James Vincent Shares His Secrets for Bringing Out the Beauty Within

“How can we use this beauty message to make it inclusive, to give people ownership and to take makeup, which is just powder and paint, and to use it to help people find their own beauty and individuality?” asks makeup artist James Vincent. In his 25 years in the industry, Vincent has worked with brands such as Stila, MAC Cosmetics and Make Up For Ever, and has done makeup for everyone from Obama to Gaga, Joan Jett to Jane Fonda.

He recently came to Las Vegas as director of education and artistry for The Makeup Show, a pop-up event that travels the country, allowing cosmetics fans to sample and buy products, participate in workshops and see presentations by industry leaders. Vincent spoke to Vegas Seven about some of his secrets for bringing out the beauty within.

How did you become a makeup artist?

I just kind of fell into it. My background is social work. … I was really looking at women’s studies and focusing on the idea of the beauty myth—specifically, how does an industry that is supposed to make a person feel better about themselves make some people feel like they’re not included? When I started in makeup, there was no age, there was no size, there was no shape, there was no color. So I really wanted to explore that. Now it’s been 25 years of working in celebrity and fashion and all of these other areas that I love, but my real passion now is education and community.

What’s the one item that should be in every makeup kit? 

It’s not exciting, but sunblock. The sun rays are so damaging—you really need that protection every day, even if you’re just walking from your car to your office. Skincare, for me, is essential—cleansing, polishing, protecting your skin. Exfoliation, moisture, sunblock.

What don’t we need? Is there a product we can toss?

I think contour has been really abused. We have always done contour in makeup, but you don’t need to purchase a contour kit to do it. You can use your foundation, one or two shades darker, and put that in areas where you want a little bit of shade. You can use that taupe eye shadow, you can use that dark blush, and it will be just as effective and more natural.

The other piece that I think is very abused right now is bronzer. Bronzer should only go where the sun hits; if you start bringing bronzer all over your face, it will make you look extra-shiny and like you don’t know how to apply your makeup.

Is it necessary to spend a lot of money on product?

Mascara is about a marriage between a brush and a formula; I don’t think you need to break the bank to get a great mascara. You can get great pieces at the drugstore, like NYX, L’Oréal Voluminous or CoverGirl LashBlast. Pair a volumizing mascara with a lengthening mascara and you’ll get that really professional-looking lash.

It’s hard to keep makeup on in the desert. Any advice or suggestions?

Setting sprays are a great way to keep your products in place for long-wear product. We’re seeing long-wear product launch from Siân Richards’ London [Brush Company]; she did the makeup on movies like Black Panther and The Avengers—she’s Halle Berry’s makeup artist. She’s launching a long-wear foundation line that looks like nothing, or you can build it up for drama when you want to go out at night.

Make Up For Ever, with their water-blend line and their aqua line, has long-wear products. If you have your favorites that are not long-wear, pick up a setting spray. Something like Skindinavia or Make Up For Ever or MAC Cosmetics all have setting sprays that allow you to keep your makeup on during a 120-degree day without adding powder. Powder, for me, is tough in the desert: It starts to look hard, it starts to look heavy, it doesn’t look polished. Setting sprays are great way to get away from powder. Especially as we age, we want a little less on the skin.

Las Vegas is a big nightlife town. Any thoughts on evening looks?

Right now, texture is everything, and it is great for going out at night. Glitter, shine, gloss—these are pieces we’ve always seen in makeup, but now they’re more elevated, more adult. We’re seeing them on the runway and on the red carpet.

It’s about balance. If you’re going to throw a little glitter on the lid—Stila has a magnificent glitter that’s waterproof—that’s one swipe across the eye. But pair that with a matte, something that’s going to give you balance. Gloss and shine are big; we’re stepping away from those Kardashian contours and those gray lines.

Blush is a great way to keep yourself looking young and fresh, but look at where you’re placing it. Oranges or peaches—they go to the higher point of the cheek, that’s where heat happens. Pinks or reds—blush that toward the apple, because that’s where that glow is coming through.

The smoky eye is big in Vegas, but people don’t know how to keep it in place. Pro tip: Pair it together, use different formulas. Use that black pencil, bring it to the inner corner of the eye, in that membrane. Then use a shadow over that—a black shadow, a brown shadow, whatever color you love. That will help set that pencil into place. Then do a cream liner or a liquid liner over it. You’ve got a smoky eye that not only feels sexy and modern, you don’t have to worry about it coming off while you’re out there dancing or drinking or even picking the kids up from soccer.

Any final words of wisdom for face-painters?

Don’t look at makeup as a way to hide or cover or change something about yourself. Look at it as a way to focus on what’s beautiful about you. If you’ve got a beautiful eye color, if you’ve got a great cheekbone, bring that forward and really celebrate it. Make makeup your own, play with it. It is not so serious—if you don’t like it, wash it off.