Q&A: Makeup queen Charlotte Tilbury on taking Asia by storm, 2018 trends and best makeup tips

Updated on April 25 2018

In just a short span of five years since launching, Charlotte Tilbury has become one of the most sought-after makeup brands on the planet, synonymous with gorgeous, glamorous and easy-to-use products. Even before launching her eponymous line, the British makeup artist had already established a name for herself as the makeup artist to A-list stars, working with the world’s top models backstage at catwalks and directing the looks for fashion’s most high-profile editorial shoots.

In Hong Kong, however, Charlotte Tilbury may not be a name that’s top of mind just yet; but it’s only a matter of weeks until the celebrity makeup guru and her megawatt presence are set to storm the city, with her Beauty Wonderland exclusively opening at Lane Crawford Canton Road and IFC Mall on 21 and 22 April.

We spoke to Charlotte Tilbury on her journey since starting her eponymous brand in 2013, from launching her hero product — dubbed ‘The Magic Cream’ for its spellbinding properties of skin rejuvenation — to her favourite skin-priming rituals, and her relentless entrepreneurial spirit as she expands rapidly throughout Asia.

When and how did you first discover your love for makeup and skincare?

My love of beauty and my ambition to become a makeup artist started back when I was growing up in Ibiza — it is such a magical, bohemian place. My talented father, Lance, was a painter in Ibiza and gave me an amazing root in colours, tonality and contrasts. I was constantly surrounded by a melting pot of creatives and visionaries who sparked my own creativity and I was therefore always walking a path towards makeup artistry. The first time I discovered makeup and became fascinated by its power was when I was 13. It changed my life. I started wearing mascara and overnight, everyone aged from 7 to 70 reacted to me in a very different way. I was instantly more empowered, magnetic and mesmerising, which inspired my mantra: ‘Give a woman the right makeup and she can conquer the world’.

Tell us about your favourite product from those early days.

My now award-winning Magic Cream. It was how this brand began. The cream actually got its name because for years I used to mix it myself and use it backstage at shoots and shows to turnaround the tired skin of supermodels and celebrities. They soon became obsessed with it and would ask me every time for my ‘magic’ cream! So, I decided to share it with everyone and now it’s a worldwide favourite. It contains Camelia oil, Rosehip oil, Bio-Nymph Peptides and Hyaluronic acid – instantly flooding the skin with moisture. I never apply makeup without it; I never ever go anywhere without it, it is my secret weapon and it gives me the perfect glowing base.

You’re best known for giving your clients flawlessly smooth and dewy skin. What is your secret?

From the very beginning of my career I was known for amazing skin before amazing makeup. I always say you can’t have a beautiful painting without a beautiful canvas. I believe that the key to magic skin is all about looking after and maintaining the best skin of your life.

The first thing I do in the morning to get my instant glow is to cleanse with my incredible Multi-Miracle Glow Balm. Enriched with vitamins and floral extracts, this purifying cleanser gives the complexion a youth-boost. I then multi-mask with my Goddess Skin Clay Mask, followed by my Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask. The glow-giving, lifting effects of my Instant Dry Sheet Facial Mask last for 8 hours! Next, I always prep my skin with my Magic Cream. It is a world-famous favourite, a little pot of youth and luminosity. I then tap in my Magic Eye Rescue underneath the eyes, hydrating and smoothing the skin. To finish I’ll apply my new Brightening Youth Glow, a skin solution which colour-corrects and instantly blurs, brightens and smooths the appearance of the skin for the most gorgeous, glowing, dewy-looking complexion.

Charlotte Tilbury

What is the biggest makeup mistake you see all the time?

Choosing the wrong shade of foundation is one of the most common makeup mistakes women make. The most important thing when choosing the right shade of foundation is to test out the colour in a natural light to get your perfect match. If the light is too dark, it’s likely that your foundation will be too dark. A lot of women forget to match the skin on their neck and ears too. They can often use too much foundation, and if you forget to blend in properly, you get the dreaded tide mark along the jawline. When I’m applying foundation I use just enough to get really beautiful coverage, starting from the centre of the face and blending outwards. I use my fingers a lot because the warmth of your hands helps blend it in properly.

You also pioneered 10 universal, iconic looks that work for women all over the world. How do you feel about expanding your ‘10 looks wardrobe’ to Hong Kong and Asia?

My 10 looks wardrobe was an idea that sparked simplicity for me. Ten looks, one woman. Ten off-the-peg, ready-to-wear, makeup looks that are everything you needed to transform into a Glowing Goddess, a Vintage Vamp, etcetera. Most women wear multiple faces in their life: the beach look, the job promotion look, the wedding look, the date look and so on. We morph into different personas and I wanted to help women make the correct choices.

Charlotte Tilbury
Darker, sultry looks in the 10 Looks Wardrobe.

Growing up, all of my friends always asked me what dress to wear with what top, and what colour would make their eyes pop. No makeup line had the solution to their problems. For Hong Kong I understand the makeup and beauty looks which my beautiful Asian fans aspire to, and so I created a new Radiant Beauty look (pictured below, centre) specifically for the Asia market. Fresh, pure and glowing, the Radiant Beauty girl always looks like the epitome of health, happiness and cool. Her skin is a picture of flawless perfection and a radiant pop of colour on the lip completes this naturally chic look.

