By Kate Harvie
Jason Ascher, behind the Chantecaille counter at Barneys New York
The late, great Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, once said, “In our factory, we make lipstick; in our advertising, we sell hope.” If Mr. Revson had met Jason Ascher, the makeup artist for Chantecaille at Barneys New York, he might have amended his comment to include, “Jason Ascher works magic.”
If you desire beautiful makeup application with the finest products, remember your ABCs: A for Ascher, B for Barneys, and C for Chantecaille.
It’s fitting that someone so superb would work with the Chantecaille products. Chantecaille combines beauty and innovation in a way that few brands, if any, can.
For a full history of the brand and details on its signature products, I refer you, dear readers, to Erin Williams’s article in this publication from August 2004. Suffice it to say that this brand continues to improve and enhance its bestsellers and infuses their loyal clients’ skin with next generation benefits.
Trusting one’s face to a makeup artist is a tricky proposition: sometimes the artist has his or her own agenda or a litany of products he or she is contractually obligated to use. A true artist unearths the gifts of your face that you may find awkward or frustrating (for me, my eyebrows are a constant source of frustration). And, lastly, a true artist works with your daily time constraints and skill level so you can mimic his or her creation with ease.
When I visited Jason Ascher on Barneys legendary lower level for a consultation and chat, I knew I was in the presence of a true artist. Formerly an actor, Jason has a generosity of spirit and ease of movement that immediately put made me feel relaxed and comfortable – not the simplest task on a busy Saturday morning.
Jason honed his exceptional talent for cosmetic artistry with some of the best brands: Smashbox, Trish McEvoy, Bobbi Brown, and Chanel. He created a beautiful, sexy, natural-looking face for me that I’ve recreated successfully at home multiple times.
We began with a discussion of my skin (oily in summer, combination in winter) and my goal for my look (summer easy, luminous and not bronzed – my skin is extremely fair). Jason began by misting my face with the luxurious Eau de Rose de Mai, a cocktail whose composition process is as amazing as the product itself. Using only the purest, most precious petals for maximum efficacy, this product is made with rose petals harvested by hand in the hills of Grasse, France during the month of May (hence, its name). These rose petals are distilled in the early morning in artesian well water to produce a soothing, healing, moisturizing, and uplifting rosewater spray. All that, and its formula is 99.9% botanical. $48 isn’t much to spend for all of that and the naturally anti-depressant rose scent.
After my senses and skin drank in the Rosewater, Jason applied the revolutionary Biodynamic Lifting Oil Free Fluid to my face, using an upward motion with his hands, which he told me temporarily trains the muscles to lift – great for those of us who are no longer 25. The Biodynamic Fluid is revolutionary in that it delivers moisture to oily, acne-prone skin while balancing sebum (oil) and lifting and softening fine lines. This product addresses the age-old dilemma faced by women with oily skin: if you want to address aging skin, you’re hard-pressed to find something that won’t aggravate acne – many anti-aging products contain rich and/or extremely active ingredients. The ingredients in this fluid suppress the acne germ Proponl Bacterium, stimulate cell metabolism, increase cell water content, smooth lines, and regulate oil. This is an ideal moisturizer under makeup as it also mattifies the surface skin.
While I admired the look of my volumized, smooth, healthy-looking skin, Jason selected a foundation shade for me. He’d decided to use Future Skin in Ivory, one of ten shades. He applied the oil-free gel formula with quick, even-handed brush strokes. I looked at the jar and saw that it looked pink – and I always strive to balance the pink in my skin with yellow. When the foundation set, it looked perfect and not pink at all. This foundation provides adjustable coverage and is unique in that it delivers water to the skin without oil. The phyto-collagen Natto Gum (from soybean) helps to increase water content in the epidermis (the top layer of skin) and prevents water loss. The foundation is comprised of 60% charged water and seaweed and contains soothing aloe, chamomile, and arnica, and immune-boosting rosemary, green tea, and rice bran. Chantecaille’s research shows that skin produces 26% less sebum after seven days of use.
