Cate Blanchett was the dream job for the makeup team on The Hobbit. Making someone with "the best skin" even more ethereal was a delight, hair and makeup designer Peter King told me during a visit to the set.
It was a cold midwinter's day just before the finish of principal photography on the trilogy when I met King and prosthetics supervisor Tami Lane. Most of our talk was about the transformation of men into dwarves and the demands of director Peter Jackson as reported in the Herald's TimeOut section, but the beauty geek in me also wanted to know how they made Blanchett's skin look so translucent.
Questions about who needed concealer the most in the mornings weren't going to hoodwink anyone, especially not with a Warner Bros "helper" hovering. "Everyone asks who is awful to work with and I say no-one really," says the chatty but circumspect King, but he's happy to play favourites: "Cate - I've worked with her quite a lot - she's very professional, she just sits there and lets you do it ... very down to earth, she's lovely."
Blanchett is also a perfect example of how the move to high-definition 3D cameras has changed the job of movie makeup teams. Reprising her role as elf queen Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings, she sports pointy ears and out-of-this-world skin.
The look was created with standard M.A.C makeup because the heavier theatrical makeup of old is now thoroughly out of date on the big screen.
"Now that 3D-HD has come in, it is so clear that we have to change our ways of applying makeup," King explains. "Now it's every last pock-mark or spot, and God knows what else, you have to readjust the makeup you're using, how you apply it, you really can't be heavy anymore."
Actors need to look after their skin to cope, says King. For the younger ones this can be a trial, which is where concealer comes in.
The makeup team has learned to put greater emphasis on priming a good base, "so you don't see pores," and seamlessly blending. All this stuff is akin to the most up-to-date approach for fashion and beauty editorial shoots and the trend to a lighter makeup look generally and this explains why cutting-edge cosmetics companies are increasingly involved with the cinema industry.
M.A.C has been working with the medium for some time, but The Hobbit is the biggest production to which it has supplied makeup to date. As with its involvement with fashion shows the benefits extend beyond profile to the chance to get leading makeup artists to trial its products and offer feedback. Some are specially developed items but mostly not.
"We are using standard stuff," King explains. "For things they are not really intended for," adds Lane, who discovered red lipgloss made a convincing blood when added to the prosthetic wounds she shaped. "We use heaps of the mattifier because the silicone [used in facial prosthetics] kicks in such a shine under the lighting."
The Hobbit's elves wear Pro Longwear foundation because it doesn't need much touching up. "It lasts," says King. As for their translucent ears, these are made from gelatine and stored in the fridge until applied. A Q-tip of witch hazel is used to break down their water-soluble edges so they blend on, then a fine-textured blusher is applied to make them appear to naturally flush into surrounding skin.
The ears were generally easier than the film's other prosthetics to work with, but Hugo Weaving's did melt, Lane let on. "He got so hot, fighting and under the lights that the ears started to drip off." Cue a new set mid-shoot for Elrond.
For Blanchett's skin - or your own if you're a dab hand - the trick is layering products.
"She has very beautiful skin to start with," says King, but he was intent on adding translucency for her role.
"What I did was mix up a powder for her skin. It was a mixture of a basic M.A.C powder, I put some shimmer in it and then I put two or three eyeshadows in it as well.
"I didn't want a glittery effect, I didn't want it too shiny and ending up looking like a robot either, so there was no one product, I mixed it.
"That's how with the lights there's a slight reflectiveness so you get the translucency without it looking metallic."
The same mix was applied to those ear tips.
The use of laser imaging to investigate the skin's deeper levels has won Shiseido the cosmetic world's top scientific accolade. Its technology develops images using a laser beam to determine the status of collagen fibres within the dermis.
Using this advanced non-damaging exploratory technique, Shiseido researchers have been able to verify that collagen fibres significantly decrease due to the damaging effects of UV rays and aging, suggesting these factors may lead to the decline of skin resiliency and elasticity.
