2nd January 2017 / Insiders Share / by Chia Sihan

Making A Difference Through Beauty

New year, new inspiration

Makeup artist Justine Sweetman behind the scenes

The start of a new year always holds a fresh buzz of hope and excitement, with the promise of making things better than before. With the spur of adrenaline from taking stock of the past year’s goals and achievements, many of us are gearing up to #makeitwork all over again. As a famous someone once put it, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.

So how do we start changing? We sounded out New York-based makeup artist Justine Sweetman for some inspiration on her thoughts on what freelancers in the beauty industry could do differently, whether it’s changing their approach towards building a fulfilling career or making a positive impact through their choices. A vegan beauty advocate, Justine has worked with i-D magazine, GQ, Esquire, Nylon (US and Singapore) and runway looks at New York Fashion Week. Read on for her journey to become a sought-after artist by leading magazines.


On the peaks and valleys of being a freelancer

TFCS: How did you get your head-start in the beauty industry?

Justine: I learned to do makeup while working at M.A.C Cosmetics. Catering to such a wide demographic of people, all ages, all races, all sexes, gave me a leg-up in my professional life. As a makeup artist, you have to be experienced with faces that aren’t like your own.

In college I studied business, which provided the framework for the way I manage my career as a self-employed freelancer. I was also fortunate enough to grow up near a city as inspiring as New York, a place I still gratefully call home.

TFCS: With the benefit of hindsight, would you advise newcomers to the industry to pursue your path? Why?

Justine: I would absolutely encourage anyone passionate about makeup to pursue this career path. The reward of being your own boss, of doing things on your terms, of working on projects that satisfy you artistically, by far outweigh any risk. I don’t believe there is such a thing as playing it safe. The job market fluctuates constantly, so you might as well do what you love.

TFCS: What are the top qualities a freelancer needs to achieve success? And what does success mean to you now?

Justine: Talent, self-motivation, and discipline are all key to finding success in this industry. There is not always an immediate payoff with freelancing. If you reach out to a photographer or producer they may take weeks or months to book you on a job, if ever. It requires self-motivation to keep sending those emails. Discipline is also crucial, as there is no one to hold you accountable for your actions except you. Success to me is making a living collaborating on projects that I’m passionate about. I enjoy going to my job, even if it means I have to wake up at 3am sometimes.

On being a vegan beauty advocate

TFCS: How did your foray into vegan beauty begin? Have you always been a clean beauty advocate?

Justine: I adopted a vegan diet four years ago. I was questioning what was going into my body, which led me to question what was going on with my body. One afternoon, I completely purged my beauty cabinet of any products that were harmful to me and to animals. It was such a liberating experience. My advocacy for clean beauty, or cosmetics without toxic ingredients, began with asking models suffering from breakouts what makeup they had been using. All of them named products that are loaded with heavily processed chemicals. I started sharing with them what I’d learned, and everything fell into place organically. It’s what you’d call an “Aha!” moment.

TFCS: Having built a strong reputation and client base, what were some of the challenges encountered, particularly with brands and clients who are not as informed?

Justine: There are so many amazing options for vegan and clean beauty that switching my kit has not impacted my working relationships at all. Clients often book me specifically because of my stance on cosmetics.

TFCS: As consumers, why should we change our mindset towards beauty consumption? How can we start consuming more consciously?

Justine: The skin is our largest organ and soaks up what you apply to it like a sponge. You should treat it with care, and a large part of that is choosing products that are beneficial. Ask yourself, “Would I eat the ingredients of this makeup?” If the answer is no, then don’t buy it. Also, if you don’t agree with the practices of the company, things like animal testing or wasteful packaging, then you shouldn’t fund them. You vote every time you make a purchase! A good starting point for consuming more consciously is looking up the ingredients in your makeup. Search the name of each ingredient and read about what it is. It can be quite shocking what some cosmetics are made of. [Especially] in the US, where there are no regulations about what can go into makeup, so it is important to educate and protect yourself.

On the beauty industry

TFCS: The beauty industry has come under scrutiny on several occasions with regard to testing and environmental impact. How do you think this affects brands and consumers?

Justine: I am definitely noticing an increased demand for cruelty-free, non-toxic, and sustainable beauty products. Awareness is spreading, and mindful consumers are choosing brands that are in line with their values.

TFCS: With the rapid digitalisation of industries and e-commerce boom, what are some of the trends you foresee happening in the beauty industry?

Justine: We are still some way off from robot makeup artists, which is good news for me. I think the future lies in apps that allow you to virtually try makeup on, receive a custom match, and purchase instantly.

TFCS: How do you see your role in this industry evolving, in terms of the makeup industry being a “high-touch” profession and hence irreplaceable with technology?

Justine: I see myself as an educator and facilitator of healthy, sustainable beauty habits. Technology makes it possible to do more, so we take on more, and when we can’t get everything done our stress levels skyrocket. The need for personal care has increased as a response. Performing a nightly face massage or applying a mud mask can be a form of meditation. I want to teach people that this is an essential daily practice.

Editorial fashion spread, Nylon Singapore (July 2016)


Profile images: Justine Sweetman
Nylon Singapore fashion spread images:

Chuck Reyes

About the Writer

Chia Sihan

A story junkie by nature, this TFCS scribe thrives on uncovering the backstories of her interview subjects, whether they are heads of corporations or a working Mum caring for a child with a developmental disorder. She finds it a privilege to be privy to these personal experiences. Some of the publications she has written for include the Singapore Women’s Weekly, L’Officiel Singapore, and Harper’s Bazaar Junior. It is this genuine love for storytelling and collaboration that led her to kickstart her journey as a co-founder of The Fashion Collective Singapore. Now the chief storyteller at TFCS, she is particularly inspired by the personal journeys of TFCS Mentors, not to mention their dedication towards the refinement of their craft.

Head over to The Editor’s Journal to read articles contributed by Sihan.

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