Thursday, 8 September 2011

Filming with the Love Man in a Supernova

I was fortunate to be invited by my friend Ankit Love to round up a makeup and hair team for his latest music video to be released in early October. His ambitious project is called Beethoven Burst and is the main promotional video for his new album 'Forever'. Initially when he invited me to work on the video I was under the impression that simple, natural film makeup would be required. However, the idea quickly developed in his overactive mind into a full sci-fi short film complete with mermaids in space, a whole spaceship which he commissioned to be built in Elstree Studios in London, a full live band and a location day in Dover. This presented me with an amazing opportunity to come up with original, practical yet knockout makeup and hair designs which was thrilling for me.

Two of the most important aspects for myself during the prep were getting together an amazing and reliable team and making sure all the makeup and hair products and tools were covered. It took a lot of rapid searching to find my team as there was not much prep time, and I do think I lucked out on the amazing ladies that I found. My right-hand woman was Mili Currie, herself an established MUA with mountains of energy. Sofi Gorsuch and Nicola Thomas headed up the hair faction and did an amazing job making the hair concepts come to life - complete with headdresses that had to stay put while the dancers executed some hectic moves!

As for what makeup to purchase, it was no contest as I headed straight for the Illamasqua flagship store on Beak Street with my list. What a pleasure purchasing the new Skin Base Foundation in various shades, and the new and truly silky transluscent powder. I cannot over-emphasise how wonderful the Illamasqua staff are. They truly understand customer service without being overbearing, which is a subtle art. I left, as always, satisfied and uplifted.

There were loads of other bits that I had to shop around for as well, and in the end it was most fulfilling to sit down and go through my itinerary, making sure that everything was checked off. This is a shot the whole kit laid out for checking:

My 90% cruelty-free makeup and hair kit!!! (The MAC stuff is old...)

Some key cruelty-free products that I could not have done without on the shoot were:

Illamasqua primer, foundations, powders, eye-shadows, blushers, mascara etc.
Barry M Pigments and nail varnish
Weleda Calendula Cream
Urban Decay eyeshadow
GOSH nail varnish
Cass Art glitters and faux gold and silver flakes
Superdrug basics

My friend Jennifer Essex was the choreographer for the film - you can see my review of one of her shows here. Herself a well established contemporary dancer and choreographer, she has just been given a role in the new film Anna Karenina choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, which is a huge achievement. You can visit Jen's website for more information about her work and performance dates.

I can waffle on about every detail of the 4-day filming, but I think it is best illustrated through the medium of photographs. All shots © Paul Baichoo and Jennifer Essex.

DAY 1: Greenscreen shooting at Flying by Foy studios, London:

Mermaid on wires!

Leading lady Egija Zviedre looking regal!

DAYS 2 & 3: On set at Elstree Studios, London:

Touch-ups between takes.

Myself and two of our lovely assistant MUAs Yelena and Mutsumi.

Mili doubling as costumier.

Me and my right-hand lady Mili.

More touch ups with a nice, atmospheric feel!

The band in full costume and makeup.

Mr Ankit Love, artist and Director extraordinaire multitasking as always whilst in hair and makeup.

Some makeup shots from the set:

Bridge officers makeup and hair modelled by leading lady Egija.

Ritual ladies' makeup and hair.

My Very Art Deco makeup and hair design for the band,
this one applied by myself, hair by Nicola Thomas.

DAY 4: On location in Dover, fighting against the tide with a full crew!

These boys are hardcore!

Nice and breezy!

Ankit and his team hard at work.

My favourite shot of Ankit and Jen.

It's a WRAP!

Then it was off to the pub. Nice one. 

Watch this space for the final cut.

Many thanks to: 


Kali Arc productions:

Back with a Bang!

After a small hiatus I am pleased to be back on my blog and excited to be able to share new experiences and discoveries with all my readers. As a warm up, I’m going to post a variety of images from some test shoots with Paul Baichoo. Personally I love testing and think it is imperative practice for any makeup artist, to help one learn how concepts materialise and how different products react under studio light as opposed to natural light. 

