Janet Curmi has risen from on-counter makeup artist to travelling internationally to train Elizabeth Arden consultants in her role as Vice President of Education & Development. From empowering women in business to the beauty tweaks that make a difference, here are 30 pieces of wisdom she’s gleaned in 30 years...
When I was asked to write about the thirty things I’ve learned in thirty years of working in the beauty industry, I had to sit down and REALLY think about it. Reflecting back on the previous years, I can’t help but think about all of the amazing things that have happened and how much I’ve learned from my time in this industry. From starting as an Elizabeth Arden makeup artist at Macy’s Herald Square, then running the Elizabeth Arden business at Bloomingdales in New York, I then entered the education department and I’m now working as Vice President of Global Education and Development. That’s quite a progression, and here’s what I’ve come to appreciate along the way....
1. When you can empower a woman and make them feel good with a simple makeup application, sometimes nothing is more fulfilling. I’ve given what I thought was a standard makeup application, only to hear that the customer had recently undergone chemotherapy, and this was the first time she felt like herself. To touch someone’s life like that is a gift.
2. Customers want genuine advice, incredible customer service and to feel that you are truly listening to them. This fact will never change.
3. Practice what you preach. I always talk about the importance of SPF, and I wish I knew thirty years ago to use it daily, not just at the beach. I’ve been applying it religiously for years now and am thankful. I use Prevage® City Smart SPF 50 , £55- it not only protects against UV light but also creates an invisible shield to negate the harmful effects of pollution .
4. Women want to have makeup applied and learn how to do it when they get home. That has never changed over the years. For a makeup artist it’s so much fun to experiment and bring a woman’s best features to the fore. I still think that, for most women, eye makeup application is the trickiest to get right at home, particularly lining the eyes. Your eyes are the windows to your soul and when you get that aspect of your makeup right, everything else looks great!
5. In terms of ageing beautifully, I’ve seen on myself and others that using the right skincare products does make a difference. Some of my favorites are Superstart Skin Renewal Booster , £45 (probiotic skincare is the future), Advanced Ceramide Capsules , £66, and Prevage® City Smart SPF 50 , £55.
6. Technology in skincare is always advancing. Don’t be afraid to change something you’ve used for years- new tech is very powerful, even if it does cost more initially. I started using Visible Difference Cream , £30, years ago but have swapped to Prevage® Cream , £120, due to some environmental damage that I needed to address.
7. Things that are old are new again! I love it when a new trend emerges, but then I think “wow, we did that twenty five years ago”. It always makes me smile. For instance I heard that applying multiple blushers is called draping now. I was draping twenty years ago!
8. People aren’t loyal to a brand. Years ago it was so much fun having regular customers who became your friends, and you would know everything about them and their families. There are so many ways of purchasing in the beauty industry today that this personal touch has all but disappeared. I feel sad that most customers no longer know the feeling of having a personal skincare and makeup advisor.
9. Knowledge is power. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge, not only about products and how they work on the skin, but about how skin ages. Only last week I learned that prebiotics are an additional ingredient needed alongside a probiotic . A prebiotic feeds the healthy bacteria on the skin , similar to the way it would work in the gut, to create a balanced environment. Everyday I learn something new!
10. Every woman should try to wear a red lipstick at least once in their lifetime. It does make you feel different (in a good way!).
11. What you put on your face should always be applied to your décolleté and neck area. Don’t forget the back of the neck if your hair is short.
12. This may come as a shock , but as you age a magnifying mirror will be your best friend. How else can you make sure that your eyeliner is feathered exactly into your lashes? It’s about seeing the good, not picking at “imperfections”.
13. You are what you eat. Approaching beauty holistically by prioritising a healthy diet and exercise has greater overall impact on your results than anything else, which is something Elizabeth Arden herself preached. In the 1930s she created a destination spa where she taught women not only about skincare but how to eat well and incorporate exercise into their lives. She really understood the importance of yoga and stretching the muscles in particular.
14. Follow your gut in terms of fashion and makeup. Even if a trend isn’t in style at any particular moment. If something feels good on you, you should wear it and rock it. If blue eyeshadow is your thing and it’s not flavour of the month aesthetically, do it anyway. There’s always a way to wear anything and make it look more modern. So if you love a certain colour or cut and it’s not “in fashion”, go there.
