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Isamaya Ffrench

Isamaya Ffrench: My life in make-up

TextIsamaya Ffrench

Dazed Beauty’s Creative Director on the cosmetics that shaped her life

My life in lips

We were a very anti-cosmetics family growing up. When I was about eight years old I bought Kevyn Aucoin's book Making Faces and read it from front to back over a million times. It was my first introduction to real make-up and I memorised each stroke, each contour and would attempt to recreate all the make-up transformations in the secrecy of my bedroom. 

The first time I wore a red lipstick to go out, my dad told me to take it off because it drew too much attention to my mouth. Then Juicy Tubes came out when I was in secondary school. A girl in my class kept them in her pencil case and I remember how sexualised using this sticky glossy gel made her. Most of the girls I knew were into lipgloss but I was into BIC metallic permanent marker pens and Sharpies.  

My whole youth was spent doing sport, so I wasn’t really into wearing make-up. I was doing highboard dive training five nights a week, plus ballet and Thai-boxing so when it came round to competitions and shows, I would take great pains over my tying up my knee length (yes knee length) hair which was always an issue to deal with and always had a green tinge because of the chlorine.  

When I started getting into face painting and prosthetics I discovered Kryolan and their equally brilliant make-up range. Their lip and cheek tints are the best because they are for film and TV and therefore extremely subtle and come in a variety of flesh tones. My favourite lip tint is Tulip. It's a bloody colour and reminds me of Isabelle Adjani in Nosferatu.

I’m really proud of creating the Extreme Line with Tom Ford Beauty and one of my favourite products is the metallic lip mattes. I wanted to have a lip colour that felt like an accessory and less like a lipstick. Torch and Loveless are my favourites. They look great on guys, too. My friend Yves Tumor wears the purple one sometimes and it looks cool.

Rituel De Fille has some of the most interesting pigments out there in my opinion and I love their lipstick in Chrysalis. It's green. I'm also a sucker for Huda Beauty lip products. I literally believe I'm going to look like the make-up goddess herself when I put one of her liquid lips on.

My life in eyes

I always go for an eye over a lip. I do a straight black flick every day. My lids are hooded and getting more so, so I rarely wear eyeshadow but when I do, Nars Narcissist palette and Huda Beauty Obsessions palette are the ones. My eyeballs are made of iron. Over the years I've put everything in them: glitter, slime, food, and I still see 20/20. Sometimes I’ll wear burnt orange around my eyes. My eyes are grey so I feel like it complements them. My favourite colour is somewhere between Pantone Russet Orange and Pantone Vibrant Orange.

I never take off my eye make-up. Everyone seems to get very annoyed with me about that. I have staples like Sensai eyeliner which you refill with an ink cartridge and Two Faced Better Than Sex Mascara. Though the name is misleading; it’s not better than sex. But it does give you thick eyelashes. Other times I do a glitter liner on my waterline so I look like I'm about to cry.

My life in skincare

My face ritual is pretty bog standard. Flannel, soap, water. There’s a great oat milk face scrub by a brand called Evolu, it’s very gentle and smells like porridge which I really like.

The only facialist I trust, Jasmina Vico, gives me some of this traditional Eastern European cream for burns and it’s the best thing I’ve ever used on my skin. She’s the boss so I just do what she says. Sometimes she does a bit of laser to stimulate collagen production, but mostly it’s about telling me off for not wearing suncream and not sleeping enough.

Occasionally I’ll dip into something like SkinCeuticals to kid myself that it will reverse the lack of zzzz's and make me look amazing but to be honest, I’m quite OK with looking tired. I never cover my eyebags with concealer. It feels more honest.

Porsche, who began working with me a year ago, is king of occult facial massages. He’s from Hong Kong and is always coming back with obscure Chinese massage tools to stretch and tone your face. Right now I use one he gave me that looks like a wide tooth comb with balls on the end of the spikes, which massage out the knots in your facial muscles and detoxifies you. You have to drag it down your neck to get the lymphatic system moving.

A good tip if you’re puffy and on set, is to put cold Coke cans under your chin. The coldness restricts the blood vessels and makes you feel more awake. Lansinoh is a must for lips and everything else. It’s for breastfeeding mums with cracked nipples so it really does work.

My life in complexion

My make-up routine is quick as I have no time to do anything more than the bare minimum! Sisley Face Illuminator and a bit of Sensai Fluid Foundation if I’m doing an important meeting plus a bit of Dr Jart Green Tiger treatment for red areas. I hate feeling like I’m wearing make-up so all the products I use are extremely lightweight.

My life in nails

I used to go to Imarni Nails religiously but since I started boxing I can’t have them long. I miss my flesh tone square tips. Sometimes I would pierce them. I love the Christian Louboutin nail varnish bottles. They look just as good on my shelf as on my fingers. Also great to carry a 4-inch metal spiked bottle in your handbag at 3am when you're walking home in the dark...

My life at work 

On set, most of my favourite products are TV and film standard. USLU Airlines has a great airbrush system and I love their metallic airbrush pigments. It’s also the only airbrush that hasn’t broken in my bag on long-haul flights and weighs as much as a bag of sugar. I’ve been through loads. Other good ones are Iwata and Vogue Air. Graftobian do the best gold pigment. It’s a two-part mixing system and comes in gold, rose gold and silver. On one of my first jobs, I had to paint a porn star’s penis gold and Graftobian was the one I used. After that shoot came out I seemed to be the go-to person for painting people's private parts. I had to give Rankin’s wife a vajazzle for a shoot a couple of weeks later.

Mehron and Diamond FX do great face paints. Diamond FX, in my opinion, is one of the highest quality paint brands, especially the white which is notoriously difficult to blend with a sponge. It’s ultra-dense and the metallics are as good as the mattes. It was the first brand I used when I was painting kids’ faces back when I had to wear a fairy costume as part of my work uniform. It’s been burnt since.

MAC Pro has been cemented in my kit from day one. Strobe Cream, different mixing mediums, and all the Pro products like the Chroma series have been staples since I first started out. And of course the whole Kryolan make-up and prosthetics library! Kryolan glitters are the most superior as they colour chart them all, so you can get pastels, iridescent and metallics all in varying chunks – I always use them when I’m doing shows. Their Supra colours are also a staple and you can get different sizes to create your own palettes. If there was one brand to get everything from it would have to be Kryolan, their product list is so vast! I have hundreds of bald caps floating around at home and they do a million different types of fake blood which I find amusing.

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