Shoots always present challenges and testing builds my confidence so that on jobs I feel prepared and able to cope, improvise, innovate and make the look work. Testing is also imperative for learning how to work with different models, skin types, bone structures, hair types and tools. I personally never purchase a new brush or product and then immediately use it on a pro job. I will always wait until I have tested it so I am prepared for any potentially unexpected results. And of course possibly the most important skill I can hone through testing is speed. Improved technique always leads to more efficient, speedy application. I do not want to sacrifice quality because of time pressure, but so often on shoots there is less time than is desirable. Testing helps me minimise loss of quality through improved technique and inside-out knowledge of my kit.

All images © Paul Baichoo

Above makeup and styling inspired by the strength of Grace Jones
and the elegance of Serge Lutens perfume advertisements from the 1970s.
Karen definitely embodied the energy I was hoping to capture here.

The above image was inspired by Byzantine paintings of Mary with Baby Jesus.
Concept, headdress and makeup by Sarah Frasca.
Baby Jesus spraypainted gold by Paul Baichoo, causing much toxic damage to his person.
Styling: Massive group effort.
Art requires dedication and personal sacrifice people!

Working bridal hair and makeup with Jenny.

Things got a bit Linda Evangelista below:

A lovely edit by Paul:

Below one of my favourite tests with the amazing Katya:

Yes, Katya has a goat skull on her head. Hey, whatever works.

That's all for now folks x

Monday, 6 June 2011

Testing, testing...

Photographer: Fernando Lessa
Model: Aleksandra @ Oxygen
Makeup and hair: Sarah Frasca

Spooky trees (and model!)

Some more classic shots from Fernando Lessa...

Photographer: Fernando Lessa
Model: Karolina Maria Renor
Makeup and hair: Sarah Frasca

Monday, 2 May 2011

Nouveau Vintage

I have been pursuing some project work with Paul of the few photographers who, in this day and age, seems intersted in capturing art for art's sake. You will be seeing a lot of our work documented here over the next few weeks. This is just a sampling of a wonderful afternoon we had with our smashing model. She often resembles Cheryl Cole (how can that be a bad thing?!), but in these shots I'm feeling Natalie Portman. Anyway, whatever the resemblances, we were all thrilled with the results.

(And yes, lots of cruelty free makeup went into these shots, including Obsessive Complusive Cosmetics for the smoky eyes and blue retro flicks, and Weleda Calendula Weather Protection Cream for the shiny eyelids. Lips were glossed up care of Illamasqua, who also can claim credit for the cheekbone sculpting!)

Hair and Makeup by Sarah Frasca.
Styling by Sarah Frasca and Paul Baichoo.
All photographs © Paul Baichoo.

And, yes, those are shoes on her her head.


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly: Lush Cosmetics

Lush is a company that I have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with…I love the people who work on the floor, but I am somewhat dubious about the faux ethics of the upper echelons of the company. I love some of their products so much and have yet to find products that can top them, but there many products that I cannot stand and that are genuinely full of chemicals that are simply bad for you.


I have three top Lush products that I cannot live without. They are the following:

Aromaco Deodorant

This is the best, the most effective and the gentlest deodorant that you will ever have the pleasure to discover. It comes in solid little off-white blocks of heavenly patchouli gorgeousness. I have been using it for more than six years, before which I struggled to find natural deodorant that actually lasted for more than half-an-hour. This stuff is phenomenal. It is basically translucent so there are no unsightly streaks left on clothes. You can put it on directly after shaving and you will feel no irritation whatsoever. You just rub it on and that’s it. It’s amazing for travelling and there’s no worrying about liquid limits at the airport. I have tested this stuff in 45 degree heat in Spain and it lasts all day and all night.

The ingredients in Aromaco are:

Witch Hazel Infusion (Hamamelis virginiana), Propylene Glycol, Sodium Stearate, Chamomile Vinegar (Anthemis nobilis), Sodium Bicarbonate, Patchouli Oil (Pogostemon cablin), Citral, Limonene, Perfume.

You will notice listed an ingredient that is on my Ingredients to Avoid list, namely Propylene Glycol. That is the only naughty ingredient in this product that I know of, because it is a potential cancer risk and an allergen and it has been tested on animals for the assessment of its toxicity (although Lush does buy their ingredients from sources that do not test on animals).

