The Clean Routine – Melanie Christou
Organic Makeup Aritst, London
“I love fine art, but I was too emotionally connected with it, so I trained as a makeup artist.”
I grew up in Cyprus and came to England to study Fine Art in Nottingham for three years. I love fine art, but I was too emotionally connected with it and I couldn’t bear the thought of sharing or selling it. I’d always been doing make-up, watching YouTube videos, and when I graduated, I had more confidence in doing make-up professionally than I did pursuing art. So I trained as a makeup artist at the London School of Media Makeup for three months. It was quite intense – morning til night.
I was always aware and cautious of my ecological footprint, but it didn’t really translate into makeup until recently. To be honest I had no idea the natural beauty industry existed until about half a year ago! I did a test shoot with Madara from What’s Your Legacy and we ended up becoming friends and doing a lot of shoots together. She wrote an article on green makeup artist Khandiz Joni – That was when I became aware of natural cosmetics. When I found out about her work, I e-mailed her and asked for advice. I urgently needed some tips on how to educate myself on organic make-up – because I had started researching online, and the more I did so, the more confused I became. Khandiz told me to go to Content Beauty & Wellbeing, the organic beauty store in Marylebone. I went to visit, with my CV in my bag just in case. I loved it, left my CV there, and a few months later I got my current job there! In the meantime, I was reading The Nature of Beauty by the Content founder Imelda Burke. I was hooked on that book! It teaches you how to recognize a good product and it will make you obsessed with reading labels. You don’t even have to have any background in beauty – after you’ve read it you’ve got a good knowledge of organic beauty and understanding ingredients.
I’m now the in-house makeup artist at Content. I do makeovers and consultations – you can just your beauty bag to the shop and I will find you natural dupes for everything you use. It’s a free service we do! Every few weeks we have trainings and workshops with brands. I learn so much, every day is like going to school.
“When I’m buying from an indie brand I’m supporting that mindset.”
To be honest I’m more into organic skincare for environmental reasons. It’s my main priority – I would rather support an indie brand that I can be sure will use ingredients that aren’t toxic to the environment and who consider every little detail. Like powering your factories with wind power, packaging in recyclable materials and only using nature-derived ingredients. When I’m buying from an indie brand I’m supporting that mindset. That’s what I feel good spending my money on. I’m not an environmentalist in all aspects – you would have to completely live off the grid. For me, it’s a journey.
“Cleanser and moisturiser are the things I’d really indulge in and spend a bit of money on.”
The nature of my job is to test a lot of products and I’m not very loyal to anything. You only live once! I am really into cleansers, and want a very particular texture. I like them to be slightly emulsifying and wash off because I don’t like to use muslin cloths. Currently I use the Intelligent Nutrients Purifying Cleansing Gel in the morning, but I’m testing the Antipodes Juliet Brightening Gel Cleanser. It’s amazing – it’s definitely gonna be my next purchase. I hate when cleansers leave an oily residue – that’s a deal breaker, because I am prone to clogged pores. That’s why my cleanser and moisturiser are the things I’d really indulge in and spend a bit of money on. After cleansing I use the MV Organics Rose Hydrating Mist (vegan). I like my toners! Sometimes I bring rosewater from Cyprus – My grandmother’s friend makes a homemade one with roses from her own garden. My moisturiser I’ve been using for years. I always buy it from Cyprus but it’s a Swiss brand. I like to try a lot of different products but I believe everybody has one product that they’ve been using forever and that has kind of stuck with them.
“I used to have really bad acne and found that the easist, fastest and best method to clear it up for me was not wearing any makeup.”
I have this theory about skincare being makeup. If my skin feels dull and grey or spotty I’ll do my skincare properly and that is my form of makeup. I’ll fix things instead of covering them up. I used to have really bad acne and found that the easist, fastest and best method to clear it up for me was not wearing any makeup. I didn’t care if someone would see my spots or scarring. My skin’s health is more important than what people think about it. I also went to see a facialist in Cyprus for Infrared light therapy and that cleared up my scarring. It was expensive but oh my god it worked. I have a very close relationship with my facialist – she’s like my mom. Her philosophy was to go as simple as possible with the skincare products. I stuck to that and nowadays my skin feels balanced.
“I like to be a bit shiny underneath the eyes.”
I don’t really wear makeup often but if I do, I use the Pixi Illuminating Tint & Conceal Tinted moisturizer – I know it’s not completely natural but it has the perfect amount of coverage and doesn’t feel oily. It’s almost like a serum. (editor’s note: at this point I interrupt Melanie to inform her of my notorious obsession with the Gressa Skin Minimalist Serum foundation, which is just the natural alternative she deserves and literally ticks all her boxes.) My favourite concealer has to be the HIRO Space Balm (vegan) – I first tried it on an editorial shoot I did with What’s Your Legacy and fell in love with it. I like to use it under the eyes, as I have quite dry undereyes and it’s a moisturising formula. I don’t know why but I like to be a bit shiny underneath the eyes – it gives a healthy glow. For bronzing, I use a bit of benecos Natural Fresh Bronzing Duo (vegan). It’s not overly pigmented, so you’re not scared to dip in your brush and end up with tons of product.
