Alex Byrne, Manhattan Makeup Artist
by Kimberly Rae Miller
Throughout her childhood in Chicago, Alex Byrne applied makeup on the baby sitter and anyone else who would still for more than 5 minutes. After graduating from University of Illinois she immediately sought private instruction from the Training Director of Chanel and Christian Dior and then landed a job with MAC Cosmetics.
Her ambitions brought her to NYC where she started to assist Francois Nars and Stephane Marais, but in the late 90’s she opted for London and continued to assist at runway shows including Dior, Dolce & Gabanna, Prada, Versace etc.
Her career has also brought her encounters with Donna Karan, Kim Catrall, Tom Ford, Hilary Swank, Courtney Love, KT Tunstall, Rosamund Pike and many more.
After a decade absorbing European aesthetic and culture, Alex moved back to New York and continues to work with personalities, on photo shoots as well as consulting for beauty brands.
How would you define your personal style?
Carefully deconstructed black and neutral clothing, snake skin heels, perfectly polished nails (always) and a cherry red Smythson diary…. Expensive rock & roll with a constant sci-fi twist.
When you’re making someone up, what are you looking for/what kind of process do you have?
For a private client, the most important aspect of my process is knowing my clients’ obsessions. If it’s a red lipstick, I work a red lipstick into the end result no matter what time of day it is. If it’s cloggy eyelashes, I work a heap of thickening mascara into the look.
Following that, I integrate my normal process for fashion and beauty shoots which is strategic color selections based on the occasion or strategy , put all together to sculpt and shape the face. Making eyes look bigger, cheek bones higher and jaw lines razor sharp, then finishing off with little invisible light catchers that make the skin look quietly radiant, perfectly polished… that’s my modus operandi.
Are there any make-up trends you wish would just go away already?
Absolutely: liquid black eyeliner slicked along the top of fake eyelashes. That combination always brings more drama to any look than is actually needed to pull off the fake eyelashes. There is so much information about applying fake eyelashes, and the actual construction of them had been substantially updated over the past several years, so it should be relatively easy to apply fake lashes with a more fresh overall impression.
What are the biggest make-up mistakes you see people make on a regular basis?
Bronzer and tanning… it can be so chic and sculpted, Saint Tropez, spa-holiday gorgeous when done properly, but so many people get bronzed-up with very little understanding of the concept ‘less is more,’ and that it makes it difficult for me to understand the logic.
The other faux pas is keeping the same makeup application for years and years. There are plenty of makeup artists available in retail environments and spas, so it should be relatively easy to check in with a pro every once in a while and get some new thoughts.
Favorite Five in the Five Boroughs?
Oak: Beautifully curated boutique of indie designers with a predominantly black and grey palette.
Woodley and Bunny: Hair salon with a great apothecary shop including makeup, skincare, hair products, and my favorite Oxblood nail polish by RGB.
MAC Pro: The best place to play around with an extensive range of makeup colors and textures. Like no other.
Fabulous Fanny‘s: The best selection of vintage eye glass frames displayed by genre and color in rows of wooden drawers.
Vinyl Records: Low key vinyl shop where they sell everything from 60’s punk to Iggy Pop.
Santa Maria Novella: The oldest beauty and lifestyle brand in the world, created by monks making soap in Italy over 600 years ago. It’s the best place in the world to shop when you need to buy something for someone who has everything.