It happens like clockwork each year: The second the clock strikes 12 a.m. on December 1, we’re suddenly filled with the urge to trade our muted fall makeup hues for all things sparkly and tinsel-tinged. The art of holiday beauty is a delicate one—glitter and glamour are encouraged, but at a precise amount lest it veers into gaudy. So who better to school us on this graceful skill than a someone well-versed in the world of subtle glamour? Natasha Poly is an iconic supermodel and has worked with every major designer and fashion magazine under the sun. To list them all would be exhausting, but a snippet includes the likes of Gucci, Prada, and Givenchy. To call her a Vogue darling would be an understatement (and not just because Russian Vogue once dedicated an entire issue to her).
Poly enchants in front of the camera and excels behind it: She’s the queen of doing her own makeup (check out the hashtag #NPolyMakeup on Instagram next time you’re in need of some inspiration). “I was bad at the beginning,” she admits. “I remember my first red carpet. I didn’t want to pay a makeup artist, and at the time it wasn’t such a thing to hire one. You just did everything yourself.”
After a few mistakes including an all-too-relatable too-light foundation mishap, Poly found her stride at Cannes. “There were so many events and red carpets I had to go to that I just started doing my makeup myself and suddenly was like Oh my god, I’m actually good!” The crowning moment that forever established her makeup prowess? When legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath bestowed her with a blessing “It was the Met Gala, and I did a brownish cat eye with a gold shimmer and natural lips,” she says. “I met Pat at one of the after parties, and she was like, ‘Come here!’ She grabbed my hand and was like, ‘Let me see! Did you do your makeup yourself? You did such a good job and you are very good.’ That’s when I was like, okay I’ve gotten her blessing.”
We invited Poly to the Byrdie studio and presented her with a challenge: to create three festive, show-stopping makeup looks to last us through holiday party season and beyond. Spoiler: She blew us all away. Scroll through and have a look yourself.
I used the stick foundation from Hourglass. It’s something I just discovered, so I'm in love with it. The stick makes it really easy to use. Then I brightened up with YSL’s Touche Éclat ($42). I love Kevyn Aucoin's Making Faces Beauty Book Chapter 1: Contour ($75) for contouring and highlighting. Natasha Denova’s Sculpt & Glow ($89) has a gorgeous highlighter; it's creamy, super sheer, and it looks really really natural. It’s like a cream-oil that gives you a healthier glow. It doesn’t look too sparkly. I finish with a light dusting of Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($38).
I applied a light shade from Urban Decay’s Naked Basics Palette ($29) all over my lid, then layered Nars Shadow Stick in Oaxaca ($29) on top. To finish, I dabbed MAC Clear Lipgloss ($17) over the eye for a glossy effect. My favorite mascara is Larger Than Life from Nars, but they discontinued it. I'm married to that mascara!
For dark lipsticks, I like a bit more smudged effect. I applied Pat McGrath’s Venom 2 Lipstick with Nars Audacious Lipstick in Charlotte ($34), then blotted with a tissue for a softer, not-so-perfect effect. It takes the shine away and makes it a bit blurry. I apply the darker color in the middle so it looks almost wine-stained.
For this smoky eye, it was very important to get the right shape. For me, I prefer more of a cat-eye shape; it feels more extravagant that way. It can look really heavy on the lid line, so I like to make it more of a cat instead of round shape. I started with a neutral shadow as a base so I can see the shape of my smoky eye. I went over it with a brownish-red shade, like the Red Ochre shade in the Anastasia Modern Renaissance Palette ($42). Then, I took Marc Jacobs Gel Liner in Black ($25) and drew it all over my lid. I used the eyeliner to map out the shape of the smoky eye. I think the most important part here was to fill in the whole lid all black then taking a flat angle-tipped brush and smudging out the pencil so it angles up a bit on the edge. After that, I took a thinner brush and applied a really black eye shadow from Armani on top of the smudged pencil. If you leave the pencil by itself, it’s going to move around, so you have to apply eye shadow on top to lock it in place.
Once I was happy with the shape, I took a metallic orangey-brown from Pat McGrath and blended it on top to add dimension; otherwise the black will look too flat on your skin. It’s all about blending, blending, blending. I applied a bit of the orange-brown shadow along my lower lashline too—just a little bit. To finish, I added just a little bit of gold shimmer from Pat McGrath’s Gold Lust 001 launch just on the inner corners of my eyes.
I applied Chanel Rouge Coco Lipstick in Daylight ($37) then blotted it with a tissue for a softer effect.
I took a thin brush and applied Pat McGrath’s Metalmorphosis 005 Kit wet as eyeliner. Then, when I’m happy with the shape, I took the Urban Decay Glitter Liner ($20) in the silver shade. I would say to layer your glitters to help catch the light. You need a base underneath to make the glitter stand out. In the corners, I used the Make Up For Ever Star Lit Liquid ($24). I've never really done a metallic eyeliner look with glitter, so I think it could be cool to wear this to a holiday party.
I traced MAC Lip Pencil in Oak ($18) over my entire lip instead of using lipstick.
Photographer: Jason Kim
Stylist: Carolina Orrico
Styling Assistants: Brunilda Culaciatti and Ary Mattiezi
Makeup Artist: Natasha Poly
Hair: Peter Gray
Manicurist: Holly Falcone