Canadian makeup artist Kayleen McAdams spills her best-kept red-carpet secrets

By Ally Dean

When celebrities like Rachel McAdams, Sofia Vergara and Jessica Biel need to get red-carpet ready, they call Canadian makeup artist Kayleen McAdams. Best known for her easy-going attitude and being the master of glowing skin, Kayleen got her break when visiting her older sister, Rachel, 38, on the set of 2004’s The Notebook. “I spent a lot of time in her trailer and with the makeup artists and it really opened my eyes to this industry,” Kayleen tells Hello! when we sat down with the 35-year-old in Toronto.

Clad in skinny leather leggings and an oversized white blouse, Kayleen embodies the laid-back cool vibe that’s become her signature style. Here, we chat with Kayleen, who has partnered with prestige beauty brand La Mer as their global makeup artist ambassador, and got her to spill her best-kept red-carpet secrets.

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You’re known as the queen of natural beauty, but you also create glamorous red-carpet looks. How do you balance the two aesthetics?
I love seeing people’s skin, and a healthy glow is always important to me, but I would say my philosophy of beauty is to let your own persona shine through. When someone sits in my chair, I really look at their features and their [bone] structure. People are like snowflakes – nobody is the same and everybody needs something different.

So, more of a couture approach to beauty?
Exactly! There is a lot of pressure when you walk out on the red carpet, and makeup can be a sort of armour. I always try to make the person feel like the most beautiful version of themselves, so they go out and face the crazy!

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Is that the key to creating a winning red-carpet look?
I think you always have to be aware of the whole picture. When everybody gets to collaborate – between the stylist, hair and makeup – and the client gets involved as well, that’s when it’s really fun for me. Other times you have to take a back seat because the look isn’t about the makeup. No matter what, I always make sure skin is gorgeous, healthy and glowing, because that always works.

Speaking of skin, how do you prep stars before an event?
In the past few years, skin care has become such a hugely important part of the makeup process, It’s become a spa-like experience, with proper cleansing and moisturizing and massaging before I even reach for foundation.

What about your signature soft contour?
Overall, my makeup is light but effective, and that’s the same with contouring. I use two foundations, one your natural skin tone, the other two shades darker. I apply the lighter shade first, all over the face, then add the dark shade around the periphery, then blend inwards. Blending is key! I also take foundation down on the neck, put it on the ears. If someone has a tight bun or ponytail, I’ll put it behind their ears, at the nape of the neck – anywhere skin is showing. I even mix the darker shade with a body lotion and put it all over for a consistently gorgeous glow.

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