Lee Pycroft is one of the most highly regarded and recognisable makeup artists in the industry.
She is the go-to for many of the most famous faces in the world, Joely Richardson, Anne Hathaway, Elle Macpherson and Laura Linney to name a few. She has collaborated with several global cosmetics houses to help shape their trends for collections and is often quoted across the media for her expertise in beauty; such is her knowledge of what women want and what works.
But Lee has taken her skills, insight and experiences, personally and professionally, to encompass a whole other layer of support to clients and that’s what I wanted to find out more about.
Lee, we could talk for days about the world of beautiful people, the experiences you’ve had and stories you could tell….but what intrigues me most is that you’ve taken the more unusual step of developing your role as a transformative makeup artist into a psychotherapist. What triggered that decision for you?
So, my decision to become a psychotherapist was born out of me clearly seeing the changes a makeover could make on a person’s emotional state. Having spent decades painting peoples faces I wanted to able to offer a service beyond makeup and to work at a deeper level. The tools and strategies I use are based in neuroscience, mindfulness and ancient wisdom and can help anybody struggling emotionally to find more balance and cope better.
We all need to keep growing and stretching ourselves and I guess you could say this was my way of going for something I wouldn’t have thought I was capable of a few years ago - having never passed an exam in my life!
Some of my clients just use makeup services and others just come for psychotherapy, but in terms of my message within beauty - it is about understanding how our emotions, thoughts and our habits and rituals impact on the way we live our lives.
So you are an artist, confidant and therapist all in one. Why is makeup so powerful?
For a subject routinely dismissed as superficial, beauty actually goes surprisingly deep. It has significance well beyond what we see at first glance, but the psychology of beauty is easily and often underplayed. It’s one area where just a bit of effort can deliver an almost instant reward at negligible cost. I’ve used makeup to raise the spirits of women confronted by despair through the charitable work I do; to bring a boost of confidence and self-belief to an A-list talent walking the red carpet and wanting to fully embody the image they want to project.
I like to call it a conscious beauty ritual and invite women to be mindful of any thoughts that arise when looking in the mirror that may be devaluing them rather than affirming them. The words we speak to ourselves will create a physiological response and I think as women we can be quite hard on ourselves. Being conscious of what is going on in on mind and body can help us to understand how we can capture our best attributes inside and out.
Do you have any advice for women who are feeling a hit to their self-confidence as they pass through the challenges of hormonal change? How do you counterbalance that positively?
We will all go through different seasons of our life and during times of change our confidence may be impacted. Change is part of life and we are all going to have to endure emotional and physical challenges, but it is what we decide to focus on, the meaning we give it and the decisions we make as a consequence that will determine what actions we take. Confidence is a word that will mean different things to different people so it needs to be broken down into positive and achievable steps. What will be happening when you are feeling more confident? How will you know that you are feeling more confident? What is one step you could take toward achieving that? Sometimes we just need to break things down into small nuggets in order to make progress.
Fluctuations during hormonal shifts can create a variety of changes in the skin and spending a little time on concealing pigmentation and brightening the skin can help us to feel more radiant looking.
Try first applying a light base to the skin, then a using a pointed concealer brush and a pigmented concealer - sweep over the areas that are darker or that you want to even out. Use your finger to tap around the edges of concealer to blend. Using a magnifying mirror and natural daylight will help detect what needs blending and result in an even finish.
You talk about a technique called 7/11 breathing. Can you explain when this is useful?
Anxiety is one of the biggest issues of mental health that people are dealing with. Anxiety can manifest in all sorts of ways; it’s a completely individual set of responses. But something I find really helps my clients who are stricken with nerves or suffer from surges in anxiety in everyday life, which is very often associated with going through the menopause too, is the 7/11 breathing. It’s so simple and so effective. Simply breathe in for the count of 7 and breathe out for 11. I prefer to do this by breathing through my nose as this helps to activate the body’s calming responses.
What do you recommend to your customers to adapt and consider for their makeup rituals as they mature?
I feel women have been marketed to from the perspective that ageing is negative and that the beauty industry has needed to update its message for some time, which fortunately we are starting to see with brands like Studio10 creating a movement that is positive and inspiring.
I believe in each individual making the choices that they feel are right for them. The advances that have been seen in skincare are filtering into makeup to help rejuvenate and artfully refresh the complexion.
I feel that getting older is more about growing bolder in life and showing younger generations that beauty comes in varying forms. We only have to look at nature to see that. Exploring different makeup looks can bring out that playful and curious part of ourselves so I tend to advise women to experiment a little!
Lee, we would love you to share a few techniques that could transform a complexion with minimum fuss.
A few simple changes can make quite a dramatic impact so try these:
- Look at where your skin needs coverage. Don’t assume that you need to put it everywhere. If you have blemishes try a light coverage of foundation first and then apply a concealer just on the areas that need it.
- Consider the formulation as much as the colour. We have more choice than ever and understanding the texture you like and the finish that you are looking for will help to achieve that outcome. Ask for samples and test them out and always look in daylight at the finish and colour.
- Look for the most neutral-toned part of your face to match to. I often check around the back of jawline and neck to test a foundation colour as this area is often a good indicator of what will be an appropriate colour match. Consider the tone of your neck and shoulders too as you want the end result to tie in with all of those areas.
- Use a liquid or cream blush in order to create a sheer translucent wash of colour on your cheeks. It not only adds radiance but looks believable in daylight too.
- Try pink/peach tones to brighten the skin, unless you have a lot of pink in your skin already, and if so, try applying a tawny shade after concealing any red/pink tones that may be occurring on the cheeks.
- This is an area that is often neglected or the technique of how to create natural brows is misunderstood. Brush the brows upwards and fill in any gaps in the hair. Consider where you may need shape and colour rather then just applying pencil all along the brow line.
MY-makeover initiative - this is fabulous so please tell us more about why you started it, how it helps and so on.
I founded a charitable initiative called MY-Makeover in 2013. It is where my team and I use our extensive beauty and makeup knowledge as a form of self-care support for those in vulnerable sectors of society. I create events for up to thirty guests to bring people together who are facing enormous life challenges.
My view is that when environment, community, touch, support and beauty treatments are combined, there is a shift in a person’s emotional wellbeing. When someone leaves their familiar environment they can become more open to new ideas and often adopt different ways of thinking. This, combined with bringing people together where there is commonality (between the group) and a sense of community, fulfils the need for belonging and connection. We are there to listen without judgement, as sometimes people just want to be heard or to talk about something that is unrelated to the challenges they are facing. The power of touch is well known to be an antidote to emotional issues and the variety, fun and the polished result of a range of beauty and makeup treatments gives people the opportunity to reconnect with themselves.
The ripple effect of MY-Makeover runs deep. We have heard stories such as the simple act of a woman buying herself a nail polish after a MY-Makeover session, sparking a new-found confidence and consideration towards her own self-care and of new supportive friends being made.
I started it when I was going through my own emotional struggles and it helped me to focus outwards and to use the power of contribution, community and purpose to alleviate my own issues.