Dumpling skin is the latest addition to the dictionary. Well, technically Merriam-Webster has not picked it up quite yet, but the beauty bible sure has. Coined by New York makeup artist Nam Vo, who has worked with the likes of Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Aimee Song and Kylie Jenner, dumpling skin could be defined as skin that resembles the sheen and moisture of a dumpling.
In 2008, Vo moved to New York from California where she began her makeup artist career — in a strip club. Working as a makeup artist for the women taught her a lot about human behavior, she says. “Everybody is a star in their own right, and everybody wants to feel beautiful and confident — exotic dancers are no different,” Vo adds.
And today, when stalking Vo on Instagram, we find ourselves falling down a shimmery rabbit hole. A world in which highlighter shines so bright that it has the power to blind you. Yet, her approach is done in a tactful way thanks to her skin first approach. “All roads basically lead back to good skin,” says Vo. “Beautiful makeup truly starts with beautiful skin, and it’s ironic to me that most women are always, like ‘What’s your favorite foundation? How do I cover up my melasma? How do I work on my acne?’ I really think that instead of spending money on foundation and coverage — what every woman needs to do is spend money on good skincare.”
I had the pleasure of speaking with Vo, so keep reading for the inside scoop.
Q: You have a skincare-first mentality when it comes to your technique. What’s your skincare secret?
I have a Vietnamese mother, so it was always part of my culture to always put skin first. I’m lucky enough that I work in a business where I have the best products in the world sent to me, so I’m spoiled in that way, but I am also a really big oil user. Growing up as an oily girl, oil was always stigmatized, and we were always like ‘oil-free this, oil-free everything,’ and I was in this mindset that oil was something to be afraid of. These last couple of years I completely embraced oil, and not only is it something that is in my everyday skincare regimen, but it’s something that I use on my clients, models and celebrities. I spend a lot of time prepping the skin. I truly believe that beautiful makeup starts with beautiful skin.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a makeup artist?
I literally have to pinch myself because I’m like, ‘Is this really my life?’ It’s not all unicorns, dumplings and rainbows. But I just feel very privileged. I get to make people feel beautiful. I get to play with products and makeup. It’s a meditative zone for me. I’m very ADD but when I do makeup it’s artistic and creation for me.
Q: You credit your mother for teaching you about the importance of skin health at a young age. What is something she taught you that really stuck with you? What is some non-beauty related advice of hers that we all need to hear?
One: The sun is the skin’s worst enemy. While all my girlfriends were tanning and hanging out by the pool, I was hiding underneath the umbrella. I was made fun of when I was little but now, I’m like, ‘Thank the Lord’.
Two: Your diet plays a major role. I don’t know about you, but I always call myself a plump dumpling. As soon as I have ramen or Chinese food, I wake up the next day puffy. It’s important to watch out for inflammation. Sometimes I wake up and put the best outfit on, spend an hour doing my makeup, but I just know that I don’t look good. And then there are days when I eat well, get good sleep, barely need any makeup, but I feel so much more beautiful.
Q: What is something you recommend clients do at nighttime to prep for an appointment with you?
I love to do an exfoliator or a mask. I’m also really big on steaming. I have an at-home steamer so I might steam to open up the pores and then use a peel, a deep cleansing mask or something of that nature. I love to peel, exfoliate and do a hydrating mask. I mask probably three to four days a week. That’s how I really see the difference in my skin and I really like to polish it up, so it looks like glass.
Q: What are some items that have made a huge difference in your skin?
The PureLife Face microcurrent sculpting tool. It’s so strong and it’s really good to help tighten muscles on the face. I think that’s great. I love a steamer. I love a ReFa roller — some of those [other facial] rollers are really good. Anything that stimulates blood flow on the face is really good for the face.
Q: When matte inevitably makes its cyclical return, will you stray from your signature glowy look?
I know a lot of people with problematic skin and oily skin, and they like a matte look which is OK. No matter what happens, the finish could be matte, but the skin should always have a little bit of a luminous finish. You could be matte all over and maybe just do a touch of highlighter on the highs of your cheekbones. It should still look like skin and have moisture. I’d rather walk around and look like I have imperfections on my face, than look like I have a pancake on my face. I’d rather look flawed than to look like I can’t breathe because I have such heavy makeup on.
Q: How do you prevent makeup from fading?
I think that makeup fading is common. I’ll carry a Beautyblender in its holder, and I might just go in when I’m looking a little bit crusty … [and] blend in my cheeks or dab on a little concealer or dab on oil. Beautyblender also makes something called Blotterati, and it’s a blotting sponge, which I think is really nice as well.
Q: Do you swear by the beauty blender or are is there another application tool you love?
I swear by the Beautyblender. There’s not a face I touch that I don’t use the Beautyblender [on]. The Beautyblender has changed my life.
Q: When is applying makeup with your fingers okay?
I think it’s always OK. The finger has a little warmth — and then it has a little oil — so it’s going to [work]. The Beautyblender does one thing, but I think that skin on skin also has a way of melting in products and pigments in a very unique way. Your hands are free so use them as much as you can.
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