Beauty Literature: Making Faces by Kevyn Aucoin

Hi there, everybody!

Although I’ve loved makeup for many years and read as many makeup/beauty books, I do not own that many of them. The truth is trends come and go, products ebb and flow, but techniques never change. Kevyn Aucoin (1962-2002) during his short life on Earth contributed to makeup in a way that shaped how we look today. Cher said, “Kevie isn’t a makeup man, he’s a magician. He creates an atmosphere of beauty mixed with magic.”

Cover of Making Faces by Kevyn Aucoin

I cannot say it better that Cher (she’s a legend!) and if you have never read “Making Faces” by Kevyn Aucoin, I urge you to check it out. Or better yet, go to and buy it! I bought mine without knowing what’s on the inside, which was quite a gamble. To these days, I also think it’s one of the best books I have ever bought.

“Making Faces” is a stunning book: it was published in 1997 when Photoshop was in its nascent state and digital photography probably was not even born. Yet, all the photos in the books are huge, gorgeous and flawless. That only means one thing: the makeup was good so touch ups were minimal. Kevyn took most of the pictures himself while the rest of them were taken by famed photographers (Patrick DeMarchelier is one of them.)

The book is divided into three parts: basic techniques, makeovers done on regular people, and transformations on celebrities. The first part called “Making the Face” is about the basics of makeup. They are covered thoroughly but enough not to tire out the readers. I did not learn how to do a proper smokey-eyed look until I got this book. Before that, doing smokey eyes were like having gambles: sometimes they came out right, most times they came out like I just got punched. His techniques are simple and he drew the steps by hands. (I guess this was before digital photography and blogging so drawing was an easier option.) Besides learning the smokey eyes, I also learned how to contour from Kevyn.

Smokey eyes à la Kevyn Aucoin
The model is Julia Roberts

How to contour

The second part of this book is called “A Gathering” and consists of various makeovers from ordinary people. Kevyn Aucoin was a self-taught makeup artist who used to do makeovers on his sister Carla when he was a boy. In this section, he included people from different backgrounds and colors. Then he spread his magic on them and transformed them to beautiful, almost fairy tale-like ladies. I am at awe on how simple the makeup is, yet how flawless and shiny these lucky people looked after the makeovers. There was even one transformation for a guy and he looked about 5 years younger after some powder and concealer.

The last part of “Making Faces” is titled “Great Looks” where Kevyn brought together some makeup styles done on celebrities. These looks are timeless and look high fashion. In fact, they are so gorgeous that they can still be in Vogue style editorials. In some of the looks, I found myself muttering something along the line of “this is so MAC this season!” several times. But “Making Faces” was written 12 years ago! That’s how influential this book is and many makeup artists out there reach for it to fuel their passions.

Some pictures in the book

A simple eye look

I swear MAC did something like this 2 years ago!

Old world vs. New world glamour

Futuristic look

Although I love this book dearly, sometimes I read some comments in from readers who do not think the book is good. To them, it is hard to follow and I do not see why. The directions and illustrations were done in a studious manner and if you read carefully, you will get them. However, Kevyn wrote his book without mentioning any brand names, which may frustrate somebody who wants to know if it’s a MAC Sable or Munch to use when it comes to a “dark brown powder eyeshadow”. To me, that is freedom. By not mentioning any brands, he allowed you to use whatever you want or have without limiting yourself to a certain number of products. Also, people tend to use the pictures as their rigid final point after finishing a look. This is a huge mistake because (a) you are not the model, (b) you do not have Kevyn to do your makeup, and (c) you do not have a team of half dozen of people to cater to you and take your pictures. So no, you are not going to look like Janet Jackson/Vanessa Williams/Cher/Nadja Auermann/Kate Moss. You are going to look like you, but a whole lot better.

Which leads to this point: makeup is about enhancing your natural beauty, not making you look like others. If your goal is to achieve the later, how boring this world will be when everybody looks alike?

With all that said, “Making Faces” is a valuable book for everybody who has interests in makeup artistry. It will empower you and take you to the next level. Also, it makes a beautiful coffee table book. Again, I urge you to buy it and I guarantee you will not get disappointed.

Take care and have a good weekend,

Your Makeup Blogger

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