Makeup Artist And Skincare Guru Katrina Doran On Why Beauty Needs A Personal Approach

As one of Northern Ireland’s first bloggers with her fashion site, Sugahfix Katrina Doran has never been afraid of innovation. 

In a move of practising what she preached the beauty writer then made the transition to become a hair and makeup artist and has since worked on productions including Game of Thrones, Sex Education and Krypton. 

While Katrina loves getting creative with special effects for her television work there’s nothing the beauty aficionado is more passionate about than stripping it back to basics and shining the spotlight on skincare to share the good, the bad and the ugly via social media channels and her website.

The Style Edit caught up with Katrina to discuss why beauty really is skin deep and how her role as a Yon-Ka ambassador was a perfect fit.

How did you get into your career as a hair and makeup artist?
It’s a long story but the short version is that I’m an accidental makeup artist. Five years ago I went to work for my friend, Pamela Smyth’s makeup school, The Makeup Department doing marketing for the website and running the social media for the school. To understand what it was like to be a student I did the foundation course and found it really interesting but didn’t think too much more of it. Then I did the special effects course and lost my mind at what we were able to do. It was so different from anything I’d ever done before – which was the glamour side of beauty. The tutor, Audrey Doyle, who is Tom Hardy’s personal makeup artist, came to me one day and said ‘you’ve totally got it, you’ve got the eye for this’. Because it was her it really blew me away and that was that really – season six of Game of Thrones (GoT) started and I stared working on that and haven’t looked back since.

Have you always been interested in beauty and skincare?
Beauty has always been my first love; I remember my brother used to buy me Elle and Vogue when I was only about 10. I had bad acne as a teenager which is probably what first sparked my interest in skincare. Back in the day in Newry the skincare choice available was pretty limited and if you went to the doctor they just put you on antibiotics, which actually made me sick and didn’t solve my skin, so I decided to fix myself. I studied Psychology at Queen’s and had access to the medical library, so when everyone else was out having fun I used to go in and read dermatology papers (yes I am that nerd!) to try and figure how to treat my skin. After reading up on it I ended up going to my GP and asking for Retin A gel. This is over 20 years ago before retinoids were a popular skincare ingredient and it transformed my skin.

You’ll never get bored or fall out of love with skincare because it just moves forward – it’s science. It’s always improving and you’re always finding new ingredients and formulations so it just keeps getting better.

You’ll never get bored or fall out of love with skincare because it just moves forward – it’s science. It’s always improving and you’re always finding new ingredients and formulations so it just keeps getting better.

You’re an ambassador for Yon-Ka, how did that partnership come about?
I’ve used Yon-Ka products on and off for the last few years and I was always really impressed with the stuff that I had tried – as far as I’m concerned French skincare is definitely that little more bit elevated. I do the Skincare Sunday sessions on my Instagram and have my Facebook page, The Beauty Equation. I think people trust my advice because I’m independent, I’ll recommend a cheap product or an expensive product because I know it’s going to work – not because they’ve paid me. So when Yon-Ka contacted me in January about being a brand ambassador I was initially slightly apprehensive about working for one brand. My stipulation was that I had to do training with them because I really wanted to know the products inside out and understand the brand and the business and be satisfied that it was a fit with my ethos. It turned out that it totally did and with everything they said at the training I was like, ‘guys you are talking my language’.

Skincare isn’t just on the skin  –  the aromatherapy blends have psychotrophic effects to affect the brain so they can affect how you feel, also the fact that they are very therapist focused and it’s the pairing of professional treatments and expertise with the products that really give the results was a big part of their training so for me that was a  ‘hallelujah’ moment. After the training I had no hesitations and jumped in with both feet.

Yon-ka have their own lab so they make and formulate everything themselves. They were ahead of the curve when it came to aromatherapy – back in the day aromatherapy was seen as a bit out there but Yon-ka were busy researching the benefits of plant extracts which now seems so obvious, but 50 years ago it was extraordinary. They’re very forward thinking and super scientific and everything is plant-based which is very much my vibe.

Katrina being a model at The Makeup Department for Audrey Doyle

What are your three favourite Yon-Ka products and why?
This is so hard! I have three and then another one which isn’t something I use but it is always in my kit.

First and foremost is the Yonka Quintessese spray on lotion which is really unique to Yon-Ka. There are two variations, one for dry skin and one for oily skin and it’s the scent of it that gets me. As soon as you spray it on your face you feel like you’re doing something good for yourself. The lotion is based on the very original product that the brand first formulated and that was to treat burns.

The two guys that set up Yon-Ka were brothers and both doctors, they created this product – an aromatherapy product with a blend of five essential oils in a liquid – and the concentration of it was used to treat different skin types but originally it was made to santise and heal burns  – preventing infection and boosting healing. The lotion is an at-home version of that original product while the original lotion is still used today in their facials. 

It’s really calming, soothing and healing. There are a lot of facial spritzes out there but this is a treatment in itself and is such a multi-purpose product. As well as being very functional it’s just gorgeous to use – it ticks all the boxes.

Next up is the Excellence Code Mask it’s really firming, plumping and lifting so it’s great for the over 40s (which I am) and then the Vital Defense Moisturiser. It has lots of antioxidants but doesn’t have ascorbic acid (a type of vitamin c) which can be quite irritating so it works on everyone. I was using it about two years ago when I was filming the Long Night scene in GoT – it was three months long – 52 nights of shoots – so obviously my sleep pattern was up the left plus I was outside in the wind and cold in February, March and April and when we were on set there were so many fire and smoke effects but as Vital Defence is an anti-pollution moisturiser my skin had never been better when really it should have looked awful.