My brows I leave natural – I used to overpluck them badly but that wasn’t a good look. If the thin eyebrow ever makes a comeback, I will be the cool one that doesn’t follow the trends. I just fill them in with the Jane Iredale GreatShape Eyebrow Kit in Blonde .
“As a professional makeup artist, overhauling your professional kit completely is a process. “
As a professional makeup artist, overhauling your professional kit completely is a process. Mine is not 100% organic yet but it’s getting there. When I run out of something, I always replace it with a natural alternative. What’s really hard to find organic options for is base products. Especially with yellow and olive tones, it’s though to find a good match. My favourite foundations by far are Alima Pure and Kjaer Weis. The Kjaer Weis Foundation honestly even outperforms conventional brands – I don’t feel I am making any sacrifices when I use their products rather than ‘regular’ ones. Alima Pure do a really good selection of shades and just came out with a liquid foundation (vegan) that I’m really excited about.
If I go out, I usually put on a lipstick. I love Vapour for their lipsticks – I have a ton of colours. My other favourite is Absolution no. 3.
“I hate the girly, dolly look Mascara gives me.”
I wish I could be the kind of person that can pull off eye makeup. Funny enough, as a makeup artist, eye makeup is my thing. but I just don’t feel like myself when I’m wearing it. The only thing I ever do to my eyes is smudge some brown eyeliner on my lids. I actually never even wear any mascara! I hate the girly, dolly look it gives me. Because I have really long lashes naturally, mascara makes me look too cute. For shoots, I have the W3ll People mascara in my kit. I’m really intrigued to give the Ere Perez one a try though, because it is supposed to be the most waterproof formula you can get with naturals.
For special occasions I put on some Abel Golden Neroli (vegan). I get headaches very easily, and this scent is so lightweight I don’t have to worry about that. And I absolutely love neroli!
If I’m wearing makeup I’ll always double cleanse. My cleanser for taking off makeup is the Twelve Purifying Cleansing Beauty Cream (vegan). Whenever I can feel a spot coming up, I follow up with some Juice beauty Blemish Control Serum (vegan). If I eat pizza or lots of sugar, I immediately get a spot – a clear indicator of the two being linked. This serum is super lightweight and keeps breakouts at bay. Then a spritz of rosewater and that’s it. I believe there are two sorts of people in the world – some pack on layers and layers of hydration at night, but I’ve found for me it’s important to let my skin breathe at night. We jam on so many products during the day – especially if you wear a base and SPF – and the skin never really gets to just be by itself.
“Listen to your skin.”
I always listen to my skin – if I have nothing to ‘fix’, I just leave it. But if it’s shouting ‘you need to do something asap’, I go for a mask and exfoliator! Masks are my favourite part of skincare because I’m inpatient and they immediately make a difference. The Marie Veronique Organics Purifying mask (vegan) is my current favourite. I’m very into mixing dry masks with water. If I do need some more exfoliation I’ll use the Tata Harper Resurfacing mask (vegan). Salicylic acid clearly works on my skin and I’m kind of addicted to it. I do try to avoid it whenever it’s very sunny out though, as it is photosensitive. For exfoliating I love the Evolue Exfoliating cleanser. It has oats in it, which makes it really gentle on sensitive skin and because it’s clay-based, I just leave it on as a mask as well.
“If you live in England and work 9-5 – come on, you don’t need SPF.”
I probably shouldn’t say this but I never use SPF, unless I go to the beach. It’s a really controversial opinion. I don’t think it’s necessary to put on a sunblock every single day, especially with a lifestyle like ours. If you live in England and work 9-5 – come on, you don’t need SPF. My skin is really prone to acne so anything too heavy, like an extra layer of heavy sunscreen, is gonna break me out. The only one that agrees with my skin is the Heliocare Gel Oil Free sunscreen. It’s like a serum and doesn’t feel like it clogs my pores. Instead of sunscreen I like to wear hats. If I’m going to the beach I cannot go without my hat.
I am really obsessed with this one conditioner – if heaven was a huge garden, I imagine it’d smell like Intelligent Nutrients Pureluxe Conditioner (vegan). Leave it on as a mask and you’re gonna have the best hair you’ve ever had – at least for a day. It contains essential oils and the steam in the shower intensifies their effect and makes it just like an aromatherapy session. I grew up with greek brands Korres and Apivita as my go-tos when I lived in Cyprus. I now use the Apivita Propoli Shampoo .When I first moved to London my hair got a lot thinner so I try not to wash it as much as I used to. Giving it around three days in-between helps. I love to do really intense hair masks with conditioner or coconut oil and I once tried mixing my own with some essential oils. But the balance was off and whenever I used it, it gave me a terrible headache – so that was a bit of a fail, really. When it comes to shower gel I’m not picky, but I recently switched to soap bars to cut down on plastic packaging. I use the Korres Chamomile and Almond Oil Face and Body soap bar (vegan). You have to get used to using a bar in the shower, but what I find is best is to use exfoliating gloves with them to remove dead skin cells and lather the soap.
Scented body lotions are my everyday perfume – I love when they have a smell that sticks around for a while. Right now, I’m loving the Antipodes Joyful Hand and Body cream. Another scent I love is the Nuori Vital Hand Cream – smells like cake!
I also always keep some almond oil right next to my bed and use that to moisturize. I mix in peppermint sometimes to spice it up.