Inside a Makeup Artist’s Totally Clean Kit
Spend even five minutes with makeup artist Katey Denno, and you won’t be surprised to hear that before she did makeup, she spent almost ten years as a social worker: She’s one of the warmest people we know, not to mention one of the more socially conscious. Looking at the natural, just-been-for-a-jog makeup she favors, though, and you might be surprised to hear that she got her start helping her male-to-female transgender clients do makeup when she worked at one of the nation’s first HIV clinics. “I only knew makeup from this transformative, redrawing-the-face kind of perspective, so I assumed that was going to be my direction,” Denno says.
But it turned out a different skill from her former career was in even higher demand: The ability to enter a room and maintain the calm. “I’m pretty well-versed in keeping the vibe chill and positive,” she says. A red-carpet appearance is a far cry from the situations in ERs and women’s shelters that she once navigated, but a still presence and an ability to nurture apply to all of them.
“Makeup is confidence you carry in your purse—I read that in Sassy magazine when I think I was 14 and I’ve never forgotten it,” says Denno. She engineered her career switch by contacting and offering to assist all the great makeup artists she looked up to, and the change has proven to meld her artistic and nurturing sides perfectly: She regularly works with top photographers, supermodels, and celebrities, on red carpets, in magazines like Vogue, V, Glamour, ELLE, and Nylon, and of course, goop. The look she loves is light and natural: “Sheer cheek color, curled lashes—healthy and pretty, like you just went running or came in from a yoga class,” she says.
Denno’s expertise goes well beyond just what looks good in a picture: She’s been into clean beauty as long as we have: “A friend of mine had cancer, and was getting chemo, and I felt so helpless, and the thing I figured out to do—you just need something to do, to hang onto to try to help—was, hey, I’m a makeup artist, I can investigate these things you’re putting on your skin.” As she investigated, Denno connected with RMS founder Rosemary Swift: “She really schooled me in everything,” she says. “Then I got offered a chance to work with Tata Harper at an event with domestic violence victims—my agent was like, no one wants to do this, and I was like, I’m there! I met Spirit Demerson of Spirit Beauty Lounge, and things sort of snowballed: I knew I wanted to be an expert in this realm.”
Today, she uses only clean products, testing new ones constantly and reporting the results on her blog, The Beauty of It Is. She’s also moved to LA. “I sit on my terrace in the hills surrounded by lemon, orange, grapefruit, and fig trees, and I know this is how I want to live,” she says. Here, her eight all-time, always-reach-for, client-obsession, use-constantly clean favorites:
Kosas Weightless Lip Color in Thrillestgoop, $24
“This color is for when I feel bold—it’s the perfect orangey-red. The line’s founder, Sheena Yaitanes, combines her background in biology with painting/color theory—her textures are weightless yet very moisturizing, packed with butters and oils, densely pigmented, and formulated to be buildable.”
ILIA Tinted Lip Conditioner in Nobody’s Babygoop, $26
“Nobody’s Baby has been a favorite of mine from the start. It’s the perfect shade of pink to bring a little extra color to my lips, and sheer and hydrating just enough to make it my favorite to tap onto my cheeks as well. Ilia creator Sasha Plasvic one of the first in the US to make luxury non-toxic lipstick. I’ve always been a big fan.”
ila Face Oil for Glowing Radiancegoop, $118
“This oil was introduced to me by my friend and all-things-green-beauty advisor Spirit Demerson. Years ago she gave me a bottle and said: ‘This is the best face oil on the market if you really want to be hydrated and glowy.’ Enough said.”
Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Instant Eye Liftgoop, $55
“This eye mask really does reduce puffiness; with frequent use (as it’s meant to be used), it erases fine lines. I love having these on hand in my makeup kit for red-carpet clients. It’s a great treat for the delicate skin around the eye, and it’s amazing under concealer. Plus, it’s such an interesting product—a fun little science experiment you can do in your bathroom!”
Kypris Moonlight Catalystgoop, $77
“I was totally drawn into this product line because of the beautiful packaging, but I keep coming back because of their ingredients. This is packed with pumpkin enzymes to renew cells and calm inflammation; a special peptide to plump and renew; vigna acontifolia extract, which mimics the cosmetic effects of retinoids, but without the redness, irritation, or peeling; sea algae extract to hydrate and soothe; and a precursor to the natural production of hyuralonic acid, which helps to deeply moisturize. Can’t go wrong with any of that!”
Herban Essentials Lavender Towelettesgoop, $16
“I crave each of the essential oil scents packed into these individually wrapped little wipes, at different times, for different reasons: Orange, lemon, lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus. Because of essential-oil expert Hope Gillerman, I know that essential oils are our first line of defense against bacteria, that they’re antiseptic, and have immensely beneficial mood-lifting properties. I keep them in my purse, my wallet, my car, my makeup kit…they’re always within reach.”
goop by Juice Beauty Exfoliating Instant Facialgoop, $125
“I love anything that helps sweep away dead skin cells to leave skin its most luminous. This mask does it quickly, and leaves skin feeling hydrated and soft, and does it all while using 85 percent organic, 100 percent non-toxic ingredients.”
RMS Beauty “Un” Cover-Upgoop, $36
“This little round pot of product is still my favorite, least-expensive option for concealer and foundation in one. It’s easy to transport, super easy to apply with fingers/brush/sponge, and it’s light and buildable, so you can use it sparingly for a sheer wash of coverage, or really pack it on to cover that new, hurty outbreak you’ve been slowly watching take hold.”