Just what does an expert makeup artist and skincare enthusiast hold dear? We visited Arabella Preston at her very stylish North West London home to have a rummage…
Arabella Preston has been VERY busy of late. She’s in demand for her makeup mastery from industry greats and famous faces alike, she just this month launched beautiful facial oil business Votary with business partner Charlotte Semler exclusively into Liberty and spent the summer on a roadtrip around America with her husband and two young children. When I popped in on her last week, she’d just returned from a flying visit to Italy, oh, and the new school term had just gotten underway. If anyone had paid me a visit in these circumstances, they would have found themselves in a human pigsty, but not so at the Preston’s.
From fresh flowers on her grandmother’s dressing table to innovative makeup storage solutions, Arabella’s no neat freak, but adds thought, panache and a hefty dose of family heritage to her home environment. She pretty much takes the same approach when it comes to her beauty routine; there’s no five step facial routine or prep for the school run and she tames her brows with a toothbrush, but she also prioritises only the very best essential oils, makes swishy blow dries last a full week (kudos) and is meticulous about her ‘hotel standard’ crisp white facial flannels. Take a trip around planet Preston...
Anna Hunter: What’s your morning skincare routine?
Arabella Preston: I always start with a hot flannel cleanse using Votary’s brilliant Cleansing Oil , £45. It lifts dirt and moisturises at the same time. The lovely steam from the flannel is super energising too. I then follow with whichever Votary Facial Oil my skin needs that day. Today it was our Rose Maroc and Sandalwood , £65, as my skin is feeling dry after the summer and the change in temperature. It’s formulated with avocado and argan oils and is brilliantly hydrating. I don’t use any cream on my face apart from an SPF which I always wear without fail. I look for lightweight high factors (...not that easy). I’ve been using Paula’s Choice and NUXE recently.
AH: How about makeup? Do you live, eat and breath it, or do you take a minimal approach day to day?
AP: I do live, eat and breath it -it’s my job after all and nothing makes me happier than a new product landing on my doorstep. Having said that if I don’t have any meetings or jobs to go to then I always have a makeup free day. I like the idea of feeling ‘myself’ whether I have makeup on or not. The only way to do that is to brave a bare face occasionally! I also think it’s good keep variety in your makeup routine and not become too wedded to one look or product.
AH: If you were going somewhere posh, what’s your evening ‘getting ready’ regime?
AP: Taking a long hot bath before going out, then having time to put lots of body oil on just-dry skin. I don’t really like perfume and prefer to smell of natural essential oils - so this is my way of freshening and smelling good. I quite literally can’t remember the last time I got to do this though! There is nearly always a small child already in the bath or peering over the top of it at me. MOST unrelaxing really.
If by some miracle I have more than five minutes to put makeup on then I usually enter a rabbit-hole of tinkering with new products. A soft gel liner flick would be my go-to need-to-feel-good look.
AH: If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, do you have an at-home skincare ritual?
AP: Taking my makeup off and having a proper oil and flannel cleanse as soon as I get in is a real treat. I might then use a mask, usually something I have been sent recently, then serum with a little glycolic or hyaluronic acid in ( Votary has something very exciting launching in January 2016 in this area). Finally, of course, a really good face massage with a Votary Facial Oil. Neroli and Myrrh , £65, is my favourite for glowing skin.
AH: What’s in your handbag? On that note, do you have a favourite handbag?
AP: I’ve really cut back on the size of my handbag recently. I much prefer a small cross-over bag for day and clutch for evening. I love my Chanel wallet - it’s big enough to fit my iPhone and a few bits of makeup. I will always carry my favourite concealer for touch-ups ( NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer , £22), nude liner for perfecting my lip line (I love MAC Lip Pencil in Subculture , £12.50) and cotton buds for cleaning up any drop-down, particularly if I’ve used a new mascara or pencil that I’m unsure of. At the moment I’m also loving RMS Living Luminizer , £30; it’s perfect for touch-ups and bringing life back to tired skin.
AH: What do you love to use when travelling? How about if you’re jetlagged on arrival?
AP: I’ve taken the Estée Lauder Stress Relief Eye Masks , £25.20 for 10, on all my recent plane journeys and they are lovely and cooling. I keep things quite simple other than that really. I always have an oil with me, mainly for my face, but I’ll also use it to moisturise dry hands. I’m never without a natural lip balm too. I always travel with my own shower gel; there's nothing more depressing than hotel 'body wash'. This summer I took This Works Energy Bank , £16, which was bliss (Arabella swears by using this to blast away jet lag).
AH: What do you do in terms of body care?
AP: Always always apply body oil after a bath or shower. I can’t bear to have dry skin so this is crucial. I also occasionally fake tan, and for that I love James Read’s range.
