Makeup artist Sally Axford talks to Professional Beauty about becoming a makeup artist and working with Rose Marie Swift

Professional Beauty magazine’s Beauty Editor Ruby Feneley recently sat down with professional Makeup Artist Sally Axford to find out just how this Global Beauty Ambassador got her start, how she got into doing makeup with ‘all-natural’ products and what her advice is to those trying to break into the makeup industry. Read on to find out more about local makeup talent Sally Axford…

You’ve worked with some of the biggest brands in the beauty industry — what have you learnt at RMS working with ‘all-natural’ products, and how has it influenced your work?

“Meeting Rose-Marie Swift when she launched RMS in Australia was a pivotal moment in my career. She has a no fuss, no rules approach to application and beauty, which was so refreshing and just made sense to me. She’s genius when it comes to enhancing the face with minor tweaks to colour and placement.”

What has been the biggest challenge of your career?

“It was leaving what was my dream job – Senior Artist for MECCA Brands, where I spent 11 years. I had always wanted to live overseas and work the European Fashion Week circuit in my own right, so I moved to London to freelance in 2019. I’d put it off until I was 30 so I had no choice but to make the jump. London was definitely a struggle, I felt like I was starting over from scratch and I experienced a lot of anxiety which was new for me — but it was so humbling to work alongside artists from around the world who had been working their way up the ranks on backstage teams for years before I got there. I get a kick out of being reminded that there’s always more to strive for. It was a short 7 months thanks to Covid but I achieved more than I thought I would — it was all worth it in the end.”

Makeup artistry is one of the most ‘hands on’ professions — how did you manage the challenges Covid presented and what have you learnt?

“I had just returned from Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks and was working as a freelancer for NARS in London when Covid got serious. I left everything in March 2020 thinking I’d be back in a couple of months — one year on and I’ve resettled back in Melbourne! I was lucky to have met with my friend Rose-Marie Swift in Paris to discuss working as a trainer for RMS Beauty in Europe. While I was sitting out Covid in Adelaide I started creating weekly IGTV videos for their Instagram which eventually led to the position of Global Brand Ambassador in August last year. While I was working on RMS’ IGTV I was also supplementing my income with one-on-one makeup lessons over Zoom with people interstate as well as in person after lockdown. So many people don’t know simple techniques that can enhance their features or make the most of the products they already own.”

What’s been your most rewarding moment?

“Developing artists and helping people express themselves with makeup is always rewarding for me and I feel so lucky to be able to do that. It was also working with my all-time favourite artists on editorial jobs and shows across Europe that provided several pinch-myself moments.”

What has been the greatest lesson in your time as an MUA?

“I have three rules. Firstly, ego has no place in artistry. Secondly, be your own biggest critic (or, my more blunt motto “tear your work apart because there’s always something you can improve”). And thirdly, our industry is really all about relationships and who you know, so make sure to be kind along the way.”

What would you tell an aspiring makeup artist wanting to get their start?

“Getting a job at a beauty retailer is crucial — and cheaper than going to makeup school! I’m biased as that’s how I started, but I do believe it’s the best place to learn makeup as you will work on every skin tone and type, face shape, and personality. It teaches you how to connect with strangers, negotiate and manage your time — all necessary things if you want to work on shoots, shows and weddings.”

What’s your go-to product?

“I’m loving the RMS Tinted Daily Lip Balms, especially Twilight Lane it can be used as a cream blush. It’s dewy and sheer and gives you a super-natural flushed cheek.”

What are some top trends you’re noticing for Autumn/Winter? “I don’t get into trends if I can help it, although something I have noticed is that makeup looks on Instagram and Tik Tok are aligning more with editorial or ‘natural’ makeup. Classically the looks that receive the most likes are the ones with the biggest transformations, but as someone who creates educational videos for people wanting to apply makeup in their day-to-day, its nice to see a more natural approach moving into the mainstream and it makes me feel like less of an outsider!”

What are some of your best application “tips and tricks”?

“With complexion products, the thinner the layers the longer the wear and the less it will warm up and move around on the skin. Get your clients to frown and smile so you can see where they’ll get movement lines during the day, and then take out any excess product from those areas as they most likely don’t need coverage there anyway. Take any excess blush through the eye socket, ideally after you’ve finished the eye, to create harmony and avoid the elements of the makeup looking too separate. I was lucky to learn some skills from Rae Morris and I use her “eye phi” technique on every client; its a foolproof method that works on every eye shape, as long as you stick to it! I pay a lot of attention to texture of products and texture in the look itself. I like to spot powder with a small brush through the T-zone to further highlight the glow on the other areas of the face, as well as using high-pigment lip and eye products and pressing them in with my finger to thin them out and not overload those delicate areas.”

For artists working in salons, what are some easy techniques they can incorporate to make the most of a client’s natural beauty?

“Before you begin, look at the natural colours in your client’s skin. Instead of blanking it all out with eye primer, foundation or concealer — just to put it all back in artificially — work with the tones already there. A trick I learnt at fashion week overseas was removing product from freckles or beauty spots with a small cotton tip after you’ve finished the complexion. It gives the illusion that the wearer doesn’t have that much product on and avoids any ashiness. Overall it’s important to remember that what makes makeup beautiful isn’t how long it stays on; it’s reflective, hydrated skin, a sheen to the eyelids, a natural sheen to the brow hairs even — all signs of health, which then equals beauty.”

Favourite treatment to unwind?

“I’ve only heard about this second-hand but now that I’m back in Melbourne I’m very keen to book in with Valli Shubere at Herbario for a Signature Treatment. I love their ethos and every product of theirs that I’ve tried!”

This article originally appeared in the May-June issue of Professional Beauty magazine.

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