We all know the feeling—the sheer panic of waking up and realizing A) we slept through our alarm, and B) we now have exactly seven minutes to brush our teeth, get dressed, slap on some makeup, and pray today's traffic situation doesn't have a personal vendetta against our fast-approaching 9 a.m. meeting. Stressful, right? Now, multiply that chaos by, oh, about a million. Then maybe, just maybe, you'll understand the pressure and excited frenzy of celebrity makeup artist Bruce Grayson's job. He's been the head makeup artist at the Oscars for 17 years running, and this year, he'll also lead the beauty department at this Sunday's Grammy Awards.
Having had the privilege last year of meeting Grayson in person (and learning 10 really cool backstage beauty secrets), I know what a phenomenal talent Grayson is when it comes to A+ makeup application while remaining calm, cool, and collected during a hectic award show. As the head makeup artist, he leads a 20-to-40-person team each year that's collectively in charge of managing the makeup looks and potential beauty mayhem (tears, sweat, the like) of performers, presenters, and anyone else gracing the stage that evening. It's a big job, but if anyone is qualified, it's Grayson.
Having practically grown up backstage in Hollywood while his legendary makeup artist father, Dave Grayson, tended to the iconic likes of John Wayne, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, and more, Hollywood glamour is woven into Grayson's DNA—a blessing considering the amazing amount of know-how it takes to prep, repair, and ready celebrities to flawlessness in record-breaking time. In an effort to familiarize ourselves with the Grayson's process, his favorite go-to products, and his last-second under-five-minute makeup application tips, we decided to pick his mind. Ahead, the time-saving makeup items Grayson swears by during award season, how he uses them, plus more interesting tips we learned from the man behind the dazzle of the shows. Keep reading!
The Products He Uses Over and Over Again
One of the lessons we learned from Grayson is that perfecting a celebrity's skin is the first line of business when he's pressed for time.
"If you get the foundation and skin looking amazing, you've completed more than 80% of the look," he explains. For that reason, he reaches for this industry-loved foundation from Koh Gen Do, which he credits for having great colors, good coverage, and unbeatable blendability. All of this makes it easy to build over other creams or liquid foundations a celebrity may be wearing.
"This concealer from Laura Mercier is a necessity because it covers, conceals, and sets," says Grayson. "And the smallest amount of formula sticks to skin. It comes in a variety of shades which makes it easy to evenly cover any facial discoloration that might have to be touched up."
"This is one of my favorite application tools for quick touch-ups," Grayson adds. "It's so easy to smooth, cover, blend, and match foundation color with this spongy egg."
According to Grayson, these handy little blotting papers from Boscia are the best for absorbing unwanted oil efficiently while also reducing the amount of powder needed to tone down shine.
The Products He Uses on Every Skin Type and Texture
"This is a multipurpose product that can be applied as a foundation or concealer, and when used with the Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Primer ($52), it can be adjusted and applied as thin as a tinted moisturizer," divulges Grayson.
"What l love about this foundation is that the colors can be mixed and matched for an entire rainbow of complexion," says Grayson. Plus, he appreciates that the formula plays nicely with all skin types—from dry to oily and combination skin.
"I love using this second-skin makeup as a thin veil of primary coverage to balance tone, reducing the amount of cream or liquid foundation needed to get the job done," Grayson tells us.
What You Won't Find in Grayson's Kit
Courtesy of Bruce Grayson for Who What Wear
"For the most part, you won't find heavy, full-coverage foundations or ultra-matte foundations in my kit," Grayson tells us. "There are so many ways to achieve transformational makeup. I like using products that allow a bit more flexibility, are buildable, and which allow a gradual dramatic appearance as opposed to laying it on heavy from the get-go and then having to add highlighters and shimmer to pump glow back into skin."
That being said, Grayson explains that not all award shows are created equally, and what he packs for this Sunday's Grammys will differ greatly from his Oscars stash. "The Oscars is a different makeup creature from the Grammys," he starts. "I use more audacious eye shadow colors, bolder lashes, and brighter lip colors at the Grammys. You have to be ready to move from ultra-dramatic or super-funky, or maybe something edgy or goth."
The Products He's Carrying That Weren't in His Kit Last Year
"I'm always adding products to my kit, but I'm excited about trying the new Instaclean Beauty Blender cleanser," says Grayson. "It's a waterless way to clean your BB sponge and brushes. It has lavender in the formula, which is a natural disinfectant."
"I also added the new MAC Cosmetics Powder Kiss Lipsticks to my kit," he adds. "They are more moisture-driven than traditional matte lipsticks and have a unique texture. They may be the perfect product for a retro lip at this year's Oscars."
"I'm excited about the new Vibe Cosmetics Vibe Rants High Volume Liquid Lipstick. The reds are outstanding and highly pigmented. I love the shade Va Va Vibe. They also have some really cool nude shades," shares Grayson.
"I added Make Up For Ever's New Ultra HD Light Capturing Self Setting Concealers to my arsenal this year as well," he adds. "They're really good and come in a rainbow of complexion shades."
"Lastly," Grayson concludes, "I added Alba 1913's Metropolitan Skin Guard Concentrate to my kit. It's a super-concentrated formula that instantly hydrates and brightens skin, and best of all, it protects skin from environmental stress, perfect for a day backstage at the Staples Center for the Grammys!"
His 5-Minute Makeup Application Process
According to Grayson, foundation is the most important part of a quickie makeup application. And as he brought up before, if the skin tone looks good, then most of his job is already done.
"I try to quickly buff in a moisturizer—not a primer—with a brush because I can cover a lot of face in no time," he says. When skin is moist, Grayson explains, it speeds up the foundation process and the faster you can glide foundation on without any skipping or grabbing, the sooner you can move on to the next steps.
"If I'm really in a time crunch, I mix moisturizer into the foundation, but that can be risky, as some foundations bead and roll when a moisturizer is added to them. I like the Korres Wild Rose Vitamin C 24 Moisturizer because it absorbs into skin quickly," he says.
Next up, eyes! Grayson likes to use MAC's kohl pencils to line eyes since they apply and smudge effortlessly. For mascara, he'll use a latex sponge pressed against the eyelid to protect it from any splatter—an old trick he saw makeup artist Mathu Andersen use once and which Grayson still uses to this day for fast mascara fix-ups.
"I use a waterproof mascara like the above formula from Lancôme because I feel it dries faster," he explains.
Grayson can expertly tackle all three steps (concealer, powder, and blush) in one fell swoop, and it's usually the last finishing touch he's able to add.
"I can move pretty fast with a Beautyblender and highly pigmented concealer like Laura Mercier's Flawless Fusion Ultra Longwear Concealer ($29) painted on with a wide Royal & Langnickel S.i.l.k. Pro large concealer brush. Then, I use a stiff wide powder brush to dust a tiny amount of translucent powder, and then apply blush. Time's up!"