Robin Black is a renowned celebrity makeup artist and photographer whose work has spanned the top runways, red carpets, and fashion magazines. Luckily, for those of us that adore her blog “Beauty is Boring”, Robin was still searching for another creative outlet when she founded her site in 2012. The result is a breathtaking journey through her gallery of photographs and videos featuring stunning make-up looks. Her blog inspires a celebration of diversity, artistry, and creativity while adding a touch of glamour and color to our day. We sat down with Robin to learn more about her unique approach to beauty and to gather some of her best, expert makeup and skincare tips just for our readers!
★ Makeup artistry, photography, videography… did your interest in the arts start at a young age?
Surprisingly, I wasn't really interested in makeup as a teen. I experimented with some black eyeliner and lipstick, but nothing really stuck and I generally went barefaced. It wasn't until I discovered the NYC club scene in the mid 90's along with i-D, The Face and a few years later, Vogue Italia, that I started to see makeup as an art form and took a stronger interest. Relatively speaking, I started my professional makeup career later than most others, I was 30 when I switched careers to become a makeup artist. I’ve always loved taking photos and I’ve pretty much had a camera in my hand since my late teens but from a professional standpoint, I was a makeup artist first. Only recently have I started thinking of myself as a photographer. Over the years my photos have evolved from snapshots of friends at parties to spreads in magazines, galleries, museums and of course, all of my work through Beauty Is Boring. Videography on the other hand, is relatively new to me. Luckily my partner Nick is an award-winning film editor and videographer so he handles most of the technical aspects.
★ Your blog is a constant source of inspiration to others, so where do you find your inspiration?
I try to live a life that interests me and includes a lot of art, film, books, friends, food, music, travel, fashion, new experiences and plenty of challenges. I work very spontaneously and try to explore whatever random collision my mood plus the face I'm working on plus whatever visual and intellectual stimulation I've been consuming will produce. So perhaps I've been thinking of the artist Yves Klein and watching cult films from the 50's and the model has a fantastic eyelid and the perfect je ne sais quoi attitude... et voila: a dramatic Yves Klein blue cat eye is born!
★ Do you have a quick or “go-to” makeup look that you find yourself wearing often?
Yes and it’s pretty minimal. My every day look is normally a touch of concealer, brow gel, a little cream blush with some bronzer for contour, a tinted lip balm and a few coats of mascara. For work meetings, daytime events (or to distract from my frequent jet lag) I’ll add a statement lip color. I prefer intense true reds with a satin or matte finish, in fact, for years one of my favorites has been Sisley Phyto-Lip Twist in #18 Tango For a fancy evening out, I enjoy a bit of drama around the eye. Graphic black liner, the thicker the better or a smudgy version of a smoky eye are my usual choices. Every once in a while, when I’m in the mood, I return to my favorite 90's “I’m with the band” look. That consists of applying kohl eyeliner and mascara, then patting my eyes with damp fingertips so the makeup looks perfectly worn in.
★ Do you have any advice for women who are learning what makeup works for them or still looking for a go-to makeup look?
There is so much pressure to be perfect and follow the trends. Just have fun! Keep experimenting and most importantly, do whatever feels good to you. If you feel best with a full face of Instagram style makeup, that’s great. If you want to go totally barefaced, that’s also great. Bleach your brows white! Add kabuki style blush! Do a classic Marilyn Monroe look! Rules and the quest for unobtainable perfection take all the magic out of makeup. It's paint, it washes off and it's meant to make your life happier, not stress you out.
★ Does the makeup “experimenting” have to stop at a certain age?
No! In fact, when you are over 40 it’s a great time to start experimenting with pops of color. Brighten up your blush a shade or two and try that statement lipstick you have been eyeing for years. Swap your brown eyeliner for a deep emerald or royal purple, you will be surprised how a little hint of color will brighten your complexion and your mood.
★ What pro tips can you share with our readers who want a flawless bare skin look?
The better the canvas, the better the paint, so always start by exfoliating (if needed) and moisturizing your skin properly. Use a sheer foundation formula or try mixing a medium coverage formula with a drop of your moisturizer and apply from the middle of your face outward. Don't forget to blend down your neck! Apply a creamy concealer only where you need it to brighten or disguise discoloration. For both the foundation and the concealer, I prefer to apply with a brush and then pat or tap gently with my fingertips to blend. The warmth of your fingers will help the products meld with your skin. I also like to use a darker concealer for subtle cheekbone and jawline contour and then add a touch of blush on the high apples of the cheeks to bring life to the skin. If you prefer powder formula, use a blurring or translucent formula and apply it very lightly. Once you have everything in place, mist your face with floral spray or use the palms of your hands to press a tiny amount of moisturizing serum over the high points of your face. It’s this very last step that will keep the makeup from looking "makeupy" and give you that flawless finish.
★ Do you remember the very first Sisley product that you ever tried?
I discovered Sisley about a decade ago after someone recommended that I try the Black Rose Mask. I have very sensitive, reactive skin but it's also quite dry. The Black Rose Mask did wonders for me during Fashion Week that season, I used it to keep my skin calm in NYC's winter weather and I bought a second tube to soothe the models’ overworked skin backstage. I still use it regularly both in the studio and at home. Sisley is one of the only brands where I can literally bathe in the products without any negative skin reactions.