Figs and Leaves soap

This is the most natural soap that Lush has, although on reading through the ingredients you will notice some chemical additives such as Sodium Hydroxide and EDTA (Lush argues that they use these ingredients in such small amounts that it is ok…more on that later!). It is very gentle on the skin and is full of scrubby fig seeds which give just the right amount of exfoliation action. Figs and Leaves is actually the first Lush product that I bought, all of 10 years ago, and it is still top of my list. It is one of the few Lush soaps that does not contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).

The ingredients in Figs and Leaves soap are:

Water (Aqua), Rapeseed Oil; Coconut Oil (Brassica napus; Cocos nucifera), Fig Decoction (Ficus carica), Glycerine, Aloe Vera Extract (Aloe barbadensis), Sodium Hydroxide, Perfume, Ylang Ylang Oil (Cananga odorata), Orange Flower Absolute (Citrus Aurantium amara), Organic Aloe Vera Gel (Aloe barbadensis), Titanium Dioxide, Sodium Chloride, EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Benzyl Benzoate, Linalool

1000 Kisses Deep perfume

I cannot live without this perfume. Anyone who has gone on the a mission to find cruelty-free perfume will know that it is virtually impossible to find any that does not smell like toilet spray. However, Lush has succeeded in creating some exquisite fragrances that are almost entirely composed of essential oils. This is the only perfume I will wear, and it is great to be able to wear a fragrance that almost no-one else has! (unlike the proliferation of the Armani-Dior-Prada-predictables).

The ingredients in 1000 Kisses Deep are:

DRF Alcohol, Perfume, Myrrh Resinoid (Commiphora myrrha), Labdanum Resinoid (Cistus labdaniferus), Osmanthus Absolute (Osmanthus fragrans), Citral, Coumarin, Geraniol, Benzyl Benzoate, Limonene, Linalool


I actually started my 'Ingredients to Avoid' page by going through the Lush ingredients glossary and doing a full investigation into each ingredient (interestingly, the Lush homepage no longer has a direct link to their ingredients list, and this is a very recent change. You can view the old list here It is by no means comprehensive). Lush very conveniently and vaguely define some toxic and dangerous chemicals in such a way as to brush over the health risks associated with continued exposure to these ingredients. For example, they define Sodium Lauryl Sulfate as "a shampoo base that is derived from coconut and palm kernel oils", and tell you that it foams. That is a very convenient summary of what SLS is and can see a more truthful assessment here (scroll down to 'S').

The ingredients that Lush uses that are dubious are: Ammonium Lauryl Sulphate, Cocomide DEA, Lauramide DEA, Methyl- and Propyl- parabens, Sodium Laureth and Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Hydroxide (not listed in their glossary, aka Caustic Soda), Talc and Triethanlamine (TEA). You can see my comprehensive list of the effects of these chemicals here.

I used to work for Lush, and during our training we were informed that using parabens is ok because the company uses less that 0.05% per product. At the time I swallowed it. It took a while for me to start doing my own research, and I quickly realised that saying "oh, we use so little it doesn't matter" is just a lazy cop-out that ignores the cumulative effects of these toxins. Parabens are notoriously dangerous for the environment and cause hormonal imbalances in animals, sometimes rendering them infertile and causing sexual mutations. There has been much media coverage of late into the dangers of parabens for the environment and for people. There are now so many companies who are successfully using safe, natural alternatives (such as the awesome Organic Pharmacy), that I do not see how Lush has a valid excuse to use parabens anymore. Lush describes Methyl- and Propyl- parabens as "the safest and mildest preservatives we can find".  They add parabens to most of their non-solid skincare products and a few of their solid ones (such as King of Skin), and in the entire history of the company have never made any effort to find natural alternative methods to preserve their products.

Most of the public I spoke to while working for Lush simply assumed the products were all natural because of Lush's very clever branding and the tactful placement of herby, muddy facemasks kept on ice. I am not ashamed to admit that I regularly informed customers of the truth. You could say I was not the most popular employee with the management! However, there was nothing they could do, since I was simply speaking candidly about the ingredients in the products. While working there, I began to understand that Lush is a whitewash brand that is incredibly skilled at putting on a natural 'front' and reaping the profits from this subtle deception.


