If you have an Instagram account, chances are you’ll know exactly who Katie Jane Hughes is – the Southport-born, New York-based make-up artist was one of the early pioneers of the social media beauty tutorial and now almost 800,000 loyal fans tune in daily to see the latest looks she’s created on herself or her celebrity clients, which include Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Ashley Graham and Hailey Bieber. Known for pairing glossy, dewy skin with bold, colourful make-up looks, she’s beloved for her honest, open approach to beauty. As she returns to London to host a series of special masterclasses, she reveals how she broke into the industry, the secrets behind her skincare routine and her must-have new products for 2022.
I didn’t start out in make-up – I was actually a manicurist first. I started in a nail salon environment before working in Space NK on Westbourne Grove, which is where I learnt everything I know about make-up. I worked there for four years while I was still doing nails on photo shoots. Nails were my stepping stone into the industry, Space NK was my beauty school and then being on set and assisting other artists – sometimes for free – was my university. That combination was the best education for me and the best start for my career.
If it wasn’t for Instagram, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Even though we all have a bit of a love hate relationship with social media these days, Instagram is 100% the thing I have to thank for the way my career is now. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to push forward with make-up and move away from nails. My heart was never in being a manicurist, but I was very passionate about make-up and I knew I was good at it. I used Instagram to post the sort of make-up looks I wanted to do on shoots, and it all took off from there. It was a great opportunity to put myself out there and show people, ‘This is what I do.’
Moving to New York helped me make an important transition in my work. When I was trying to move away from nails, I got an opportunity to relocate to New York and work with a brand called Butter London, who were a nail brand that were segueing into make-up – kind of similar to my own story. That lasted for a couple of years and it felt very authentic as a partnership. It ended at the perfect time, because afterwards I was able to be free and post all the things I wanted to post, with no brand restrictions.
Collaborating with Glossier introduced me to a whole new audience. I’ve worked with them for five years now on multiple different scenarios, originally on product development for Glossier Play. They found me through Instagram and said they wanted to work with me, and I remember going in to meet them and there was this crazy moment where Emily Weiss was sitting there saying, ‘I really love your work, you make me want to put make-up on my face and have fun.’ Even though the Play line has been discontinued now, I still get a lot of people asking for the products. Now I do shoots with them and work on product development for other ranges. They’re definitely a brand that I’ll continue to work with for a long time, because I genuinely use most of their products in my make-up bag.
When Rosie Huntington-Whiteley slid into my DMs, I couldn’t believe it. She messaged me saying, ‘When I’m in New York I’d love for you to do my make-up’, and I almost fell out of bed. A month later I was working with her at a Caudalie event in the city. I said, ‘What do you want to do?’ And she said, ‘Give me a KJH special.’ So we did something I love to play with, which is pink and red on the same face – a soft, sheer pink on the eye with a bold red lip. She honoured my skill and just let me run with it, which is something I never take for granted. The more a client lets you just be the artist, without holding the reins too much, the happier they will be, because they’re working with you for a reason.
Make-up by Katie Jane Hughes for Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Rose Inc
I still learn new things from my clients all the time. I remember the first time I worked with Rosie I didn’t use any blush on her face, because I wasn’t a blush person at the time. And she said to me, ‘Can we do a bit of blush?’ I was kind of shocked that she even wanted it, because I didn’t think it was a trendy thing to do then, but it literally changed her entire face. And now her Cream Blush from Rose Inc is one of my favourite products – the most gorgeous, rich, incredibly creamy blush. I felt honoured to be able to work with her on the launch images for Rose Inc. Rosie is such a talented product person – every single opportunity that she had to be in my kit, playing, touching and feeling, she was in there.
It’s important to recognise that some people can look just as incredible with almost no make-up as with a full make-up look. Ashley Graham is like that – I can just use a brow gel and some lip gloss on her and she’ll look as gorgeous as she does with a very glam, Sophia Loren-style look. Ashley just has this incredible energy. She is one of those people that you can walk into her space feeling a bit down or flat, and you will literally be turned around. She’s very big on manifestations and positive self-talk, and her energy is just so uplifting to be around. She’s so accepting of herself, and that makes you more accepting of yourself.
My signature make-up look is a fresh complexion with bold, fun pops of colour. The looks that I do on eyes or lips, you’d usually see them next to a heavier face, whereas I like to freshen the face up as well. I never want the foundation to look like it’s there – I want the skin to look perfected but nothing too heavy. To finish the look off I’ll use the Dior Backstage Glow Palette – it just makes everything look that little bit better. I’ve been using it for years; a big brush on the collarbones and tops of the shoulders if they’re exposed, down the shins and on the cheekbones. It makes the skin look balmy and luminous without being powdery.
