charlotte cowen make up artist

September 2021

Charlotte Cowen

Charlotte Cowen trained at the Delamar Academy of Makeup in London, achieving a distinction in film and special effects and fashion makeup.

Since completing her degree Charlotte has assisted and worked with some of the biggest names in makeup, fashion, photography and luxury such as Charlotte Tilbury, Greg Williams, Anna Wintour, Suzy Menkes, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Dazed and Confused and GQ Magazine.

Charlotte is also regarded as one of the top private client makeup artists in the industry, considered  one of the best in her game for bridal makeup.

[Tessa Packard]: Why makeup? And how did you start working with makeup professionally?

[Charlotte Cowen]: As a child I always enjoyed art. When I was seven I went to see Cats the musical with my school and we went behind stage and spoke with the makeup artist. We watched her face-paint an intricate cats face and create other special effects makeup. I loved it and went home that evening and created special effects with my mothers makeup. I used brown eyeshadows as mud and purple shadows to create bruises. I should think she was delighted!

[TP]: What three personality traits do you think you need to be a successful makeup artist in the 21st Century?

[CC]: I think you have to be relaxed, organised with your kit and be peaceful and calm while working on someone as they want to trust you with their face. I think being a perfectionist is important so you don’t miss a thing. Patience is important as you can have long days with a lot of makeup changes and touch-ups in between shots on a shoot. Often, you may have many people to makeup one after the other – sometimes taking an hour each – so patience is particularly important then.

[TP]: How would you describe current make-up trends in three words?

[CC]: That’s a difficult thing to answer as it depends on whether you are asking from a makeup trend / fashion industry perspective, or from the perspective of the general public. If I look at Instagram (general public perspective) then I would say the popular ‘look’ right now seems to be very dramatic and contoured. From an editorial perspective (based on magazines and brand shoots) I would say the trend for makeup right now is natural, fresh and healthy.

[TP]: Do you believe in lucky career breaks, and if so, what have been yours?

[CC]: I’ve done some exciting jobs. I loved working on Anna Wintour and Suzy Menkes and some of the campaigns I did with Charlotte Tilbury.

[TP]: How has your industry changed in the time you have worked in it? What has become easier and what has become harder?

[CC]: The industry has changed a lot. When I started it was all about getting your work in printed magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar etc. Instagram is now an equally powerful way of displaying your portfolio. Often people I’m working with say to me that they had looked at my Instagram account to get an idea of what I do. In the old days, you would carry a big leather bound portfolio with 11 x 13 tear sheets or magazine prints to hand out. It was heavy and there was a lot of walking about. Now its all on your phone or your website. Obviously that makes it much easier logistically, but I do feel it’s a shame that print magazines have become less in demand now and things are closing down as more moves online.

[TP]: How has what you do shaped who you are as a person?

[CC]: I think you can become a bit of a counsellor whilst the person is sitting in the chair; it’s quite intimate what I do and this has become the normal in my everyday life too.

[TP]: What would you change about your industry if you could?

[CC]: I would like better cancellation policies and invoices paid on time.

I would also like the over-contoured look to not be everywhere online. For theatre that’s a great look, but everyday makeup is so much about the lightness at which you apply and layer the product. So many people hosting lessons online are very heavy handed; there’s so much shadow on the brush that it drops down their face. Really, you only need to touch the brush to the shadow to create an effect. These makeup lessons don’t teach the viewer how to use all the tools properly – they don’t teach them how to apply makeup with any subtlety or a gentleness of touch.

[TP]: How often is your professional reputation put at risk by a client’s brief? For example, do you always side with what the client wants or do you only do what you think looks good?

[CC]: The client is paying me and it’s their project, so they can ask for what they want. Ultimately, I will always want to do what they want. Of course, I can give my opinion, but I believe that a good makeup artist doesn’t let their ego get in the way of the actual job. You need to put your intuition into the work and adapt to what the client thinks.

