Written by McKenna Kelley | Photography by Gabriel Burgos
Despite the years she’s spent creating beautiful red carpet looks on the faces of A-list actresses and up-and-coming country singers, Tampa-based makeup artist Jessica Payne has a secret: the key to beautiful makeup is not necessarily the perfect application.
“I think everybody really needs to understand that if you don’t have a good skincare regimen, even if you have the world’s best makeup artist, the makeup is not going to lay the same,” Payne says.
Before imparting that wisdom on clients including singer Jessie James Decker, “Twilight” actress Ashley Greene and “The Bachelor’s” Ali Fedotowsky, Payne fell in love with makeup doing her friends’ faces for prom and worked her way up as an assistant in New York. Today, she shares her simple and trend-defying makeup philosophy with her clients as well as her 163,000 Instagram followers and 40,000 YouTube subscribers.
“I don’t look at it as transforming somebody,” she says. “I just want to make the person a better version of themselves.”
To that end, she advises having a realistic expectation of her capabilities when looking for makeup inspiration from celebrities — meaning a Reese Witherspoon lookalike should not anticipate mirroring Kim Kardashian’s look.
“I always tell my clients to bring [a picture of] somebody who’s close in your age range with the same hair color and same skin tone,” Payne says. “It gives you a more realistic view of what I’m able to do with you.”
This has been my favorite cleanser for eight to 10 years. It really helps clear up skin. I had acne, and I can honestly say everything in here helps clear up the skin. It has Egyptian oil and clove, and it’s like an antiseptic, so it’s really going to help clear out the pores. But it also doesn’t dry out and strip the skin, which is really great. It’s kind of weird because it’s like a cream. You don’t wet your face. You put it on completely dry, and it melts off your makeup. It’s truly like a spa experience at home, which is one of the reasons I like it. I recommend this to every single client, and I’ve never had one person say that it’s not the most amazing cleanser they’ve ever used. I will never use another cleanser in my life. It’s that good.
I love all facial masks, but this one has stem cell compounds. This is one of the only masks I’ve ever used that, whenever I put it on clients before a red carpet, genuinely plumps and lifts their skin. You can actually see a difference. They are a little bit steep [in price], but I tell people to leave it on for like 15 minutes and then just pat it into your skin. But your skin is 100 percent plumper. It really does help as a pre-makeup treatment mask. It’s absolutely amazing.
Most retinols will dry out your skin, which is miserable because you want to use a retinol, but if it dries out your skin you’re not going to use it. [Shani Darden] is a renowned facialist in L.A. She does Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Chrissy Teigen, Jessica Alba – like, everybody. Her retinol is fantastic. You can put it on one night, and then the next day your skin looks absolutely incredible. People can usually tell the difference. But it doesn’t have anything that’s going to dry out your skin, which is really good. I wish I knew what her miracle composition was, because she found a great way to get the benefits of the retinol, which is regenerating the skin and helping with fine lines and aging, but also not drying out the skin and not harming the skin. Anybody can use this retinol and not have one dry spot with it, which is amazing.
I like the extra strength. Shani [Darden, facialist] was actually the one who turned me on to these. Whenever you go to get facials, they always tell you that you need a glycolic peel or this or that peel. You need something to regenerate the skin. It’s going to help with fine lines, resurfacing, scarring and age spots. If you use this product for a month, 100 percent you’re going to notice a difference in your skin. I don’t have time to go get facials ever, so my [philosophy] is to get the products that work that will give you a facial at home. That way you have a facial. You might not be a professional, but you have the products. If you stick to the regimen, this is a game-changer for skin.
This is one of my go-tos. You put this on after you finish moisturizing and using the Dr. Gross pads. I would alternate the nights you use the retinol and the Dr. Gross pads. Then you put this on over your moisturizer and let it set in. It has the properties to help with fine lines and plumping. One of the things that’s really cool about this product is that plastic surgeons and dermatologists have actually called it remarkable because of how much it actually, genuinely works. Along with smoothing the skin and unevenness, it also helps with blemishes as well. It keeps the skin moist and hydrated without drying it out, and it’s going to help with brightening and aging. It’s one of the products I can’t live without.
This is good for people who need brightening without illuminating, so it will work for people with oily or dry skin. The pink tint helps brighten without being shimmery. It also minimizes pores and is great for any kind of skin.
I love this product because no matter what age range you put it on, it genuinely makes them have a little bit more of a youthful glow. It’s not something that’s super illuminating. It just gives a little bit of a glow. Whenever you put it on, it gives a very subtle radiance, and it’s very lightweight. When you’re younger or a little bit more mature, neither one of those age ranges should “over-makeup” themselves, so you want something that’s very lightweight but covers and is youth boosting. That’s why I love this product. This is an everyday product for me. If I’m on set working, 99 out of 100 times I will put a majority of the Light Wonder in with a little bit of a mattifying foundation just for photo flashes. It’s the best non-foundation foundation I’ve ever used. It’s a miracle.
Yes, it’s steep in price, but at the same time, there are a lot of highlighters out there. Nowadays with Instagram people just over-highlight, and it’s not good in person because it’s glittery. I don’t like glitter; I like a nice sheen. I’m one of those people who goes overboard [with this product], but I love it because it looks timeless and classic. It looks like a natural radiance versus an overdone radiance. What’s also great about this is you can actually do a full face of makeup with this. If you just wanted to tap on concealer and do your Legendary Brows, you can pop this on the eye, the inner corner of the eyes and right above the cupid’s bow. You can still highlight with it, but you’re also doing your eyeshadow. Then the darker color you can actually use as a very highlighted blush. It’s kind of an all-in-one. I’ve done a shoot with just this product and mascara and skin [care], and that’s it. It’s just so pretty.
The reason I picked this is that bronzers are very, very hard to do, especially for fairer-skinned girls, because everything tends to go in that more orange-red color. This is probably my favorite bronzer of all time because of the tone in it. It’s not really an orange or red tone. It’s a very natural tan. It’s great for fair skin, but also for darker skin, you can layer it. I use this as an eyeshadow base for an eyeshadow color. On no makeup days, if you just want to throw on bronzer and put on your eyelid, it’s great because you should always tie in either your blush or your bronzer into your eye makeup so it flows very naturally. It’s got a nice sheen, but oily-skinned girls can actually use this, too. It’s just a very subtle, natural sheen — and the color’s so pretty!
This is a product that I like to use on my clients because they can go home and get the exact same effect with it. A lot of brow gels are very sticky, and it actually ends up pulling out your brow hair, which a lot of people don’t really know. It’s sticky like hairspray and you’re brushing, so it can make your eyebrows not grow. This one is very lightweight, and it has the slightest tint of a color. It’s really foolproof. When I’m on set, I will fill in a girl’s brows, or if they have decent brows to begin, with I’ll just put this on, I tell them this is like a five-minute makeup. When you’re home and [trying to get] out the door, just put it on and don’t worry about filling in your brows. You just put it on for a feathered effect.