Ask the experts

She’s so Cult: Mary Greenwell

An undisputed icon of the make up industry, Mary Greenwell’s handiwork has graced the most iconic covers, runways and red carpets. With a career spanning 30+ years which began with an impromptu gig as a stand-in (untrained!) make up artist and spawned a phenomenal journey alongside the industry’s most-lauded names (and unforgettable faces), we spoke to the maestro – and UK ambassador for {Laura Mercier} – about her pearls of wisdom, defining moments and what’s we might find in her handbag…

{Cult Beauty} Laura Mercier is an iconic brand, but what was it about the range that first attracted you and made you want to be a brand ambassador in the UK?

{Mary Greenwell} Hmmm so, what attracted me to {Laura Mercier}… first of all I’ve known her – we’re total peers and we came along at the same time – and when she asked me to help her, I mean, I’ve always loved the brand and I was just so honoured! It is renowned as the best ‘skin brand’ and what Laura’s done for skin, no-one else has. When she asked I would like to work with her I instantly replied “I’d love to!”.

{CB} And if you had to choose one (or two, or three!), which Laura Mercier products would you award ‘hero’ status?

{MG} Interestingly enough, the products I would call the ‘hero products’ are the ones that people go “Ah, yes, Laura, Laura…” – so, one it’s the {Secret Camouflage Concealer} which has two colours that you blend together to create the perfect colour for your little tiny pimples – it’s AMAZING for disguising little blemishes and is sufficiently ‘hard’ not to spread everywhere so you can be precise.

I’m also a huge fan of her new concealer – {Flawless Fusion} – a liquid-cream concealer that goes under the eyes and I simply love it. It blends so beautifully with the skin… it ‘lifts’ under the eyes, you can use it under your brow bones… It’s just GREAT.

The other thing she’s really known for, which is a primer and foundation in one is her iconic {Tinted Moisturiser} which is beyond fabulous and, we all use it, we just do. It’s the best one on the market and if you try other ones you inevitably come back, tail between your legs, feeling sheepish about having strayed.

Oh, and the new {Blush Colour Infusions} have become and indispensable essential – there’s an incredible array of shades and they blend seamlessly to grant a really lovely, healthy flush.

{CB} Moving on to you career as a make up artist, was there a point when you first thought “I’ve made it!”

{MG} Right so, I’ve been doing make up for quite a long time now and I guess I felt “Oh my goodness, I’ve made it” when I was working with Grace Coddington and Liz Tilberis at British Vogue and I had five covers, back-to-back – one, two, three – not long after I’d started out. I was like “Woah! THIS is it!”

{CB} And following on from that, do you have a particular career highlight?

{MG} Well I suppose my biggest career highlight that everyone would recognise as a highlight – because it was so magical – was working with Princess Diana. There are so many parts of my career that I love so much but in all due respect to her and my career, my life even, that was a defining moments, without a doubt.

{CB} Do you have a favourite model ‘canvas’, or a muse – somebody who you’ve worked with that you always find inspiring.

{MG} Yes of course! So when I started off I came to Paris at the same time as the supermodels, all those girls – Christy, Linda, Tatiana, Stephanie Seymour, Cindy Crawford – were in Paris at the same time as me in Spring of 1984, and they became my first, and longest-standing muses. And the one that ticks the biggest box (for me) is Christy Turlington – she’s STILL the dream. I’m really blessed to work with her!

{CB} If you were to pass on some pearls of skin care/make up wisdom you think everybody needs to know, what would they be?

{MG} Do you know what, now there are so many videos and tutorials that give such incredible advice, that I don’t feel many mistakes are made and, because I have no rules in my concept of make up, you can basically do anything you want! But, I would say most importantly – really good skin care. Just to have a really good regime that you stick to, that you don’t go to bed with your make up one, that you do put moisturiser on, that you look after your skin and that you don’t forget (!!) your body. Skin is all part of your face – it’s all one continuous organ – LOOK AFTER IT.

Then of course, sticking with the theme of ‘looking after’ things, it’s important to eat really well, and sleep. I always say “How would you care for a ten year old?” and we could all make an effort to treat ourselves more gently – through all of the hard work and responsibilities you have, try to look after yourself.

Try not to drink too much every night – give your body a break – and if you love cigarettes, try to cut down. Of course, it’s ideal not to have these bad habits at all but I’m not one to preach… just try to moderate your intake.

{CB} Following on, this is seasonally a period of transition. Do you have any tips for ‘spring cleaning’ your make up collection and changing your skin care to cope with the imminent winter?

{MG} Yes of course. As the colder months approach you’re always moving from the cold and into heating – so you need to really pile on the moisturiser. Pile ‘em on! Also, you need to wear more foundation when you go out. I’m a classic example of someone who looks really bad in the cold – my nose goes red, my cheeks go red and I look really pinched – and that can happen to a lot of people. A little bit more base will help to camouflage those all-too-common ‘cold weather’ issues.

{CB} And if we were to have access to you handbag for a rummage, which make up item(s) are we guaranteed to find?

{MG} You are guaranteed to find a lipstick and I’m guaranteed to have mascara. But primarily lipstick – once I’ve done my make up in the morning I just need my lipstick with me, and that’s it. Even if I have a little pocket-sized handbag, there’s always lipstick in there.

{CB} And as we touched on earlier, many are meticulous about caring for their faces but forget about the rest. Laura Mercier has an incredible bath and body range – are there any products you swear by?

{MG} If you’ve never used Laura’s body products before, the {Hand Crème} is heavenly – they all smell incredible and soak straight in – there’s none of that greasy feeling. We really should all carry hand cream in our handbags, it’s so drying out there and the water’s very hard (in England) so, try to moisturise every time you wash your hands because it’s the FIRST place that will betray your age.

And the other thing I love is the {Honey Bath} – it’s a great big tub and it comes with one of those honey twizzle-things that you dip into the goop and then run under running water and the perfumes are sublime. It’s bubbly and gorgeous and so gentle and lovely… and all the smells that Laura has created are memories from her childhood, from living in the country in France so they conjure the scents of the flowers and fruits, and all the lovely smells of the patisserie – they’re warm and sweet and girly and delicious. Delicious is the perfect word to use.


Verity Douglas

Verity Douglas

Content Editor

Verity is our Content Editor and a Cult Beauty veteran. Currently on maternity leave, raising Cult Beauty’s honorary ‘word nerd’, Tabitha, she speaks fluent ‘beauty’ and loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm (and cleanser and candles… ad infinitum). Nothing can stop her from quoting Nancy Mitford, treating herself to yet another Bella Freud candle for her desk or buying that pilgrim-esque collared or heavily fringed outfit she’s been eyeing. You can trust her to debunk widespread beauty myths and dispense invaluable advice with ease…