Interview with Ailbhe Lynch

During the course of her colourful career, Ailbhe Lynch has established herself as one of Ireland’s leading Make-Up Artists. Ailbhe has worked for a host of famous brands and high-profile publications such as Company, More! and Irish Tatler. She’s worked for award ceremonies, weddings, TV shows and fashion shows, and her star-studded list of clients includes the likes of Ruby Wax and John Cleese.

Ailbhe currently works as a member of the creative team for 1st Option Models, Management, Production and she recently won Make-Up Artist of the Year (2010). As you can probably imagine, the work diary of an award-winning Make-Up Artist is somewhat full; from heading the Lancôme creative team during Dublin Fashion Week to hanging out with Adam Sandler at a movie premier, Ailbhe’s exciting career certainly seems to be keeping her busy.

However, despite her crammed calendar, Ailbhe has been kind enough to find some time for a chat with Yesterface. Read on to find out Ailbhe’s top make-up tips, her favourite beauty products, and the perks and challenges of being a professional Make-Up Artist.

Award-winning Make-Up Artist Ailbhe Lynch (pictured)

Interview with award-winning Make-Up Artist Ailbhe Lynch

1.    When did you first become interested in make-up?

“I’ve been experimenting with make-up for as long as I can remember. As a child I used to put it on my dolls and myself. I even tried to make make-up! I’d mix things like talc and food dye and go to bed hoping that when I came down in the morning they would have turned into eye shadow!

“As an early teen, my friends would let me put make-up on them. I remember one time, some girls who lived on my road asked me to do their make-up for them as they had a dance competition later that evening. I found out a few days later there was no dance competition – they just made up an excuse because they wanted me to do their make-up! I guess I had a flair for it even then.”

2.    At what point did you decide that you wanted to become a Make-Up Artist?

“I always had an interest in art and wanted to do something creative. I loved make-up but I had no idea how to get into it as there were no Make-Up courses back then (1992). I decided to do a portfolio preparation course that covered a lot of creative areas such as fine art, photography, ceramics and life drawing. While I did enjoy it, I hadn’t found my niche. There was a beauty therapy course in the same college and I used to joke that I was going to move across the hall and do that instead. But it wasn’t beauty therapy that interested me.

“Towards the end of the college year, I heard about a new two-year full time make-up course starting in Dun Laoghaire College of Art and Design and knew I had to apply for it. There were only twenty places available every two years. Thankfully, I was one of the lucky twenty who were accepted!”

3.    What was your first job after leaving college?

“Pretty soon after I graduated I started doing test shoots for Morgan The Agency (one of the leading Model Agencies in the country) to build up my portfolio. I knew a model who was represented by Morgan and she needed make-up for a test shoot and asked me if I’d be interested. The agency were very happy with my work and asked if I‘d be interested in doing any more tests.

“Tests give people the chance to get together and do something creative for themselves and build their portfolio. So there was no money involved, but doing tests provided me with an opportunity to work with models and photographers who were also starting out. Plus I couldn’t get paid work if I didn’t have a portfolio. I had worked on shows and some shoots while on work experience with college but this was a great way to make contacts and do fashion make-up, which was my real passion. Funnily enough, I can’t remember my first paid job! I do remember my first magazine editorial being printed shortly after that though.”

Ailbhe's work for Irish Tatler magazine. Image courtesy of

4.    You’ve been working as a Make-Up Artist since 1995 – what have been the highlights of your career to date?

“It’s hard to say what my highlights have been. There have been so many things that I’ve enjoyed over the years, and I guess the fact that I still get excited about work is a good thing! I still look forward to doing make-up. I look forward to seeing the end result. It’s a great feeling to come away from a job when you know you’ve worked with a talented creative team and produced something great. And most importantly, the client is happy.

“Highlights include seeing your make-up on the cover of a magazine or on a billboard. Or simply receiving an email from a bride, telling you that because of you she felt amazing on the most important day of her life. Recently winning Wedding Supplier Awards Make-Up Artist of the Year is certainly a big highlight!”

5.    What difficulties have you faced working as a Make-Up Artist and how did you deal with them?

“People expecting us to work for free or for pittance. Professional Make-Up Artists spend a lot of money on products. You have to work with the best products to do the best job. Products have to be replenished on a regular basis. I’ve been learning and perfecting my craft for almost two decades. I do this because I love it but this isn’t a weekend job or something I do on the side. This is a business.”

6.    Do you think it’s a tough industry to break and / or survive?

“Yes absolutely! I’ve seen a lot of Make-Up Artists come and go. Some very talented too. It’s a very tough industry and it takes a long time to establish yourself and gain respect. Becoming a working Make-Up Artist is not something that happens overnight. You’ve got to persevere and understand that it takes time. You need natural talent, motivation, a real passion for your craft and a professional attitude to succeed.”

7.    You headed the Lancôme creative team for The Matthew Williamson show during Dublin Fashion Week – could you describe a typical day’s schedule?

