A beauty blogger that plays with makeup all day answers your burning questions

Words by Alyce Cowell

Image via @gemkwatts

How many lipsticks do you own tho.

Look, she probably wouldn’t want me to tell you this, but I feel like it’s only fair that you know: Melbourne beauty extraordinaire Gemma Watts is actually 65-years-old. She just looks 25 because her skin is that good (seriously, go stalk her @gemkwatts).

I recently caught up with Gemma to find out all of her beauty secrets (you’re welcome), and also to pry into her kit because all my makeup is running out and I’ll need to top up soon.

I picture you spending your days lying among thousands of beauty products, swatching lipsticks and testing highlighters. Is this what you do?

I don’t want to sound wanky, so I want to say no but…. kinda. I have my blog, but the majority of what I do is actually running my own digital content production company. I look after a bunch of beauty brands, so they’ll send me their new releases so I can have a play and work out the best way to use them, then from there I create content for them – everything from blogs for their customers, internal comms that they use to train staff on how to use and sell said new products, plus visual content for their online platforms. That’s just a convoluted way of saying YES, I do a WHOLE lot of swatching.

FAQ — how did you get into this for a living?

I worked as a Fashion Editor for around five years, and I spent two of those years working for L’Oreal Paris Australia simultaneously. I think it was during that time that I realised I actually preferred writing about beauty than fashion, so I started writing little beauty reviews on my Instagram and they got a good response. When I went full-time freelance I decided to start a personal blog as a bit of a side hustle – and here we are! 

How does the whole process work? Do brands send you products for review, or vice versa?

With my ongoing clients they send out any new releases so I can create content for them, but I’m so lucky that a lot of brands just send me products to review on my blog or Instagram. I never really reach out to companies just purely because it’s difficult with timing. 

What is it reeeeally like working in the beauty industry? Are there any nasty bits?

The downside is that it can really take a toll on your skin. I’ve learned the hard way. I think the best way to review a product is to keep my routine the same, then add in one or two new products to see how they go. I need to keep everything as consistent as possible to stop my skin from freaking out. I also think it’s really important to stay ethical when you’re reviewing products and I’ve lost work because of it. I have a clause that specifies that I’ll only agree to a review or sponsored post if the brand is happy for me to try the product for 21 days first. I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing a positive review of a product I a) don’t love or b) have only tried for three days. It’s always a shame missing out on a job but ethically, it’s worth it. 

Is it realistic to have a dream of being a full-time beauty blogger? What’s your advice as someone in the industry?

I’d say don’t start out with the goal of making it your full-time job. Blogging isn’t my full-time job either; it just happens that my business is beauty-centric too. If you want to break into this world you have to be authentic. Make yourself known for your personal style and stick with it. Every second person is a beauty blogger now so you need that point of difference. 

You have tried a helluva lot of products. What are the five products you can’t live without?

  1. Alpha H Liquid Gold. I started using it when I was 18 and it changed my skin and sparked my ongoing love for chemical exfoliants. 
  2. Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation. There’s nothing better than finding your perfect foundation – it’s like finding the right pair of jeans. 
  3. Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Skin Liquid Lighting. Whenever someone says, “your skin is glowing,” it’s because I’ve used this as a primer. 
  4. Aspect Dr Super B Serum. Vitamin B is a skincare godsend. Think of it like a Berocca for your skin in that it just makes everything work better. 
  5. Glossier Boy Brow. There was so much hype surrounding this product and I couldn’t figure out how any brow gel could be that different from every other brow gel out there… then I tried Boy Brow. 

What are the absolute best brands for: skincare, foundation, bronzer, mascara, highlighter, brows? The important stuff, you get it.

Skincare – Unfortunately this one isn’t one size fits all! I use a lot of Aspect and Paula’s Choice, as they’re both real “no fuss” companies that get the job done. 

Foundation – I love Charlotte Tilbury and Ellis Faas. Both make beautifully sheer, radiant-finish base products. 

Bronzer – Would you believe my all-time favourite bronzer is just from the chemist?! I swear by Natio. The compact is MASSIVE and it’s cheap as chips. 

Highlighter – Oh god, don’t make me choose. Josie Maran, Kevyn Aucoin, RMS, Victoria Beckham for Estee Lauder…. I could go on. 

Brows – Glossier for gel, Hourglass and Tom Ford for pencils. 

When you look into your crystal ball, what beauty trends do you see on the horizon for 2018? What’s hot and what’s not?

In 2017 there were two very distinct beauty camps – the skin that looks like skin camp (think Ania Milczarczyk, Max May etc) and then the Kardashian contours. There’s a real art to the latter, but I don’t love the idea of using makeup to change the entire shape of your face. Your face is beautiful! I think (*hope) we see a move towards a more natural look this year. I love what Violette is doing over at Estee Lauder. She’s still creative with makeup and really artistic, but she goes easy on the base.

What’s the secret to achieving this whole no-makeup look?

It’s all in the prep – there’s no substitute for good skincare. ‘No makeup’ makeup actually requires so many products because you need to use different things in order to mimic the light and shade of real skin, but the trick is to just use a tiny bit of each product. Foundation just to even out the skin tone, concealer only where you need it, then creamy highlighters and bronzers pressed into the skin with your fingers to mimic the texture of your skin. 

Do you often have a full face of makeup with nowhere to go?

All the damn time. When I’m working (unless I have a meeting) I’m makeup free, so often if I have to shoot content for a client I’ll do a full face, shoot it, then wash it all off. It feels like a shame but at least I can get a decent selfie out of it. 

Honestly, how many lipsticks do you own?

I have them stored in an 11 x 15 grid… and the grid is nearly full. I’ll let you do the math. 

(*I had to use my calculator but it’s 165. –Alyce)

How do you store all this stuff? Any tips?

Daiso! I have a big chest of drawers, almost like a filing cabinet, and I’ve filled each drawer with Daiso inserts. I’m a bit OCD with my storage but I feel like you kind of have to be in this industry. My actual kit that I take on shoots with me is a hot mess, but everything else is tidy. 

How long does it take you to get ready? 

Honestly, 20 minutes for a full face. I don’t really do my hair ever because I’m lazy, and my makeup is always really simple because I’m so used to experimenting for work so I don’t really want to experiment when I’m going out too! 

What is one thing you wish every girl or guy knew about makeup/beauty?

That it really isn’t one size fits all. I get asked a lot of questions about serious skin stuff but I think it’s so important to see a professional and really learn about your skin and what it needs. Just because something works for me doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone! (Which probably makes my whole job redundant but… whatever).

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