I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my make-up. I have a look that I stick to, so much so that even when a professional is in charge of my face, I itch to change or tweak it. My logic has always been, who knows your own face better than you?
However, when my own grandmother passed comment on my overdrawn eyebrows, I realised that it was really time to get a fresh perspective on my face - the same style that suited me at 22 is a little less flattering pushing 30. With that in mind, I decided to put some of the top make-up brands to the test and booked consultations at the department-store counters of five leading brands.
I decided to ask each counter for their brand's interpretation of a bridal look. While I'm not getting married myself, I have been a bridesmaid already this summer. Knowing what's wedding-appropriate is important for my friends and family's big days - and with the countless photos that come with being a bridesmaid (and, indeed, a wedding guest), every woman wants to look like the absolute best possible version of herself. No harm picking up some tips for the next time I'm summoned to wedding duty.
These days, a make-up consultation does not just mean a make-up application but a lesson, and the artists that work there are highly trained in both products and technique. So, would my colouring and face shape lead them to all give me a similar look, or would the different brands create dramatically different styles for this bridesmaid-to-be?
● I told each brand I wanted a bridal look that reflected their own ethos
● I wasn't allowed tell them what I personally liked, give them any hints, or get them to change anything for the photos
● As I'm not actually getting married, I had no clues about dress, theme or colour scheme for the artists to work off - so essentially, they were left to their own devices.
90 minutes, €60 redeemable against product
Hands up, I am a MAC girl. I use their foundation daily, and I'm loyal to their lippies and eyeshadows, so, it was difficult to go in and not have a say in what I wanted - artist Jess was thrown by the lack of brief too. She explained that most customers have a good idea of what they want, or at least a theme to use as a starting point. She decided to bring out my natural features.
Every brand that sells skincare employs some sort of routine in their lesson, and while MAC isn't really known for its skincare line we started with a cleanse and moisturise. My skin felt a little too hydrated before we started with the make-up, and I was worried it would just slide off - not the best for a bridesmaid! Jess lightly filled in my brows (way thinner than I would normally go) with Lingering, defining my eyes and applying mascara and lashes at the outer corner. She highlighted my cheeks with Cream Colour Base in Hush and lined my lips with Barely Bold and applied Ample Pink gloss. The look was me, but I felt I needed more concealer under my eyes. The lashes were pretty, the eyes popped and I loved the subtle line of Dip Down gel eyeliner along my lashline. I also liked the new ProLongwear Waterproof 24 Hour foundation, but was disappointed when it was shiny on my T-zone after seven hours.
Best for: Overall accents. The highlighter, lashes, liner and contouring gave a stand-out look. Next time, I'll say my skin is oily rather than combination.
Book in here if: You want to accentuate your best features and go glam.
60 minutes, redeemable against two products
I know Lancôme for its eye products -the mascaras, kohl pencil and waterproof eye make-up remover are all great. As a brand, it's classy and sophisticated - perhaps a little too much for me.
Artist Aoife assessed my skin type (combination) before working out what to use. She cleansed, prepped and moisturised my face before matching my skin tone with Teint Idole No 1. I loved this foundation because it gave great full coverage without looking cakey, and the colour suited me perfectly. With the Teint Miracle Concealer Pen, she drew a triangle from the outside of my nostril right out to the far edge of my eye, across under the lid and back down the side of the nose, and blended this in with my foundation. Lately, I've been looking really puffy and suffering from dark circles, so I welcomed this technique gladly and will be adding it to my make-up repertoire.
My eyes were glowy and very softly smoky at the edges, and while I didn't like the lip colour on me, the texture of Lip Lover was fab and long-lasting. I went to the gym after this, and the make-up barely budged - testament to a great base.
Best for: Complexion. I would buy the concealer and foundation in a heartbeat.
Book in here if: You like a classic, refined look. I would recommend this for the mother of the bride.
60 minutes, €40 redeemable against product
I went to this counter knowing little or nothing about NARS, other than they have rather risqué product names. They're not a big skincare brand and have comparatively few products, but artist Kayleigh used a lovely pre-foundation product called Optimal Brightening Concentrate to give me a wedding glow. The Sheer Glow foundation was light, but the coverage could be built-up, and it gave a nice clean finish. The complexion looked really natural, even with concealer and powder on top, and she added a flush of Orgasm, which made my skin look radiant. She also contoured my cheekbones and forehead using Laguna bronzer.
I loved what she did with my eyes - the brows were strong and my lids were washed with the Goddess Shadow Pencil and then one of the limited-edition Christopher Kane collection shadows in Outer Limits - I liked this so much, I bought it! She finished with Sex Machine on my lips.
Best for: Eyes. The products are gorgeous, easy-to-use and really pack a punch.
Book in here if: You want a no fuss option, and lots of colours to choose from.
YVES SAINT LAURENT
60 minutes, redeemable against two products
Everything about YSL feels luxe and sexy. My artist Michelle was wearing a vampy outfit and Cara Delevingne looks very rock chick on all the posters, so I had high hopes.
I was surprised by the brand's focus on skincare - their Forever Youth Liberator range has a premium price tag and is very high-performance. My skin actually felt more taut when it went on.
Michelle gave me some good advice for brides and their bridesmaids: remember, you want to look timeless, not bang on trend, so don't go overboard with brows or liner because they'll look dated in a few years. She also says that eyebrows are sisters, not twins, and don't have to be symmetrical. I loved the wax Brow Pencil No 5 she used on me, and the fact that she wasn't afraid to give me full-on eyeliner flicks.
I felt like my skin was a bit too sheer and glowy, but I loved the Touche Éclat concealer pen - it's a staple of many women's make-up bags and for good reason. She used it to highlight all around my brows so they popped, as well as under the eyes and on my Cupid's bow. Michelle chose a red lipstick (Rouge Pur Couture No 1), and I was delighted. I felt like it was a very glamorous old Hollywood-style look.
Best for: Skincare. I was really surprised! Michelle recommends that bridesmaids come in eight weeks before the wedding to get going on their routine.
Book in here if: You don't want to be a traditional bridesmaid. This brand isn't afraid of veering from the norm.
60 minutes, complimentary
I've always associated Bobbi Brown with a very natural look - nude lipsticks and soft eyeshadows. I wasn't sure what to expect at all, but was delighted when the first thing that happened (after skincare, of course) was that my artist Mandi immediately applied colour corrector to my under-eyes to neutralise the dreaded dark circles, and then a warming CC cream to match my facial skin to my (fake) tanned neck and decolletage. Those two products made a massive, immediate difference, and with concealer and foundation, my complexion looked great.
The hero product for me (yes, I ended up buying another item) was the Day Wear eyebrow pencil in Saddle. A creamy pencil, it goes on beautifully and adds depth and thickness to the brows without being obviously fake. It also comes with a handy brush for combing through the brow to make it even more natural.
The rest of the look was simple and similar to a lot of the others - eyes with warm brown and gold tones, pink lips and cheeks, but Mandi used black gel eyeliner on me, which will always be a winner in my book.
Best for: Base - the colour neutralising that was done before a speck of make-up touched my face - and brows: the defining arches.
Book in here if: Like me, your skin is quite combination and you have patches of discolouration - or if you just don't want to wear fake tan on your delicate face!