Last week, the most influential makeup artist in the world Dame Pat McGrath presented her most famous makeup look to date. At Maison Margiela’s haute couture show in Paris, the British makeup artist dug into her beauty bag of secrets, pulling out her “ultimate porcelain doll look.” In her 35-plus long career in beauty, “I’ve never seen a makeup look go so viral,” McGrath says during her Margiela Masterclass.
“Every member of my team’s phone blew up with the whole world asking what was on everybody’s face,” she says. Since the show, up-and-coming makeup artists– including Mei Pang, Dee Carrion, and even Bratz dolls– have recreated the look from spoofs leaking from backstage. And although McGrath’s team released general details after the show, they kept the airbrush trick under wraps – until now. “I have never gatekept anything in my life. I believe in full disclosure,” McGrath says.
Below, McGrath gave a tutorial on how she created the internet-breaking look– from eyebrows to blush, and every juicy, airbrushed detail in between.
About the look
“We started this look about three years ago with no makeup,” McGrath says. “There was much work that had to be done for [the airbrush] to live with makeup underneath.” The poetic, doll-like makeup look complemented the show’s silhouettes, textures, and techniques, presented on the moody, moonlit Seine in Paris.
Leading up to the show, “we basically made about 300 different makeup looks, then about one or two days before the show is when the beauty looks are allocated to each couture look,” McGrath says. “We could not divulge, we could not let anyone know [about the looks].” Then, the porcelain AI-esque doll makeup looks hit social media, causing a frenzy as the most industry-shattering makeup look of the 21st century. (When we said Black women are the blueprint, we mean it).
Behind the look
“We trained everybody for days before the show,” McGrath says. With Divine Skin: Rose 001 The Essence used to prep the skin, the character-like models’ eyebrows were bleached, with pencil-thin arches drawn on top of hidden brows. The PAT McGRATH LABS Permagel Eye Pencil used to paint soft, featherlike strokes for brows was also used to build depth in the eye look. Then, the Matte Trance Lipstick was applied to the eyes for an ethereal base before using the Mothership palettes to give a painterly finish. “It’s a real poetic depth John was talking about, not overly made up or professional,” she says.
She took trending makeup looks to an extreme. ‘90s brows were more theatrical, eyeshadows were given more intense moods, and as for doll-like blush, a circular flush of Legendary Glow Color Balm was applied before being blurred out with the fingertips. To finish off the makeup look, the eye pencil was smudged at the center of the lips, with the lipstick built at the center to give a pierced-lipped porcelain doll feeling to the look. As the final touch, a custom mix of Lust: Gloss – including shades peach perversion and flesh astra – married shine on and under the eyes.
Debunking the other viral recreations, McGrath did not use heavy powder. “We had a very light hand with powder,” she says. The makeup artist teased an unreleased soft pink blurring powder, which she used a bit under the eyes and on the eyelids, before prepping the look for the much anticipated airbrush effect.
“The most challenging part really is timing,” Pat McGrath says. “It’s all about military precision, military timing, applying makeup then going into spraying at the end.” For the moment we’ve all been waiting for: As her first airbrush pro tip, McGrath reinforced the skin with glue in specific areas of the face before airbrushing – for example, the mouth. Secrets leaked about the use of distilled face masks backstage as well.
“We used so many masks, so many products, like distilled water, peel-off masks, sachet masks,” McGrath says, showing off the Calendula Peel Off Mask, Que Bella Hydrating Pineapple Peel Off Mask among other drugstore masks. “We really made a concoction of many masks. We also added a little bit of Skin Illustrator Clear Gloss,” she says. After three years of testing out the technique, “what was fantastic is we have been making our own formula,” McGrath says, soft launching a Pat McGRATH LABS version of the product “it’s in development and coming really soon.”
Using a spoon to protect the eye and lip makeup, the makeup artist loaded the concoction into an airbrush tool to spray on the models’ faces. “People were snooping on me and my team backstage,” Pat laughs, trying to figure out the solution for porcelain skin. “With each layer you get more brightness and more and more intense layers of glass,” she says, doing seven to eight layers of airbrush on the skin. As the final step, the makeup artists used medium heat blow dryers to tighten the mask, getting the models runway ready. “We had to do some real touch ups that took ultra skills … in less than 10 seconds,” she says. Because once you spray, there’s no going back.