With all eyes on you, it’s no surprise that’ll you want to look and feel amazing on your wedding day. Having worked with Bridal Beauty NI for years, I know first hand how wonderful this company are, making them first choice for hair and make-up with brides across the country. Today, I caught up with Claire Gibson, hair and make-up artist at Bridal Beauty NI to discuss trends, best products, and the importance of booking professionals for your wedding day.
Claire, how long have you worked in the make-up & hairdressing industry?
Initially I trained in make-up when I wasn’t long out of school (at the age of 16), with the wife of my Church’s pastor. She had trained in make-up, colour analysis, light hair etc in New York after her modelling career and my mother thought that it would be good for me to train in make-up because I really hadn’t decided what I wanted to do and so she was getting a tad worried. Therefore in many ways, you could say make-up chose me! I wasn’t a girl who wore lots of make-up but I was intensely creative and had a real love for how the light fell and captured people’s features.
Hair came much later. I found when working with brides that I would often have to fix their hair. I was working at a time when a lot of hair stylists had just been trained through NVQ. which included little in the way of up-styling training. A lot of the hairstyles created weren’t built to last. They would have been perfect for a few hours on a night out, but a wedding demands an up-style that can last up to 16 hours. Seeing there was demand for this, I trained in session styling and up-styling because I found brides referring people to me and so I always had to tell them that I wasn’t a hairstylist. One of my previous brides said: “Well you need to go out and get a certificate because you re-did my hair in a way that was far superior to what I was given at the salon”. So I trained and that was around 7 years ago now. I have attended lots of different training since but first-hand experience has been the best training of all.
Tell us the history behind Bridal Beauty NI.
I moved to Belfast in 2006 and until then I had been living in my home town, Omagh. In Omagh I had always have been very quiet about doing make-up because I was in a town of people who knew me from my school days. I had worked in insurance while living there as well so make-up was only part time for the first while.
When I moved to Belfast, obviously no one knew the ‘dorky Claire’ from school (which was an advantage) but also no one knew I did make-up and I needed to start again. I was planning my own wedding at the time and it was really hard to actually get someone to come to the house to do my make-up as I didn’t want to do my own (every bride deserves to be pampered, right!?). So I had the idea that I would set up a company based around bridal.
I bought the site and put up a few photos of bridal make-up looks that I had worked on. I also linked in with a stylist who did the hair while I did the make-up. A few years went by and the stylist became popular outside of Bridal Beauty NI and I was also working on my own more and more and I had trained in hair by this time. It became very clear to me that I needed others on board too when I started initially referring people to other artists and then the bride wouldn’t book them. I realised that instead of referring to the other artist I needed to take the booking and now I have lots of great freelancers too.
What sets you apart from other hair and make-up artists?
A lot of make-up artists do make-up because they love makeup, but I really see make-up as a means to an end. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain products I love because of what they do to transform your features, but for me it’s all about instilling confidence.
When I was first training many years ago, I fell in love with what make-up could do. When someone comes to you with little confidence, with their shoulders hunched forward and apologising for the face that they have been given, I see real beauty and use make-up to capture that beauty. Whenever they then look in the mirror and like what the see (perhaps for the first time in their lives) it fills me with a warm glow inside. I had very little confidence coming out of school when I was trained, having been bullied and I thought there was nothing uglier on this earth than me and so I meet versions of me every single day and get to transform not just their face, (because largely my make-up is very natural) but their self view.
What are your top 3-must have cosmetics
Cosmetics wise, there are products out there that are big because of Youtube/Instagram influencers who have been paid to promote them and then there are products that are the unsung heroes and are often from companies that either disagree with that kind of marketing ethically or don’t have the budget for it.