The other product that’s in my kit is the Sensitive Mask. I don’t have particularly sensitive skin but if I’m doing makeup on someone with sensitive skin or maybe someone who has had prosthetics on – which can involve a lot of glue – quite often their skin underneath is really irritated so I’ve had people in my chair with irritated skin or rosacea and your first thought is ‘I shouldn’t be putting makeup on this skin because it’s so stressed’ but the Yon Ka sensitive mask is like a revelation – you can literally see it working. You put it on and five minutes later their skin is calm, smooth, plum and hydrated. It’s phenomenal, I’d recommend it for anyone with any redness or irritation on their skin.

You’ve mentioned Skincare Sunday which you run every week on your Instagram, are you surprised how popular it’s been and how did it first come about?
When I started my beauty blog, The Beauty Equation I’d just started on season 7 of GoT and just didn’t have time to sit down and properly write. I was just knackered and so trying to take my makeup artist hat off at the end of a mental day and put my writer’s hat on just wasn’t working.

I knew I was neglecting it a bit and then realised there were things I could just answer off the top of my head so I started sharing my own Sunday rituals – the day of the week when I normal stop and take check of my skin and assess what it needs – and talking about that. Then the next thing was people started asking questions and for advice and that’s how Skincare Sunday started. I set up the Facebook group Better Beauty Choices so people could ask questions and share recommendations.

I called the blog The Beauty Equation because it’s not just the skincare you use; it’s your lifestyle and what you eat and how you use your skincare – hence why it’s an equation. What I found really interesting is that when I started it I would get quite technical about skincare but then I realised that while I was busy going off on a philosophical level of beauty what people really wanted was help and advice with the basics.

Katrina at work on Krypton

What’s your top skincare tip?
The Hydration Chug Challenge – you put half cold water and half freshly boiled water from the kettle in a cup and down it first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything else. Without doubt that’s the thing that will make the biggest difference to your skin. And this is not my idea, I didn’t come up with it – it’s ancient advice. When I used to write for the Irish News I’d interview a lot of beauty experts and so many people said they drank hot water in the mornings, I heard it so many times but then when I spoke to Lisa Eldridge and she recommended it I was converted!

The other thing people need to realise is how personal skincare is. People buy products on recommendations because they’ve seen a blogger using it or someone they know recommended it. What they they don’t realise is that the cream is just one part of the package – you also need to consider that person’s age, diet, exercise and lifestyle, so just because a product works on one person doesn’t mean it will work on someone else.

How do you feel about Botox and fillers?
They’re not for me personally but I think if you want to go for it then go for it. If you think you’ll feel better about yourself for doing it then it’s there to avail of. It does worry me though that for so many it becomes like a habit and people younger and younger are having it done. I always think of the balloon analogy – when you blow up a balloon it inflates but if you try to blow to up again it thins and stretches. Botox done well can look fantastic and as I heard someone say recently ‘it’s the skill, not the mil’. 

It’s not what you have injected into your face it’s the injector so if you’re thinking of having botox or fillers really research your injector and go to someone who really knows what they’re doing. You’ll pay a bit more for it but you’re paying for their skill and knowledge. 

Katrina doing Rosanna from Silver Brogues makeupdept for a shoot for her blog

What are your top five all-time favourite makeup products?
1. Dior Forever foundation – great shade range and lasts all day, even on my crazy 14 hour days on set!
2. Mac Studio Fix Correct & Conceal palette – the peachy tones can be used for colour correcting dark circles and the neutral tones can be used to cover blemishes, it’s fantastically versatile.
3. NOTE Lash Master mascara – it has a big fat brush which I usually don’t like but this gives build and volume like nothing else I’ve ever tried and at a great price point too.
4. Bobbi Brown Calypso Coral Pot Rouge – looks horrendous in the pot but there’s nothing that gives ‘life’ to skin like this product.
5. Lipstick Queen in Mauve Sinner – after all the matte lipstick looks this was a welcome change and it feels so comfortable on the lips.

What skincare staple would you be lost without?
SPF – get it on your face! It’s about finding the one that works best for your skin. There’s no one size fits all when it comes to SPF. One tip would be to try it on the back of your hand and if you like the texture there you’ll probably like it on your face. The best SPF is the one that’ll wear every day so it would be better to use a factor 30 that you’ll wear every single day than a factor 50 that you don’t like.

GOT season 8 make up team, photo by Helen Sloan

What’s been your favourite project to work on and why?
Krypton season 2. It was just the best job ever. I’ve been into comic books since I was a kid and loved Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman and the DC Comics so I remember when Krypton season 1 was being filmed here and I was on Game of Thrones and having a fit at the idea that a Superman prequel was being filmed in Belfast and I wasn’t on it. I was fit to be tied! When the second one came around I ended up being Crowd Supervisor and so to be doing something like that on a sci-fi production was a real career highlight. It was also very creatively rewarding because there was some really unusual, beautiful makeups that we got to do and it was just a really lovely team of cast and crew. Even when we were going in at stupid hours in the morning we didn’t care because we knew we’d have a really good day and it would be fun.

Are you a planner and if so where do you see yourself in five years?
I’m a day-to-day planner. I’m obsessed with lists – writing them and ticking them off – and I do plan very efficiently but when it comes to my career I’ve found that anytime I’ve tried to plan something it doesn’t work, I have to just go with it. 

It’s when I just let the universe take control and allow the opportunities to come that I seem to end up where I’m supposed to be.

What I love about this industry is that you never stop learning and advancing. Every time you work with someone new you learn new tips, techniques and products – and vice versa.

Follow Katrina on Instagram @katrinamdoran or on www.thebeautyequation.com

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