It is the fourth time in a row Shiseido's work has won the Japanese company the recognition of the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists which meets every two years. Since its founding in 1958 to promote the sharing of information for the development of cosmetic technologies, the federation has given 16 awards to Shiseido, the most of any cosmetics manufacturer. The company invests heavily in research and development. Based on the results from its latest work, Shiseido will continue to investigate anti-ageing skincare and evaluate the effectiveness of specific ingredients.
One of our favourite actors, Julianne Moore, is the latest brand ambassador signed up by L'Oreal Paris. The 51-year-old redhead who has alternated between independent films and big productions has been nominated for an Academy Award four times. She also writes for children and has just published the third book in her series Freckleface Strawberry about a girl transcending being teased about her appearance. Moore said she was honoured "as a woman in her 50s who liked to take care of her skin without undergoing plastic surgery", to have been picked to represent in her own way the "self-confidence" behind the L'Oreal motto "Because You're Worth it." "Every woman is worth time and care regardless of her age or origins," she said.
Women willing to cut off their pony tail to help women with cancer are wanted. A survey found that three quarters of New Zealand women said they would be willing to take the step to make a wig for someone they knew who had cancer, but the Pantene Beautiful Lengths programme is hoping to turn good intentions into action.
The programme, a venture between the hair company and the Look Good Feel Better charity, provides real-hair wigs for women having treatment. It need donations. "Hair is a real part of a woman's identity and the survey clearly shows that female friendships know no bounds when it comes to providing love and support," says Lisa Cunningham, a spokesman for Pantene's parent company P&G. The charity's general manager, Yvonne Brownlie, said the survey, which also found that four out of five women said they could always depend on female friends, underlined how women supported each other. A fifth even ranked their friendships ahead of their relationship.
"We witness the power of support and friendship at our workshops, when women come together to share, learn and laugh," said Brownlie. "They all have an alliance that has no real criteria, bar one, and that is a diagnosis of cancer. They come together as strangers but with the unique understanding of the challenges they face, and often leave as friends."
* To find out more about the Pantene Beautiful Lengths programme see here.
Pop art surrealist Kenny Scharf is behind the limited edition label on Kiehl's Creme de Corps lotions and body butter being sold this holiday season to raise $200,000 for charity. All net profits go towards 40 different children's causes around the globe, with sales from Kiehl's exclusive Auckland stockist Smith & Caughey's being donated to Garden to Table, a programme educating school children on how to grow and use fresh produce. Creme de Corps is available as a 250ml and 500ml lotion for $59 and $98, with the hydrating body moisturiser also in a soy milk and honey whipped body butter formula for $62.
Sans skincare has appointed New York-based makeup artist Valery Gherman as its global creative director. The well-connected Gherman who works on top international magazines would bring "knowledge, experience and passion" to the collaboration, said Sans creator Lucy Vincent Marr who is looking for more sales for the natural brand overseas. Gherman's brother Mikhail, a top advertising creative, is married to designer Karen Walker who, like Marr, is a partner in The Department Store, Takapuna.
In the gun
Men are being lined up for a little retail action around the release of the latest James Bond movie Skyfall. The new James Bond 007 fragrance has classic masculine notes and comes in a bottle with a whizzy pump system. The 50ml eau de toilette costs $61 with a 75ml size and deodorant stick also available, from selected pharmacies and department stores.
Big beauty importer and distributor CS Company is holding its end of year sale this week. With fragrance brands including Calvin Klein, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Hugo Boss, Dolce & Gabbana, haircare from Fudge and Joico and cosmetics from Max Factor, Rimmel, Covergirl and more on offer, expect to bag some bargains. The sale is on Friday from noon to 7pm and Saturday from 9am to 2pm at 25 Richard Pearse Drive, Airport Oaks, Auckland.
A top-selling UK supermarket skincare range is the latest to be jockeying for space on our shelves. Simple is another in a line of more natural choices making their way on to the mass market, with products priced mostly at $11.99. We like the alcohol and oil-free Simple Kind to Skin Cleansing Facial Wipes ($9.49) as a handy holiday stand-by.