In our new monthly series, Self-Directed, we invite influencers in the world of beauty and fashion to direct their own editorial story and create the looks they love with the glam teams they trust. You’ll learn about their best-kept beauty secrets, favorite products, and more.
“The first time I was paid to do anything was makeup, and I was 12,” said Nikki Reed on the set of her Byrdie shoot. The words coming out were like music to our ears. In Hollywood, there are a select few who not only enjoy doing their own hair and makeup but also excel at it, and the Sleepy Hollow actress is one of them. What’s more, Reed is a total chameleon in the beauty chair, making her the perfect subject for our February Self-Directed feature.
Reed’s risk-taker sensibilities started long before she landed in the Byrdie beauty chair. “My mom gave me a lot of freedom in that department,” she told us. “I was the only third-grader with magenta hair. I had my belly button pierced when I was 8 years old, and I had two nose rings.” But as we quickly learned, years of experimenting with hair and makeup has paid off.
“I did a film called Lords of Dogtown, and that was my most favorite, in terms of wardrobe. I just loved connecting with my mom on that level, because my mom was such a ’70s child. That was her prime. So I have all of these photos of my mom with her long hair parted in the middle and her ’70s outfits, and I just thought it would be a nice thing to try and do today.” — Nikki Reed
Get the Look
“When I think of the ’70s, I like to picture a disco girl with lots of lashes and winged liner, as well as a fresh face reminiscent of the hippie-chic girl. For Nikki, I combined both elements for our own modern take on the era.” — Kelsey Deenihan, makeup artist
“If volume doesn’t come naturally, I would suggest trying a few easy tricks: In the shower, make sure you are not putting conditioner on your roots. Instead, apply mid-shaft to the ends only. Try to let your hair air dry as much as possible while moving or flipping your hair from side to side, allowing as much natural volume and texture to come through. When blow-drying your hair, start by using your hands to move your hair up and out in every direction for volume. Once hair is 75% dry, use a round boar-bristle brush to smooth the ends.” — Bridget Brager, hairstylist
Makeup Credits: Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Foundation ($54) in BD50; Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil ($34) in Soft Brunette; Mark. All Time Eye Hook Shadow in Tender Love, Mark. Saved by the Gel Eyeliner; Yves Saint Laurent Shocking Mascara ($29); La Prairie Radiant Crème Blush in Berry Glow, Mark. Touch and Glow Shimmer Cubes; Chanel Coco Shine Lipshine in #98.
“This I was actually experimenting with because I’m going to do it on a red carpet soon. I used today to experiment with every hair cut I think I want to do. I’ve also never done a dark lip.” — Nikki Reed
Get the Look
“It is no secret dark that lipstick can get messy. Try a matte shade, which is less likely to move, or a long-wear lipstick to ensure it stays where it’s meant to. Dusting a light layer of translucent powder in between lipstick applications will absorb any unwanted oils from your lips and help your lips to really grab the lipstick.” — Kelsey Deenihan, makeup artist
“I definitely recommend adding curl to the hair before experimenting with a faux bob. Doing so ensures it will last longer and makes it much easier to style. I created four large sections, two in front and two in back. Leaving the front sections out, I started on the back-right section and gathered the hair in my hands and twisted the hair into place, securing the ends using large bobby pins in an X pattern to the nape of the neck. Next, I secured the right front section allowing some of the small, softer bits to fall around her face. I pulled the hair loosely over the ears. I did the same on the back and front left sections. To finish, I closed any gaps that were created in the first step to ensure the bob looked as natural as possible using small hairpins.” — Bridget Brager, hairstylist
“This is my soul sister. I’m the girl who lives in a striped shirt and overalls with bangs and her hair in a bun on the top of my head and no shoes.” — Nikki Reed
Get the Look
“We wanted to mirror the early Audrey Hepburn bangs—on the shorter side and a tad blunt. Those were my favorite moments of her. A great trick to getting a fuller bun is adding volume. You can do this by splitting the ponytail into two sections and back-combing each. Once your sections are combed, brush lightly to remove flyaways and add shine.” — Bridget Brager, hairstylist
“I think this was just about exploring the period. It’s such fun hair and makeup because it can feel kind of costume-y. We don’t really do that anymore, that big and that grand, so I was really excited about that aspect, just stepping into a costume. You really embody that person.” — Nikki Reed
Get the Look
“There were lots of different voluminous, full-bodied looks we were choosing from. I think the clothing really tied this style together. If you’re trying to create this look in real life, I say go for it! Go big or go home! And make sure that ponytail stays bouncy!” — Bridget Brager, hairstylist
“This is beauty punk rock. There is the most beautiful photo of Olivia Thirlby in a red high-neck blouse that I’ve always loved. If I could find a way to marry punk with sexy, that would be this. There is something super sexy about a masculine look because there’s something really powerful about it.” — Nikki Reed
Get the Look
“Nikki wanted a light smoky eye, so after lining, we added a Champagne-colored shadow over the center of the lid to really open her eyes up and pop.” — Kelsey Deenihan, makeup artist
“On dry hair, create a mohawk parting from the front of the head to the crown. Wrap this up and pin away. Next, grab the lengths of the hair on both sides and create a tight, smooth ponytail and secure with an elastic band. Start with a dime-sized amount of gel and run it over the hair. A comb will help smooth the product through. Add gel to the pintail lengths, and wrap them up and pin into place. Then take out the top section of hair that was previously pinned away. Rake the gel through and create the pompadour. This is where you can get creative. When you get the shape or height you like, use hairpins to pin into place and set the look. Once the hair has dried, you can remove the pins. For extra insurance, use hair spray to complete the style.” — Bridget Brager, hairstylist
Hair Credits: R + Co Motorcycle Flexible Gel ($28); Oribe Superfine Hair Spray ($42).