★ What Sisley makeup can you not live without?
I have a Phyto-Lip Twist in #18 Tango in every bag I own, so I never have to live without it! I love it so much that I also have back up tubes stashed in my car's glove compartment and at my desk. Red lipstick is my secret weapon. I love that it can be strong or soft, erotic or proper, chic or vulgar, cheerful or menacing, youthful or sophisticated, whatever you desire it to be. I can’t think of another color that carries such emotion and significance.
★ Do you have a Sisley skincare product stashed around your house?
That is a tough one because I use a lot of Sisley and I’m not sure I can pick my very favorite- I stash a lot of them! I’ll just stick to the top products that I use both in the Beauty Is Boring studio and on myself. I start every makeup application in the studio with the Floral Toning Lotion. It's calming, refreshing and soothing, making it the ideal first step to prep the skin. I personally carry a travel sized version for freshening up during or after flights. It's also great to keep in the fridge for a cooling wipe down after workouts or a night out. Black Rose Precious Face Oil is essentially radiance in a bottle. It’s my personal go-to anytime my skin looks dull, tired, dry, or is just in need of some luminosity. In the studio, I pair it with the Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream for the most delicious smelling dose of hydration! Another product I use both in the studio and on myself is the Eye Contour Mask. It's my absolute favorite undereye skincare product, perfect for long flights and for long lasting hydration under makeup. I finish almost every look with Floral Spray Mist. It hydrates, sets the makeup and the scent is lovely. I carry a travel size bottle for personal use and keep a full bottle in the refrigerator for the hot LA summers. I need to add an “honorable mention” as well because Hydra-Global is a newer serum that I have found to be excellent under makeup and I’m just starting to add it to top favorites.
★ Can you suggest some Sisley products that you think more women should be wearing?
Phyto-Cernes Eclat – It’s my favorite quick fix for undereye circles. Sometimes I use this as all over concealer, especially when my skin is feeling dry. Also, for anyone with sunspots (me), melasma (also me) or brown discoloration, the peachy undertones and sheer formula are great for brightening up trouble areas without looking like heavy makeup. Phyto-Eye Twist in Topaze - The perfect shade for adding subtle definition. I often wear it when I have to be on camera but don't want to look too made up. Phyto-Eye Twist in Khaki and Copper – These are such great options for day or night and the Khaki is an interesting and flattering alternative to bronze/brown tones. Phyto-Eye Twist in Lagoon - I always carry a bright color just in case the mood hits me. This intense teal blue is surprisingly wearable and looks amazing along the bottom lash line or across the entire eyelid. So Intense Mascara - I love the applicator, it’s so easy to use and it gets all the little corner lashes and the formula stays put all day. Anyone can apply this mascara perfectly. Phyto-Lip Shine in #1 Sheer Nude - I love this as a tinted shine for when I don't feel like wearing lipstick. Phyto-Levres Perfect in #3 Rose – This is ideal for layering this under the Sheer Nude (see above) to create an opaque pinky nude lip. Blur Expert - I generally skip powder but if I am going to be on-camera or if it's humid, this powder is incredible. It manages to make skin look smooth, even and yes, "blurred". It's a great thing to have in your handbag for last minute touch ups.
★ What’s your secret to taking such gorgeous beauty photographs?
Lighting, and angle, but most importantly their expression! You can Photoshop out a blemish but you can’t Photoshop in a personality. My practical advice to other photographers is to not use overhead lighting. It emphasizes undereye circles and tends to make everyone look haggard. Make sure the textures and colors of your makeup work for the type of lighting you are going to use. For example, certain kinds of powders and shimmers reflect the flash with little white dots, midday sunlight has a cool bluish tone while late afternoon is very warm light, etc.
★ And one last one for those of us who are deleting more pictures of ourselves than we’re saving… any advice for looking great in a photograph?
To be honest, I am a terrible subject who has never ever looked effortlessly model perfect for one moment of my life. I much prefer to be behind the camera. That being said, I have photographed hundreds of people ranging from non-models who are terrified of having their photo taken to supermodels who nail it in the first frame. The best advice I can give is to try to relax on camera and don't be afraid to try movements that feel strange. It's an insider model joke that the more awkward it feels, the better it looks! And trust the photographer, it's our job to make you look amazing! If you’re taking the photo at the same time (“selfie”) my tips would normally depend on your face shape and the lighting but some good general advice is to avoid duckface, elongate your neck, tilt your head slightly to the side and lean slightly (very, very slightly) into the camera.
Phyto-Lip Twist Matte Collection
Tinted Balm Color, Comfort, and a Matte Finish
$50.00See this product
You may also like...
Chat Red Carpet Beauty with Rachel Goodwin: Makeup Artist to the Stars
Exclusive Interview about all things beauty with Rachel Goodwin, the makeup artist behind the new Les Stars capsule collection
The Secret is Out on Double Tenseur
Rachel Goodwin x Sisley-Paris: So Volume Mascara
by Mélanie Inglessis for Sisley-Paris
by Mélanie Inglessis for Sisley-Paris