Interview with MUA and Green beauty champion Laura Jane Sessions

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Laura Jane sessions at a Weleda event last summer, after following her blog for the last few years we spent a long time chatting all things green, eco and of course make up as well as life in general. Laura is a working make up artist with a passion for all things green, having worked in TV and with an impressive list of celebrities including George Michael, Take That and Stephen Fry, I couldn’t wait to chat more with her. She kindly agreed to answer some questions about being a professional make up artist, using natural and organic products in her kit and where the natural and organic industry could still improve:

AGG: You have been in the industry for over 18 years now, what attracted you to being a make up artist and how did you start out? 

I have always loved the idea of metamorphosis and the way that appearances can be altered by a simple thing. I wanted to be an actress but I joined an amateur drama group when I was fourteen and immediately got involved with the make-up side of things. The group put on about four or five productions a year so I had a taste of everything from straight stage make-up to applying bald caps and false noses. When I was nineteen I went to college and spent two years learning the basics of the trade; covering all genres from body painting and wig-making to cosmetic science, special effects and broadcast make-up. I loved it. 

On leaving college I managed a herbalist shop by day and worked on every local and regional theatre production I could by night. At weekends I worked on short films and after a year was asked to design and head up the make-up department (I use that word loosely) a no-budget feature film – of course I jumped at the chance but I couldn’t get the time off work, so I walked out of my job and have never looked back!

AGG: What would a typical week in your life look like? 

In all honesty there isn’t a typical week as they do vary so much and it very much depends on how many bookings I have in the diary. A quiet week usually pans out like this… 

I spend Monday’s with my daughter,  Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are generally spent in the studio I share with my partner (a photographer and filmmaker) where I write, catch up on admin or do photographic shoots. Wednesday’s tend to be a mixture of everything else. Friday through to Sunday is invariably spent at various football grounds around the country; I regularly work with Sky Sports on their live outside broadcast football league shows and so I am travelling quite a bit and doing a lot of male grooming!

All of this is very much a movable feast as I often get booked on shoots at the last minute so have to be flexible. I may find myself doing a mobile phone commercial in London one day and a children’s drama in Scotland the next. Luckily I am not particularly routine based so I thrive on the variation each week brings.

AGG: You combine your passion for make up and your passion for all things green and natural. How easy has that been over the years? 

It’s been challenging at times. My parents brought me up to be very ecologically and environmentally aware and this is something that has stuck with me and is almost second nature – on the flip side, I have chosen to work in an industry that historically goes against both of those things.

Throughout my career I have always tried to look for the most ethical option available to me – I started out in the late nineties when natural and organic products weren’t widely available but even then I wouldn’t knowingly purchase a product for my beauty kit that had been been tested on animals. This has set limitations over the years but I’ve worked around them. As a Make-up Artist your work is under close scrutiny and if your products don’t perform then it reflects badly on you as an Artist, so it’s important to take your time making sure products (green or conventional) do the job you want them to do and not just use any old thing.

AGG: What are some of your favourite brands and products in your kit? 

I don’t tend to favour one particular brand and there are now so many great products it’s a really tough call! I love Kjaer Weis foundations and those by Vapour Beauty and W3ll People – all three do great cheek colours too. Couleur Caramel, Sappho and Avril are amongst my favourite ranges for eyeshadows and the Couleur Caramel lipsticks sit alongside Ilia Beauty and Bite beauty ones in my lip bag. Jane Iredale, Inika and RMS Beauty feature pretty heavily on various fronts too.

AGG: How do you think that natural and organic make up has changed in the time you have been using it? 

I think it has significantly changed. When I started out there were only a handful of Eco make-up companies and none of the products (certainly in the UK) were of good enough quality to be used professionally; powder products were dry and chalky and had very poor colour payoff, shades were limited and the packaging was terrible! 

Today the natural and organic market is rapidly growing and the new technologies and innovations in product development and production means that products and formulations are simply getting better and better. For most companies It’s no longer about just ticking the “ethical” boxes, it’s about producing a product that rivals conventional brands in texture, wear and finish as well as quality.

AGG: What one make up item do you think everyone should own? 

Ooh probably mascara – or cream blusher, I’m not sure which. Both do an amazing job of livening up a face and probably make the most significant impact with minimal effort.

AGG: Are there any gaps in the green make up market that you would like to see filled? 

One of the biggest struggles that I have is finding a truly great organic concealer. There are loads out that that conceal to a lesser or greater extent but most are far too sheer, too shiny or have too many light reflecting ingredients.

My other frustration is the lack of products for darker skin tones. There really is no excuse any more and I find it disappointing that natural and organic brands (almost more than conventional ones) are really lagging behind in this area. It is a massive and near untapped market in terms of organic make-up.

AGG: There is a pre-conception that green make up doesn’t perform as well as conventional, what has been your experience using greener options as a make up artist? 

The reputation of the poorer quality products of the eighties and nineties really laid down the foundations for many of the commonly held beliefs about eco make-up today. Times and attitudes are changing however and things are definitely improving. The majority of my kit is made up of natural and organic cosmetics but I don’t feel that I am making a compromise when choosing them as their performance and quality match those of conventional products.

When I am at work I don’t ‘push’ organic make-up products, I just use them. Clients frequently ask me what I am using on them because they love the look or feel of a product and are invariably surprised when I tell them that it’s organic or natural and more often than not they want to know more.

AGG: As well as being a working make up artist and qualified lecturer you also have your very own blog, how did the blog come about and what can people expect? 

My blog (Organic Makeup Artist) was born out of a desire to show other artists working in the industry how natural and organic products can be incorporated into a kit and be viable substitutes for conventional products – at least that’s how it began. Very niche.

I started writing it over four years go and I was surprised to discover that people who weren’t Make-up Artists were reading it too. When I realised that there was wider interest, I tailored it a little to account for the needs of non-professionals – I haven’t dumbed it down, just made it a little more inclusive. 

I try to strike a balance between product reviews and recommendations and showing how products have worked on a shoot, with the occasional news based article thrown in. I am in the final throws of building a WordPress site for Organic Make-up Artist which will hopefully be launched in the new year, so there will be a completely new look and a few additional new features too, so keep an eye open 🙂

Thank you so much to Laura for a fascinating insight in to what she does, you can find her on Twitter @OrganicMUA and her blog is always top of my reading list, full of useful and informative content:

Ana Green

Written by Ana – A beauty industry professional who is passionate about product and helping people navigate the marketing hype in the beauty industry.