A Q&A with A-List Makeup Artist, Lee Pycroft

Portrait by @zoelawlondon

Portrait by @zoelawlondon

Make-up artist Lee Pycroft is renowned within the beauty industry. She has worked with numerous A-list celebrities, her editorial work has featured in glossy magazines and newspapers, she has worked with some of the biggest cosmetic brands around and headed up the make-up team for the hugely popular TV show, Britain’s Next Top Model. She also founded the groundbreaking initiative MY-Makeover, which uses beauty and make-up as a form of self-care to help boost emotional wellbeing in vulnerable sectors of society. Lee has trained as a Strategic Intervention Coach and is a Human Givens Psychotherapist (trainee).

You have been a world-class make-up artist for years, how did you get started in the business?

I did a fashion make-up course then naively wrote to lots of different photographers. Back then, you didn’t have social media to launch yourself, you had a portfolio of your work, and had go and meet people face to face. It was really through meeting people who were influential and other established make-up artists, and creating value for the people I worked with that helped me get started. On set, I would always do more than had been asked of me in order to leave them with the impression that they’d want to get me back. As I gained more experience, when some of the big make-up artists I was working with couldn’t do a job, they would give it to me, and things grew from there.  

How did you know you wanted to make a career in the beauty industry?

I grew up watching 80s TV shows like Dallas and I used to think everyone was really glamorous; I associated the women in the shows with being powerful, and I thought, ’that looks great’. I used to work on the Revlon counter in Boots and remember thinking one day that I could do a make-up course. I just thought it looked fun and I didn’t want a job where I had to wear a uniform - it was a very simplistic view to be honest. But that naivety served me well, because perhaps had I known what it would take, I might never have done it!

When did you realise you were one of the best?

I’m not sure I ever realised it, it was that part of me that was always second guessing, ‘Is it enough, am I doing enough?’ that kept me going. It kept me constantly wanting to learn new skills and the latest techniques. I set myself a goal after I’d been doing make-up for a while to start doing contracts with brands, because I thought that would give me more of a consistent income. To get more exposure, I had to get the press to talk about me, so, because I would assist on the fashion circuit, I would write trend reports that journalists could use whenever they needed to. Over a period of time, and because I was reliable, journalists would come to me if they needed a last-minute quote. By being responsive and again trying to add value, I built up more press coverage.

You have worked with a number of celebrity clients - do you have any particular favourites?

I have worked with lots of great people, but the British actress Joely Richardson really stands out. She’s got a very unique beauty and I loved her company, she’s a very warm human being. And Laura Linney, she’s such an intelligent, grounded, smart person.  

Is there anyone you would love to work with that you haven’t as yet?

I’d love to work with Angelina Jolie, purely because of her humanitarian lifestyle, and JK Rowling. They are both really interesting women with a very strong ethos who use the platform they’ve created themselves to help other people.

What is always in your make-up bag?

I do my lash line and mascara every day. At the moment I’m using Eyeko Lash Alert Mascara, Wake Up and Go, and their Sport Waterproof Eyeliner. I also like Kat Von D’s Studded Kiss lipstick in a shade called Lovecraft. I love vegan brand Inika, their BB Cream Foundation is really light.

Do you remember the first piece of make-up you bought?

It was a Miss Selfridge lipstick called Iron Lady. It was this metallic pinky blue lipstick that made everyone’s teeth look quite yellow!

What is your travel essential?

I love to carry a spritz with me, Espa do a lovely hydrating floral spritz. It keeps skin hydrated and I like the smell too, the air on an aircraft can be a bit stale. I often use a balm, something like Ouli’s Ointment, around my eyes.

What three products would you take to a desert island?

Mascara, eyeliner and an eyebrow pencil.

Do you have a beauty insider tip you can share?

Put more focus on your lash line, lashes and brows, rather than applying lots of eyeshadow. I think a lot of women focus on eyeshadow instead of creating the intensity they need around their lash line. I tend to use a black eyeliner on people because you just want to make the lash line very, very thin, just underneath the eye rather than on top, so you sort of lift up your eyelid slightly and pencil underneath the lashes into the root of the lashes, rather than making a thick line on top. When you look at the person you can’t see it, but it creates an intensity at the root of the lashes, so if you have fine lashes it’s filling in any gaps and makes them look like they have more volume. Just do it on the top lid.

Any tips to get glowing skin?

I would use something like Ouli’s Ointment and put it in the palm of your hands, rub them together then press your hands onto your skin. Any of the very light balms will have that effect.

What is the most common mistake made when applying make-up?

I think at the moment it’s putting too much on! Make-up should be used to enhance your beauty rather than trying to sculpt yourself into something completely different.

What are the basics for day make-up?

I think a little bit of cover up, that might be an illuminating concealer under the eyes, brushing your brows into place and filling in where necessary, mascara, a bit of either a bronze or rosy blush, depending on how much colour you have in your skin, and then a tinted lip balm. For older women, it’s quite useful to use a BB cream or foundation to lift the skin a bit. Regardless of what you use, BB or CC creams, it depends on the technique you use to put them on. With any foundations, use a Real Techniques foundation brush and just buff it into your skin. Even if you’ve just got a concealer, use a foundation brush and buff it in where you need it. Tinted moisturisers are great for a quick application. If you use powder, just use it down the centre of the face and opt for a creamy blush or a liquid tint, something like a Daniel Sandler Watercolour Blush, because it’s translucent and just adds a flush of colour to the skin without looking like make-up.

What does your own make-up routine consist of?

After I’ve cleansed, I will use something like a BB Cream down the centre of my face. I’ll put on an illuminating concealer - I sometimes use Dermablend, which is a very creamy one, or a light-reflecting one, I’m just using the last of my Lancome Teint Miracle. Bobbi Brown does some nice Eye Brighteners and Nars has good Creamy Concealers for under eyes as well. I’ll fill in my brows and brush them up, then do my lash line and mascara, put on a tinted lip balm and a bit of bronzer.

What is the easiest way to take make-up from day to night?

Intensify the lash line, put on more mascara and then you can do something like sculpt your socket line with warm brown colours or taupes, or even just take your finger and use something slightly iridescent and put a tiny bit in the middle of your eye. Depending on your eye shape, if you want more of an almond shape, you might extend the outer part of the lash line, so it’s slightly thicker, just so it goes more straight rather than the half-moon shape that most eyes are. You could even take a bit of bronzer and put it in the sockets of your eyes to open them up a bit

What are your must-have products of the moment?

At the moment, I’m really enjoying using the Espa Optimal Skin ProCleanser, it’s a three-in-one cleanser, exfoliator and mask; it’s very nourishing on the skin.

Do you stick to the same products or are you always trying new brands?

I’ve been sent quite a few skincare products lately, so I am trying them all out. But there are certain things I often use, such as Retinol from The Ordinary, because I think it’s great value and does the job. Another make-up brand I think is really great is British brand delilah. It’s a small brand, very chic, and their foundations and some of their gel liners are lovely.

What piece of beauty advice would you give your teenage self?

Just relax! Don’t worry! When I look back I think, what were you so worried about? I remember being 16 and deciding I was going to be a punk rocker, and wearing so much make-up and drawing on my face with all my Miss Selfridge make-up - fortunately that didn’t last too long. But, younger self? I think trust yourself, have faith in yourself.

www.leepycroft.co.uk  Portrait by @zoelawlondon