Lush management is disorganised and ineffective and most managers treat the floor staff with little respect. There is overwhelming pressure to link-sell, which at times borders on customer harassment (I have been on the receiving end of this harrasment-slash-link-selling as a customer and it is not pleasant!). All the staff are overworked and underpaid.

Lush claims to be rigorous about their environmental policies, but I know for a fact that this is not true. Lush does not ensure that each shop has a functioning recyling scheme, and it is down to the passion of individual employees to make sure recycling happens. I have some friends who still work there and are constantly struggling to implement environmental improvements to the company on a daily basis. It is an uphill struggle, as upper management really do not care or provide funding or training to floor staff on important, day-to-day issues. There is a lot (A LOT) of money and training put into their environmental campaigns and window displays, and of course this is great, but again it is a front and the actually nitty-gritty is ignored.

But by far the thing that I found  most uncomfortable while working there was the cultish nature of the company, the glass ceiling that exists for all except those who practically worship Mark Constantine (the founder of Lush), and the environmental hipocrisy of the individuals in upper management (Starbucks and MacDonalds daily...I could carry on!).

Most of the general public know nothing of the truth behind Lush, and I feel it is important that people are at least made aware so that a little bit of the veneer can be chipped away. It is all about informed decision making. I still choose to purchase my top three Lush products because they work, are mostly natural and are not tested on animals. However, I in no way view the company as the pioneering environmental heroes that they like to masquerade as.

My time at Lush partially steered me towards my current career, and if I had not worked there I probably would not have become so acutely aware of how important personal initiative and research is in the world of ethical cosmetics and makeup. You cannot simply trust the slogan and words like 'organic' and 'natural' do not always mean organic and natural. So I am happy I had my time there; Lush served me well, but perhaps not in the way they intended!


Friday, 1 April 2011

Jennifer Essex unravels her mind for LCF

Last night saw the premier of 'Traveller and Unraveller', a groundbreaking new work created, choreographed and directed by Jennifer Essex (you can view her website here:

I met Jen a few years ago, being blissfully unaware at that time that she is the most sublime dancer. I admit I went through a short period of semi-worship when I first saw her youtube videos. Her style, ease and unique perspective give her a trademark look that makes her work immediately identifiable. In a few words words I would call her work ethereal, insightful and engaging, always communicating unspeakable things while remaining grounded in her integrity as an artist.

Traveller and Unraveller is a showcase for the London College of Fashion's Costume for Theatre, Makeup for Theatre and Technical Effects for Theatre BA Degree students 2011. The show took place at the Cochrane Theatre in London, a wonderful and intimate space where it was pleasurably easy to enjoy the finer details of this fantastical creation. The part of Young Tobias was played by Louise Marie Kerr, a prominent UK actress (her casting call pro page is here: The show had a fascinating fairytale backstory, which you can read here:

The show was sponsored by, among others, the pioneering makeup brand Illamasqua whom I have blogged at length about before (see here). During my cheeky peek backstage, while nitpicking over the finer details of the exquisite prosthetics, I saw a lot of Illamasqua products, and then - to my delight - a lot of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics (see more here). Yes! I eagerly harrassed the makeup artist about her stash...she even had the airbrush and pigments which are not availabe in the UK. I am not shy to admit that I was green about the gills, however, at the same time it was reassuring to see such a cutting edge, vegan brand utilised in a theatrical environment. According to  the makeup artist I was chatting to, the airbrush pigments by OCC adhered impressively to the dancers for the duration of the performance. No sweat! It is not easy to find makeup that can endure theatrical lighting and the vigour of dance, so for me that was exciting to hear.

The show itself was a visual feast, an orgy of fantasy forced into temporary existance. Jen's concepts for the costumes streched the graduates to their creative limits. There were living, floating bubbles, earthen root creatures, umbilical magical tribal gods, chalky pteradactyls and terrifyingly beautiful metallic inverted hedgehog beings with rhythmical spines. The show was so well paced that we had more than enough time to absorb the details of these creations, which was really satisfying. I am still reeling at the impression of the spiky metal is impossible to describe them in words. I do believe they are a creation of pure genius and whomever the student is who came up with that concept, I applaude you! I have some pictures , but they really only give a vague impression of the amazing-ness off the LCF students' work. It was an audio-visual phenomenon!

