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How I Shop (Beauty Edition): Makeup Artist Erin Parsons

The viral social media sensation and face painter to Gigi Hadid shares her favorite products, where she finds vintage cosmetics and how she keeps her skin from freaking out.
Erin Parsons Headshot

Our "How I Shop" series documents how prominent figures buy clothes. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. The same goes for beauty — and there's a whole lot to unpack in the way we discover, test and purchase hair, skin, makeup, fragrance and wellness products. Now, we're delving into all of it with "How I Shop: Beauty Edition."

Erin Parsons is the kind of makeup artist who finds such joy in creating with cosmetics, it's evident in every look she creates. Sure, she serves as Maybelline's Global Makeup Artist, regularly adorns the faces of both Bella and Gigi Hadid and her editorial, campaign and backstage work spans just about every big-name label in fashion that exists. But impressive though those professional accomplishments may be, she still knows how to have fun with makeup. 

Parsons has cultivated quite a following on social media — a casual 365K followers on Instagram and 812K (!) on TikTok — thanks to her campy, artful, downright delightful videos creating looks on herself, often incorporating vintage makeup and hilarious editing and voiceover effects. As adept as she is at social media virality, she's also a careful, methodical artist with legit credentials behind her. She skills to show for it: A one-time protégé and assistant to Pat McGrath, she can create luminous, even complexions, blended-to-perfection metallic smoky eyes and a lit-from-within glow with the best of them. So, of course, she knows quite a bit about shopping for and sourcing beauty products. 

Ahead, Parsons shares a glimpse at how she shops for beauty items, the must-have formulas in her kit and how she keeps her skin so flawless between all those makeup applications. Read on for the highlights.

Where do you typically shop for beauty products?

Beautylish, Beauty Bay, Sephora and Net-a-Porter. For vintage, I find things on eBay, Etsy, Ruby Lane and 1st Dibs.

How does your process differ when shopping for beauty items versus clothing?

For clothes I tend to buy vintage, but I also buy vintage beauty products. If I'm going to buy [new] clothes, it's almost always from Net-a-Porter because it's very easy with the delivery and any returns and exchanges. With beauty, I'm usually just replenishing my makeup kit, so there are certain products I need, and they usually are particular, so may only be in certain stores and online shops.

How do you go about discovering new brands and products?

I'm very fortunate as I get a lot of PR packages, but I'll also watch YouTube reviews and then buy.

Do you have a testing process or any sort of criteria products should meet?

I'm always looking for extreme pigment and opacity. Long-lasting is not really an issue as I'm doing it on photo shoots or just on myself for a quick video.

Does it differ when we're talking about products you use on yourself versus products you use on clients?

Yes, for sure. There are products that I always use that I know work for me — I'm willing to get creative, and I can sit for hours playing with my own makeup. On set, I don't have hours to play; I've got to move quickly, so there's not really an ability to try new products at that time. I need to know that it works and provides the finish or tone I need for the look.

Given that you get sent so many products, how do you decide what to test?

I tend to keep all the nudes, all the wearable tones that I can use daily. I also love any bright jewel tones, neons or pastels because they seem to be rare in beauty brands today.

What do you do with items you don't end up keeping?

I give them to my sister, my assistants and even my neighbors. Sometimes I'll do giveaways on Instagram. I also donate to homeless shelters.

Do you have a signature beauty look?

I tend to love doing vintage looks, but I don't always stick to one decade. I like to mix things from the trends of those times and create my own vibe.

How would you describe your beauty aesthetic, and how has it evolved in the last year or so, if at all?

I love vintage of course, but I also love to be fully creative. Now that I focus more time on myself, I like to play with a vintage aesthetic. In the past, I was only doing photo shoots, so I'd often show up in sweats and a hat. With Instagram and TikTok, I get to live out my fantasy world.

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How often do you try a new beauty product, and how often do you actually end up adopting a new one into your routine permanently?

I try something new almost daily if I'm creating looks on myself. I keep many new products in my personal vanity but don't always have the chance to use them.  When I'm doing a look that requires a certain tone or finish, I'll remember that particular product and use it.

With all of that makeup, you somehow keep your skin looking flawless all the time. Drop the routine!

It changes often, as I'm trying new products constantly. I usually cleanse with Biologique Recherche Lait U and then tone and exfoliate with its P50W. Then I use Dr. Devgan Vitamin C Serum. I'm loving Bioeffect EGF Power Cream, especially as the weather gets colder. Eye cream is Shiseido Benefiance. For lips, I sleep in Laneige Sleeping Mask. I try to wear sunscreen daily, and for that my favorite is Supergoop Play. It gives a gorgeous sheen to the skin. At night, I wear Sio Patches to bed, especially on my forehead to prevent frown lines. I look like Meryl Streep in "Death Becomes Her" — it's kind of hilarious, but they work!

What about body-care products or tools?

I use the IS Clinical Youth Body Serum. It's in a spray, so there's no effort to moisturize the body quickly. I also love body oils; my favorites are Osea Undaria Algae Oil and Costa Brazil Lua Moonlight Body Oil. All of these products smell absolutely incredible — they all have quite different scents, but amazing just the same.

What does your go-to makeup routine look like?

Maybelline Dream Radiant Foundation, Kim Chi The Most Concealer and [Maybelline] Fit Me Loose Powder for face. On my lips, I use Charlotte Tilbury Pillowtalk Liner. I'm never without mascara — I change it up, but I'm currently loving Maybelline Sky High. This is my daily look. Anything outside of this can get complicated because I change it up so much.

What products are always in your kit?

MAC Taupe Shadow, Maybelline Sky High Mascara and Aquaphor Lip Balm.

Do you use any nail products? If so, what are your go-tos?

Jin Soon Cuticle Oil is always in my purse. I make it a habit to use day and night, and it makes a huge difference in the strength of my nails.

What about fragrance — do you have a signature scent?

I go back and forth between three: Maison Kurkdjian Grand Soir, Strangelove Fall Into Stars and Clive Christian Amber Oriental. They're all similar in that I love spicy, vanilla, oud, sandalwood types of fragrances.

What are some of your favorite smaller or up-and-coming beauty brands right now?

I'm loving Nimya by NikkieTutorials! It makes the skin so gorgeous and glow-y. I keep going back to the One/Size eyeliner from Patrick Starrr. There's an indie brand called Mily Makeup, and its beauty mark stickers have become a staple in my personal kit.

Do you have a wellness or self-care routine?

I do love candles. Costa Brazil recently sent me one and it smells exactly like its body oil. It's so incredible. I also love anything for the bath — bath soaks, bath oils, bath salts. Elemis makes incredible soaks for sore muscles. These are great after a long day on set. And on really tough days, when I'm standing for 12 hours, I go straight to Homogeneous massage products. There's one that you can put on a chair and an amazing one for the feet. I just sit for 30 min after a long bath. Incredible.

What are your must-have beauty tools?

Brushes from Rae Morris, Louise Young, Wayne Goss, which are all the most amazing quality. I tend to stick to my Beautyblender — can't go wrong there. For skin-care devices, my favorite is an LED Mask from HigherDose.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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