Behind the Curtain: Patrick Ta on Being “Selfie-Made” and How To Get His Signature Glow

Patrick Ta

The fact that Patrick Ta has only been doing makeup for six years is enough to make even the hardest-working person among us feel like a slacker. Hearing him tell it, with a voice still tinged in wonder, the success happened all because of Instagram®. That might be true; these days, thanks to social media, talented makeup artists are easy to find. Some of the old guard constantly bemoans the tidal wave of YouTubers, bloggers, and influencers who all claim to be makeup experts, but very few rise to the prominence Ta has achieved in such a short period of time. It comes down to visibility, sure, but even more than that, it comes down to talent.

What started with a job at a MAC® Cosmetics store in Arizona accelerated into a makeup career working with some of the biggest (and most visible) names in fashion and Hollywood, 1.5 million followers on Instagram, and his own product line in Sephora®. Ta might have never set out to become an insta-celebrity in his own right, but the 28-year-old certainly was savvy enough to understand the importance of social media, especially when he was first starting out.

“When I moved to LA from Arizona, I had just started my Instagram account, and I was super into taking photos with my clients,” he says. “I would post them and get more work, and my career built off social media.” He’s been called “selfie-made,” a descriptor he wears with pride. “Honestly, if my Instagram got deleted tomorrow, I’d probably have no career,” he laughs. “Instagram has been such a big tool for me. Different people around the world and celebrities see my work.”

It wasn’t just his own social media presence that helped catapult him to the fame he now enjoys, it was his clients’, too. “I met Shay Mitchell and Gigi Hadid when they were both starting out, and as their careers grew, they helped me, too,” Patrick Ta says. (Mitchell and Hadid are now close friends and longtime clients.) “I owe a lot of my success to these girls for giving me visibility to the rest of the world.”

Make no mistake, though, the road hasn’t been easy. While Ta might represent a new type of social-savvy makeup artist, he also had to overcome some of the pitfalls associated with it as well. “When I first started doing makeup, I would do very, very heavy, very glamorous, not-your-every-day makeup,” he says. “That’s what I thought was beautiful. The makeup on social media is heavier, and that’s all I knew because that’s all I saw. I didn’t know about red carpet makeup.”

One of his early high-profile jobs was a crash course in how Instagram makeup doesn’t always translate in real life. “Joan Smalls was my first high fashion supermodel client,” he remembers. “I was super excited and I knew I had to do lighter makeup. I went and bought all new foundation for what I thought was a natural look.” But once he’d finished her makeup, Smalls looked at herself and freaked out. “She said, ‘Oh my god, this is way too much’ and started wiping it off,” he recalls. “I was freaking out, too, because in my head, I was thinking, ‘That’s the most natural makeup I’ve ever done — and she thinks that’s a lot?’ I realized I didn’t know what natural was.” He redid the makeup and Smalls was happy, especially when she saw the photos. Years later, she’s still a friend and client.

It’s those learning experiences that have made Ta into the artist he is today. “I’ve learned so much from my clients because they get their makeup done so often that they know what looks best on them, and what photographs well,” he says. But what really bonds them is a deep appreciation for the art of makeup. “I’m so lucky because all the girls I work with love makeup as much as I do,” he says. “It’s more fun when a client loves experimenting.”

These days, while Ta is a bigger Instagram star than ever before, his style has moved on from the heaviness that defines the platform. It’s become a signature: a natural-looking face with a lot of glow. And as his style has developed, so have his tricks, particularly when it comes to the cornerstone of the Instagram Face: contouring.

“A lot of people go overboard with contouring,” he says. His secret is to use cream-based contouring products, like Tom Ford® Shade and Illuminate ($88), and blend the hell out of it. That’s where a surprising tool comes in: the Clarisonic® MiaTM ($269). “I really love the foundation brush for the Clarisonic because instead of just stamping your face, it moves in circles and makes blending so much easier,” he explains. You never have a harsh line; it does all the blending for you.” He now uses the trick on all of his clients to achieve the signature Patrick Ta glow. For the rest of his secrets, read on.

Spotlyte: Do you use a Clarisonic on yourself, too, or just when doing makeup on your clients?

Patrick Ta:  I've had a Clarisonic for a long time because I love exfoliating my face. I freak out if I don't wash my face at night. I used to wash my face a couple times a day because growing up, I had bad skin. I'm super cautious, and my number one pet peeve is if anyone touches my face with their hands. 