If you are in London and you are looking for something unusual and exciting to experience this weekend, then definitely go and see this show! It is on for two more nights only so be quick! You can buy tickets here:

Prosthetic head being applied to a dancer

Costume fitting

Tobias, the Unraveller

Traveller and Unraveller
Cochrane Theatre, Holborn, London

Choreography, Concept and Direction: Jennifer Essex
Design Mentor: Di Mainstone
Composer: Borisa Sabljic
Writer: Harry Man
Video: Ian Pons Jewell and Tim Harrison
Performers: Marie Ronold Mathisen, Elodie Frati, Rhiannon Roberts, Verity Hopkins, Rachael Fraser, Vanessa Abreu, Joelle Naomi Green, Jac Johnston, Sonya Cullingford, Jess Williams, Bianca Silcox, Grace Hann, Jacob Smart, Elena Zino, Anne-Maarit Kinnunen, Elizabeth West, Jo Davie, Alice Cade, Tereza Havlickova, Georgia-Grace Riley
Costumes Designed and Realized by: The Students of the London College of Fashion

Sketch by Rosanna Stalbow and Bea Sweet


Wednesday, 23 March 2011

One small step for an ethical makeup artist

If you have been reading this blog for a while you are probably aware of my frustration at trying to find an alternative to M.A.C.'s seemingly irreplacable blot powder. Blot is something I cannot live without on a shoot, but I have been stoicly refusing to buy any more even though I'm down to the last few applications. I was going to try Bare Minerals, but was unable to get positive confirmation from any anti-cruelty companies as to whether or not they test on animals. Normally this means the brand is trying to avoid the issue (ignorace is bliss to the public!), so I steered clear.

A little while ago, while doing a short course at the London College of Fashion, my amazing tutor Susanna Perez recommended Jane Iredale powders. I was not too excited as I assumed I would find something ethically fishy about the brand (as I so often do) and actually put it to the back of my mind. Then for some reason a few weeks ago when I was bored I remembered I'd saved the brand name on my phone, so I set about doing a bit of research. It only took a few hours before I found myself clicking the 'add to cart' button on the finishing powders! Jane Iredale is verifiably cruelty free with an amazing industry track record, this brand is reliable, safe, mostly natural and comprehensive.

Jane Iredale is not entirely vegan and some of the products do contain carmine. However, what I really appreciate about the brand is their complete transparency on this issue. Jane Iredale has prominent links on her website to vegan product information where she provides a comprehensive list of exactly which products and colours contain carmine, honey, lanolin and wheat. You can click this link to check it out.

Her products are also made from high quality ingredients that are largely natural, which is a big plus. Each product has a detailed ingredient breakdown, which is really reassuring and educational (I always want to use the most natural makeup I can, which is a difficult task but I'm finding my list of cosmetics that are lovely for the skin is growing steadily!).

I tested out my new Jane Iredale Amazing Matte Loose Finish Powder just yesterday on a few clients, and breathed a huge sigh of relief, as the results were awesome. There was no shine on the final shots, the powder went on beautifully and a minimal quantity was required to achieve a clean, matte finish. The powder is very finely milled, perhaps even more so than M.A.C. Prep and Prime, so it works wonderfully to set concealer under the eyes.

I am quietly thrilled, as I have found my Blot and Prep and Prime alternative (all in one!).

Jane Iredale Amazing Matte Loose Finish Powder

I also bought the Jane Iredale Beyond Matte Powder Compact in translucent, which was recommended specifically for HD. It also comes in three other correcting colours (lilac, peach and dark) which I will probably be purchasing very soon! I am also planning to purchase the Corrective Colours concealer pallette which is very exciting to me, as colour correction is my favourite part of corrective makeup technique and a great concealer pallette is like makeup gold-dust.

Jane Iredale Beyond Matte Powder Compact

In my assessment, Jane Iredale powders are an affordable, superior quality upgrade to my M.A.C. powders, and I am just relieved that I have found a replacement for this kit essential. I was beginning to have visions of myself in the kitchen with rice grains and a pestle and mortar, desperately attempting to conjour my own powders, but I have been saved the hassle by this discovery!

available in the UK online at