Michelle Obama’s Makeup Artist Answers All of Our Burning Beauty Questions

Photo: Getty Images/JEWEL SAMAD/AFP
There are certain humans on this earth who actually glow. Michelle Obama is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of those humans. Take one look at her parading across the stage in a pair of silver sparkly boots, hugging one of her adoring fans, or posing for vacation photos with her family, and that much is clear. It is makeup artist Carl Ray's job to make that glow even more evident.

Ray has been Obama's go-to makeup artist since 2009, and chances are that any look you've seen her rock—from State Dinners to many trips overseas—was created by his expert hand. So needless to say, I had a lot of questions for him. Read on for his tips to help achieve Obama-level glow.

1. How can you use makeup to look more awake after a seriously shortened night of sleep?

Michelle Obama's schedule isn't exactly the most sleep-friendly (...being an international icon takes a lot of time out of the day), but Ray has a few genius tricks for helping her look more awake on days when getting eight full hours of shut-eye is a pipe dream. "Put a little bit of concealer on the inner corner of your eyes," he suggests. "There's usually dark spots on the inner part of your nose. If you lighten that up with a little bit of concealer that makes it looks like you had a couple extra hours of sleep. And don't always glob liner on the bottom—if you're tired, keep it just on top so that makes you look more awake."

2. How do you make your makeup last all day, no matter what you've got on the docket?

To help makeup last throughout a long day of book touring, changing the world, and all of the above, there are two products that Ray relies on. "Primer helps to keep makeup in place from budging and smudging, and you can use fishing sprays so the makeup lasts and stays in place,"  he says, noting that he also employs the method on his bridal clients. A few of his favorite setting sprays on the market come from NARS, Hourglass, and Make Up For Ever.


3. Why does Michelle Obama always look so glowy?

In a word: Highlighter. "You can use highlighter to bounce light to the skin to make it glowy," explains Ray. "I like to use a brush and place it in a C shape on the cheekbones, up around the eye, sometimes on the Cupid's bow, sometimes a little bit on the nose, sometimes in the eyebrow—it just depends." He starts with the cheeks and builds from there depending on the nature of the event, so a daytime event might get just the C shape, while a party might have highlighter placed everywhere. 

As far as picking the right product goes, Ray's got a few rules to live by. "Most of the time I like something that's much more pearlized and less glittery, because glitter can make the skin look more mature, and pearlized particles tend to look nicer in photographs," he says. 

4. How can you create a not-boring makeup look without having to go crazy with color?

Though Michelle Obama may be taking certain risks with her outfits now that she's no longer representing the United States on the world's stage (...allow me to mention those glitter boots once again, please), she's not exactly doing the same with blue eyeliner or neon mascara.

Even so, her beauty looks are anything but boring. While Ray tends to opt for a more neutral palette with golden and bronze tones, he notes that you can keep things interesting by adding a subtle little somethin' somethin' to your final look. "You can add a little color to your liner without being too garish, or you can add a pop of color to your lips," he says, noting that he tends to stay away from major color moments for big events. 

5. How can you use makeup to enhance your natural features?

Part of Ray's genius as a makeup artist is the fact that everything he creates is somehow both subtle and statement making at the same time. But how does he do it? "I'm more of a neutral, 'bring out your inner beauty' type of guy," he says. "Not only just for Michelle, but for all my clients, what I like to do is enhance their features. For example, use liner to emphasize the eyes, play with the lips, use bronzer to give a sun-kissed look to the face. I don't go crazy with anything." Most importantly of all: "It's all about bringing out the inner beauty for me," says Ray. "And accenting the beauty and just making the person feel and look beautiful." 

For more First Lady-approved tips, try stealing her self-care routine, or test these 11 moves that will give you arms as strong as hers are. 

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