“The call time for a show could be as early as 12pm even though the show may not start until around 7pm that evening. There’s a lot of work in the background. The make-up look would have been designed and briefed beforehand so you start the day knowing the exact look for each model. This can work very differently on shoots where you may not discuss the look until the crew get together that day.

“You would usually start by getting a couple of models ready for a press photo call to promote the show. This could be as early as 1pm. You need to work at a quick pace as models can be called for dress rehearsals and walk-throughs, throughout the day. A model can be whisked away while you’re half way through her make-up. Everyone has a job to do, the show has to start on time and everything has to be perfect.

“Backstage during the show can be really hectic. The dressers backstage are changing model’s outifts when they come off stage and it’s usually only a minute or two before they’re back out on the ramp again. Make-up needs to be on hand for any powder touch ups or smeared lipstick from the quick outfit changes. Usually the make-up artist and hair stylist are trying to do touch ups at the same time before the model has to go back out. Sometimes there’s no time for touch ups. It can be quite manic. Matthew Williamson was an absolute pleasure to work with. He was very friendly and very relaxed back stage.”

Ailbhe's make up artistry, as featured in another one of Irish Tatler's magazine covers. Image courtesy of

8.    Do you have a preference as to what type of work you do i.e. do you prefer doing fashion shows, magazine shoots, award ceremonies or TV programmes?

“I enjoy everything! I love having a mix. That’s what keeps it interesting.”

9.    What kind of ‘looks’ do you most enjoy creating? For example eccentric like Lady Gaga, au naturel like Natalie Imbruglia, retro like Dita Von Teese etc.

“All of the above! That’s the beauty of make-up. I think I’d get bored if I was doing the same thing all the time. I love that one day I could be doing something really edgy and the next something natural or classic. I did a two day shoot recently for Keville Hairdressing. They’re such a talented group of Hair stylists and such a pleasure to work with.

“The first day the look for the models was very soft, feminine and natural with no hard lines. Just keeping the models enhanced and fresh. The second day was more Avant-garde. The cut and colour of the hair was much stronger and more edgy and the make-up had to reflect that. They were such contrasting days but I loved the variation and the opportunity to be really creative.”

10.    To which celeb would you most like to give a makeover and why?

“Salma Hayek! I was supposed to do her make-up for the Irish premiere of Grown-Ups in July but she had to cancel her trip at the last minute. It would have been amazing to work with her. I was disappointed but I was assigned to David Spade instead and my friend Noel Sutton was Make-Up Artist to Chris Rock. We got to spend a couple of days in the company of the rest of the cast, including Adam Sandler and Kevin James so it wasn’t all bad!”

11.    Do you know any men (either celebrity or non-celebrity) who wear make-up on a daily basis?

“I work in the fashion industry so I know lots of men who wear fake tan and make-up! But it would all be very natural. Maybe a little concealer, powder and lip balm. It wouldn’t be unusual for a male celebrity to request mascara on a shoot. And some have been known to bring their own. Most want very little fuss when it comes to make-up though so a little powder would usually suffice.”

12.    What is your typical daily work schedule?

“There is no typical daily work schedule! Every day is different. Start times and locations differ all the time. Sometimes I wake up and have to think about where I’m going that day! It can be hard to make plans as you could think you have a day off and then you’ll get a call the day before. You also never really know what time you’ll be finished. You might know if it’s a half day shoot or a full day but the job is only finished when it’s finished.

“With weddings I know what time I’ll be done as the bride has to be at the church by a certain time. If I’m on a busy shoot I usually have to catch up with my wedding enquiries, e-mails and phone calls in the evening. There’s only a certain amount you can do while you’re working because even if you’re not in the middle of doing make-up, you need to be on set and on hand for any touch ups or adjustments that need to be done. Even on my days off I’m answering enquiries and dealing with clients. You don’t really get to switch off. Even on holiday.”

Ailbhe's work for Gloss magazine. Image courtesy of

13.    What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become or succeed at being a Make-Up Artist?

“Don’t quit your job to do a make-up course, expecting to become a working Make-Up Artist overnight. It takes time, perseverance and a lot of hard work. Try to assist working Make-Up Artists to gain experience. Do as much work as you can around your other job until you feel it’s time to do it full time. It’s a good idea to get a part time or Sunday job on a make-up counter. It will give you plenty of experience doing makeovers and learning about different faces. You will also gain good product knowledge.

“Cosmetic companies usually have some form of make-up training so hopefully you can learn something you didn’t know previously. MAC have some of the best trainers out there. If you can get some part time store work with MAC that would be fantastic. They are an amazing company and you will learn so much with them.

“If you do get any shoot work, always follow the brief. If the client wants a very natural look, that’s what you give them. Don’t look on it as an opportunity to prove what your what you‘re capable of. You’ll get to prove your abilities on other jobs. Creating a flawless natural skin is just as much of a skill as creating a smokey eye. And remember, you’re only as good as your tools. Always spend money on products you need and products you know work for you. Don’t cut back or go without. It will show in your work.”

