Sitting in the penthouse of Glenmere Mansion in upstate New York, a century-old luxury hotel with a traditional Tuscan vibe, Wende Zomnir, the CCO of Urban Decay, makes it clear that this setting is "so not" her. The overall pinkies-out aura of the building may not be Zomnir's typical playground (she's more of a Crossfit, surf-with-sons-Cruz-and-Crash type), but I had to disagree: Staying on the top floor of a swanky boutique hotel with an elevator that opens right up to it seemed perfectly fitting for the hugely successful beauty mogul.
Zomnir helped launch one of the biggest makeup brands in the world in the '90s, with the goal of creating something loud, bright, and different: "Beauty with an edge," as Urban Decay's tagline so perfectly explains it. As I sit across from her, fireplace roaring beside us, I'm mesmerized by her stunning makeup. Her eye shadow is gleaming; her lip color, a beautiful fuchsia, is placed perfectly on her lips—it's quite remarkable but completely unsurprising given her extensive background developing and testing some of the most beloved products on the market. As such, I make it my mission to ask her how to elevate every single aspect of makeup application in the 20 minutes I have with her. She certainly didn't disappoint, and I left with a slew of great tricks in my back pocket (as well as intel on their new summer launches). Ahead, read Zomnir's brilliant makeup tricks for every part of your face, from your foundation to your brows.
"As far as improving skin for foundation, some of the most important things you can do are to buff your skin out [Ed. note: exfoliate] and hydrate it. I think some women hesitate to do a lot of hydration before they put their makeup on because they feel like it's not going to last; it's going to slide right off. So that's really why we created our new Hot Springs Hydrating Gel ($28), which comes from the water. It's encapsulated in the gel, and this was really created because our team of makeup artists in the field would tell us, 'Our customers really need hydration before their makeup, and we have people with oily skin and people with dry skin—what can we do?' So this dumps moisture into any kind of skin, and that's really going to help your foundation look better because if you're trying to put makeup on over dry skin with dry patches, it just amplifies it. I put this on, and my skin's hydrated, plumped, but not greasy. It feels really cool and refreshing when you put it on, and then, because the water in the encapsulation is hypertonic, it’s a really pure form of the water that can go right into the skin and plump you from the inside out.
"I use Naked Skin Foundation ($40), which is medium coverage, and I always use one, sometimes two primers. I always encourage women to prime first. I like mixing my primers and getting that perfect cocktail. Sometimes I need SPF 30, and I'll mix it with a blurring primer. I also love, love, love taking a Beautyblender, getting it wet—like you're supposed to—squeezing it out really dry, then I soak it with setting spray. I lightly soak it up, and then I apply my foundation with the setting spray in the Beautyblender. It's a great way to get your makeup to go on really beautifully and to make it last."
"I think the most important place to put concealer is around and under your nose. What women need to realize is that one of the things that make our skin not look as beautiful or vibrant is redness on the face. If you look at little kids with perfect skin, they don't have any redness. And so you can take redness away from under the eyes and the nose—I even tell people, use your pinky finger or use the tip of your Beautyblender and shove that concealer into your nose! You really want to get it all completely covered in there. That way, you end up with a beautiful blown-out look.
"My other tip is that when applying under the eyes, instead of a traditional concealer, try a color-corrector. What I've found is that it's almost like using cellophane. You know how you can take blue cellophane and yellow cellophane and put them together and get green cellophane? That’s really the idea behind the color-corrector. So if you use a peach-colored "cellophane," you cover up all those dark circles under the eyes. I use our peach sometimes mixed with a little bit of pink if I'm feeling pale that day. We also make a dark pink for dark skin tones, or you can use pink if you're lighter. But what I love about it is that you don't need that heavy, thick coverage—you just need this thin, fine layer."
"Bronzer is great for creating contour on the face, and it's also good for creating an overall glow. I always recommend that women have a couple of shades in their kit. I like to use it with a fluffy brush when I feel a little pale to just dust all over and give a little bit of a glow. But if I want to create a little contour around the face, I love [using a darker shade] because sometimes I want to sharpen up my jaw for pictures, and a darker matte bronze contour, like our Beached Bronzer ($31), is really good for that."
"I think blush is really important. If you're doing any kind of light/dark contour or face sculpting at all, blush is a must. It's the secret sauce that ties it all together and makes it look natural. If you're not doing that kind of stuff, or you're more of a basic-face kind of gal, I think blush is important because it brings life to the face and life to the skin. I always say blush is an important step for making you look healthy and radiant, and I love the two-blush trick: I always use a more neutral, mauve-y toned blush underneath, and then I hit my cheeks with a little pop of color that coordinates with whatever I'm wearing. So if I'm wearing either a mauve-y or deep peach, I hit it with a brighter pink or something—I feel like I want this beautiful radiating glow, and I don't want it to seem clown-like with the color. But if you think again about children, children don't blush mauve—they blush pink. I always go back to kids as, like, the best skin. That's what I try to do: Hit the apples of my cheeks with a mauve-y or deep peach and then a bright pop on top of that, and I feel like it looks more natural."
