Beauty

This No Makeup-Makeup Line Creates the Skin You Wish You'd Been Born With


Cameron Diaz remembers the exact moment when she met Gucci Westman. She was on the set of a magazine shoot pegged to 1998’s There’s Something About Mary, and Westman was the makeup artist. “Instead of piling on a new face, she let my skin breathe, mixing and then spot-painting different colors onto every imperfection,” Diaz recalls. “To this day, no one does skin like Gucci.” That light-handed technique—a through line in her work with the likes of Annie Leibovitz and Spike Jonze—emerged as something of a revelation in the ’90s, when Kevyn Aucoin’s spectacular spackle encouraged a conceal-and-redraw approach to makeup.

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“It’s kind of back now,” Westman notes of the recent rush on heavy, face-sculpting products. But her long-held commitment to transparency—in both product layering and ingredient selection—is poised to set her apart again as she launches her first makeup collection next month.

The inception of Westman Atelier, as the line of highlighters, bronzers, blushes, and 11 shades of impossibly creamy foundation is called, dates back almost a decade. Toward the end of Westman’s tenure as global artistic director for Lancôme, she started to think about marketing what her friend and client Jennifer Aniston describes as the ability to “naturally make you look like Gisele.”

Back then, Westman’s vision of incorporating skin-care benefits into makeup was ahead of its time. Plus, there was a contract on the table with Revlon, where she ultimately served as artistic director until 2016; Ulta also proposed a color range, although deep into negotiations, Westman balked. “You get one shot,” she remembers saying to her husband, Rag & Bone cofounder David Neville. Instead, she set out to create a new cosmetics category, which is best described as conscious luxury. “I wanted to have a canvas [to tell my] story.”

That story begins with an upbringing steeped in Eastern philosophies and vegetarianism (to this day, Westman, who lived on an ashram outside Los Angeles before moving to the Swedish countryside, does not eat meat). Even with this commitment to more holistic living, she is the first to point out that “clean beauty” has become a diluted tagline. “Natural doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

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But a botanical-powered ingredient deck does. Westman has stacked her luscious Baby Cheeks Blush Sticks with skin-toning organic jojoba oil and rejuvenating raspberry stem cells; in order to avoid the risk of inflammation, the synthetic pigments she leveraged are encapsulated using biomimicry technology, a cosmetic innovation that can ape the way plants have adapted to protect themselves, and translate these mechanisms for the skin.

This balanced approach to formulation is refreshing in its honesty. “There’s a romantic version, and then there’s a reality, and you need to kind of meet in the middle,” says Westman, a mother of three, whose recent rosacea diagnosis turned her off to potentially irritating silicones, steering her instead toward a “harmonious blend of oils,” which helped achieve the supple textures she was after. Her standout Vital Skin Foundation Sticks feature two kinds of camellia oils to help protect against environmental damage, as well as nourishing coconut oil. “If I can have the payoff I love from a product that’s better for me, why wouldn’t I make that choice?” Diaz says of the foundation’s appeal.

“Everyone has a makeup line now,” Westman acknowledges of the complexion landscape, newly crowded with additions from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty and Kim Kardashian West’s KKW range. Even her close friend and onetime Lancôme muse Drew Barrymore has her sprawling Flower Beauty collection. But Barrymore readily admits that what Westman offers is unique. “People like Gucci—and Pat McGrath and Charlotte Tilbury—they are called artists for a reason,” the actress and entrepreneur says, alluding to a fluency in color and feel that cannot be tallied in Instagram followers alone. “I just feel like luxury now is knowledge,” Westman suggests, detailing forthcoming line extensions in makeup and skin care that will figure in her runway and red carpet work. “That should be the new way of looking at beauty.”

Vital Skin Stick Foundation, $68, and Baby Cheeks Blush Stick, $50, available April 2018 at Barneys.com and Westman-Atelier.com

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