Karin Westerlund’s colorful world of makeup

Submission chats with the Swedish-born, Paris based makeup luminary, about finding her footing in a foreign city, her thoughts on sustainability in the beauty industry and her hopes for a brighter new year


How would you describe yourself? Would you describe your personal self differently from your work-self? 

Personally I’m a bit dreamy and sensitive. I like to spend time with my friends and at home watching movies, cooking and working out. That is mandatory for my happiness and creative flow. Professionally I’m precise, I like things to be well-organised and clean. I’m very Scandinavian in that sense! 

What are some of your earliest memories of make-up, and when did you know you wanted to work in the industry?

When I was a teenager I did modeling jobs in Stockholm, where I’m from, and I quickly started connecting with the make-up artists there. I remember one specific conversation with a make-up artist where I realised that doing make-up could be a full time job. The following day, I went to buy the colors she used on my face, a bright orange cream color and forest green eye shadow from Face Stockholm. I was maybe 15 or 16? I also remember taking the change I had saved up and buying eyeshadows from Versace. The container was petrol green and had the Medusa head on it – I wish I had kept it. One time I traveled to Mexico on my own and bought the Meteor Powder from Guerlain at the airport. It has a very specific candy smell and even though I don’t use it anymore, it always brings back memories of that time. This was all in the late 90s or early 2000s. 

What was your first big break?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint,  but maybe around 2014-15 when art directors Robert Lussier and Mia Forsgren booked me on make-up jobs for Dior Skincare and a series of shoots for Louis Vuitton. One of the shoots was to interpret a Cindy Sherman clown make-up look on Julia Nobis for a Louis Vuitton make-up trunk designed by C S. It was shot in New York and was really fun and exciting. 

 You’ve lived in Paris for quite some time now. Describe to us what led you there, what keeps you there and in what way it has influenced your craft?

I ended up here kind of by chance. I had visited Paris a few times and had fallen in love with the beauty of the city. So when a friend went to study French, I came along, hoping I could get work opportunities that I wouldn’t find back home in Stockholm and the years just flew by so quickly. It took me quite a long time to really get into Paris. It’s not the easiest city – it wasn’t for me anyway. I also travelled constantly for a very long time, so it doesn’t feel like I’ve been here as long as I actually have. The longer I’m here the more I get attached to it. Paris is great for work and France also has such a nice quality of life and rich culture. There are so many beautiful places, just a train ride or drive away. To move here definitely changed me and I couldn’t see myself living in any other city, at least for the time being. 

Tell us about your kit and the process when adding new products/items to it?

I keep it up to date, sometimes just a little by little and other times, when I have a quiet week, I take out most of the things and reorganise and go to different shops to find new products. I also like to get new make-up and tools while travelling. I got amazing products in Tokyo, but lost them all when a part of my kit was stolen in Milan 2 years ago. I’m blessed with a great assistant, Rafaela, we have worked together for several years and she is so incredibly helpful and organised. We have a system where we have shared lists in notes about what we need, and who is gonna do what. It works really well. Sometimes I get sponsored for specific shoots, and sometimes brands send me new products, and I’m usually very happy to try. I’m very much into skincare and I have a few trusted brands that I work with regularly and who support me, such as Swedish Transderma, Noto Botanics and Sisley. I also spend quite a lot on make-up, tools and skincare. I think it’s very fun with products! I have always been tidy, though indeed covid has imposed updates and changes to the kit. I really had to get a lot of new brushes for instance and empty palettes to put each model’s make-up in, everything that is creamy anyways.

“…it’s so annoying to receive make-up and beauty products that come in layers of plastic. It’s useless. A while ago I received a plastic bracelet on a shoot, that also came wrapped in a plastic film, with a text to remind us to use less plastic and waste less. Such pointless waste.

If you could only work with one product, what product would be your pick and why?

I have used Touche Éclat from YSL since I started doing make-up professionally, I love it. (And I have tried a lot of other similar products)

 Do you have a favorite scent (not a perfume, but one that appears in nature)?

The scent of the ocean 

 You have worked with such an impressive cast of creatives over the years. Who is one model, artist or brand that you’d love to do make-up for and that you haven’t gotten a chance to work with yet? What fascinates you about them/why you would love to work with them?

Thank you, and there are definitely several. I would more likely strive to get to work with a photographer whose imagery I love. And also brands both in fashion and beauty with aesthetics that I love. There are too many for me to name one or a few. To be honest, oftentimes “dream-jobs” just pop up without me visualising them specifically. When it happens, I get incredibly happy and flattered. 

We love your aesthetics! In the beginning of this year you did a beautiful campaign for Nodaleto where you used biodegradable glitter – Is sustainability something you are working towards? 

Thanks – I’m happy you like it! Of course, I work towards sustainability as much as I can, although I don’t exclude products that I love – even though they are not as sustainable as one could wish for (shame on me probably) It’s great how many brands are coming up with new ways to be sustainable, it’s so important! I can’t wait to try your submission beauty glitters!

 In what particular way do you wish the beauty industry could change for the better?

Skip the plastic! Honestly it’s so annoying to receive make-up and beauty products that come in layers of plastic. It’s useless. A while ago I received a plastic bracelet on a shoot, that also came wrapped in a plastic film, with a text to remind us to use less plastic and waste less… Such pointless waste. A pioneer within the luxury field is La Bouche Rouge who do a sustainable make-up line with a luxury feel, and I see many brands following suit. For instance, Hermès are now also doing refillable lipsticks, free from plastic and they’re in the most perfect textures and colors. 

What are your expectations and hopes for 2021?

I wish for optimism and positivity, a space to breathe and to be, without any more tsunamis swiping over us. An end to populistic tendencies. I hope that we have already reached the turning point from where we are going towards brighter times. And indeed I wish to continue working with amazing creatives and talents, and to develop new exciting projects.