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What we learned in an hour with Rihanna's makeup artist
January 15th 2020 / 0 comment
From why to apply foundation with cold water to the pastel eyeshadow trend all the beauty editors have fallen in love with, Hector Espinal fills us in on everything he knows from years working the red carpet
To celebrate the launch of Fenty Beauty's first ever mascara Full Frontal we were invited to spend an hour with Rihanna's makeup artist Hector Espinal - we were brimming over with questions to ask about the woman herself, but first we got the inside scoop on the latest launches from Fenty Beauty.
As well as Full Frontal Mascara, £21, Fenty Beauty also just dropped 20 eyeliner pencils (dubbed FlyPencil, £18 each, available from 16 January) and eight Snap Shadow eyeshadow palettes, £21 each, - and you better believe Rihanna vetted every single product. From refusing countless mascara formulas because they weren't black enough to designing a special mechanism for the eyeliner packaging, every item in the Fenty range has to get Riri's seal of approval.
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"It took us a year and a half to develop the mascara," Hector revealed. "We tried so many formulas and so many times we thought it was perfect, but if it smeared even the tiniest bit, Rihanna rejected the formula. She didn't want to launch a mascara just so she had one in the collection, it had to be the bomb."
"Rihanna wanted a formula that could stand up to the red carpet, to photo shoots, runways and interviews, so that's what we made."
"The one thing she refused to compromise on was how black the mascara was, which meant it was in production for a long time," shares Hector. "We had to add beeswax to the formula as she insisted it defined and curled, but she wasn't happy that adding this ingredient made the pigment less black. She wanted it super, super black, so we had to go back and forth until it was black enough."
The pencil eyeliners, Flypencil, £18 each, were a year in the making and have a special Bad Gal touch to them too - you can twist it to make the product come out, but it's not retractable. "It was Ri's idea to do it that way," Hector reveals. "It means you're less likely to use too much product because you know if you twist it up, it's out and could go to waste. At first I thought the mechanism was broken until Rihanna explained it was on purpose."
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The pencils have rounded bullet tips to make it easier for multi-use. "A pointed tip limits what you can use a product for, but a rounded one makes it more universal, like all Fenty Beauty products are."
We had a little play with the pencils, which are creamy and glide over the skin - trust when we say these are long-wearing; we rubbed and rubbed at the swatches on the back of our hand and it didn't budge an inch. "You can create a smokey eye look with the pencils, and it's super easy to do, but you have to do it within about six seconds, otherwise it's set in place."
We also tried the Snap Shadow eyeshadow palettes too - Fenty Beauty released these quietly at the end of last year, but this was our first time playing with the eight palettes, all of which hold host to six shades. The idea is that you'll love every single shade, rather than being left with unusable ones that gather dust. The palettes can be snapped together to build larger palettes and make for great travel companions.
After talking us through the new launches, Hector opened the floor to questions; here's what we learnt from our time with Riri's right-hand-man.
1. Less is more when it comes to makeup brushes
"You only need two makeup brushes to create a smokey eye," advised Hector. "Two is plenty. Apply the and blend the shadows with one, and use the other brush to smoke, it's that simple."
2. Older women CAN wear shimmer
"It's an absolute myth that older women shouldn't wear shimmer eyeshadow," scoffed Hector. "Each of our palettes include a shimmer or metallic shade and absolutely anyone can use it. Shimmer actually reflects light so hides imperfections."
"I also ignore the rules that says older women shouldn't wear colour. I'd use peach, lavender or even subtle blue shades on older skin."
3. Pastels are set to be huge in 2020
Speaking of lavender and peach, Hector predicts that pastel eyeshadows are going to be everywhere come summer. "When I showed the pastel palettes to all the editors in New York they loved the shades. They're what got everyone talking."
This is reflected in the launch of the Snap Eyeshadow Palette in Pastel Frost and the plethora of pastel FlyPencils.
4. Use cold water to create the perfect base
"To create a flawless base for makeup, apply foundation with a damp sponge using cold water. Warm water makes pores open up and foundation sink in, whereas cold water makes pores tighten up, meaning your foundation will look more natural."
5. The finishing touch for red carpet makeup
"Before Rihanna steps out in front of the cameras, I make sure I've made her forehead and her chin matte by dusting with the Invisimatte Blotting Powder. If they're too shiny it reflects the flashes and looks awful. I also check that lipstick is tight - having lipstick on your teeth on the red carpet is career suicide."
6. The reason Rihanna doesn't wear smokey eye makeup
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"In my opinion, Ri's best ever beauty look was at the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Awards in 2014 when she wore the diamond dress. She had a smokey eye look which really made the green in her eyes pop. Normally I avoid doing a smokey eye on Rihanna because it makes her look overly hot - to the point I question my sexuality," laughs Hector.
"But for the CFDAs, she looked incredible with a smokey eye."