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This Sunday night, Tracie Martyn will be extremely busy. When stars like Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, and Zoe Saldana walk the red carpet at the Oscars, she’ll be the one responsible for their indescribable glow and flawless pores. The makeup artist-turned-celebrity facialist has become one of the most sought-after people in the skincare industry, thanks to her all-natural, science-first approach to beauty.
Along with her partner, Marius Morariu, Martyn runs a beauty empire that includes a Manhattan salon, a best-selling skincare line, and, of course, one of the most star-studded client lists of any beautician in the industry. We caught her in between New York Fashion Week and the Oscars — the eye of the hurricane for someone like Martyn — to find out how she became such a fixture in the celebrity community, her everyday tips for great skin, and the one product she can’t live without.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I started doing makeup as a teenager in London at a hair studio called Cuts — it was where the cool people went, like Bob Geldof, Elvis Costello, and Annie Lennox. My first big break was in Milan with Italian Vogue. I got to work with legends like Mario Testino and Pamela Hanson and go to Paris, London, Cuba, and Marrakesh. Working with photographers like Mario and Anne Leibovitz as an editorial makeup artist, I met a lot of supermodels who taught me a lot about what they want in terms of their skin — but at the time, there were only invasive anti-aging methods like plastic surgery, and facials were mostly basic pore cleansing.
Is that when you decided to make the switch from makeup to skincare?
It started when I discovered this principle of using electric currents for beauty purposes in Europe — but the results weren’t fast enough. I decided to create my own beauty machine with the help of my partner, who has a science background. That’s how I invented the Resculptor, which, through unique currents, will raise cellular energy, tone the facial muscles, and enhance circulation. The result is simply glowing, vibrant, and radiant skin instantly, and the appearance of more defined facial features (like cheekbones), rested eyes, and firmer eyelids.
I used to show before-and-after photos on shoots, and the models would follow me home to get the treatment. Through those models, Donna Karan and Diane von Furstenberg learned about me and still, to this day, both come to see me. In 1999, a Vogue write-up got me about 500 clients — including Madonna herself — and it seemed impossible to do my editorial work as well as the facials, so we created the spa on Fifth Avenue and took a break from makeup. And here we are now.
How did being a makeup artist first help inform your approach when you became a skincare specialist?
Nobody knows the face better, in my opinion, than a makeup artist, because doing makeup is very detail-oriented — every stroke counts. It is the quest for perfection. Regular facials are easy after you have done makeup. Also, as a makeup artist, I always knew what I wanted the skin to look like before applying makeup, because the makeup is supposed to enhance instead of conceal. So that helped me develop the kinds of facials and skincare that would work for my clients whether they used a lot of makeup or went mostly bare — and they can!
How would you sum up your philosophy on skincare?
I want to shift the paradigms of “Beauty is pain” and “Beauty is a chemical time bomb” that still apply when you go to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Injectables and lasers use toxins, and some can actually hurt your skin. And spa treatments like massages or reflexology don’t actually fix wrinkles. I couldn’t accept that there was not a better way to get both results and pampering — so that’s what my philosophy is all about. Beauty is pleasure. Beauty is pampering. But beauty is also serious science if you want it to work.
We’re not just massaging the face with fragrant oils and putting on a mask, like you get at some spas. We are going in and stimulating skin cells and reminding them to behave more like they used to when we were younger. My theory is that nature holds the secret, and that science helps us unlock it. So skincare should ideally be like nutrition for the skin.
Describe what your weekend looks like during the Oscars.
I am administering a lot of Red Carpet Facials — my signature treatment for making the skin look red carpet-ready in just 60 minutes using the Resculptor. Friday and Saturday are the busiest days — I am lucky if I can sneak out to have a quick lunch in between doing treatments on clients at whichever hotel where I decide to set up our Oscars beauty suite. On Sunday, I typically have clients up until about noon, as most of them then need to go into hair and makeup to get to the red carpet on time. My latest clients that day are usually male, as preparations are less complicated for them. Then I have a little time in the afternoon to prepare myself and get my hair done, as I have been so blessed to be able to attend the Vanity Fair after-party!
How do you think you got so busy during awards season?
With the wellness revolution conquering the fashion industry, there is a new appreciation for the work I do — which is safe, non-invasive, and holistic, yet scientific. Most importantly, in an HDTV and selfie era, it can deliver fast and reliable results.
Do you work with celebrities on set during filming? How is that different from awards season?
I absolutely work with my clients while shooting, though not directly on set because all the high-tech equipment I use is difficult to transport. But they are happy to come in and relax in the spa and regenerate after a long day of shooting. When Kate Winslet and Juno Temple were shooting that new Woody Allen movie last summer, they both took some time to decompress and rejuvenate at my New York spa. Same with Anne Hathaway when she was shooting Ocean’s Eight a few months ago. The difference between this and awards season is that it’s more treatments over a long period of time — it’s more relaxed, because treatments don’t have to be squeezed in between a fitting and a rehearsal.
What do you recommend to counteract all the heavy makeup that stars have to put on during movies and awards?
I make something called the Amla Purifying Cleanser — it’s a deeply purifying, sulfate- and detergent-free soft foam. It’s basically a face wash formula that brings together the best pore-clarifying, unclogging, detoxing, and brightening ingredients like fruit acids, green papaya enzymes, willow bark salicylic acid, turmeric, and Vitamin C. It’s like a facial in a pot — it’s perfect for when my clients are flying in from shooting other movies and don’t have time for a full facial. Lena Headey from Game of Thrones used it before the Emmy Awards. Also, if you’re going to be wearing heavy makeup, don’t eat rich, unhealthy foods. That’s what leads to breakouts.
And if you can’t spend a lot on products, what are your best tips for everyday skincare?
Keep it simple. Cleanser is a must, use a cotton pad soaked with toner to wipe off the day, and then moisturize — but the key is to find products that multitask and target your specific concerns. If you break out, look for an antibacterial, unclogging cleanser; if you have hyper-pigmentation, choose a brightening, melanin-targeting toner; if your concern is saggy skin, try out a firming serum, which doubles as a great moisturizer.
What are the most common skincare mistakes that you see people making?
Apart from going to bed with makeup on or wearing makeup that makes them look bad? I guess there are mostly two camps of clients who get it a bit wrong before they come to see me: the ones using products that are too harsh and irritating, so they are always red, peeling, broken out, or blotchy; and the group that is most difficult to influence — the clients who found a product that makes their skin look nice at least in the short run, but is a toxic chemical time bomb for their health in the long run. So I always advise going pure, and less is more.
What skincare product do you always carry when you travel?
Firming serum! It’s the first product I launched, it absorbs fast, and it leaves a silky, velvety feel. It gives you a really healthy glow, especially after traveling.
What other strategies do you recommend to your clients for getting great skin?
A well body and mind is the key to good skin. First, get your beauty sleep! And then combine cardio exercise, like cycling, with weight-bearing (for bones) and flexibility and strength training, like Pilates and yoga. Have a diet that’s full of greens, high in enzymes, and low-glycemic — juices are great. And of course, keep a quiet mind. Meditate, witness, and always try to find gratitude and perspective.