So my skin looked and felt amazing. If Jason had only done that I’d have been over the moon. He dusted my face with the Talc Free Loose Powder, which felt weightless and gossamer, before applying color. A note for those of you seeking the ideal loose powder: unless talc is micronized and manipulated properly, it can impart a chalky, unnatural appearance on any skin tone. A great tip for setting your complexion product is to gently press the powder into your skin with a high quality sponge after applying for further setting strength.
And now it was time for color. I mentioned that my oily skin didn’t always support the use of cream or gel blush and Jason told me about the Aquablush. Jason selected two of six shades of Aquablush to apply as blush and highlighter. Chantecaille’s gel formula is made of powder and 50% water (which accounts for how cool it feels when it touches the skin). The addition of Vitamin C and essential oils boost collagen and a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) SPF 8 enhance the natural tint and finish. Jason applied Luminous to my cheeks and the color seemed to come from underneath my skin, like a true flush. He used Radiance as both an eye primer and a secondary cheek glow.
I asked Jason why he did my cheeks before my eyes – most artists with whom I work apply eye color first. He told me that he wanted to see what my face looked like with its contours and dimensions highlighted before deciding on an eye look. I’ve adopted that technique ever since.
Jason worked with my brows first. Filling in only from below, he used a slanted eyebrow brush and the Lasting Eye Shade in Zinc to simultaneously soften and shape my brows. The taupe undertone of this shadow and its ultra-fine texture made my brows look the best they have in months. If, like me, you over-tweezed or over-waxed your brows in your younger days, trust them only to the best estheticians and makeup artists and fill them from below only. Filling them in from above can result in a campy, vampy look.
Brows are making more of a statement this Fall – take the time now to hone your skill in defining yours. If your mother, like mine, wisely told you growing up that your eyes were the windows to your soul, then the brows are the ever-important window dressing.
With my brows now anchoring my face in a manner both strong and subtle, Jason set about to define and brighten my eyes. He used a combination of shadows to shape, soften, and line. He applied Lasting Eye Shade in Ginger to the inner corner of my eyes to awaken them. Ginger is a gold-apricot-taupe shade that can look either transparent or opaque. All of the Lasting Eye Shades can go on wet or dry and they do not crease. It’s rare to find eye shadows with beneficial-to-skin ingredients: these contain ginseng, which conditions the skin and boosts its elasticity. Eyelids can always use a boost in elasticity. Jason also applied Lasting Eye Shade in Coriander and Shine Eye Shade in Quartz to veil my eyes in soft, warm tones. For a liner, he selected Shine Eye Shade in Malachite, a rich plum that went on with a blendable density. He drew a gently tapered line above my upper lashline. Malachite was the only purple shade Jason used on my eyes, which thrilled me – most artists use a range of purple on my eyes to bring out the green. Jason’s take was more elegant and unexpected. The Shine Eye Shades are not only radiant and crease-proof, they contain broad-spectrum sun protection. Finally there are eye shadows that mothers and daughters can share.
Jason applied Raffia Lipstick as the finishing touch – a nude pink that was both warm and cool. It felt spectacular, and no surprise as it contains natural waxes, amino acids, Vitamins A and C, and SPF 6-8.
When I looked in the mirror, the reflection I saw was finished without being overdone, sexy without being obvious. I saw my whole face instead of individual features vying for attention. And my skin had never looked better.
Before I took my fresh face back onto our city streets, I asked Jason some questions about his background and vision.
Who have been your greatest influences?
- The greatest influences for me in regard to makeup didn’t really come from other established artists. I rarely pored over fashion magazines and I wasn’t obsessed with supermodels.
- My inspirations came from women I knew: A girl I grew up with named Susan, who kept her skin fair, her hair long, dark & smooth, used a sheer red lip stain and some mascara during the early 80’s at a time when everyone was tanning, perming, freeze-spraying, and drawing on hot-pink shadow contours & blush stripes; my mom, Patti, with her constant olive complexion, a sweep of cocoa-colored shadow and some honey-colored lipstick & bronzer.
- As a result, I developed a very natural & somewhat organic attitude about cosmetic application.
What can every woman, regardless of age, skin condition, skin tone, and income bracket, do to look her best?