When I'm prepping my skin, I always use the Clarisonic because it makes your skin look shiny and polished. All the dead skin cells are flaked off. Then I just put on a little serum and look all glow-y, and life is great.

Spotlyte: So is exfoliation the centerpiece to your skincare routine?

PT: Yes. I don't think you're supposed to exfoliate every single day, but I do. You have to learn as you go with your own skin. Some people have sensitive skin; I don't. I get oily really easily. 

Exfoliation is really important. As a makeup artist, it’s important for my clients to be exfoliated. If they’re not, you're going to see dead skin, they’re going to look wrinkly, they’re going to look like they have a lot of makeup on. If their skin is prepped, smooth, and fresh, foundation is going to look so much better and lay so much more smoothly. It will look like they’re wearing less makeup.

Spotlyte: What’s the rest of your skincare routine like?

PT: I honestly don't have a complicated skincare routine. I use La Mer® Cleansing Foam. I like to use my hands to apply the cleanser first and get rid of all that dirt. Then I like to spread the cleanser around and use the Clarisonic to go over it again. I work in sections. I don't use a lot of moisturizers on my own skin because my skin is oily. I use serums instead. I like any anti-aging, lifting serum, like the La Mer Regenerating Serum, because nobody wants to look old. Then I use a little bit of lip balm. I try to wear sunscreen every day because I tend to get sun spots, but I feel like sometimes it makes me too shiny. I put on a little bit of La Mer The Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UV Protecting Fluid every day.

Spotlyte: Do you do any medical aesthetics treatments?

PT: I love trying new things. I get peels from Shani Darden, she is the best! I’ve gotten injectable wrinkle reducers, and I think they’re a great thing. I fully support whatever makes people [like the way they look]!

[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now.]

Spotlyte: What makeup do you wear yourself?

PT:  I like looking semi-dewy. I put on a pea-size amount of foundation and start from the center of my face, like around the nose area, the mouth area, anywhere that is a bit more red. Then I diffuse it out to the perimeter of my face. I wear La Mer The Soft Fluid Long Wear Foundation in 350 Honey. I don’t put it around my chin or forehead, because I usually wear a hat and I don’t ever want to get foundation on it or my shirt. I use just a super thin layer.

Spotlyte: Is that the secret for men who wear makeup?

PT: It's always really important to color match yourself correctly when you're a guy because you do not want to look like you're wearing too much. It's also so important to exfoliate. We tend to have skin that isn't as smooth, or there's hair, so you want to make sure that you exfoliate your skin. 

Spotlyte: Would you ever trust someone else to do your makeup?

PT:  It's hard as a makeup artist because you're so picky. I'm not very good at telling people that I don't like something, so I'm going to change it — and I don't ever want to appear rude. I'd rather just do it myself.

Spotlyte: Not every makeup artist has their own product line. How did yours come about?

PT: Two years ago, I was given the opportunity to start developing products with a partner. It was a lot of work, but also super fun because you have control. As a makeup artist, there are just little things that you want to tweak in some other products, so that you can make it your own. The most important thing was that I wanted to do something else that represented me.

Spotlyte: What is it that represents you?

PT: I'm known for super luminous, glowy skin. I wanted my first collection to be all about glow — major glow from head to toe — and I wanted to create products that I felt weren't on the market. Like, I love when highlight looks like semi-wet but still super shiny. The Major GlowTM Highlighting Mist is an aerosol, so all the pearl particles fall on your skin in all the right places. It's how you would get dewy naturally but the pearl particles enhance it. The Major Glow Body Oil is super important because when you have a super glowy face, your body needs to match. 

Spotlyte: If you had to pick a favorite product from your line, what would it be?

PT: I love the Major Glow Body Oil because it looks so good in sunlight. It shines like no other. I think all my products look best in natural sunlight. If you're in Sephora and you're trying it, you have to go outside and actually see how it looks, because using the lighting in the store isn't the best. Go outside and you'll be blinded by how much it glows.

Spotlyte: That’s a good tip. What’s your biggest makeup tip for everyone?

PT: Apply glow all over your body and on all of your face, because everyone loves someone who has super luminous, glowy skin. It makes you look super young and fresh and yummy.

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