Long before natural-based beauty became the in thing, make-up artist Rose-Marie Swift had already purged her beauty cabinet of unnecessary chemical cosmetics. Canadian-born Swift started her make-up artistry career in Vancouver painting the faces of burlesque dancers; fast forward more than 30 years and photographers Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier and Hedi Slimane and celebrities Tilda Swinton, Celine Dion and Demi Moore are just a handful of the names Swift has worked with. It was in New York while Swift was in her late 30s that she found herself unwell: struck down with fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety, and her doctor was left perplexed. The penny dropped after Swift took matters into her own hands undertaking a series of lab tests: her blood contained toxic levels of heavy metals and chemicals.
“It wasn’t too challenging,” Swift says when I ask her about how easy it was to rid her beauty cabinet and kit of anything she deemed nasty. “Because I worked with make-up I knew what was good and what wasn’t – I knew what was irritating me,” she says. With the plethora of information – and misinformation – out there where natural and organic beauty is concerned, Swift admits it’s not necessarily an easy task for beauty enthusiasts to undertake.
As tough as it might be, Swift is undoubtedly passionate about ensuring beauty buffs make educated decisions. “People go to the extremes. When you say something is chemical free, that’s ridiculous. Water is a chemical,” she stresses. “What does saying it’s natural really mean? That word gets thrown around but there are no rules and regulations for what that means. There are chemicals that are 100 per-cent safe, but then there are chemicals that are still used in cosmetics that are really questionable and have been banned in some countries.”
Despite the difficulties involved in giving your beauty cabinet a green makeover, Swift assures me it’s not impossible. “You have to do your research,” she says. “There are good websites you can use, but start by taking your package, turning it around and look at the ingredient deck. If you can see words that are tongue twisters, you know that they’re not necessarily a good thing.” Asking for help is important Swift says. “Go to a store that has stocks green brands, that knows the green make-up world better research.”
As for Swift’s own beauty regimen, she says she was born a purist. “When Mum let me use eyeliner I’d take it off with olive oil in the kitchen and as I got older I started using coconut oil, otherwise it was just water and a face cloth.” Years of working on shoots with some of the biggest names in fashion and things Swift hasn’t been swayed by the rise of multi-step beauty routines. “I’m super simple – I use Coconut oil for everything. Little bit of foundation where I need it. Do a brow. Put a red lip on and that’s about it.” Swift is well aware that her less-is-more approach isn’t for everyone. “It works for me, not for everyone. But if you’re using multiple steps, make sure you know what’s in those products.”
Beauty bugbear: “People not taking their make-up off at night. You need to learn to take it off, people go to sleep with mascara on. It’s bad, you’re ruining your eyelashes and the skin around your eyes; taking it off with harsh, chemical wipes isn’t going to do any favours either.”
Product to ditch now: “Make-up remover; you don’t want to wash your skin with more chemicals. It might be the easiest way but you’re destroying your skin. I like to do less. I use the coconut oil and wipe it off and go to bed.”
Winter beauty tip: “Dump the drying powders in winter and get into a more moisturising make-up. Winter dries out your skin. It needs more moisturise. Use more healing natural oils.”
Favourite natural ingredient: “I use coconut oil for everything: it’s antifungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial. People say ‘coconut oil breaks me out’. Of course it does! It’s cheap coconut oil. The coconut oil in my products is cold centrifuged; it doesn’t destroy the good acids.”