AH: How about taking care of your body from the inside? What’s your attitude to wellbeing?
AP: I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing women in the health and well-being arena in the past few years. Both Calgary Avansino and Amelia Freer are hugely inspirational to me and it has been a privilege to spend time with them in their kitchens watching them in action. It has definitely had an impact on the way I eat; they are both such energetic and kind women, how could it not! I am much better at prepping food and have learnt to do simple things like making extra of things to have easy meals the next day. My old boss Kay Montano also eats very healthily and she taught me to bring nutritious snacks to shoots. It’s so important not to let your work circumstances affect your good intentions. My weakness is anything salty, particularly cheese and crisps. I’m better behaved now than I used to be; I’ll make myself some avocado on rye toast or snack on nuts instead. You’ve got to keep it real with a coffee and glass of wine every now and again though.
AH: Who makes up your ‘team me’ in terms of staying healthy and sane?
AP: I try to take responsibility for myself in terms of staying healthy, though my husband is very fit and that does help motivate me to exercise more than I might! I never really exercised in my twenties, but post-kids and in my thirties, I’ve stepped it up. I even bought some Asics trainers on the recommendation of Get The Gloss editor-in-chief Sus , in preparation for our family triathlon (!). I’m actually finding the racing aspect quite fun, and given that I have a longer stride, buying a proper (read, expensive) pair of trainers was worth it for the gait analysis alone. They don’t make running easier, but they definitely help in terms of avoiding injury. I squeeze exercise into my day by running home after dropping the kids at school. The traffic’s terrible anyway so it makes sense. It’s harder to keep up the good intention when on shoots, but I’ve perfected some yoga poses. I also do reformer pilates classes when I can.
When it comes to sanity, family and friends are the be-all-and-end-all. There’s nothing like a glass of wine with my sister or an old-school friend to put things in perspective.
AH: Do you use any supplements?
AP: I’ve always taken some kind of omega-3 oil, occasionally vitamin D. I keep meaning to get on a probiotic routine but haven’t found the right one yet.
AH: What are your favourite fragrances?
AP: See above! There is quite literally only one traditional fragrance I can tolerate and that is Tom Ford Private Blend Lavender Palm , £140. It’s chic, almost single note, quite unisex. I just don’t like the alcohol and synthetics in perfumes; I find it overwhelming and nauseating!
AH: How do you wear your hair and which salon is your favourite?
AP: My hair has become coarser and curlier as I’ve got older, so blow drys make a real difference. The most incredible fuss-free blow dry I’ve had was at The Dry Bar in New York. When I was there they were also showing The Breakfast Club which propels it to 10/10 in my book. I don’t need to wash my hair very often and have been known to stretch a blow-dry a full week! I can manage it myself though and tend to just use a paddle brush with my amazing Parlux hairdryer , which all my hairstylist friends use. It wasn’t until I read about them in Sali Hughes’s brilliant Guardian column that I felt like I was ‘allowed’ to buy one. I thought they were just for the pros! My friend Diana Moar has cut and coloured my hair the last few times. She’s an amazing session stylist and we’ve worked together quite a bit - it’s nice to be able to see each other outside of work and have a proper catch-up.
AH: How do you like your nails? Do you have to keep them simple, working as a makeup artist?
AP: Always short as long nails drive me a bit mental. I love to have manicures and have a brilliant local salon, Swanky’s , at the end of my road. I keep meaning to ask them what top coat they use as their manicures last forever! I’m not a big fan of gel polish, but I’m certain they’ll launch a natural, breathable gel in future; there are so many innovations happening in the nail industry at the moment.
AH: Are you a beauty treatment junkie or could you go without? What is your favourite treatment on a spa menu?
AP: I always would choose a proper massage over anything else. I’m tall and so can get a bad back, particularly after lugging my kit around London. I do like it to be relaxing at the same time though! Sally Christ at The Life Centre is a life changer if you have back problems. She treads that fine balance between making the massage relaxing and actually fixing things.
AH: How would you describe your style?
AP: Confused! I love to dress up and will quite often be the most over-the-top at a party, but at the same time I am obsessed with comfort and love nothing more than changing straight into pyjamas the minute I get home. I’m quite low fuss and like to keep it simple. I know where to shop for my height (6ft1), and generally end up in Cos or Zara. Jeans and a smart top is one of my favourite comfy compromises when going out, but I’m a bit of a magpie in that I’m drawn to sparkly things (see Chanel clutch…).
My taste for clean lines and simple design extends to makeup and skincare; girly packaging and products that smell like sweets aren’t my cup of tea.
Votary Oils are available at Liberty.
Find out more about Arabella Preston here
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