The Makeup and Skin Care Behind Margot Robbie’s Looks in ‘Babylon

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Heba Thorisdottir and Jamie Leigh McIntosh have quickly become the must-have makeup and hair duo for Hollywood’s most highly anticipated films. The pair first made magic together on the set of Don’t Worry Darling, and they’ve done it again for Babylon. The film taps into a rarely explored, more wild side of Hollywood in the 1920s. Heba even noted using old-school mugshots as inspiration. Margot Robbie plays Nellie LaRoy, the leading lady in Babylon, and her hair and makeup had to match her story from party girl to film actress and back. Heba shared tons of the makeup and skin care she used on Margot to create her many dynamic looks.

The lip color Margot wears with the red dress is stunning. What is it?

“There were three of them used in the scene throughout the party. When Nellie arrives, she has Charlotte Tilbury Scarlet Spell ($34) on. As the party goes on, it is supposed to wear off, and I needed it waterproof as she is kissing various people, so I stained her lips with Smashbox in Bawse ($19). For the final scene when she is gambling and gets the movie part, I used Clé de Peau 2 Red ($46).”

What was the inspiration behind the makeup looks for this film?

“Even though Babylon is set in the 1920s and 30s, it is a timeless story that has repeated itself throughout the decades. I started getting images from Damien Chazelle, our director and visionary. There were references from Clara Bow, Jeanne Moreau and Sophia Loren to Gilda Radner and Courtney Love. Damien obviously wanted to have a timeless look. Jaime Leigh, Hair Department Head, and I started looking even deeper for obscure images from the time period that were not the typical looks we would think of from the period, such as skinny eyebrows and bow lips.

I remembered images I had seen and taken photos of from the wallpaper in a restroom at a bar in Reykjavík. I went through my photos, found them, dropped them into Google images, and they turned out to be mugshots from the 20s and 30s. Those images and the story surrounding those women became my holy grail.”

Heba Thorisdottir and Margot Robbie on the set of Babylon
Heba Thorisdottir and Margot Robbie on the set of Babylon

How did Margot’s shifts in makeup looks represent her character’s changes throughout the film?

“Damien wanted a clear difference when Nellie was in front of the camera and in her regular life. At the beginning of the film, she lived with her father, and they literally had nothing. I asked Margot not to pluck her eyebrows, not even one hair! I thought if Nellie had a tweezer and cleaned her eyebrows up a little bit, then why wouldn’t she just go all the way and do skinny eyebrows?

Nellie shows up for a party in a costume that looks like she had made from a piece of fabric she found, so we figured she would probably have borrowed a lipstick from a neighbor. She showed up to the biggest party in Hollywood with nothing but her badass confidence. We were inspired by her story and her character.

She did not have the lipstick on her, so we had the lips fade to a stain as the night went on. As she becomes successful, she gets expensive jewelry and nicer clothing, and when she’s in that stage of her life, she has a little bit of makeup on. We quickly realize that she has a drinking and gambling problem, so we had to show that in the makeup as well.

We see her unraveling by having messier makeup and not really taking care of herself as she should. I had a sheer foundation on her and painted on imperfections on her skin and around her eyes. We assumed she could have been at the studio filming and would leave with the makeup on as she goes gambling, sleeps with it on, shows up late for work, and would not give her makeup artist the time of day to fix her up.

In the beginning, when she is behind the camera, we shot a scene where she’s actually applying her own makeup and has no idea what she is doing, which supports the beginning scene when she only has red lipstick on. We used Max Factor containers from the 1920s, cleaned them and added the correct texture and colors in cream makeup, but new and sanitized. Then we got to where she has a professional makeup artist do her makeup and take care of her, so there’s a clear difference in her look.”

What makeup products did you use to give Margot her wild child look?

“That scene had to be makeup that worked for both black and white and color film…and waterproof! Damien wanted an insane amount of ‘sweat’ on almost everyone in the film at all times. And no white teeth.

For her foundation, I prepped with SUQQU Treatment Serum Primer ($58) and used Charlotte Tilbury Wonderglow ($55), and literally caked on Airbrush Flawless Finish Setting Powder in shade two and a little MAC Creme in Pearl ($19) for highlights.

For the lips, I used Smashbox Always On in Bawse as a base with MAC Ruby Woo ($21) for the beginning of the scene, and then it fades away as the scene goes on. The concealer was Clé de Peau in Ocre ($75), and the blush Stila in Peony ($25) with Chanel in Rose Bronze ($47) on top.

I used Hourglass Arch Brow Sculpting Pencil in Platinum Blond ($37) and extended the brows on the ends. I paired Black Viseart eyeshadow ($80) with a black liner from Chanel. For lashes I used Chanel Volume Waterproof in Black ($38) and Dark Swan of Denmark Lashes in Romance ($20). To make Margot’s teeth appear less white to go with the times I used a wash of Skin Illustrator in Prairie ($18) on her teeth. There was a lot of Final Seal ($20) to seal the makeup and water spritzes and Mac Gloss ($23) for shine.”

What kind of skin prep did you do on Margot?

“We started filming in July, out in Lake Piru, California, in 110° heat, and I used a lot of sunscreen. Arcona sunscreen was a lifesaver out there. I used Kat Burki cleanser ($50) to take off the makeup, followed by Barbara Sturm Enzyme Cleanser ($75), which leaves the skin so soft—followed by Sturm Hyaluronic Serum and a daily moisturizer. Monastery Attar Cream ($168) on lips, cuticles and as a dewiness on her skin throughout the film when needed.

Arcona Desert Mist ($43) acted as a skin barrier between skin care and makeup. I used Le Mieux Ionized Skin Infuser ($135) two to three times a week to keep her skin hydrated and Joanna Vargas Bright Eye Firming Masks ($60) daily.”

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