Sometimes I have a client who may have a particular lip colour or blusher that I don’t think is quite right on them. I’ll do what I think looks good and then get their feedback, and perhaps advise they stick to a familiar colour if the new one doesn’t make them feel like them.

[TP]: What’s your worst nightmare on a commercial shoot?

[CC]: Having hundreds of outfit changes.

[TP]: What’s the hardest thing to get right with make-up? Where do you think most of us go wrong?

[CC]: Most people go wrong with being too heavy handed. You also need the right tools for the eyes to smudge the liner and apply shadow around them. Too many people apply black eye pencil to their upper lash line very thickly. They MUST smudge it in with a tiny brush (like the 219 from Mac) to prevent the product from moving all over the eyes later on. A lot of eyeliner pencils are oil based and that’s why they smudge; if you apply a tiny bit of brown eyeshadow powder over the black eyeliner with a small brush it drys the liner and sets the oiliness of the product (similar to how you would powder your face when it’s oily). This creates a softer look with the eyeliner and prevents it from smudging.

[TP]: How has your make-up style changed over the years? And if so can you describe how?

[CC]: My makeup has stayed similar. I have always liked a smokey eye and that will always be the case! I also like to look tanned and healthy.

[TP]: What’s the secret weapon in your own make-up bag? Are there any products you can’t live without?

[CC]: I love to feel ‘glowy’ so I can’t live without Ultra Glow’s original pressed bronzing powder. You barely need any on the brush as it comes out strong. I also love to create a glow with Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Light Wand Spotlight on my cheekbone area.

Ash brown eyebrow pencils are great. I like Burberry Ash brown brow pencil, or NYX precision Brow Pencil in Ash Brown for a cheaper alternative. Unless you actually have a warm hair tone it’s best to avoid warm tones in the eyebrows as it can look like fake tan has been caught in the hairs (which is why I always favour ash brown colours for brows). It’s important to go for a slanted end brow pencil (and not a pointed one), and to always choose one that has a brush on it to comb the product in as you go.

For lips, I’m obsessed with Trish McEvoy’s essential pencil in Nude 01. It gives a bit of colour like a lipstick. My favourite mascara is Hourglass Extreme Caution. I really like to keep my skin fresh so I love Amly Radiance Boost face mist. Spraying that after you have applied your makeup makes everything feel less ‘made up’ and plumps your skin.

[TP]: How important is social media for business? Have you relied on it to grow your business or do you rely more heavily on word of mouth?

[CC]: I rely heavily on word of mouth, but word of mouth works best when people can then easily check and verify your portfolio and skills online. Instagram is therefore essential for me, as is my website. People do often contact me directly on Instagram too.

[TP]: In the world of make-up who do you most admire and why?

[CC]: I admire special effects makeup artists like Dick Smith or BAFTA winner Peter King (who did the makeup for Lord of the Rings). I love Pat McGrath and Alex Box for their creativity in fashion makeup; I’m also particularly interested at the moment in Isamaya French, who combines film special effects with fashion makeup, thus combining both talents. I love Charlotte Tilbury’s drive and admire her business skills – she created a successful makeup brand in the quickest time.

[TP]: What would be your dream make-up job? Who would be the client? Where and what would be the setting? What style of make-up would you go for? Please include as much detail as possible!

[CC]: I would do the shoot with photographer Juergen Teller and I would have Kate Moss as my model. I’d give her a feline eye look. It would be 70s in feel and shot in Formentera.

[TP]: What’s next for you?

[CC]: To keep doing what I’m doing, working with great people and improving my skill set, developing my art and most importantly having fun.



Town or Countryside? Country
Favourite city? Florence
Your perfect dinner guest, dead or alive? David Attenborough
If you could time travel to any era? The Egyptians
The best meal you’ve ever eaten is? Noma restaurant
The one essential you can’t leave home without? Lip balm
Pet hate? Broken powders in my kit box
Biggest extravagance? The amount of products and skincare items I have in my kit
Favourite book? The course of love by Alain de Botton, or maybe The Monk that sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma