Revisiting Making Faces by Kevyn Aucoin, the most influential 90s makeup book

Revisiting Makeng Faces by Kevyn Aucoin

When I was 12, I stumbled upon a copy of “Making Faces” by Kevyn Aucoin, which my older sister left in the basement. I’m not sure if she ever asked what happened to it, but I’ve held onto that same copy for 15 years.

How Making Faces Influenced Me

In the days before you could just get on your phone and learn how to do makeup, I learned how to apply makeup by following Aucoin’s step-by-step directions. I forced my little sisters to let me do their makeup and noted after applying Vaseline over their eyeshadow that it gave them, “a more editorial look.”

Written in 1997, some of Aucoin’s techniques are admittedly out-of-date. For example, he suggests using sponge tip eyeshadow applicators and barely touches on makeup brushes, which is usually one of the first topics covered by modern books. This oversight was corrected in his next book, “Face Forward,” which was released three years later in 2000. For this reason, I recommend using “Making Faces” and “Face Forward” together.

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Flipping through the book, I realize how much of what I learned from Aucoin really stuck with me throughout my years of wearing makeup. I don’t pump my mascara want into the tube and I’m always careful when plucking my eyebrows. But even more so, I’ve always believed in the transformative power of makeup. I came to see makeup as an art form to be perfected instead of a mask to hide behind.

Tragically, Aucoin died in 2002 from complications relating to a pituitary brain tumor. He left behind a now renowned cosmetics line, which he launched just a year before his death.

Part of me will always be sad when I pick up Aucoin’s books. I wonder what his books would look like if he was still alive today. I always kind of laugh and think of him when when I make my eyeshadow glossy with a dab of Vaseline. And I’ll never let anyone pump air into their mascara.

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