmari / KSZPhotos
Makeup only by Tania D. Russell
Spring 2014 Bisous Magazine
click the dots for product info

This editorial is in the current (Spring 2014) edition of Bisous Magazine (click to go to the magazine). Clearly the theme for this shoot was metallics makeup. I wanted to keep the makeup looking like metal rather than going in a glittery direction so I used a lot of product in non-traditional ways. You can click around the photos for some examples of what I used and where. For the skin, I also wanted to maintain a creamy, “molten” texture. I worked primarily with liquids/creams to maintain the texture and not let the skin get matte but I also did not want the skin to fly into a shiny direction. From there Kate worked her magic by desaturating the skin/hair tones so that the focus stayed on the makeup. Hair was done by the amazing Caile Noble (represented by Jed Root). Funny Side Note: We could not book a manicurist for this shoot so guess who whipped out her trusty Black nail polish. This Girl! LOL!

Many thanks to all of the fabulous cosmetics lines I used for this shoot:

KOH GEN DO Maifanshi Moisture Foundation
KOH GEN DO Maifanshi Liquid Treatment Concealer
KOH GEN DO Maifanshi Face Powder
BECCA COSMETICS Shimmering Skin Perfector
LORAC Pro Eyeshadow Palette
ELLIS FAAS Ellis Eyes Lights
STILA COSMETICS Magnificent Metals Foil Finish Eyeshadow
URBAN DECAY Eyeshadows
NARS Eyeliner and Lipcolor
GIVENCHY Magic Kohl Eyeliner
DOLCE GABBANA Glam Liner Intense Liquid Eyeliner
– A few other “secret products” I didn’t list in the magazine. LOL
and good ol’ MAYBELLINE GREAT LASH Mascara cos that’s my favorite!

Tania D. Russell is a career media makeup artist based in Los Angeles and working throughout the West Coast. Her clients include WalMart, BCBGeneration, Toyota and Pottery Barn Teen and her work has been seen in publications such as Elle Sweden, Marie Claire UK, InStyle Magazine, TeenProm and Runner’s World. You can see her media makeup website at Makeupwerks.com , which she promises to update at some point this Millennia…