Byrdie: We loved the inspiration you pulled for today’s shoot. Do you usually start with a mood board when doing your own hair and makeup for an event?
Nikki Reed: That is my goal, going forward. Today was a really great example of why I think I should be doing that because I actually surprised myself with how easy it all comes together when you actually have a thought-out vision. My hair and makeup is always pretty natural, especially when I do it myself. My mom does hair for a living, and my first job actually was as a makeup artist. Isn’t that funny? I joke about it, but it’s also very much true.
Byrdie: Really?! How did you get into that?
NR: Well, I think [my mom’s] clients just felt bad for me, honestly, but I was really into it. It sort of reminds me of painting. Her clients that would come get their hair done would pay me to do their makeup before they left. I even did somebody’s rehearsal dinner for her wedding.
Byrdie: Were you self-taught?
NR: My mom’s friend Alex was a makeup artist, so she used to give me all of her hand-me-downs, all of her old palates. I mean I could do whatever, because my parents were of the mentality that expressing yourself in that way was, I don’t know, like a creative outlet.
Byrdie: Have you had any beauty experiments go wrong?
NR: Oh, perming [my hair]! I was just a kid, and I got a perm. I looked at my mom after a few days and was like “Okay, I don’t want it anymore.” She was like, “That’s why it’s called a permanent.” One time I found a whole bottle of peroxide, and I heard that peroxide would dye your hair, so I laid on my back and poured a couple of bottles of peroxide in a bowl and just kept my head in it, and then I took my head out after 30 minutes and my mom was like “What did you do? Your head is orange!” I took scissors to my own bangs. I cut my hair off. But it’s never really felt like a mistake to me. I always somehow worked it out. I was always the first girl to do all those things. I did everything a little too young.
Byrdie: What are some of the best beauty tips you’ve learned from so many years in the makeup chair?
NR: The best tip I ever learned was not to let anybody pluck my eyebrows. Sometimes you feel embarrassed to have a rule, but when people go in with the tweezer and are like, “Oh no, it’s just the one hair,” you have to say, “No, you can’t.” You don’t ever want to offend anyone, but I’ve had so many experiences where someone came in like, “Oh, the one hair,” and then your eyebrow is not the same. I actually don’t wax my eyebrows. I don’t do anything except occasionally take out a tiny little stray. I let them finally grow in after years and years of letting people tweeze them. So that’s the best advice I’ve ever gotten.
Byrdie: If we peeked inside your makeup bag, what would we find?
NR: I try to use natural products, so I use a lot of rosehip oil on my skin every day. Gemstone Organics is a brand I use a lot. I use the creams to prep my face. I’ve been using a lot of Whole Foods makeup because when you start to realize how much lipstick and stuff you ingest by the time you are old and gray, it’s kind of scary. It’s pounds and pounds, so we better know what we are putting into our bodies, and by the way, topically as well, what’s going on our skin.
Byrdie: Do you have any under-the-radar beauty products you swear by?
NR: If I were to only have like three things in my purse, one of them would definitely be my Brow Wiz Pencil ($21) by Anastasia. For me, it’s like curl lashes, put some lipstick on, and have a strong brow, and you can add a little cheek cream, and that’s it; you are good to go.
Byrdie: What products do you always keep with you on the road?
NR: HB Organics. It’s a little tub with an orange-colored paste. I literally put it on my face like my great-grandmother put Crisco on her face. Do you know what I mean? And I drink 10 bottles of water per flight.
Byrdie: Are you into any at-home remedies?
NR: I make my own salt sprays; they are actually really easy. I just use water and salt, and then sometimes I put like a teensy bit of oil—any kind of oil; even coconut oil—in it and shake it up. I make my own face scrubs too. I just use a grape seed oil and sea salt, and I put lavender or peppermint oil, just a few drops, and I mix it all together. I actually just Instagrammed a couple of cool recipes that I was messing around with. From the time I was a kid, I have really been into making stuff myself.