“Ethical and ‘Green’ make-up is too often implied to be founded on ‘old wives’ tales’. To me this is part of the same discourse that drowned witches.” In the second instalment of her series SKIN(CARE/UNCARE) makeup artist Crystabel Riley tries to translate her green approach to the mass theatre of on-schedule make-up.


Questing for the best low-and high-tech beauty I have settled on standard basic requirements for make-up. These are: steaming-hot water, non-deactivating utensils (wooden), cloths (hot/dry/wet/white/black/green) and skills with wet (balms) and dry (minerals) – all loaded with a specific set of criteria for in/exclusion of products and ingredients. After the birth of my last child I gave myself thinking time to properly translate this logistically awkward (but in my view totally essential) regime into the mass theatre of on-schedule make-up.

Isosceles contacted me to key the make-up team for their aw18 presentation. (1) They make durable utility garments, against fast fashion, are made by people I know, anti-‘Deluxe’ syndrome. (2) The Isosceles visual reference came from The World’s Fair “Dreams of Venus” Pavilion. (3) But as well as responding to this, I also wanted to work with my standard requirements and on the practices used – to make the backstage environment as zero-waste (4) as possible. The usual high model count/high touch-up count at LFW means either black bin bags or more elegant little blue bulging plastic bags at each cramped make-up station. I’m interested in human behaviours, both conscious and unconscious. I’m interested in luxury fashion but/and also in the idea of waste as “the symbol of inefficiency of any modern society”(5). I’m interested in linking the concepts of luxury and efficiency.

I’m interested in luxury fashion but/and also in the idea of waste as "the symbol of inefficiency of any modern society."

Some of the brands I favour are smaller (small-batch production) and reaching out for sponsorship provided its own set of challenges. Some could do one show, not two. Some could do French companies, not UK. Some are so specialised that they only work with makers that use specific fabrics and because Isosceles is an underwear brand, that makes it impossible to fit this criteria. I was on maternity leave and a huge heap of admin did not appeal, so I focused on making gifts for my team instead. Arts and (witch) Crafts. 

An early ‘to do’ list:

  • Disseminate make-up-brush-in-micellar-water w/cloth system (zero cotton buds.)
  • Request flannels in kits (zero baby/face wipes.)
  • Multi-functional materials: freshly mixed primary sources (aloe vera stalks in glass jars w/mineral pigments mixes to create an aloe-water-colour wash, aloe vera eyebrows.)
  • Consult with Lou Dartford.
  • Clay mask utensils (drumsticks and jam jars.)
  • The perfect reusable cotton pads? (Must be anti-stain colour. Make 35 cleansing triangles/squares for whole team. How to use a sewing machine!? Natural dyes, tie dye muslins, avocado seeds for dusty pink…)
  • How to keep clay wet in a backstage scenario? (reusable sheet masks.)

The usual high model count/high touch-up count at LFW means either black bin bags or more elegant little blue bulging plastic bags at each cramped make-up station.

I avoid most pre-packed phenoxyethanol/paraben laced sheet masks, plus I have a personal aversion to the throw-away ‘sachet’ concept. However, the horror-face look, I love. Not wanting to miss out on this Korean theatre of beauty I always carry tens of dry-cotton masks, ready to tailor to the situation (serum/clay/vitamin.) But these would still be throw-away cotton. I tried muslin cloth as a reusable version and the serum soaked into cloth tissue, not skin tissue. But interestingly, for clay it seemed to hold in the moisture effectively.

Before I worked with human skins I worked with drum skins, I played in a band with my friends Keira and Charlie. We stuck contact mics to skins like face tape, dragging out distortion/noise from the skins, attempting to make party ‘noise’ music. Playing drum skins alone or with others, working with cyclic patterns, metallics and textures, sensitivity, intrigue, battling and balancing care and un-care, this generous list also relates to the make-up I am interested in.

I once put on a clay mask with a drumstick and it felt very nice. The rounded smooth end worked into the contours of the nose, under cheekbones and chins, and the roundness allows a satisfying swizzling action. Janina Pedan advised me how to convert drum sticks, with high (then low) grit sanding and Linseed oil (6), into food-grade treated, revitalised objects.

Product credits: Weleda Skin Food Light, Weleda Skin Food, Weleda Skin Food Lipbalm, Weleda Citrus Hydrating Body Lotion, Bespoke Clay T-zone mix, Crude by Rose Keyes, RMS Un Cover Up, Kjear Weis Cream Eyeshadow Enticing, Lily Lolo Lip Liner in Ruby Red. 

So how did it go? The reusable sheet masks were refined to a more modest decongesting bentonite and activated charcoal t-zone mask. Weleda couldn’t officially sponsor but they supported the project with every version of Skin Food (light, lips, and the original 1923 version.) We used, and loved these products and the team were happy with them. I became suddenly too self conscious to hand out the drumstick wands (next time) and time/space restricted t-zone mask use to spartan, only where needed. The prep, and the show went well. There was no need for the obligatory bin-bags. We found it weirdly easy.

1. https://londonfashionweek.co.uk/designers_profile.aspx?DesignerID=3379
2. Dana Thomas, 2008, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre, London: Penguin.
3. In Queens NYC 1939 Salvador Dali pioneers the notion of art ‘installation’, with one of the first early examples of live situational Surrealism.
4. ‘Zero Waste’ is a concept or philosophy where resources are cyclically redirected and reimagined within a consumer economy.
5. Atiq UzZaman, Steffen Lehmann, 2013, ‘The zero waste index: a performance measurement tool for waste management systems in a ‘zero waste city’’ Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 50, Pages 123-132.
6. Linseed oil is famous for its polymer-forming properties and 60s ‘lino’ floor, which was biodegradable. In the UK Lino floor has now been replaced by the easier to make and hundreds of years slower to decompose Vinyl, any internet search for Lino with automatically interchange it for Vinyl but they are very different. 
Photography John William
Beauty Crystabel Riley
Hair Anna Chapman
Styling Erik Raynal