- I believe any woman can look her best by choosing any two or three of the following steps that apply to her particular look or lifestyle:
1. Evening out the skin, either with foundation, tinted moisturizer or spotting on some concealer.
2. Defining the brows with a natural brow-color and not over-plucking.
3. Finding a sheer lip color or gloss that can be applied without a mirror and a coordinating blush.
4. A sweep of mascara to the top lashes can be great to open & define the eyes.
What are your top five favorite Chantecaille products?
1. Stress Repair Concentrate: The perfect eye cream. It plumps up fine lines, firms the skin below the eye, and acts as an excellent primer for concealer. It isn’t sticky or shiny & contains hexapeptide, shown to relax facial contractions and promote skin’s elasticity. It’s the most popular eye treatment at Barneys.
2. Future Skin Foundation: An oil-free gel that finishes like fresh, dewy skin. It doesn’t go matte, despite it’s lack of moisturizers and it has shades for cool, neutral & warm skin tones. Nearly everyone who tries this product purchases it. (Discussed further above)
3. Aquablush: An oil-free, water-based blush in a convenient twist-up stick. Four soft colors that look like pinched cheeks, and two shades for pure, soft shimmer & light reflection. (Discussed further above)
4. Biolift Concealer: A sheer, creamy concealer with a solid core of Chantecaille’s Stress Repair Concentrate right down the center.
5. Frangipane Eau de Perfume: This is one the most original and intoxicating scents I’ve ever smelled. With notes of sweet exotic orange, vanilla & ylang ylang, it smells like you’ve wandered into a garden in Tahiti.
Who are some of your favorite clients?
- Working as I have for several years on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I’ve certainly met & worked with many women whose names & pictures routinely appear in society pages and on the placards of buildings.
- It has been fascinating to meet some of these women in person, witness parts of their lifestyles firsthand, and see some impressive homes.
- The clients that tend to linger with me, though, are usually the many brides with whom I’ve worked (and their moms). I get to know them so well over the months spent planning the weddings and am often with them till the very minute they walk down the aisle. They love the primping & the fussing and they have told me that having me there helps them to feel even more confident & beautiful.
- I’ve been able to travel to Palm Beach, Miami, Las Vegas, Chicago, and St. Martin. I’ve worked on Jewish weddings, Catholic weddings, Korean weddings, and Indian weddings. Each one has taught me something new about different cultures & styles of makeup. Several have even remained personal friends.
What are some of the best industry innovations in the last few years?
The introduction of Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, had been one of the most effective innovations. It is less aggressive than the Retin-A a dermatologist might prescribe and it really has an appreciable effect on the texture & tone of the skin.
Chantecaille makes a Retinol moisturizer for face <Retinol Intense, $85 >, one for body <Retinol Body Treatment, $88 >, and one for hands <Retinol Hand Cream, $68 >. I’ve watched my own sunspots and finer lines fade away since I started using it on my face seven months ago.
Infusing foundations with SPF is a convenient innovation. Chantecaille makes a sheer, tinted cream foundation in a compact with SPF 30 called Real Skin ($57).
What are the Fall trends for color and how can real women incorporate that which they see on the runway into real life?
- Like Fall/Holiday fashions, makeup seems to be turning to the glamour of the 1940’s.
- For lips and nails, we’ll see shades of red and berry.
- For eyes it will be soft neutral shadows in shades of beige, gold & champagne: less smoke, less contour and a strong thin liner & heavy mascara along the upper lashes.
- Think of Rita Hayworth & Veronica Lake for inspiration.
Jason also shared some the products to look for this Fall from Chantecaille:
- For strong lips, try Cayenne and Poppy ($26)
- For sheer lips, use Hyacinth and Pomegranate ($26).
- The Tango in Argentina palette ($75) contains gorgeous eye shadows.
Chantecaille products and the Chantecaille Energy Spa are located at Barneys New York, 600 Madison Avenue. To make an appointment with Jason Ascher (who, besides applying makeup, will also shop with you and help you update and/or enhance your makeup wardrobe), call 212/833-2011.