Australian-born, New York-based makeup artist, Sam Addington is committed to the idea that beauty is more than skin deep. She has painted some of the world’s most well known faces like Saiorse Ronan and Brooke Shields for publications like Vogue, ELLE, and Harper’s Bazaar. While her minimalist aesthetic appears effortless, it belies her considered, health first, holistic approach to beauty. Addington talked to us about how she created The Frontlash November cover Nikki Reed’s beauty look using her tool kit of non-toxic skincare and make up products, her path to becoming a makeup artist, and what beauty means to her.
Did you always want to be a makeup artist?
I initially wanted to be a fashion designer. When I graduated from high school I went to art school for a couple of years, and trained in fashion textile and design. It was during that period that I discovered Kevyn Aucoin and discovered that being a makeup artist was a profession that one could pursue. So I quit art school and I moved to Sydney and trained there for a year.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to pursue a career as a fashion and celebrity makeup artist?
I mean, now is so different from when I first started. When I first started in 2000, there really wasn't any other avenues to promoting yourself other than having an agent. You could have a business card, and these really analog ways of promoting yourself, getting your name out there and getting traction with clients. But I think now with social media, everyone can take control of their career pathway, in a way, in the creative fields, anyway.
I still think there's some value in doing [runway] shows and assisting [more established makeup artists]. Although, having said that, I never did that. I never assisted anyone and I didn't really do any shows outside of directing my own. But I think there is some value in working under other people, and seeing what they do and how they do it, and then running that through your own lens and working out how you might be able to do it—in a way that expresses the story or the narrative that you want to tell.
Ultimately I think the only way to have a career is if you really stay true to what it is that is your style.It comes down to stories. Who is this person and what should they do and why are they wearing a red lip and why should they be wearing bronzer? So number one rule, build a portfolio, I think is the way to go, and develop your own style.
Well, that kind of brings me to my next question: what's your creative process when you're working with, I guess I'll start with a celebrity client. Because I know a celebrity and a fashion client is different. So what's your process when you're working with a celebrity?
In some ways it's not too dissimilar, the fashion and the celebrity process. Ultimately it all comes down to having a sense of everyone in the room has their own agenda. Everyone has something that they need to sell or promote. And so that kind of informs how the model or the celebrity should look or want to look.
Celebrities tend to have much more say on how they would like to look, depending on what their relationship is, say, with their publicist or perhaps it's their stylist who might interject and have a very strong vision for how they should look. Whereas a model just has no say typically, and it's all about how the creative director or the client pictures how they look.
What does beauty mean to you?
I really think beauty is a feeling. It's not so aesthetic. It's sort of like a sensibility, I think, more than anything else. The way in which somebody holds themself, or the way in which somebody walks perhaps, or speaks. Oftentimes for me, I find somebody attractive based on what they have to say, and if they can articulate what they have to say in a really engaging way. I like quirk. I like there to be a point of interest.
Health is also very beautiful to me. If somebody looks healthy, if their eyes are bright, their skin is clear, their hair is shiny, they have some color and some life to their skin, then that'll always beautiful to me.
When you are working with someone, applying makeup, how do you foster trust so that the person you're working with feels comfortable? Because you’re in an intimate space with them and sometimes you don’t know them well or at all.
That's a good question. It's probably not something that I necessarily have cultivated. I don't have a routine, it's probably just who I am as a person. I think that it's like when you meet anyone you don't want to be too intrusive, you need to be respectful, you need to have an understanding, and a respect of the fact that you are in this person's personal space. It is a very intimate thing.
I think it's just about projecting or letting that person know in some way that they're okay with me, that we all have our faults and we're all here to make them feel as beautiful and comfortable as possible.
And you can utilize that charming [Australian] accent of yours as well.
Yes. Although some people can't understand what I'm saying, but, yeah. I think I've also been lucky in that because I started so young, I was like, 19, 20, I wasn't that much older than a lot of the models I was working with and as my career has progressed, I'm now 40, a lot of my clients tend to be my age now. So, I have an understanding of where they're coming from and who they are as people. And that's the thing, you've just got to strip it down to the fact that we're all people, and we all have our hang ups. We all have our wants and desires, and we all have our favorite things that we like, and things that we don't like.
