Insider Interviews: Ruby Hammer: Makeup Artist & Brand Founder

by Amy Wilson Wyles
  • Few people get to stay at the height of any industry for three decades but then again, few are as instinctively talented, hard-working or as universally liked as Ruby Hammer. Having founded Ruby + Millie, the make-up brand that became the backbeat to the 90s, and been awarded an MBE for doing so – many might have decided to rest on their laurels.  But Ruby isn’t one of them. Instead, she’s continued to be one of the most respected talents within an ever-increasingly saturated sector. Most recently, she’s poured every lesson that she’s learnt into her new brand, Ruby Hammer Beauty. So it goes without saying that we are so thrilled to have her as our first Insider Interviewee of 2022.

  • The Resume

  • Job Title: Brand Creator & Global Makeup Artist

  • Location: London

  • Famous For: Creating cosmetics & enhancing natural beauty

  • Clients/Fans Include: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Ruth Jones, Helen Mirren, Rita Wilson, Sophie Ellis-Bextor

  • Years in the industry: 30

The Backstory

Becoming a makeup artist was never my plan at all. It was just something I fell into. I’d finished studying Economics at university and I was just waiting, wondering if I should take a year out. Do I go and do a Masters, as my dad would have wanted? Should I apply for a job at the UN because my aunt used to work there or should I work for the diplomatic core?

In the meantime, I knew I loved products and worked in Harrods before starting to assist a makeup artist until I got my own first gig – and that was more than 30 years ago now! In many ways, what I do now has similarities with the path that I thought I would take: I get to mix with lots of people, there’s diplomacy, interaction, travel – so I have all that but the bonus is that I get to indulge my creative side too.”

I’ve always loved makeup from a child watching my mum. My mum was very young when she had me. She was 17 so I’ve always seen her getting ready with eyelashes and short wigs, big hairpieces, this-and-that all through the ‘60s. I was fascinated by it and I loved how she looked and how she changed herself.

I’d say one of the most obvious “big break” moments I had was when Cindy Crawford asked me to do her makeup. I was in St. Barts working with Karena Callen at Elle Magazine. Anna-Marie Solowij (who went on to become Vogue’s Beauty Director) assisted her.  A few of “The Supers” were there, including Cindy, who was shooting her exercise video and asked me to do her makeup, so it got tagged on last minute. From that all the other magazines and other big jobs followed.

The brand Ruby & Millie, which I founded alongside Millie Kendall in 1998 taught me many key lessons. Namely, that my instincts are right – some of the hero items like our cheek sticks and lipglosses, were things I had to fight for as others didn’t believe in them and yet they went on to be bestsellers. But also, you need to have passion and tenacity and you shouldn’t compromise on your standards.

I’ve recently launched my own eponymous range. Having such a lifelong passion for beauty, I didn’t want to be another copycat brand. I wanted to launch products I truly love and that can enhance your routine. Tools and cosmetics that really work and make self-care more of a joy.

One of the products I’m most proud of is the Magnetic Brush Set. I actually discovered it a decade ago and instantly loved it – it’s functional, practical and aesthetically pleasing. We now offer interchangeable brush heads, so it’s perfect for liquids, powders, creams and gels and covers the key domains of the face, brows, eyes and lips.

I make cosmetics and do the makeup for all types of women and cosmetics lovers. As a team player I tend to get on with most people and make it a point to get on with them. I have worked with supermodels and celebrities but also love meeting people out and about and in store.

To look after my own skin I cleanse thoroughly, exfoliate, moisturise and protect it from the sun. I also see a facialist or expert when needed or able to. The most important thing is to have a routine in place.

You never regret being kind and generous with your words or deeds.

The Advice

My key advice for anyone wanting to start their own company or brand: 

  1. Be 100% sure – for example, why are you doing it? It can be tough in the arena, so you need to be prepared.
  2. Brainstorm – with everyone you love and trust. But remember you still need to trust your own instincts.
  3. Have a Plan B! 
  4. Know this – failure is not a short falling but a learning curve.
  5. Be flexible and open – honesty and integrity is key.

The Kit

  1. Skincare: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturiser has been in my kit for a couple of decades. My go-to serum is something with Hyaluronic Acid in. My favourites include SkinCeuticals HA Intensifier. Skincare underpins good makeup.
  2. Secret Weapon: Optrex Eye Drops make an amazing difference to the eyes and instantly brighten them.
  3. Eye Palettes: I use the Victoria Beckham Beauty palettes, not just in my professional kit but also on myself. The colours and textures are fantastic, in particular I love Signature, which works for most skin shades and types. You can go from a wash of colour to a smokey eye in one palette.
  4. Concealers: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer or Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage are my favourites due to their diverse and varied range of bases and shades. I tend to use the NARS under eyes and Laura Mercier on pigmentation marks or blemishes.
  5. Tools: As an artist, tools are essential in my kit. You don’t need a million brushes but you do need to make sure that the ones you have count and that you regularly clean and maintain them. My favourites are Surratt Beauty Relevée eyelash curlers, Tweezerman tweezers, my own brushes, beauty blender and a good brush cleaner.

The Experts

Hairdresser: My dear friend Tim Crespin who I have worked with on shoots and on my brand or Cher at Urban Retreat The White House who is truly fabulous.

Hair Colourist: Tracey at Urban Retreat The White House.

Hair Treatment: Philip Kingsley Elasticizer. I swear by it and use it once a week, or whenever my hair feels frazzled.

Facialist: I’ve been lucky enough to go to numerous facialists and adore them all…Yvonne Martin, Anastasia Achilleous, Vaishaly, Nichola Joss, Alexandra Soveral.

Dermatologist/Skin Doctor: Dr Nabet at Omniya.

Workout Spot/Exercise Class: White City Soho House Gym, Paddington Recreational Ground in Maida Vale or Regents Park.

Manicurist/Pedicurist: Angela Mari.

Masseuse/Favourite Treatment To Unwind: Tinya Yang. I’ve seen her for years as a preventative measure or when I have been broken by overwork and stress.

Eyelash/Brow Expert(s): I used to go to Vaishaly or Kamini but now I maintain them myself.

Favourite Spa Destination: AMANYARA in Turks and Caicos. The sea is so blue, the sand is so white, it’s just so beautiful and has so many wonderful memories for me – my daughter Reena got married there last year. I also love COMO Hotels in the Maldives both Cocao Island or Parrot Cay.

Beauty Treatment(s) That Makes The Most Difference: Regular facials, laser hair removal and Profhilo.

Get In Touch

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