The perception of beauty is subjective; and also depends on where the ‘beholder’ hails from. While sultry makeup scores beauty points in one corner, the porcelain skin is a much more desirous trait at the other.
With a strange fetish to explore beauty and fashion in different parts of the world, I got an opportunity to connect with talented industry specialists in Indonesia who taught me more about the Southeast Asian beauty industry in a 3-hour session than I had learnt through my independent observations, assumptions, and debates with a fellow mate who found more amusement in technology than humans.
However, talking about technology and innovation, I have to admit, I found myself quite enthralled with the beauty gears and techniques of Indonesian makeup artists. But as they say, ‘a drive is nothing without the driver’; a zillion brushes, expensive palettes and cutting-edge technology cannot create a work of beauty unless entrusted in the hands of someone who has truly acquired the art of makeup. I’ve always been fascinated with beauty transformations — the magic a few strokes of brushes can create. In Indonesia, I soaked in the bliss of a perfect makeover in the hands of Jakarta’s popular makeup artist who had been enhancing beauties from catwalks to weddings for over two decades — Erika Jennings.
The preparation: Before the actual makeup process began, Erika decided she needed to prep my face first (and that included eyelids and lips too). There is a lot of emphasis on hydration in the Indonesian beauty industry. From water sleeping-masks to dewy textures, the range of products available to get that fresh, water-thin finish was something that really appealed to me. Coming from a place that has everyone fretting over moisturisers to combat the dry heat, I thought to pay attention to hydration levels for your skin was a beauty tip that I could take back right away (and implement too, of course). ‘Fresh and flawless’ was the look Erika was aiming for.
The brows: There was a valid reason why we started with eyebrows. It would give enough time for my hydrating primer to seep into my skin before we started dabbing in the foundation. Indonesian women usually have thin eyebrows; but just like Middle Eastern ladies, the trend for thicker eyebrows has caught on there too. Eyebrows help to frame the face which is why a makeup is never complete unless we ensure that we have tamed any flyaway strays and filled any unwanted gap in the brows.
The eyeshadows: When we came to the eyeshadows, I was thrilled to see familiar names. Huda and Naked — two beauty brands that had makeup artists raving even in Oman was something that was equally popular there too. We opted for a blend of golden and terracotta — a combination that was rich yet subtle.
The lashes: Indonesians tend to have eyelashes that are shorter and tend to go flat easily. (Yes, take a moment and flutter those lashes you are blessed with naturally.) The technique, however, to combat this issue was something that I was in awe of. It is undoubtedly time-consuming and requires an immense amount of patience, concentration and precision, but the results are phenomenal. The name, you ask? It’s called lash-layering.
As the name suggests, instead of using a single lash strip, multiple strips are layered over one another for the upper eyelids. The trick is starting from the waterline and gradually proceeding upwards which results in making the lashes look more voluminous.
For the lower lids, individual lashes are used instead of a single strip. Though it is used more sparingly, it fills the empty spaces in between the lashes so it looks natural as compared to a single lash strip. This technique makes the eyes look more open while preventing droopy lashes. It is then finished with liquid liner and oodles of mascara to keep up that perfect curl.
The airbrush: This was probably the most sensational part of the entire routine; this is where we capitalised on technological innovation – the airbrush. The technique has definitely changed the face of the beauty industry and a lot of international makeup artists completely swear by it. And what’s more, it takes care of contouring and highlighting as well. For those still new to the technique, here’s how it works:
What is it?
The airbrush, in itself, is a stainless steel gun with a hose and an air compressor. The airbrush kit comes with your choice of foundation shade as it only works with a particular formula (any ordinary foundation can be too heavy for it to break down). A few drops of the foundation is added to the cup mounted on top of the airbrush-gun and then the lever pulled back to release the foundation. The foundation is released in the form of a lightweight mist.
How do we use it?
As simple as it may sound, using an airbrush does require some skill. But hey, with a technique that’s so much fun, who would mind going for a few practice sessions! It’s always a good idea to start testing the spray first on the back of your palm and then a small patch below your lower cheekbone. This helps determine the texture and also ensures you are using the right shade of foundation according to your skin colour. Keep the brush at a distance of about 6-12 inches from the skin and spray it in a circular motion. For targeted areas, bring the airbrush closer and spray lightly. The best part is you can also use the airbrush to contour, highlight and even add a little blush to the skin.
What is the final result like?
It gives pretty much the best finish you can dream of, if you’ve got it right of course. Airbrush technique helps to achieve a flawless, even-toned and lightweight cover that lasts all day looking as natural as ever. We finished the entire look with a dewy nude lipstick, a setting spray to keep the makeup from running and a hearty squeal of delight from Erika.
It was now time to capture the work of Erika through the lenses of Indonesia’s popular photographer, Anthony Chiputra. Anthony was mentored by Jakarta’s well-acclaimed photography guru, Yessica Riany. Coupling the technical knowledge with the creative thinking of modern times, Anthony brought to the table an unmistakable energy that transcended into each one of us. A few thousand clicks later, I left the studio with an excited anticipation of seeing what the final photos look like.
Indonesians prefer a dewy, rather porcelain finish that is commonly seen in the Korean beauty industry. And I found the very same example of flawless perfection in the final edits that Anthony produced. The skin texture was distinctly smooth, a few tones fairer, and had an unmistakable radiance that highlighted dominant features like the jawline, eyes and brows. I was, of course, more than elated with the result.
I brought back home not just some great photos but an experience that taught me that though there may be a lot of similarities along with its share of differences to the very concept of beauty across various regions, there is one fundamental thing that binds industry specialists together – and that is the skill of identifying, enhancing and bringing out one’s inner beauty so they fall in love with the best possible version of themselves.
Antara Bose is a model turned fashion and beauty consultant. A popular blogger, anchor, and voice over artist, she maintains a deep connection with the local fashion, wellness and health industry. For fashion updates follow Antara on instagram @antarabose and on Facebook: Antara Bose.