Empire’s Makeup Artist Reveals Behind-the-Scenes Beauty Secrets From the Hit TV Show

You can't build an empire without great skin.

Wednesday night’s Empire premiere left us with a lot of questions, mainly: How does everyone have such great skin? And: Could we pull off blue eyeshadow like Cookie?

To answer all our pressing Empire questions, we turned to head makeup artist Karen Lynn Accattato, who has the impressive resume to match up with her 25 years in the business. She’s worked with everyone from Tom Hanks and Jamie Foxx to Playboy Enterprises and President Obama.

Read on for her tips on how to achieve that “I’m going to take over your business and look damn good while doing it” face:

YouBeauty: Do you have an overall concept behind the beauty look?

Accattato: We work very closely with Lee Daniels, our show’s creator and executive producer, and he is very specific about how he wants everybody to look. He meets with us ahead of time and the actors also have input on their hair, makeup and wardrobe, and what we try to do is take those initial designs and use those to arc our characters and help them develop through the storyline.

I was going to ask specifically about Cookie’s (Taraji P. Henson) arc, because she goes through such a transformation over the first season. 

Yes! So we first see Cookie in jail, with no makeup, no hair, and no costume. Then she transforms and puts herself together to a ghetto fabulous look with strong lipstick, lots of eyelashes, and we see her transform as she gets her empire back, finds her money and finds her groove. Now in Season Two, she’s even more outrageous and outside the box. You’ll see a lot more color in her hair and in her makeup, and a very colorful wardrobe. She’s definitely our over the top character. She’s not afraid of anything, let alone a little color in her makeup.

So you’ve been in the industry for 25 years. Can you talk a little bit about how makeup has changed?

Oh, makeup has changed dramatically. With all that high definition technology, all that old school makeup is not working on high-def. Texture is everything. The older people get on camera, the less makeup you need to wear. The old school way of thinking is “more is better,” but actually less is better. So much has to do with the application. My trick is to apply everything in very thin layers. I don’t want to see a face plastered with makeup.  All of this is the art of appearance, so if you don’t have great looking skin, none of this is going to help you. Skincare is everything.

How do you guys put together that “no makeup look”? 

There’s always a little art and science behind the “no makeup,” as you know. As a makeup artist the most important is skincare. My favorite products are the Dove Men+Care line, which I use on men and women. I have a three-step process that I use on everybody:

One is washing your face. I have actresses that sit in my chair—not only the rappers and the bad boys—who are sometimes up all night in the recording studio and are traveling, so sometimes they come to me without having slept or showered. We always wash their face and I love the Dove Men+Care Sensitive and Hydrating Face Washes. For the younger men with more hydrated skin, I use the Sensitive wash, and for men with more mature skin, I use the Hydrating, because hydration is everything when we age.

Two is to use the Hydrating Shave Cream. There are so many products for women and men that are actually drying out their skin, whether its your legs, your armpits, or your face, we need to use a hydrating shave cream to prevent skin irritation, redness, ingrown hairs—which is really problematic for African Americans—so the key is a hydrating cream that will soften skin and make it lay better. Men also need to remember to use face wash to wash their beards just like they’d wash the hair on the top of their heads.

The final step is all about hydration. My favorite product is with Dove Men+Care Ultra Hydrating Cream. It’s gentle enough to use on anyone but locks in moisture for 24 hours. It leaves the skin with a matte finish which is imperative as a makeup artist for film and television. I don’t want any shiny skin unless you’re in an emotional scene where you’re angry or in a passionate lovemaking scene, then we want the shine.

You’ve also done makeup for President Obama, is that right? Tell me about the President’s products!

I approach every male—actor, President, official, CEO, or your everyday guy—the same way. I always do the three-step skincare, sometimes I’ll add a mattifier to deflect the light, which prevents the oils from coming through. We’ll use a no-color powder if someone is extremely oily. We all need a little help sometimes with redness or a blemish or dark circles and we will help you out with some concealer. If no one can see the makeup, I’ve done my job.

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