What are some of the ways that we can be more eco-conscious when it comes to beauty or makeup?
Well, I think the important thing is to understand that it's not just about makeup or skincare products. There's so many other things that we use on a daily basis that you could also take into account. So whenever I work now, I make sure that I'm using cotton swabs and baby wipes that are biodegradable and that come in either biodegradable or recyclable packaging. There's so much waste involved with that, so I'm really quite conscious of that given you use far more cotton swabs in your lifetime than you do lip stick, say, so I try and be conscious of that. Tissues are the same, I now use only tissues that are derived from bamboo, so they're treeless, they're sustainable and they break down quicker.
But when it comes to eco-friendly, when it comes to skincare and makeup, you can be conscious of the ingredients that they're made of, there's a lot of toxins, common toxins in skin care and makeup. So you can go to the extent of using clean or nontoxic products, or at least trying to eliminate [toxins in your products] as much as possible.
And also you need to be wary of the packaging that they come in, and be wary of what you do oftentimes. You don't necessarily need to throw them into the trash. You can take your containers to, like Credo, for example, these clean beauty retailers that have TerraCycle programs, so you can send your empty containers and they will have them recycled for you, and you know that they're actually going to be recycled, and that they're going to be repurposed into other products, and for other uses.
It can be a little overwhelming, and confusing too I think, when it comes to being eco-friendly. For example, I have a filter on my shower head, so I don't have chlorine or chlorine off gassing when I wash my face and my hair and things. There's so many things, it is a little confronting. But I think there are definitely ways you can reduce your impact, profound ways, even if you do it incrementally.
Can you talk me through the makeup you did for Nikki Reed, the process and some of the products?
Well, for this particular look, because it was very natural, I really focused on skin care first and foremost. She arrived already with makeup on from a previous event so I used a cleansing oil to remove all the makeup, including the eye makeup, then I used micellar water after that. I'm a big fan of hyaluronic serums. Hyaluronic acid is a really great skincare ingredient. It's moisturizing, it's plumping, and it's a really great way of building moisture into the skin without necessarily applying any kind of oil or other kinds of moisture products that could interfere with the makeup.
So I used a Susanne Kaufman hyaluronic serum. I then a Biossance moisturizer, but it's a gel moisturizer and it's just super light, and it has squalane and probiotics in it. And I used Biossance eye gel, which I'm a big fan of. It's loaded with peptides and it's really good for reducing any puffiness or signs of stress or fatigue.
I used a basic lip balm after that. And then just as a side note, when she left set I gave her some Ursa Major face wipes. Then afterwards I used an illuminating primer, just a little bit, just a couple of drops, to add a little bit more luminosity to the skin. And then I followed it with the Kosas tinted face oil, which is super, super light. It is an oil, it has a pigment to it, the oil seeps into the skin and then just leaves a little pigment on the surface. So it's good for evening out [the skin complexion] rather than it looking like a foundation. The reason I like this is because it doesn't have a greasy or an overly dewy feel. It looks more like natural skin, I think. Then I used the RMS Un Cover-Up just for under eyes and any blemishes.
I used the Kjaer Weis glow as an illuminator on the high points of the face, the cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, and the bow of the lip. And then I used the RMS Buriti bronzer on both the cheeks and the eyelids, just kind of create some structure and add some color to the face without it being too colorful. Then I use the Westman Atelier Eye Love You Mascara, just I curled the lashes and just used a little bit of that Mascara.
Then I used a Kosas lip color in a shade called "undone", just by pressing it into the lips rather than using a brush, rather than lining the lips, I just used that. And then I used the RMS "Un" Powder for any areas that were catching too much light. For the body, I used the Weleda body lotion, and also the Skin Food body butter.
I use a Dr. Bronner's hand sanitizing spray, by Humankind cotton swabs, Seedling by Grove tissues, they're made from bamboo and sugarcane, and then the Naturacare baby wipes, which are both biodegradable and compostable.
And that's it. I mean, it's a lot of products for such a simple look, but from a photographic point of view, it helps to have a little extra.
Interview by: Laura Jones