She's so Cult

She’s so Cult: Laura Mercier

There are celebrity make up artists and then, there’s Laura Mercier – the artist-turned-make up extraordinaire whose eponymous range is still top of the beauty pops, 20+ years since its launch. Why? The brand owes its ongoing success to the signature ease and incredible efficacy of its products – the {Tinted Moisturiser} is consistently named one of InStyle’s ‘Best Beauty Buys’ and lauded in allure’s ‘Best of Beauty’ awards – but the range would be nothing without the unparalleled vision of Laura herself.

Born in Provence, Mercier’s flair (and prowess) saw her studying Fine Art in Paris until she became disillusioned… questioning her career prospects, she wanted to follow a path that could harness her passion while also providing financial stability, and so she enrolled at the prestigious Carita Beauty Institute to specialise in skin care and make up application.

Her talents attracted attention from her instructor – the prestigious make up artist Thibault Vabre – whose client list read like a ‘who’s who’ of France (Catherine Deneuve was among his disciples). He quickly ‘adopted’ Laura (then Michèle) as an assistant, where she “…cleaned his make up boxes and repowdered models’ noses” before making the move to New York to establish herself as a stand-alone artist.

Rooming with her best friend and burgeoning hairstylist Serge Normant, commissions for high-profile magazines – Elle, allure, Glamour and InStyle – started coming thick and fast, with stylists and designers favouring her pared-back, ‘French’ aesthetic as the perfect antidote to ’80s excess. Blue eyeshadow, hot pink blush and heavy powder were at odds with Laura’s ‘look’ – the glowing skin and nearly-naked beauty she’s renowned for – and high-profile clients (Madonna, Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker, to name a few) soon sought her ‘low-key’ expertise.

Firm in her belief that “what makes you unique makes you beautiful”, Mercier exaggerated bushy brows and beauty spots, highlighting the ‘quirks’ that may have otherwise been airbrushed. True to her Gallic ancestry – the minimal, soignée aesthetic – her looks were all about a flawless (but natural!) base with a statement red lip or a smouldering lid as the only concessions to colour. A perfect precursor to the ’90s and a breath of fresh air at a time of bold, look-at-me brights.

The brand – {Laura Mercier} – was born in 1996, and instantly spawned the cult classics that still stake their claim to our everyday faces. Created with care to work hard for their space in your make up bag, the {Foundation Primer} and {Tinted Moisturiser} were among the first products to launch and were immediate bestsellers – granting the plump, dewy finish that chimed perfectly with demand for the ‘no make up’ looks that were huge in the ’90s.

Since then, the brand has grown from strength to strength. Recently sold to the Shiseido group – perfect wards for this über-chic edit of stylish essentials – Mercier’s legacy lives on through products infused with the name’s DNA; advanced formulations that straddle ‘insouciance’ and ‘perfectly polished’ to make every canvas look flawless (and French… bien sur!).


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…