My favourite powder by far is the RCMA No Colour Setting Powder. It looks white in the packaging but goes on completely transparent with no detection. It is finely milled and very little goes a long way. My favourite highligher technically isn’t a highlighter; it is the Ambient Lighting Powder by Hourglass in Diffused Light. This is a brilliant product for any age, and offers a way of infusing light into the skin without drawing attention to fine lines and wrinkles. My favourite foundation is by Face Atelier and is the Ulta Foundation. It is silicone based so it is a product that is very stable in cold and warm temperatures over hours and hours of wear. Also, it doesn’t need the same degree of powder to set as liquid or cream foundations will. What’s even better is the brand has adjusters so that I can adjust the tone of the foundation for a perfectly matched result.
What do you love most about bridal make-up?
Bridal make-up for me is about making women look their best possible self. In the make-up world there’s a lot of cut creases and intense contouring that has been borrowed from the drag artist world and made its way onto the mainstream faces of Kim Kardashian etc. But that’s not what my brides want. They want to look like the best version of themselves and not have their face transformed into something their spouse-to-be won’t recognise. So what I love is that time when you give the bride the mirror and she is almost in tears because she likes what she sees for the first time in her life.
What hair and trends are proving popular with brides this year?
This year I am seeing a little bit of a change in direction with a lot more brides going for the very undone look with soft waves/curls and up-styles that look loose (but obviously aren’t loose because they have to stay up. Braids are still there a little bit but are more pulled out and loose than the tightly braided crown braids etc of years gone by.
Are there any trends that you would love to see left behind?
Personally, I would love to see what I call the ‘slug brow’ left behind. Black product has no place in a blond person’s eyebrows and thick brows are lovely when natural but when they have been filled in to the point that the brow hair can’t even be seen, then it’s not a good look. Intense contouring also needs left behind. I have been contouring for years and it can be done in a very natural way, but if someone’s contour looks like they fell asleep on a Mars Bar then it isn’t going to fool anyone! Contouring is supposed to mimic natural shadow and natural shadow is something that is just naturally there – it isn’t obvious unless someone puts an intense light above someone’s head in a dark room.
What about bridesmaid looks? What do you recommend for a bride’s leading ladie
I absolutely love it when there is a common thread running through hair and make-up. The bridesmaids shouldn’t really be attracting more attention than the bride so the looks very much depend on what the bride is having. I’m seeing a lot of requests for simple buns and chignons these days with brides taking the main statement style. Sometimes if the bride has requested a braid through hers then the only common thread needed is to incorporate braiding into the bridesmaids’, like with a braided chignon or a loose braid coming from front to back on one or both sides.
What pre-wedding skincare and hair advice do you recommend?
Pre-wedding skincare is very important. Exfoliation is key as it is usually dry skin that causes problems. I usually recommend having a microdermabrasion facial about a month before and then just once a week using a very fine exfoliator to keep on top of it. It’s important that the the exfoliator has fine bits because otherwise it could cause skin damage. If brides have been using the same skincare products for years without breakouts then don’t fix what isn’t broken. The brand of products isn’t really important but I try to stay away from anything with parabens that would irritate and so natural based products are great.
Why do you think it’s important for brides to choose a make-up artist, rather than a DIY approach?
A properly trained make-up artist will know things like what products will flash back (no one wants to look like a ghost in photos) and how to make the make-up last the duration of the day. I have had texts from brides the next day saying that they fell asleep in their make-up and it’s still going strong. If someone who isn’t a professional (either themselves or an artist that is self taught) does the makeup then it may look fabulous for a couple of hours and take a nose dive at the worst time (ie during photos). Your photos are the one thing that are a perfect momentum of your day and admired by future generations, even after you are gone, so it’s very important that your makeup lasts through your photos at least and my preference is long into the night, while you are greeting your evening guests as well.
How do you ensure a stress-free wedding morning?
I try to keep things really calm. When I’m setting up I try to angle for a place that has great light but is out of the way. If it’s a small house and it isn’t possible to be completely out of the way then I treat the bride like she is the only one in the room. I am a firm believer that if someone is being talked to like they are the only one in the room then they start to feel like they are and the chaos of the bridesmaids running around starts to feel more distant.
For more information on Bridal Beauty NI & to book their services for your day, check out their website here.