"Brows are tricky because there's such a spectrum of brows. There are those who are brow-endowed, and then there are people who are brow-less. So I think tips are different for different people because your product needs are really different. For someone like me [who's] got some brow, I tell people to practice different brow shapes in the mirror before they go to bed. I also think it's important, even if you have pretty decent brows, to fill in the tail because, usually, that area's a little more sparse. If you're trying to change your brow shape, I would first fill in your brow and then start, very microscopically, adding to the top to thicken it up, and maybe not adding to the tail. I always do a little bit extra up there and then brush the brow up, that way it looks very natural.
"If I'm going to a big event and want super-defined brows, and I want to make them a little bigger so they stand out in pictures, I use three different colors. So I'll use my all-over pencil, the Brow Beater ($20) in neutral, and then I use the Warm Brown on the tail, and then Taupe to kind of—it's a lighter, more blond—to extend the front of my brow out a little bit. So it really depends on the event, how much brow you have, but definitely practice right before you take your makeup off so you know before you get into this brow situation, you're not like, 'Oh, I'd like to enhance my brows today,' and then say, 'I look like a crazy person!' You definitely want to practice."
"I would tell people the most important thing you can do is use an eye shadow primer. That's going to make your shadow last all day. We have a brand-new white one that's exclusive to our freestanding stores that allows you to get that pop of color. We also have a shimmery one if you like that overall sort of glow around your eye. But really, eye shadow is about self-expression. There are no rules with that.
"If you want just one little simple thing, … we have a Moon Dust ($22) called Vape—I take it with me everywhere because you can use it to create bling on the eye. For readers who don't know, we've got this Moon Dust shadow that has sparkle in it, and I like to use it wet—so that Vape shadow, it's a peachy-silver, a warm, warm silver—and I mix it with a little water. And then if I'm doing a smoky eye, I'll put it on the top right above my pupil. I always put a little hot spot of bling. That will make your eyes pop—even if you're wearing a dark smoky eye, just that little extra bit of a bright blingy shadow is really pretty."
"I love lining the upper inside lid right here [points to upper water line]. I feel like it's a great way to make your eyes totally stand out. Even if you're going for a no-makeup makeup look, if you line that upper inner lid, your eyes are going to look 10 times more intense."
"As far as cat eyes, for a beginner, I always tell people they want to do a baby cat. Use a black pencil and a black felt-tip pen. I use the pencil first because I feel like if you're a beginner, it's great to sketch in that cat-eye first, and then you can fill it in with the more precise pen after. So as long as you get the shape right, you can color in the lines. I try to get that pencil really sharp. I start, actually, even though the cat-eye isn't about the lower eye line, I start on that lower ridge to get the shape right, and then I go up on that little lower edge of my lid, straight up to the tip of my brow. I just kind of sketch a line up to there and then draw it straight across with the pencil and fill it in lightly and make sure that that's good. And if it's good, you can kind of take your pen and go ahead and do your cat-eye. I think it's really pretty, especially when you're starting to have a little transition to the lower lid. I think that makes it more natural. The other thing about it is that if you have pencil underneath and you sort of blow it or run out of time, you can take a rounded-tip shadow brush and buff it out, and turn it into just an elongated smoky eye. So it's a great safety net if you're just starting.
"The other tip I would tell people is, if you're looking for control, rest your elbow on the mirror or the table. It really takes out the variable of that joint. It makes it stable and then you're not going all over."
"I love using a mascara primer. We make one called Subversion. It's got a super-fibery brush that separates lashes, and then I can kind of put my mascara on top of it, and I feel like it's already done some work on not only lash multiplication but separation. So I'll end up with a really fluttery, volumized lash. So I would say, find a great lash primer that you love. [Ed. note: Also try L'Oréal's Voluminous Primer, $6.] And if you do experience clumping, get one of those really fine combs and have it on the ready. But don't comb too soon after you've applied [your mascara] because you can end up with some sort of mess. Let that mascara dry down just a teeny bit and then you can comb it."
"One of the things I think is really important is we always say you should pair a lip liner with a lipstick. [Ed. note: Try Charlotte Tilbury's Lip Cheat, $22.] I think it's important to draw your lip on with the liner, fill it in, and then put the lipstick on top. You're going to get extra wear that way. If you like that ombre look, you can line it with a darker one and fade in and fill in with a lighter lip color on top, and then you have an instant ombre look, which is really fun and cool. If you love that matte look, we make a matte lipstick that's so comfortable and lasts almost all day, almost as long as the liquid. You will get some transfer on your coffee mug, but your lipstick will still be there."
Quotes have been edited for clarity.
Tell us: What's the best makeup tip you've ever learned?