When it comes to celebrity makeup artists, Mary Phillips is basically considered royalty. She is responsible for some of the most iconic makeup looks of the past few years. I’m talking Jennifer Lopez’s bronzed and glowing Venice Film Festival look (yes, the one when she made her 2021 red carpet debut with Ben Affleck), Kendall Jenner’s most beautiful Met Gala moments and just about every Hailey Bieber makeup look I’ve ever saved down on Instagram.
As someone who doesn’t find makeup application easy but also champions a natural-looking, fresh-faced look, I have been somewhat obsessed with Hailey Bieber’s makeup—it exudes health and radiance without ever appearing too contrived. And as her long-time makeup artist, if there is one person in this industry who knows the answer to the age-old beauty question of how to achieve naturally flawless-looking skin, it’s Phillips.
So when Hourglass gave me the opportunity to pick Phillips’s brain on all things makeup and skin, I knew that it was my one shot to get to the bottom of what really goes into her trademark fresh, glowing looks. I realised some time ago that the thing that sets Phillips apart from other celebrity makeup artists in L.A. is her ability to work with skin rather than against it, and I wanted to know her tips.
Unsurprisingly, I’ve been overthinking it for far too long. It turns out the secret lies in six very simple steps.
1. Prep the Skin
This is a makeup step that I often overlook (and almost always skip when I’m short on time). Phillips insists that prepping and priming the skin is key to a fresh, natural base. “A natural-looking glow always starts with prepped skin. I highly recommend using a skin tool, such as a gua sha or jade roller, after moisturiser. It helps with product penetration, increases blood flow and decreases puffiness before starting your makeup application,” she says. For an extra complexion-smoothing boost, Phillips also recommends using a tinted SPF formula in the morning: “It helps protect skin from UV rays and provides sheer coverage simultaneously.”
And the skin prep doesn’t stop there. The key to an even complexion, Phillips says, is an oil-absorbing primer—but it’s no good just slapping it on all over. “Using a primer before foundation helps with visible pores, and I love the Hourglass Vanish Airbrush Primer for its skin-perfecting, blurring effect. Apply your oil-absorbing primer to the T-zone, leaving the skin on the high points of the face super-hydrated. It’s the best way to tackle shine without sacrificing glow.”
2. Apply a Light Layer of Foundation
When it comes to foundation application, Phillips warns that going in too heavy can jeopardise your overall finish. “Over-application doesn’t look natural. Less is more. Start with a light layer of foundation so you can still see what areas need extra coverage with concealer,” she says.
Look for creamy foundations with light-to-medium coverage that melt into the skin rather than sit on top of it. Opting for a formula that is lightweight and delivers a subtle radiance (instead of a cakey, matte finish) will help ensure your natural glow shines through.
Mary Phillips is also makeup artist to Priyanka Chopra Jonas.
While some makeup artists recommend applying concealer before your foundation to get a full-coverage, long-lasting finish, when it comes to Phillips’s iconic fresh-faced looks, any step that risks over-application should be avoided at all costs. “I prefer applying concealer after foundation to ensure I am focusing only on the areas that need the extra coverage,” she reveals. “I apply it with a brush and blend it out with a sponge, setting with a light dusting of powder.”
When it comes to areas of concern, like dark circles, she advises using a colour corrector rather than packing on concealer. “Using a colour corrector under a full-coverage concealer will help to minimise the appearance of dark circles and brighten the under-eyes at the same time,” Phillips reveals.
Similarly, when it comes to spots, it’s wise to keep things minimal. She advises, “I use a very small, flat brush and apply concealer directly to the area of concern. Once the concealer is dry, I lightly dust powder over it to set.”
4. Powder In the Right Places
You will have likely already noticed that Phillips is a fan of setting powders, and this isn’t something you see too often amongst makeup artists who are keen to get a glowing look. The secret, she says, is in knowing where to apply it. “Because I prefer a fresh-skin look that glows, I don’t like to use too much powder. It’s about balance; knowing where to powder and where to let the skin shine through,” she says.
According to Phillips, areas to apply powder include the under-eye area to reduce concealer creasing and fading as well as the T-zone to take down shine.
5. Apply Bronzer and Blusher
Mary Phillips is the makeup artist behind some of J.Lo's most iconic beauty looks.
After you have nailed your base, it’s time to go in with some colour. “Once you have lightly set skin with powder, add bronzer and blush,” says Phillips. Cream formulas, she says, can be great options. “A cream blush is always great because you can apply it with your fingertips to add colour to cheeks, eyes and lips!” On top of this, cream formulas also tend to be more foolproof when it comes to blending, melting into the base you already have rather than sitting on top.
There’s no doubt that Phillips’s beauty looks rely on highlighter to amplify radiance, but the way in which it is applied leaves you questioning whether there’s any product on the skin at all. Her top tip, she says, is to be very careful with where you apply your highlighter. “Be sure to add shine to the skin on the high points of the face, such as the tops of the cheekbones, bridge of the nose and brow bone,” she says.
However, if visible pores are an area of concern for you, think carefully about where you add other glow-boosting products, too. “Products that aim to boost glow can make skin texture more pronounced, so I wouldn’t suggest using them in areas you are trying to minimise and blur,” she warns.