PAULA DORF: Doing It Her Way

Make up artist Paula Dorf is extremely hands on. She maintains quality control of her products, uses her own skin as the guinea pig for products in development, and chooses each product name. Dorf admits, in her thick Bronx brogue, she looks at her products as though they were her children, saying, “When I do a color, I go through a process of naming it. I stand there and repeat the name aloud, to see how it sounds when you ask for it. I could have a color done and ready to be labeled, and I think ‘You know, I just don’t love that name.’ And my people will say, ‘Paula, we’re about to produce it.’ But I don’t care. If I want to redo it, I say, ‘Let’s redo it!'” Obviously, Dorf, who’s been in the business for 25 years and who gained notoriety for customizing make up with art store brushes, is a strong willed woman who knows what she wants. I had the chance to speak with her about all things Dorf.

Regarding her steadfast philosophy:
“I have always believed that you can become your own make up artist, a phrase I had registered as a trademark. I believe in teaching women to do make up. It’s my passion. When a woman goes, ‘Oh my god! I get it’ after I teach her how to apply make up, that’s pure joy because I’m helping women feel good. Make up gives you confidence and self-esteem. I love putting make up on myself, too I don’t leave the house without it!”

Make up tip that works for women of every skin tone:
“Change your lipstick every day! You wear different clothing every day, so wear a different color lip, too. Doesn’t matter if it’s a gloss or stick! Most women can wear more colors than they think.”

Her favorite product that she created:
“My Cheek Color Cream in Candy Apple, which works on everyone. You can use a little for a touch of color or more to make it intense. I created a brush for it, as well. I love The Transformer, too. You can use it to turn powder shadow into liquid liner.”

On the brushes that started it all:
“Years ago, there were no good brushes out there. I went to art stores, and cut up the brushes to apply make up. That was my thing. The quality of art supply brushes was beautiful.”

Product she love that she didn’t create:
“I like the Jergen’s Natural Glow self-tanner.”

How she manages to remain independently owned in a competitive corporate market:
“I do quality control myself. I do the products here, and I mix the pigments all here. I make sure all the ingredients are high quality and made in this country. I love the independence. I don’t have to go through a team of people when I invent a product; I don’t have to go through a process. Also, my skin is very sensitive; if I touch it, it gets red. So, I try everything on myself when I make a product, for a month before it goes into production. I’m very fussy. Everything passes through me. I also like the specialty brand and having customer loyalty. Everyone who works with me has been with me since day one. And my husband is my partner. It’s very family oriented.”

Her passion:
“I am so passionate about what I do, and I never looked at the dollar as my god. I don’t look at it as a job. That’s why I chose to be a freelancer for all those years, as opposed to doing a TV show. I didn’t want a routine; I wanted something different every day. And I find beauty in all women.”

Paula Dorf product every woman must have in her make up bag:
My Face Tint. It’s a tinted Moisturizer with SPF 15. The beauty of the shades Just Glo and Jetset Glo is that they give you sheen to your face. You can wear it over foundation or mix it with other tinted moisturizers.”

To purchase Paula Dorf products, visit

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