All products on this page have been selected by our editorial team, however we may make commission on some products.
I fostered a deep love for make-up early on. Growing up, I really understood how transformative make-up could be and I immersed myself in the pages of my mother’s fashion magazines, as well as in old Hollywood films and the dynamic London club scene – that was the source of all my inspiration. I loved looking at how make-up could completely change a face and people’s individual features.
My mother was my earliest inspiration. Her approach to fashion and beauty was creative and meticulous, which helped ignite my own passion for make-up. She was obsessed with fashion and beauty which naturally interested me. As I got older, she encouraged me to be creative with make-up. She basically prepared me for how to do the job I do today. She’s why today, when a designer shows me a fabric, I can immediately visualise what the make-up should be. She’s also the reason why the goal for my brand is to create high-quality, transformative pigments that work for everyone. You have to think broadly when it comes beauty.
One of my earliest beauty memories was creating my own skincare products. I was still in primary school, but I latched onto the idea of creating my own moisturiser. I mixed various ingredients that I believed would make my skin glow. When I was finished, I left the cream in the refrigerator to set. That evening, I sat at my mother’s vanity and applied the concoction, feeling like a glamorous star from a classic Hollywood film. It’s funny to think that, decades later, I’d be doing the same thing backstage at runway shows across Europe. I came up with my own skin prep for the models by mixing rose water with a simple moisturiser. When I launched PAT McGRATH LABS, that blend eventually came to life as the Divine Skin: Rose 001 The Essence.
Staying true to your vision is key. It’s the best piece of career advice I’ve received – that and to always be fearless in your creativity. This type of wisdom came from various mentors and peers, including my mother, who always encouraged me to dream big. I grew up believing if you wanted something and worked hard enough, you could get there.
Trusting your instincts is essential. It’s the advice I would now give to my younger self – that and to not take anything personally in this industry. I would also tell myself to embrace every opportunity as a chance to learn and grow.
Working at fashion week will always be a career high. The creative work that goes into those shows is unlike any other. It’s a high-pressure, fast-paced environment where you have to think on your feet and be able to adapt quickly. Reaching that stage in my career has been rewarding – but it’s also been a result of hard work, dedication and being able to showcase unique storytelling through make-up. Keeping up the pace at these types of shows requires constant inspiration and flexibility. I find inspiration everywhere: in books, art, photography, films, jewellery, textiles, nature, art supplies and objects like feathers and stones, as well as from the other creative people around me like designers, hair stylists and fashion stylists.
As a make-up artist, passion is vital. My advice to other aspiring artists is to keep this front and centre of your mind. Stay adaptable and never stop playing or experimenting. You have to truly love make-up artistry in order to succeed. It can be the most wonderful career, but it’s tough and needs to be a priority – especially in the early stages.
Launching my own range has been incredible. One of my most unforgettable career moments was my first PAT McGRATH LABS launch. The GOLD 001 collection sold out online in six seconds. I was blown away. To see my vision and passion for luxe textures and high-pigment formulations resonate with make-up lovers to that extent was so validating. It fuelled my creativity – and boosted my confidence – to develop even more innovative formulas and shades. It also taught me the power of connecting authentically with people who share your obsessions and standards of beauty – that has guided everything I've done since.
A key skill for a make-up artist to learn is the art of listening. No matter who you’re working with, you need to understand their vision – especially when it’s for bigger looks on the red carpet and the stage. Whether it’s creating ‘bejewelled’ looks for Taylor Swift, wicked wings for Adele or working with Nicki Minaj, Oprah, Lana Del Rey, Rihanna, Dua Lipa or Beyoncé, it means interpreting their desires, and translating them into make-up looks that speak to their personality and style. The same goes for when you’re collaborating with designers for a fashion show. It's essential to be adaptable, as the final look can evolve right up to the day of the show. Ultimately, ‘show beauty’ is a marriage of artistry and teamwork, bringing together the cumulative efforts of designers, stylists, hair stylists and make-up artists to present a cohesive and captivating narrative on the runway.
I love that my nickname is ‘Mother’. It emerged years ago, thrown around playfully among friends backstage and on shoots. But it stuck because nurturing creatives, fanning their inspiration and dispensing advice comes naturally to me. These days it still makes me chuckle when an exuberant fan screams ‘Mother!’ out of nowhere. To me, ‘Mother’ symbolises the family of likeminded lovers of texture, colour and boundless creativity I'm so blessed to have discovered. And I relish inspiring that global community.
Seoul and Tokyo are the best places to discover new beauty. Both cities are home to innovative formulas, techniques and visionary creators waiting to take the beauty world by storm. Whenever I visit, the days vanish as I hunt through the beauty districts, sampling unique pigments, textures and skincare.
There are a few essentials you’ll always find in my kit. That includes my beloved Japanese Q-tips which are unrivalled for precision work. I love a good jade roller – especially when dipped in ice to depuff and stimulate skin before applying any make-up. It really does work to liven up the complexion, and keep it feeling soft and smooth. I’m never without Bioderma’s Sensibio H2O Micellar Water either. This product comes with me to every show and every shoot, and has done for years. It’s the ultimate gentle make-up remover that works quickly and doesn’t leave behind a layer of oil after using it. From my own range, I always keep The Essence concealer and foundation handy as they work in unison. I also swear by my Concealer Brush. I used to always apply make-up with my hands and one day the team joked that it would be amazing if we could replicate my index finger and sell it as a tool. Well, after we stopped laughing that’s exactly what we did. The slant of the concealer brush is designed to mimic the shape and angle of my fingertip so that everyone can try the technique at home for flawless application.
Everyone should try my Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Foundation. Foundation is so important to every single look and this foundation is meant to mimic the glowing skin that I’ve done thousands of times backstage. No matter how many layers you apply – from a sheer skin tint to a more medium coverage – your skin will always look fresh, no matter your age, skin type or skin tone.
Skin prep should never be neglected. You’ve heard it before, but when you take the time to prep your complexion, you don’t have to apply as much make-up – everything looks fresher and more radiant. I also love a good tool and am obsessed with beauty tech, especially the NuFace Trinity+ Smart Facial Toning Device – it really is worth the hype. It sculpts both the face and neck, smooths lines, lifts brows and defines the cheekbones. I love the boost button which gives you an extra lift – it’s a key part of my beauty routine and I often use one on clients.
Using high-quality products will streamline your routine. I’m often asked what the best beauty investments are and my answer is to think of this the same way as you do fashion. The secret to a great wardrobe is to invest in key pieces that will last a long time. Make-up is no different – it just doesn’t last a lifetime. It’s important to invest in high-quality, versatile products that can do more than one thing. For instance, blushers that are perfect for adding colour to the cheeks and lips or palettes that offer quality pigments and multifunctionality. If you’re buying a palette, look for ones with versatile shades and textures that can be used wet or dry – this means you can transform them into eyeliners and lip colours when applied with a damp brush.
My best beauty advice is to stop worrying about what others think. Play, experiment and use your make-up without caution. Make-up is the ultimate medium for self-expression – that has been my motto from the start. You should be free to do what makes you feel good. Find what makes you feel your best and own it.
For more beauty inspiration, follow @PatMcGrathReal on Instagram.