From Punk to Makeup Artist and Organic Beauty Advocate: Rose-Marie Swift of rms beauty

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New York City–based makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift has come a long way since her career's unlikely beginning. Her earliest recollection of cosmetics? “Using green food coloring to do my little sister up as Eddie Munster,” she says with a laugh, adding “I think we did a Spock look, too.” These childhood memories speak to the fact that doing makeup is something that just came natural to her.

For more than 20 years, Rose-Marie has drawn on that innate talent to build a successful artistry business. She counts Miranda Kerr, Gisele, and Paloma Picasso among her many clients, and her work has appeared everywhere from Vogue to The Wall Street Journal to campaigns for Louis Vuitton and Calvin Klein. But today, she’s more well-known for her popular line rms beauty, which we’re thrilled to welcome to Beautylish Boutiques! We recently sat down for tea with Rose-Marie in her downtown NYC studio and chatted all about her line, the importance of high-quality ingredients, and her beginnings as a ’70s punk.

on her approach to makeup artistry

“My touch is light and ethereal. Never heavy. I’m also known for being fast. If you tell us 4 a.m. call time, we can get there at 5:30 and still be ready to shoot on time. For me, it’s all about luminosity and letting skin show through, rather than covering it up. And: absolutely no mineral powders or tacky frosted shadows. I just do what I like and use what I like based on color and the look I’m creating. I don’t always know products by brand name or shade. I just don’t pay attention to that stuff!”

on powder

“I’m anti-powder (hence a single, universal shade of ‘Un’ Powder, which works with my 'Un' Cover-Ups and Beauty Oil). Generally speaking, the older you get, the worse powder looks. Powder bronzers might look good in photos, but they don’t work in real life, in natural light. People usually don’t notice how their skin looks with powder all over it—it’s hard to look at yourself objectively, especially when it comes to makeup. My Buriti bronzer will be out later this year, in one shade that works on all skin tones. It’s not gray, not orange, not pink, but right in the middle. I designed it to let the complexion shine through."

on why she doesn’t use soap

“I haven’t washed my face or body with soap since I can remember. Traditional cleansers and soaps to me age the skin and have absolutely no positive effect on the skin except strip it. We do too much to our skin and overstimulate it. The skin doesn’t like to be washed and scrubbed to death. Easy, easy, easy. Skin is not a barrier to the outside world as we once thought. What we put on it gets into our system.”

on deodorant, fragrance, and other potential irritants

“Toxins are the reason we stink. I only use natural deodorant, and even then, only when I need it, maybe once every two months. ‘Fragrance’ as an ingredient is synthetic. If you see ‘fragrance,’ run! Petroleum-based products can clog pores. Essential oils, whether organic or not, can be very irritating to sensitive skin. Over time and with continued use it actually dehydrates and ages the skin—I’ve never use all of that stuff, and look at my skin! I’m 58!" (Note: head-to-toe, her skin indeed looks amazing.)

on her beginnings

“Being a rockstar is what I really wanted to do. I was in a band in the ’70s, and we backed up the Ramones. But makeup came so easy to me. Even today, I like working on developing the products more than I love doing makeup. Makeup was never my passion! The hair stylists I’ve worked will vouch for that, ha! I started out in Vancouver, and got a break doing a cover shoot when a famous model came to town. I did a monochromatic look—all light pink! And then after I did everything that was possible in Vancouver, I moved on to Toronto. And so on.”

on using food-grade ingredients

“As you know, I do not favor steam-distilled essential oils. I prefer to use CO2s, which are considerably more expensive than essential oils, but it’s worth it. We minimize heat used in the manufacturing process to preserve vital nutrients. And we use food-grade, organic ingredients in their most natural state. Our stuff is more like having an organic raw juice or green salad rather then french fries. You can literally scoop our raw coconut cream out of the jar and put it in your mouth, and you know it is good for you."

on her raw coconut cream

“The Raw Coconut Cream is best makeup remover ever. It’s all I use to clean my face and take off product. It even works on waterproof mascara. If I could only use one product every day, this would be it. The process we use to extract it from the coconut preserves the highest amount of lauric acid, a rare beneficial substance you can find pretty much only one other place—in human breast milk. It’s all of the ‘anti’s’: antioxidant, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-fungal. All of this means it’s suitable even on acne-prone skin, and even helps improve it, while fighting free radical damage and premature aging.”

on mixing in non-organic, non-natural products

“Yes, I do. As a professional, I have to. I can’t always use completely organic lip colors or makeup, especially when I’m going for a more highly pigmented look or under major heavy lights on a shoot. I make cleaner choices when I can when working with clients. What’s great about my line is that you can combine all of the products to create new colors and textures. They all work together. And my products are designed to work synergistically with the skin.”

on cost versus quality

“Quality ingredients are the key. I always say 'organic is a guarantee of safety, not quality.' Most of what you see out there is made with cheap coconut oil, cheap jojoba oil, etc. When I first sourced the high-end stuff, even my lab said, why not go with the stuff that’s three-fourths of the cost! And then they were shocked at the increase in quality and performance between cheap and expensive ingredients—even ones labeled organic.”