A Masterclass in Makeup with Max May



Max May is one of Australia’s leading hair and makeup artists whom we were lucky enough to attend a masterclass with at the Canberra Centre. Max’s work has graced the pages of Harpers Bazaar, Oyster, RUUSH, and Elle. And his own website is updated weekly with tips, tricks, tutorials and reviews.

Max took us through the must have items in his kit and shared his secrets on creating a beautiful look step by step.


Skin Prep

‘Don’t confuse skin prep with skin care. Skin prep is about maximising the effect of your makeup. If the canvas is not prepared properly, you are not going to maximize the other products you put on.’

‘I like Glam Glow illuminating moisturiser [Glamglow Glowstarter] from Mecca. It comes in three colours and has a beautiful shimmer. It’s full of antioxidants and glycolic acid. It will hydrate and plump the skin. You want to make sure you give the face a really good massage to get the blood pumping. It’s going to bring out the natural contours of the face.’

‘I then use a Jurlique eye balm [Nutri-Define Eye contour Balm] and massage it up and around eyes. This will help move fluid around the eyes and create an even texture. Both of these products are designed to sit under foundation and concealer.’



‘My favourite is Ellis Faas [Skin Veil] foundation. Its medium coverage but you can build it. I always test foundation on the jawline and test to see if it blends into the neck. If it matches I start blending in with my brush to get a light to medium, even coverage all over. I then come back with my hands and warm the product in. I use a dabbing motion. The warmth of your hands can really work the product into your skin and make it one. It also helps you build it but not in a cakey, heavy way. Always start in the centre of your face and then blend out, as you will always need more coverage on the center of your face.’

‘There are two concealers that I work with: the first is Naked Skin by Urban Decay which has a light, matte texture. The second is the YSL Touché Eclat. You can use them together. I want to lift and brighten under the eye, the chin, between the brows and above the lips. Again, I dab to help it blend into the skin and not become cakey.’




‘I like to think of it like I’m highlighting these areas not covering them up. My philosophy on makeup is about choosing features you like and enhancing them it will change the way you do makeup. People talk about covering things up, blotting things out, but if you think about enhancing the features you really love it will change how you approach doing your makeup.’

‘Always take a step back. No one is looking at you that close! And check your blending and concealing.’



‘For me brows are the first step of contouring. I like to use Napoleon Perdis Browtox. I like to start with the highest point of the brows. I mark the outside edge, inside edge and high point of the brows and then fill them in with little strokes like I’m painting hairs. Always brush them up as you go to see your natural shape. I generally choose a colour one to two shades lighter than the natural colour of the brow. I then use a little bit of clear gel, also from Napoleon, to set them in place.’





‘I like to use a NARS bronzer. I don’t like to contour with bronzers that have shimmer. It needs to be flat and matte to cut in and define. I apply bronzer to the cheekbones, temples, forehead and jawline. Always start little and keep reapplying. Less is more.’


Lash Curler

‘One of my top five products is an eyelash curler; if you don’t have one, get one. My favourite is from Kevyn Aucoin. They do look like a torture chamber but you get to used it. Don’t try to get all your lashes in one go, just focus on the outside first and then the inside. Squeeze for four counts, get as close in to the lash line as you can. A secret tip is to heat the curler with a hair dryer for a little bit.’



‘I always work off four shades: yellow (gold), peach, mauve, pink. You can pick up one of these four colours in anyone’s skin tone. Even if I’m using a bold bright colour, I like to work it back with one of these four colours so it looks more at home and natural on the girls face.’

‘I like the Too Faced Sweet Peach Palette. Another great one is the Urban Decay Naked Heat palette. I start with nice nude which I take all over the lid and up under the brow. Matte powder doesn’t blend as well as a shimmer powder; it catches, so if you blend your matte with a little shimmer it will blend a little easier. Overall the base of your eye should be matte and the highlights should be shimmer.’




‘You want to tilt you face back so you can do both eyes with yours open. Use a motion like a windscreen wiper for your stronger colour. Try and keep the colour in the socket area of the eye.’  (Max created a peach look on the day.)

‘I like to use a little bullet shape brush on the lower lash line. I then use a little of a light, highlighting colour on the inner corners of the eye and underneath the brows. When I’m done I come back with some concealer under the high area. Always take a step back check your eyes are the same shape.’



‘Now I’m going to come straight in with some mascara. If you need to, you can curl your lashes again. I choose mascara based on the brush, I like a dense brush. I don’t really like a super thick formula. I like The Body Shop mascara.’

‘I do what I call a tree trunk effect. I do the bottom of the lashes to help keep them up and stop them sagging. I find if you take the mascara to your tips straight away, they drop. Just layer it on and build it up.’



‘I use NARS blushes; I’ve put them in my own palette. I apply blush lightly to the apples of the cheeks and then go back over it with a little foundation so that the blush looks like it is coming through from underneath, like a natural flush.’



‘I use an Inglot highlighter palette. My points are the top of the cheekbones, on the temple, a little bit on your Cupid’s bow. I don’t do the tip of your nose, you aren’t Rudolph, life isn’t Instagram. I also add a little hint of luminescence in the inner corner of your eye.’





‘I like 3ina lipsticks. I look for the four colours I mentioned before [yellow, peach, pink and mauve] as my nudes. They are the most universal colours. I like to apply lipstick with my finger to create soft edges. You can apply a liner, but I’m not a huge fan particularly when working with nudes.’




Shop the Masterclass below or in person at the Canberra Centre


  • Glamglow Glowstarter
  • Jurlique Eye Balm
  • Ellis Faas Skin Veil Foundation
  • YSL Touche Eclat Radiant Touch
  • Urban Decay Naked Concealer
  • NARS Bronzing Powder
  • Kevyn Aucoin Eyelash Curler
  • Napoleon Perdis Browtox
  • Too Faced Sweet Peach Eyeshadow
  • Urban Decay Naked Heat Palette
  • The Body Shop Mascara
  • NARS Blush
  • Inglot Freedom System Highlighter
  • Inglot Highlighter Trio
  • 3ina Essential Lipstick
  • 3ina Matte Lipstick
Emma Batchelor

Emma Batchelor

As well as a near obsessive interest in fashion, Emma is a former scientist, occasional contemporary dancer, avid reader and self-confessed cat lady (she has three). Emma lived in Leiden in the Netherlands as a baby and Leiden ought to have been her middle name had her mother thought of it at the time and not chosen Louise instead.


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