Here at Byrdie, we love a good challenge. Which is why when we got the chance to work with famed Australian makeup artist Max May, known for his signature golden-bronze glow and a client list that counts the likes of Aussie babes Teresa Palmer, Abbie Cornish, and Lara Bingle, we knew we wanted to do something a bit off the beaten path. The Aussie-inspired bronze makeup look tends to be limited to a specific type of person: an olive-skinned gal with beachy blond hair who’s already tan. We knew that would look amazing no matter what, but we wanted to see how the glow could translate to a completely different type of skin tone and hair color.
Enter a porcelain-skinned Irish gal with bright red hair. Shouldn’t fair-skinned girls be allowed to bask in the warm glow of being a bronzed beach babe too? With that aim in mind, we set out to see if May was on board for a makeover, and in a similar adventure-taking fashion, he told us, “I love a good challenge”—wink face emoji. A man after our own heart! Below, May explains:
“In Australia, there is such a focus on the outdoors, the beach, and health that women choose to keep their makeup very minimal, focusing on perfecting their skin with a golden, dewy finish rather than wearing heavier makeup. It’s also a great look on everyone, no matter your skin tone or type.
“With the right tools, products, and step-by-step instructions, the bronzy-golden glow is achievable no matter how dark or light your skin tone is. It’s all about choosing shades that are within your natural skin tone, just a shade deeper.
“The key is all in the blending and taking your time to work the products into the skin so the skin and the product can become one. The more seamless the blending, the more natural the finish. Makeup is all in the details—brushing and filling brows, curling your lashes before applying mascara, and highlighting spots like the inner corners of the eyes and the Cupid's bow of your top lip—all these little things help in giving your makeup a more professional finish. Remember less is always more, and when in doubt, warm everything into the skin using your fingers!”
Keep scrolling to learn how May turned our fairest-skinned editor into a glowing, golden-bronze beach goddess and to see the before-and-after transformation for yourself!
Prepping the skin to glow and look lit from within necessitates hydrating and nourishing the skin in three parts pre-makeup: lips, skin, and eyes. May used La Mer The Lip Balm ($60) on Genevieve Fish’s lips, then applied La Mer Hydrating Serum ($205) all over the skin for glowy hydration and, lastly, dabbed La Mer The Eye Balm Intense ($215) under her eyes.
“The three of these products together work to instantly hydrate, saturating the skin in lightweight moisture that enhances the process of layering foundation and makeup,” he says. “The hydrating serum is a water-like serum that penetrates the skin’s surface without leaving a creamy/greasiness to the skin, making the marrying of foundation and skin seamless. It’s a combination I use on all skin types as it's completely discriminative, instant, and effective.”
Next, apply the foundation by mixing two key products on the back of your hand in the following formula: “one pea-size amount of Charlotte Tilbury Wonder Glow ($55) to every two pumps of Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($64).”
“The back of the hand works like a mixing palette, allowing you to measure out the correct measurements of the Wonder Glow and the foundation, and so you can mix them with a brush before applying to the face,” May explains. “I dot the foundation out on the face so it can be blended more evenly across the four sections of the face." Everyone has a different foundation application technique, so feel free to apply where you need it.
“I personally start by dotting the foundation across the four sections of the face (forehead, nose, chin, cheeks) and then work the brush in small circular motions, working my way out from the middle of the face. That way you concentrate your coverage to the center of the face, and it gets sheerer as you get closer to the edges of the face where you generally need less coverage. To finish, I warm the foundation into the skin using the tips of my fingers. The warmth of the fingers helps the product and the skin become one!”
“YSL Touché Éclat ($35) is a weightless highlighting concealer that works on the technology of attracting and reflecting light blowing out the area, rather than masking the skin with a heavy, cakey concealer,” says May, who swears by the product for creating the glowy effect he has so mastered. “The key is to blend the product over all the areas you want to lift, blow out, and conceal—under the eyes, across the cheekbones, around the nostrils, and all the high points of the face—before massaging into the skin using your fingers in a dabbing motion.
To start, May drew a V underneath the eyes, a diagonal slash at the brow bone, a line down the bridge of the nose, an X over the Cupid's bow, an X in the middle of the chin, and three diagonal strokes on the forehead between brows, before blending with fingers.
To fill in Fish’s brows, May used Alison Jade Brow Palette (discontinued), “as it has all the shades I need to fill or perfect any brow color,” he says. “I used a shadow from the palette and an angled brush instead of a pencil as it gives me softer more natural edges when working with such a fairer skin type and brow color,” he told us. “Brows look tailored and manicured but never look dark, heavy, or overdone,” which would be the antithesis of the flawless, natural, glowing Aussie look. “Then I used a clear brow gel to brush the hair up, which lifts the eye up and holds the hairs in place.
Using the Charlotte Tilbury Contouring Brush ($49) and her Bronze and Glow ($68), May applied a line of the bronzer from the center of the cheek back to the ear. “Once this line has been marked out, work back toward the center of the ear in small circular motions to blend, sculpt, and define the cheeks. With the remainder of the product that is left on the brush, sweep it over the nose left to right. This will warm the entire face, brighten your eyes, and give a nice lift to any under-eye darkness.
Don’t forget to do the jawline, particularly under the chin,” he says.
Using the contour color of the Charlotte Tilbury Bronze and Glow and any small or flat-ended brush, sweep the color all over the eyelid.
“I highlighted all the high points of the face—the ridge of the nose, brow bone, inner corners of the eyes, V or Cupid’s bow of the lip and the top of the cheekbones and temples with Charlotte Tilbury highlighter shade out of the Bronze and Glow,” says May. “Use a small fan or powder brush (I love MAC 129 Powder/Blush Brush, $35, or Kevyn Aucoin Contour Brush, $40). To intensify and give more of a glossiness on top, I apply Tom Ford Illuminate from the Shade and Illuminate Palette ($88). This was to intensify/bring the highlighter out more for photos.
Note: Given a few minutes for the Charlotte Tilbury highlighter to warm to the skin, you will get the same effect,” he says.
“To determine the contour of the eye and get the right amount of depth to your eye, look at yourself square in the mirror and slightly elevate your chin before placing a slightly pointy contour brush into the deepest part of your lid, and like a windscreen wiper, sweep the brush back and forth from the inner corner of the eye to the outer corner of the eye,” says May. “Chose a neutral color that is not only similar to the natural coloring of the model but also makes the eyes look warm and brings out any eye color.
I concentrated the color to the contour of the eye, as well as the bottom lash line for definition.”
Curl your lashes as close to the root of the lash as possible and repeat when needed. “You want to open the eye as much as possible, so don’t be shy to really curl the lashes,” says May. “Then I applied several coats of Benefit They're Real! Lengthening and Volumizing Mascara ($25).” Finish with a swipe of a glossy neutral lip color. "I used Ellis Faas Creamy Lips ($33)," says May. "I love these lip colors. Other than the fact that there is a super-modern array of colors, they double as a cream stain, which is perfect for the day and can be layered up to be worn as a more bold lip color for night."
And voilà! A porcelain-skinned girl gets a warm, golden-bronze glow that we can’t stop staring at.