Pat McGrath Reveals the Drugstore Cleanser She Uses to Take It All Off

Devon Abelman
·5 min read

When you're in the presence of Pat McGrath, you'll swear been graced with a force from another realm. The iconic makeup artist commands the attention of a room and can make a bevy of beauty editors follow her down a hallway backstage at Fashion Week as if they're her baby ducklings before they hang on her every word. The businesswoman seemingly bends the vibrations of beauty in her favor, inciting people all around the world to take cues from her runway looks and translate them onto their very own faces. But would you believe us if we told you that McGrath has to attend 8 a.m. Zoom meetings, keeps a snack drawer, and removes her makeup with a drugstore micellar water

Sure, the makeup artist has been a staple in the beauty world as "Mother," guiding us toward the best products and makeup trends for decades, but McGrath too has a mother who led her in her cosmetic pursuits. She's inspired us to cover our faces in the boldest pigments and shapes, but she doesn't pull her fantastical looks out of thin air. McGrath looks to movies and art throughout history for ideas, as many of us do.  

In this fun Q&A, Dame McGrath gives us a deeper look at what drives her, excites her, and inspires her — and, honestly, she's just like us peasants.  

ALLURE: What was your look at 18?

Pat McGrath: MA-1 bomber. Trainers. Tons of blush in a vivid magenta satin.

ALLURE: Who in your life taught you the most about beauty?

PM: My mother. She was the ultimate alchemist. She would combine pigments and powders to create shades that were like nothing you could buy, colors that worked on our skin tone — there was nothing like it.

ALLURE: You've inspired so many people. Who inspires you?

PM: Steven Meisel. He is committed to his craft, and watching him work is always a divine inspiration.

ALLURE: What movie looks have had the biggest impact on your work?

PM: The list is endless. Anything film noir, I love Dorothy Dandridge, Lauren Bacall, and Barbara Stanwyck. Pam Grier, Lena Horne, Russ Meyer,  Diana Ross, Divine, Visconti, Cocteau, John Waters, Buñuel, Almodovar, Fassbinder, Godard, and Hitchcock.

ALLURE: Which artists of the non-makeup variety do you admire?

PM: I am always deeply inspired by 17th and 18th century French and German rococo and baroque styles, specifically the architects of Nymphenburg and Versailles, mixed with Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Besson's Le Cinquième Élément.

ALLURE: Most descriptive beauty adjective in your vocabulary:

PM: Major!

ALLURE: Most admired person:

PM: I adore Grace Jones.

ALLURE: Last TV binge...

PM: Le Bureau.

ALLURE: Favorite flower:

PM: A "Divine Rose," of course!

ALLURE: When we can travel again, what is the first place you'd like to go?

PM: A little heat could be nice, but I'm not like a lot of my friends — it's like the Grand National rushing to get to the airport! They just want to go somewhere. I'm like, "I have been somewhere my whole life." Once, in a single week, I went from New York to London to Japan and back to New York. I'm not bolting to the airport.

ALLURE: Do you dream about makeup?

PM: Working in makeup is a dream! 

ALLURE: Drugstore beauty staple:

PM: Bioderma Sensibio H20.

ALLURE: Favorite sunscreen:

PM: Institut Esthederm Bronz Repair.

ALLURE: The products that are always in your shower:

PM: The Aesop Citrus Melange Body Cleanser, the Oui The People Rose Gold Sensitive Skin Razor and Sugarcoat Shave Gel-to-Milk, and the Pattern Leave-In Conditioner.

ALLURE: I feel most confident when… 

PM: …I read reviews from beauty lovers around the world who've spent their hard-earned money on something from Pat McGrath Labs and they love it. That’s just beyond rewarding.

ALLURE: Who are your beauty icons?

PM: Donyale Luna, Grace Jones, Pierre Laroche, and Serge Lutens.

ALLURE: Who makes the best black headband?

PM: They are actually handmade for me in Paris at an undisclosed location ;).

ALLURE: Wellness essentials:

PM: Sleep. Laughter. Friends.

ALLURE: Last product you finished:

PM: My Bronze Temptation Lust Gloss. I am obsessed!

ALLURE: Most used item in your personal makeup bag:

PM: My Dark Star Mascara.

ALLURE: Most surprising item in your personal makeup bag:

PM: Three extra power packs for my cell phones.

ALLURE: Favorite manicure shade:

PM: A really rich red.

ALLURE: The perfume you always come back to:

PM: I love to mix my own scents using essential oils depending on my mood and what I’m up to that day.

ALLURE: Favorite non-perfume smell:

PM: Dominique Ansel Cronuts.

ALLURE: First thing you do when you wake up:

PM: Have a cup of a tea on the terrace and get ready for my 8 a.m. Zoom meeting.

ALLURE: Last thing you do before bed:

PM: Settle into a bed watching a series I am binging.

ALLURE: Best habit you picked up during quarantine:

PM: Learning new technology. Instagram Live, Zoom... I am obsessed.

ALLURE: The worst:

PM: Like so many other people, the snack drawer was a touch too tempting.

ALLURE: Biggest project you've tackled while at home more:

PM: I converted a bedroom into a home gym.

ALLURE: Most recent purchases:

PM: Dettol Wipes, Rescue Spa Hand Sanitizer, Marks & Spencer Mince Pies, and a NuFace device.

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Originally Appeared on Allure