Not a day goes by in which you don’t see Kristofer Buckle powdering the faces of big, big legends—we’re talking Cher and Mariah Carey big. You can catch glimpses of him working on Instagram, on his own feed (@kristoferbuckle) as well as those of his celebrity clients. What he’s best known for is simple and classic symmetric contouring that’s always stunning and impeccable. Think about how many times you’ve seen Jessica Chastain, Sheryl Crow, and Ariana Grande looking amazing on red carpets and in magazine spreads—that’s the work of Buckle.
Growing up a “very painted punk kid,” Buckle was always obsessed with makeup, and describes his earlier self as “Nina Hagen meets Boy George meets Divine.” He worked at the Metropolitan Opera, and then ran the makeup department at Patricia Field’s 8th Street store in New York City before his big break, nearly 20 years ago, when legendary fashion photographer Steven Meisel booked him for Italian Vogue. “I haven’t had many days off since,” says Buckle. And that’s why we love him—his hard work shows. We caught up with this makeup master in the thick of awards season to hear what makes him tick, and to pick up some tips and tricks for you, too.
On holding up during awards season
“It’s a demanding time with traveling and running around a lot. But actually, it’s not any different than my usual schedule. I’m a workaholic!”
On his personal makeup philosophy
“I’m very unapologetic about makeup. I believe that everyone wants to be beautiful and to me something is more beautiful when it’s a personal choice. I can’t stand makeup shame or snobbery. I’ve never heard someone say, ‘I’m beautiful enough.’ We can all be more of what we are naturally, and with makeup, we can achieve what nature may have short-changed us out of.”
On drugstore scores
“I love drugstore mascara: CoverGirl’s LashBlast, L’Oreal makes good ones, and of course, Maybelline! I also love Kiss Looks So Natural lashes—it’s the best! Also Visible Lift Concealer Pens from L’Oreal are great!
On men and makeup
“I’ve never met a person who couldn’t benefit from a little makeup. Life today is extremely competitive…you must do everything you can to present yourself at your best. If you have a blemish, cover it. If you have excess redness, neutralize it with some powder. If you’re sallow, throw on bronzer! As a society, we’ve never been more photographed than we are today. A guy can sit around feeling macho with his pimples while his friend takes five minutes to cover his and get’s the girl.”
On his own makeup tricks to steal
“I magnify my features. First of all, I make my entire body six shades darker with self-tanner, and then I contour my nose and pencil in my brows quite heavily. Oh yeah, [and I use] concealer, bronzer, blush, and mascara every day.”
On looking classic, not overdone
“Look in the mirror and start by covering any blemish or shadow that distracts from your good features. A light bronzing will enhance your complexion, along with blush that matches the pink of your ears brushed on the apples of cheeks, bridge of the nose, and eyelids. Then finish with some soft mascara, and fill in any holes or sparseness in brows. For a natural look, this alone usually works.”
On the coolest parts of being a celeb artist
“I’ve traveled the entire world and been to dinners with kings, queens, presidents, and have had the chance to decorate some of the most important faces of our time. Even though my work washes down the drain at the end of the day, the photos live forever.”
On where he’d be if not a makeup artist
The Kristofer Buckle signature look, step-by-step:
1: Contour your face after applying foundation.
2: Use a cream makeup in a darker shade, applied right under bones you want to accentuate. Two great options: Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer (in 16 shades) and Cover FX Total Cream Cover Foundation (in 28 shades).
3: Use the same shade atop features you wish to reduce and minimize, like bumps or blemishes.
4: Blend everything together and set with powder. We like Cover FX Matte Setting Powder.
5: Finish by building lively tones that aren’t overly beige. Check out the following tutorials for more advice on creating a tonal complexion: Classic Contouring, Kevyn Aucoin–Style; How To Contour, The Basics; Contouring and Highlighting for Dark Skin