Backstage Glow Face Palette
My favourite technique of-the-moment is using a shimmery blush over the lip. It has to be a very fine shimmer, I must stress, but it creates this beautiful sort of oil texture. I call it a modern metallic and it feels cool and edgy right now. I’ve been doing it for a while, but I think people are getting a little more comfortable with the concept now. It makes the lips look a bit more 3D and healthy and full, without looking like you’ve done anything. And it lasts longer than gloss.
Extra Dimension powder blush
I decide my morning skincare routine by looking at what my skin is doing when I get out of bed. If my skin is nice and neutralised and not too oily, I just use a mist and a cotton round to remove any excess oil and then go on with my skincare routine. I like to let skin do its thing – it’s the most intelligent organ in our body. If I’m going to cleanse, I’ll use something gel-based and light, like a soy cleanser from Fresh, with a warm washcloth. If I’m going out that day and it’s sunny, I’ll only wear SPF under my make-up, I won’t wear any skincare at all. The Hyalu B5 from La Roche Posay is literally a game changer, it’s just the best SPF – we’re actually having that in the beauty bag at the masterclass. I just love the radiance that it gives. But if you over manipulate it while the make-up is being done it can roll, like any SPF, so using less pressure with brushes and tools is really important.
Facial Soy Face Cleanser
Hyalu B5 Aquagel SPF30
My night-time routine is much more involved. I start with a cleansing balm – I have a few favourites, like the Pai Light Work Cleansing Oil, the Alpha-H Melting Moments Cleansing Balm and the Ren Clean Jelly Cleanser. Those are my three go-tos that I have on rotation. Then I’ll do an acid toner and some moisturiser. The Ren Ready Steady Glow AHA Tonic is a great acid toner and then I’ll moisturise with something cocooning and rich like Glossier’s After Baume. I’m obsessed with that moisturiser – when it came out it replaced Weleda Skin Food for me, and I was a Skin Food die-hard. It really calms the skin down – I got a bit of rosacea earlier in the year and that cream really helped. I end with loads of lip balm, that’s the most important night-time step. I can’t go to bed without lip balm. My current favourite is the Rhode lip balm, Hailey Bieber’s brand, because it’s so light and cushiony and it doesn’t come off.
Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil
Jelly Oil Cleanser
Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic
Melting Moment Cleansing Balm
Peptide Lip Treatment
moisture barrier recovery cream
I’ve discovered a few game-changing new products for 2022. There are some brilliant brow products that have launched, which I love as I don’t have any brows – I plucked them all off when I was a teenager. The first is the Refy Eyebrow Pomade – it comes with a brush inside the lid, which helps to add real depth and shade to the brows. Then there’s the Nabla Cosmetics Brow Ambition eyebrow pen, which lets you create these tiny hair-like strokes. That has replaced Glossier’s Brow Flick for me, which is a shock because I actually co-developed that product with them. This one’s just a bit more precise. Other than brows, Jamie Genevieve’s make-up line, Vieve Beauty, is just incredible, especially her Power Ink Liner which gives amazing precise definition.
Brow Ambition eyebrow pen
Power Ink Liner
I created the KJH Academy Live masterclasses as a love letter to my community. I started the KJH Academy on Instagram during the pandemic, when I couldn’t be on set or work on models, to encourage my audience to recreate looks that I had done on myself. Then I would post nine of the submissions alongside mine. I wanted to show what a specific make-up look would look like on everyone, so I was picking a wide range of different complexions and age ranges, eye shapes and skin textures. The masterclasses are an extension of that, harnessing the warmth of that community.
London felt like the right place to kick off the series. London is one of the most beauty-centric cities in Europe, so it just made sense. Plus, the UK is where I’m from and I used to live in London – this is the city where I grew up in the industry, so to have it here just felt right. If you buy a ticket, you’ll get to watch me do my own make-up as well as on a model, and then ask me any questions you want. Plus, you’ll walk away with an insane goodie bag full of all my favourite products. It’s going to be really curated, with a foundation partner there so that everyone gets the right shade of foundation for them. I want it to be really thoughtful and intentional in that respect.
The beauty mantra I live by is that we don’t need any of it – we want it. You don’t need to conceal a break out, you don’t need to cover up your dark circles – it’s a desire to do that. I say that because sometimes I catch myself saying, ‘You need to put this there’, and I’m like, ‘Nobody needs to do anything’. Who’s telling us we have to cover a spot? Nobody should ever feel the need to change what’s happening with their face that day. You’re beautiful just the way you are and make-up is an accessory, simple as that.
Purchase tickets for the KJH Academy Live Masterclass here: