Beauty Lessons With Make-Up Master Val Garland
Beauty Lessons With Make-Up Master Val Garland

Beauty Lessons With Make-Up Master Val Garland

Global make-up director of L’Oréal Paris, contributing beauty editor of British Vogue, judge on TV contest Glow Up, author of Validated…Val Garland is an industry legend. Known for her bold looks both on the runway and in major campaigns, she’s admired by many for her unique sense of style, playful techniques and no-BS approach to beauty. Here, Val gives us her life lessons, some top beauty advice and explains the importance of self-confidence.
By Rebecca Hull

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I never planned to become a make-up artist. It was something that just happened, and I often thought I wasn’t good enough. I’m completely self-taught and began learning in Australia in the 80s. Back then, you had to do both hair and make-up, so I started in hair and over time honed my skills. I’d often be on photoshoots doing the hair and see what looks the make-up artists were doing, then I’d go home and try it out on my own face at night. The photographers I worked with kept saying I should try doing the make-up myself on clients and, one day, when the artist didn’t turn up for the shoot, I was in the hot seat. I made lots of mistakes, but that’s how I learnt – there was no YouTube back then, you had to just give everything a go and learn on the job.

Music has always inspired me. I could get lost in music when I was younger, and singers became my icons. It was the 80s, so it was the punk era and everyone was painting their faces. I loved Siouxsie and the Banshees, Debbie Harry and Toyah Willcox. They were all so distinct, and I wanted to be noticed like they were – they were all characters. That’s how my love of my make-up started – I was fascinated by what you could create and who you could become with it.

Michael Hutchence gave me advice that stuck. He often said THE KEY TO SUCCESS IS TO FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT. It’s a cliché but it’s true.

My first beauty memory was watching my older sister. I used to be fascinated as she painstakingly applied lashings of make-up – including lashes top and bottom. She was very glamorous and also a hairdresser – a very good one, so I learnt a lot from her before I got into my own groove.

Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Cream is a kit staple. I’ve always had a tube of this with me from the start of my career. It’s a great emollient, immediately soothing and generally a great nourisher for any dryness or even inflammation from sunburn. I love to use it on eyelids for a film noir effect. 

Michael Hutchence gave me advice that stuck. I worked with him back in Australia and he often said the key to success is to fake it till you make it. It’s a cliché but it’s true, and I’ve kept this as my mantra ever since. Other advice I swear by is to say yes to everything, work as a team, be kind to everyone, and remember that your first idea is always the best. I also think it’s important to surround yourself with people who are bigger than you. If someone has a bigger vision than you currently do, it gives you space to grow as a person.


Believing in yourself is key. Especially if you want to be a make-up artist. You need to be hungry for it and, most importantly, believe that you can do it. It’s a tough job out there and you have to have something that nobody else does. These days, you have to be more than just a make-up artist. Your personality, teamwork and general camaraderie are all as important as your skillset.

Working with Alexander McQueen was my career high. Katy England introduced me to him and we worked together for years on numerous campaigns and shoots. Growing with that group – including photographer Nick Knight – was just the best. Every moment was iconic, and it really felt like a time where British talent was just thriving. What was so great about Lee was that he really made you question why you were doing something. It’s good to have that focus: who’s the character? Who’s the model? What do we want to feel? Questioning yourself like this continuously keeps excitement flowing and makes you want to go somewhere you’ve perhaps not gone before in terms of experimentation.

Empowering women is important to me. It’s why it was such a great moment when I got the contract with L’Oréal Paris. It came at the right time for me – the brand is all about empowering women of all ages and sizes and that's important to me. Having had almost 30 years' experience in the beauty industry, I've got something to offer them, and I love working with them because we get to work on what I think women want and need, every day, not just on the catwalk. Take the new Global & UK Age Perfect Campaign – it was amazing to work together on that with key icons and faces speaking out against ageism and being vocal about changing beauty perceptions around growing older. 

Being happy is the ultimate beauty hack. I don’t believe in beauty ‘rules’ or ‘hacks’ really because we are all unique. What works for one person won’t for another. Who is to say what we can and cannot do? It’s about what brings you joy, as that’s what will truly show up on your face.

Lady Gaga has been one of my favourite faces to paint. I worked with her on her Born This Way album and we transformed her look into something new. She was game for getting involved in the creative process – it was brilliant. Kate Moss, of course, is another of my favourites – she has one of the most versatile faces in the world. She is the ultimate chameleon and we’ve created endless looks – too many to mention. I can’t not mention Helen Mirren and Andie MacDowell too. They are both funny, beautiful and wonderful to work with. I’ve had the best time creating the most fabulous looks for them for L’Oréal Paris – especially at the Cannes film festival and L’Oréal Paris Défilé show.

I love a good microcurrent device. I often keep one or two in my kit as they really do help to stimulate the collagen in the skin and give it a plumper, more youthful look. My current go-to is by ZIIP. It’s small and easy to transport, and it benefits from nano-current technology, getting deep down into those skin cells for visible results. 

Oh My Cream is the place to shop for beauty. I love a boutique and independent brands – and Oh My Cream ticks both these boxes, stocking plenty of the latter. I used to visit the store in Paris and come back with lots of new finds, so I was thrilled to hear it’s recently opened in London. It offers the most amazing, natural brands that really deliver on their promises, and its own named brand is well worth checking out.

Glow is the aim – not heaps of coverage. I find most photographers don’t want to see foundation. It’s all about creating little bits of light here and there to focus on real, natural-looking skin. This isn’t relevant to everyone, but I do believe focusing on glow first and coverage after can make a big difference to your look. Try using a product like Chanel’s Les Beiges Bronzer all over your face – eyelids, cheeks and anywhere the sun would naturally hit to bring about some subtle warmth and definition. You may find it’s all you need, but if there are areas that need a bit extra, just dab on a little concealer.

Being happy is THE ULTIMATE BEAUTY HACK. Who is to say what we can and cannot do? It’s about what brings you joy, as that’s what will truly SHOW UP ON YOUR FACE.

A good skincare-make-up hybrid is key. The L’Oréal Paris Skin Paradise Tinted Moisturiser is my favourite for all skin types and textures – it’s so glow-y. It contains aloe vera and ginger to hydrate and boost moisture within your skin, and it can be used over your normal primer. 

Be brave when it comes to colour. I often say colourful make-up is your friend. I love make-up that’s purposeful and impactful. A bright pop of lipstick can give you a real confidence boost and completely transform what you’re wearing. I also believe you don’t need a huge amount of skill to get a good lip stain right. Swipe it on, blend with your fingers and go – it’s easier than you think. The L’Oréal Paris Colour Riche Lipsticks are some of the best I’ve ever tried as they have a balm-y consistency that’s never drying or too matte. 

Isamaya Ffrench is someone I find inspiring. She’s really changed the beauty industry inside and out, and I admire that. She isn’t afraid to shake things up and rock the boat – it’s important we have people who take us out of our comfort zones, otherwise we all look the same and become ordinary. Be wild, have fun and play with make-up.

My parting advice is to do what makes you feel good. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. One thing I can recommend is to find your colour palette – discover what suits your skin tone as this will help you with make-up purchases and ensure you’re getting things that make you feel good. Once you get that nailed, you will exude confidence.  

For more beauty tips & inspiration, follow @TheValGarland.



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