Beauty Maker: Molly R. Stern

Makeup Artist Molly R. Stern on making up Hollywood's A-List Stars


When she found herself behind a beauty counter at age 16, makeup artist Molly R. Stern knew she had found her calling. The Los Angeles native has built a magnificent career painting the faces of Hollywood's red carpet royalty (Reese Witherspoon has her on speed dial), but the way she approaches her work is grounded in reality. From pinch-me moments to her must-have beauty products, the makeup maven (and mother of three) sat down with Behind the Rose to chat makeup, her signature tricks, and what she's learned from her daughters about beauty.

"She always makes me feel like aging is beautiful, it's part of a natural process that we should embrace and not be scared of." -Reese Witherspoon

Reese has seen so many transformations over the course of her career, and beauty has factored in hugely--what are some of your favorite looks?
We've had a lot of really good moments. The fact that I've had so many years (18!) with her and the opportunity to create so many looks is another pinch-me moment. Reese is pretty much the whole package-- she's never had a "what was she thinking?" moment. A moment that sticks out for me was when she won her Oscar. Her stylists found this gorgeous vintage dress in Paris, and Serge Normant did her hair. It was a magical night - and she won! I loved the yellow Nina Ricci dress moment from 2007, too. That year she ripped the America's Sweetheart bandage off and showed everyone that she was actually a totally hot babe. I also really loved last Oscar season (2015). I feel like we had a really good run, it was intense because she was nominated for Wild. It's interesting to be able to create different looks in the same awards season. It was amazing and inspiring working with the team for this year’s Oscars, too.

The Oscars are where a year's worth of beauty + fashion trends are set (no pressure or anything). How do you prepare for such a high-profile job?
I try really hard to take every experience in the moment, and rather then put pressure on myself, I try to think of every event as just another day for me to show up and do my best. I apply that same philosophy here (to the Oscars). That said—there is also a tremendous amount of excitement and energy that goes around these Superbowl moments. The Oscars is obviously one of those. It's about feeling excited and inspired by the girl, the dress, and the team. Growing up here (in L.A.), and working in Hollywood, there’s this sensation of whoa, this is the big show! I have to pinch myself sometimes, because I’m thinking, “how did I get to be so lucky to be part of this iconic day?”

What is inspiring you right now?
I'm really inspired by mid-century furniture at the moment.

We all know that gorgeous skin is the best canvas for a gorgeous makeup look--what are your favorite skincare products and formulas? How do you feel about natural products?
I’m a huge fan of the Chantecaille Rose Oil, love it. It feels so amazing and it's great for anyone who's dealing with dryness. No matter my client’s age, they're always dealing with dryness for whatever reason—women are constantly dealing with their biology changing. So, having that oil tool to give a little bit of glow or actually heal a dry patch, I use it a lot, a lot a lot. I’m a huge fan of Natura Bisse and ReVive. Using Natura Bisse was the first time I used a skincare regimen where I actually saw a difference in my skin. They have an Oxygen serum which is just amazing, especially for someone like me who travels a lot. ReVive has a great firming daytime moisturizer with an SPF in it, I use it on clients and on my own skin as well. Koh Gen Do Moisturizing Cleansing Water - I love it because I can tend to be a little be a lazy taking my makeup off. If I’m really being honest, up until I turned 40, which was four years ago, I really never took off my makeup! But with that product, two pumps on a cotton pad takes all of your makeup off. It's easy and because it’s so easy to take it all off I'm more inclined to care and nurture my skin after it’s clean. Their cleansing water wipes are also the best. As far as natural products go, of course I'm a fan of the idea of more natural products, but I also appreciate the scientific advances that beauty companies are developing in labs.

You must be trying new products all the time--are there products that are always in your kit, no matter what?
First and foremost: Chantecaille Future Skin Foundation. I’ve been using it for well over 10 years. I learned about it at a friend's wedding, I was there to do her makeup and the only product she insisted that I use was Future Skin. I put it on her and she looked great, but what really blew me away were the photos afterwards—there were photos in People magazine, and I knew the photos that they used were taken hours into the wedding and I hadn’t done any touch-ups. She looked radiant, perfect. The photo wasn't retouched and it was stunning. That was it— I was sold. I like that it's sheer and that you can build it. It also wears incredibly well. Personally, if I’m I going to the length of wearing foundation, I want it to look good all day, and the same goes for my clients. It's the only foundation I have found that does this. I love Laura Mercier cream blushes. Blondie eyeshadow from Nars, this basic taupe color, is really versatile. I use it on the eyes, to contour the cheeks, to tone down a smokey eye. I recently started using this True Isaac Mizrahi Radiance Boosting Pen. It's not a concealer; it's a sheer, pinky luminzer that you tap onto outside corner of eyes, cheekbone, top of lip, down the nose. Works on every skin tone so far, and it blends out into a veil of gorgeousness. I also love the Chantecaille Nanogold Energizing Eye Serum. It feels incredible and immediately calms any puffiness. I really see the results and I love using that on everybody.

You have three daughters–what is your conversation about beauty like with them?
With my daughters, beauty is a constant anxiety and concern. It's a huge reason that I spend a lot of time mentoring high schoolers and middle schoolers to talk about self-esteem. And how important it is for your heart to shine with beauty–that's where it comes from. When my daughter was 5 years old, there was a day when she was acting like an animal—screaming at her brother, going crazy. I asked her what was going on. She was crying and said “I need to speak to you privately”, and we went into the next room. I asked what was happening. She said “I don’t want to tell you, you're going to be mad at me." She said “I don't feel pretty”. And I really honestly thought I was going to faint. I had to pull myself out and find my footing. I asked her if something had happened and she said “No, Mommy. My body made me feel this way - and what if this is how I feel now?” I was so blown away with how she articulated herself. Then I took a deep breath and told her, “First of all, this too shall pass. I promise you it will”. It was such a teaching moment. The mood we're in totally dictates how we're feeling on the outside. At home, for us, beauty always starts from within.

Do you have a signature beauty trick?
My signature beauty trick is I always go for blush. It just makes you look younger and brighter and makes your skin look warm and healthy. That flushed look you get when you’ve been making out with someone and you’re kind of blushing and all heated up? That’s what I’m always going for. Application wise, apply where you’d normally, naturally flush, at the apples of the cheeks for sure. Some women also get a bit of a glow right above the jawline, and I’ll occasionally dust a bit of blush there, too.

Is there anyone who you're dying to make-up who you haven't worked with yet?
Hm. I would love to work with Beyoncé, Adele is another one that would be so fun. I love music so much, and anyone who gets to sng and perform like that for a living—I basically want to come back in another life as Beyonce. Or Adele. That skin! It’s amazing. I’d also love to get my hands on Michele Obama, or Hilary Clinton, she’s been looking really good.

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