15. When you’re told to replace your mascara every three to six months, it’s not a sales pitch. Nothing looks worse than dry mascara on your lashes, and it’s not hygienic.
16. I’m now in my 50s and I've learned heaps of tricks and hacks over the years. For example I always take a disposable mascara wand on my travels and brush a little eye cream through my lashes before putting on mascara. This has made such a difference to the health of my eyelashes, since lashes tend to dry out and become more brittle with age.
17. Never, ever go to sleep without cleansing your face, even if you don’t wear makeup. If you can, make sure to put on your favourite serum and night cream before hitting the sheets too.
18. If your skin is feeling dry throughout the day, press a serum onto the skin. Air conditioning and heating can make skin look and feel parched as the day goes on, especially during the winter months. On days like this, I twist open an Advanced Ceramide Capsule and pat it onto my skin. I love that it doesn’t interfere with my makeup.
19. Stress can take a toll on your skin . I try not to take things too seriously. Honestly, it’s easier said than done, but don’t sweat the small stuff. When things got stressful in my life my grandmother would say, “It could always be worse”. It’s a common phrase but she was right. The trick is to keep saying it to yourself and really believe it. I swear it works.
20. Ageing will definitely show up first in the eye area. I’ve found that it’s not just important to apply an eye cream, but you should take the time to massage it gently onto the orbital bone. Especially if you have puffy eyes like me, as this helps to drain away fluid.
21. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re too old to do something. My mum is 76, and when she puts liner on, she always does a cat eye . It looks fantastic on her, even if my cousin does feel the need to tell her she’s too old. Age is not a number, it’s an attitude. If you feel it, you can wear it.
22. Take care of the skin around your lips. Those tiny lines will get deeper as you age. I like putting an extra layer of eye cream around my lip area after my serum.
23. Women ask me the same questions all the time. My favourite is, “can I use my day cream at night?” You can, but you don’t want anything with an SPF at nighttime. If you can afford to, I say just wear a night cream, as most deliver additional benefits to your skin when your skin is most receptive to the nourishing ingredients.
24. Women should always support and strengthen each other. I love to stop women on the street or in a restaurant and tell them how good a color looks on them. I’ve never heard anyone complain. We all love a compliment!
25. Always wear sunglasses (well not always, but you know what I mean). Not only will they prevent you from squinting, but I find that my eyelids have darkened a bit over the years, and that could only be from sun damage. Sunglasses are as vital as SPF for the eye area.
26. Share your products with your significant others. I have four sons and they love to use masks and put on skincare products, and why wouldn’t they? It feels so good to have a spa day at home with literally all of the family.
27. Did I say how important sunscreen is? I had to list this twice because I did have basal cell cancer in my 30s. Luckily it was early enough in my life that I was able to use it as a lesson as to what the environment can do to damage the skin.
28. A fragrance can really change your mood. I have several at home and I choose which one I want to wear based on how I feel and what I’m wearing. It really is part of your wardrobe. I tend to alternate between White Tea, £36, and Red Door Femme, £28, alongside various green tea fragrances every now and again.
29. As you age the limbal ring around your eye fades, so lining your eyes is critical. I’ve learned to line the inner rim or my upper and lower lashes, and it really makes a difference.
30. I just love people. You have to when you’ve been working in this industry for this many years. People are fascinating and everyone has a story to tell or something to share. I’ve learned so much from so many professional industry types, but also from so many of my customers and coworkers. I wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else, and I’m thankful to Elizabeth Arden for such a wonderful career.
I also share the following anecdote with everyone, especially when I’m training. One of my makeup artists was doing a makeup application on a customer and she asked me if I was leaving at 6:12. ‘6:12’ was a code we established at the counter if someone was having difficulty with a customer. I went over and intervened and apologized to the customer, saying that the makeup artist had to be somewhere else, and that I would be taking over. I continued applying her makeup and she was very specific in what she wanted, just as she should have been- it’s her face after all! I just let her talk and kept on smiling and addressing her concerns. Afterwards she said “can you apologise to that young lady, I was quite abrupt with her. I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and took it out on her”. I’ll never forgot this story and will never judge anyone at face value, because everyone has a story and you never know what’s going on behind the scenes. In retail, our jobs are to make people feel good and simply listen and be there. For that reason, I truly love what I do!