Charlotte Tilbury
Fresh-faced, daytime-friendly looks in the 10 Looks Wardrobe.

From your visit to Hong Kong last year, what was your first impression of Hong Kong women and their relationship with makeup? How do you imagine your brand adding to this?

Whilst spending time in Asia I’ve noticed a trend for fresh-faced, youthful and flawless makeup looks — chic and natural with a gorgeous dewy, pure complexion. Women in Hong Kong LOVE lipstick, experimenting with different lip textures from liquid to matte to satin and so many bold gorgeous colours! I can’t wait for every woman to discover my lip collections from Matte Revolution to K.I.S.S.I.N.G. and HOT LIPS which was created in collaboration with 12 of my incredible celebrity friends including Carina Lau, Miranda Kerr and Kim Kardashian-West. I always say lipstick is happiness in a tube!

Charlotte Tilbury - Carina's Love
Hot Lips in Carina’s Love

Women in Asia tend to focus more on their skin and lips, but they do have really beautiful eyes too. Everyone knows me as the Queen of the smoky eye, I always say, ‘smoky eye ‘til I die!!’ and I want to teach women in Asia how to make their eyes look even more mesmeric, from feline flicks to bigger, brighter eye looks and the ultimate smoky eye — there are so many trends I love! I always wear the Dolce Vita eye using my Luxury Palette: I love the decadent molten bronze-y golds and rich chocolate shades. They really make my green eyes pop and give me that gorgeous come-hither gaze. And mascara — lashings and lashings of my Full Fat Lashes — I am a mascara obsessive!

Charlotte Tilbury
Self-professed queen of the smoky eye, Charlotte Tilbury swears by her Dolce Vita Luxury Palette.

Do you believe in makeup trends? If so, what are the most popular looks for 2018?

It’s all about fresh-faced, effortless beauty with pops of romantic colour! From just-kissed lips and cheeks, to bronze-y eyes & statement lips – it’s makeup that has a classic clean feel, with a modern twist. Some key SS18 beauty trends that dominated the catwalks and are everywhere this season are: brushed-up fluffy brows, softly flushed cheeks, glimmering metallic eyes and geranium matte red lips, as seen at Temperley London (with my Hot Lips lipstick in Tell Laura) and perfect, glowing skin.

I have also always been all about the glow, and for 2018 I am all about glowing, gorgeous, superstar-lit skin. I cannot wait for everyone to try my brand-new Hollywood Flawless Filter: It’s my secret recipe to give a filter to celebrities’ complexions on the red carpet before all the camera tricks — the ultimate high gloss, high glow, super-starlit, J.Lo skin. A customisable hybrid complexion booster, it has the versatility of a primer, the megawatt glow of a highlighter, and the perfecting properties of your favourite digital filter.

Charlotte Tilbury
Campaign image for Hollywood Flawless Filter

As a businesswoman and entrepreneur, what have you always relied on for inspiration and strength to keep growing and keep things interesting?

I wake up on a mission every day that I will make my dreams come true. I always think limitlessly and live my life by my positive mantras like ‘dare to dream it, dare to believe it, dare to do it’. I want to empower all women around the world to be the most beautiful versions of themselves every day.

I also have a mix of creatives, visionaries and rule breakers that I look to for inspiration. From Helena Rubinstein, Coco Chanel and Walt Disney, to Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill and Estee Lauder… the list goes on. I also always get inspired by, as Plato once said, how necessity is the mother of all invention. I am always thinking within the remit of how I can find a solution to problems. I am constantly looking for ways to make the lives of all women that little bit easier, whether it is to do with concealing imperfections or re-directing light to more flattering angles of the face, making an eye palette easy to use through control pressing the powders or sculpting celebrity limbs without going to the gym.

Which moment have you been the most proud of in your career so far?

I am incredibly proud of my path and my history as a makeup artist over the last 25-plus years. I trained at the Glauca Rossi Makeup School and went on to assist my mentor, Mary Greenwell. I then started out in the early 90s during the iconic Supermodel years with Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford; and then pioneered creative product development for many high-end brands, from Helena Rubenstein to M.A.C., Armani, Chanel, MyFace and Tom Ford.

Ultimately though, creating my own brand was such a pivotal moment in my career and in my life. I always knew I wanted to create my own brand, I dreamt of it at school as a young girl. I would always give my friends makeovers, advise them on what clothes to wear, the colours that suited their hair colours and eye colours… How to make themselves the most beautiful versions of themselves. I founded Charlotte Tilbury beauty in September 2013, an easy-to-use, easy-to-choose, easy-to-gift range because I wanted to share the power of makeup and show every woman how to look and feel like the most beautiful versions of themselves every single day. My products are now available in 67 countries worldwide and we’ve also won over 130 awards globally including Walpole Emerging Luxury British Brand 2014, CEW Best British Brand of the Year 2015, and the CEW Best New Brand of the Year 2015. I am so proud of how far the brand has come in the last five years!

If you weren’t a celebrity makeup artist and owner of your own brand, what do you envision that you'd be doing instead?

I would be an artist. I grew up in Ibiza and was surrounded by artists (like my father Lance), writers, musicians and actors in my youth so I always knew that I would do something creative.