14.    What is your favourite make-up era?

“Today! Because it’s a mix of every era that’s been before. I love how I can do a 1940’s inspired look with the emphasis on liquid liner and red lipstick and it’s seen as classic not dated. That look really continued through the 50s and Marilyn Monroe had the most perfect features to carry it off. I prefer the stronger brow of these two decades to the very fine brow of the 30s. Although the look was very similar. The 60s was a big change and was all about strong eyes and nude lips. Something we see a lot of today. And the same rule still stands. Eyes or lips. Never both!”

A striking military-inspired look by Ailbhe here. Image courtesy of

15.    When you are about to do a make over, what are the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them?

“The biggest challenge for me is very dry, dehydrated, flaky skin. Some people just don’t look after their skin. It’s so important to keep it hydrated as once you apply make-up to a dry skin it accentuates any dryness. It doesn’t matter how amazing the foundation is, it won’t look good on dry flaky skin. Exfoliating your skin is so important. It will help get rid of dead dry skin and give a more polished finish when you apply your make-up.”

16.    What’s your daily beauty routine?

“In the morning I use face wash. I like that really clean feeling. My skin can be quite dry so I should probably avoid it but I don’t think I’d feel clean without it. At the moment I’m using No.7 protect and perfect eye cream. The pot lasts about five to six months and I would use it twice a day. My moisturiser is Dr Hauska Rose day cream. The very rich one. I love a comforting moisturiser. One that doesn’t absorb into my skin straight away. I find I go through this quite quickly so it’s not very economically friendly.

“I exfoliate at least twice a week with Lancome’s Exfoliance Confort. It’s an exfoliator for dry skin so it’s gentle and not too abrasive. I drink a lot of water and I’d recommend taking fish oils to anyone with dry skin. I’m a lip balm addict! I reapply constantly and would probably have a panic attack if I left home without it! I’m using Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream as my lip balm at the moment. It’s also been handy for putting on dry patches on my hands. The cold weather really dries the skin on hands.”

17.    What are your favorite make-up products?

  • MAC Face and body. It’s such a fantastic foundation. It gives a beautiful dewy sheer finish but can be layered to give more coverage. It makes skin look like skin.”
  • MAC Mineralize natural skin finish powder. I love it. It’s amazing for setting foundation while still maintaining a soft sheen. The darker colours in the range make fantastic bronzers.”
  • Lancome effacernes. It’s great for the under eye area. It gives good cover but it’s not tacky or heavy. Although I’m loving MAC Pro long wear concealer at the moment. Effecernes has stiff competition!”
  • MAC Fluidline. It’s so easy to use and gives a soft matte finish. Almost like an old fashioned cake eyeliner but with better staying power.”
  • Armani illuminating fluid no.3. I always take this on holiday as it can be so hard to predict how much colour you’ll get from the sun so choosing foundation colour before you go can be tricky.  This is a handy product for mixing with your base to warm it up while giving it a luminous glow.”
  • “Inglot cream Blush. I’m loving everything about this blush. The colour range, the texture, the ease of application. And the price!”
  • “Lancome Bi-Facil is great for removing eye make up, as is Lancome Galateis Clarte which is also good for cleaning make up from your face.”
A softer, more subtle look. Image courtesy of

18.    How big is your make-up collection?

“Huge! But I’m always running low on something.”

19.    What are your top make-up tips?

“Most women don’t own any type of powder. I think people are afraid of that very matte chalky look. Powder, if used correctly and sparingly will keep your make-up in place. Women who tell me their make-up doesn’t last usually don’t use powder. There are fantastic powders on the market now so you can use something very sheer (like MAC select sheer powder) which will set your make-up lightly. Also using a powder on the eye lid before eyeshadow will stop your eye shadow creasing and will hold it in place for the day.”

20.    What, in your opinion, is the worst make-up faux pas?

“Foundation that’s five shades too dark for your skin. Foundation is about evening out your complexion and perfecting it. It’s not designed to give you colour. So many women use foundation to give themselves colour. You might feel a little pale when you’ve applied a base that’s a perfect colour match to your skin but that’s because it’s evened out your complexion. Adding a little blush will give you all the colour you need and make your skin look fresh and radiant.

“Using liquid eyeliner under the eye is another! It’s just far too severe to use under the eye. Use a kohl pencil or eyeshadow for a softer look while still looking defined.”

21.    Which one make-up item couldn’t you live without?

“I can never answer this question. I couldn’t live with just one make-up item. I feel most make-up items need another item either to compliment it or to help it stay put. For me personally, the minimum amount I could live with would be four. Mascara, concealer for under my eyes, cream blush and lip balm!”

22.   And finally, why do you think make-up is important?

“It helps you make the most of yourself. When it’s applied well it can boost your confidence and change how you feel about yourself.”

Metallic, polished yet wildly feline. Image courtesy of

A big thank you to Ailbhe Lynch for her fantastic answers and for taking the time to do this interview. If you want to learn more about Ailbhe and her work, please visit


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