“I studied dance for a little over 18 years, so I think my approach to beauty has definitely been influenced by ballet,” beauty writer and former fashion editor Gemma Watts tells us. “For concerts, there was almost an element of drag to stage makeup which takes a decent amount of technique. For exams, it was the opposite- hair swept back off our faces and no makeup. Even when we were old enough to be wearing makeup, we had to make it look like we weren’t. I learnt technique from the stage, but “no makeup” makeup has always felt more like me.”
Having learnt to apply a heavy cream contour and false eyelashes by the age of 4, it’s no wonder that Gemma has a vested interest in all things beauty. Growing up, a career in media was always on the cards- “I would point to magazines and tell my parents I was going to be making them one day,” - so fusing that goal with her love of beauty and fashion felt like a natural progression.
Entering Gemma’s bedroom, we’re met with a duality in her interior styling- excess vs minimalism. Mountains of books and magazines are surrounded by stacks of candles, hand creams and night potions are found lumped on marble trivets, but the space still has a feeling of minimalism to it.
“I’m a bit of a hoarder, but everything has its place. I like clean, white spaces, but I like keeping my favourite things on display. There is thought behind it, believe me.”
After close to 5 years as the Fashion Editor of Melbourne based Couturing.com, Gemma’s wardrobe has had its fair share of revamps. “I used to think it was about being on top of the trends, regardless of how you felt in what you were wearing.” She opens her wardrobe wide to reveal a meticulously coordinated collection, comprising predominantly of whites, greys, warm neutral tones and Melbourne-black. “Now I just buy things that I love to look at and want to wear, and I only invest in pieces that I know I’ll love wearing for longer than a season. For me it’s about picking items that will work really seamlessly with what I already own. It just makes it easier. Getting dressed should never be stressful.”
Her approach to beauty is much the same. “I know what I like,” she says matter-of-factly. While some like to play up their eyes and some love a bold lip, Gemma’s look is all about glowing skin. “For me, everything else is secondary. I love playing with makeup, but for the time being I’m more fascinated with base products than anything else.”
A look inside Gemma’s dressing table reveals just how deep that fascination runs. Products are sorted almost obsessively into their own categories- foundations, concealers, highlighters, brow products and so on- with enough products in each section to rival a well-stocked department store counter. “It’s just about figuring out what works for you, for your skin,” says Gemma. “If my skin is feeling particularly dry one day, some foundations will work better than others. I like having options.”
Despite her love of trying new products, her overall look is reasonably stripped back.
“Looking like you’re not wearing makeup involves more products than a heavy face,” she laughs. “I wish I could say my approach to application is as stripped back as the finished product looks, but truth be told I just really enjoy putting on makeup. I like blending my foundation until it looks like flawless skin, I like spending that extra time on my eyebrows to make them look grown-out.
If it’s something you enjoy doing, why wouldn’t you do it?”
My approach to skincare...
“The longer I spend in this industry, the more I learn about the science of skin care- what works for my skin and what doesn’t. I’ve never really had problem skin, but I love products that are rich in AHAs for their brightening effects. Staying hydrated is important too. I can see it instantly in my face, particular under my eyes, if I’ve been slacking off on my water intake.”
My approach to hairstyling...
“Honestly? I just don’t do my hair. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I straightened it, curled it… I don’t even blow dry it. It never sits the way I want it to if I spend time on it. I just scrunch in a little Kevin Murphy Doo Over or Evo Builder’s Paradise and call it a day.
My signature beauty look...
“Dewy skin, full brows, nude lips and about 14 different highlighters on any given day. If I’m amping it up for the evening I’ll smoke out the eyes a bit or swap in a darker matte-finish lipstick, but I don’t feel like myself with much more than that on.”
My biggest beauty blunder...
“In year 9 a boy told me I had a monobrow so I pretty much waxed them off entirely. I learnt from my mistake almost immediately, so I let them reach full growth before I touched them again so fortunately it didn’t have any lasting impact.”
The products I couldn’t live without...
“I use Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Cream and Light Wonder Foundation religiously. Once you’ve found your perfect foundation, everything else just seems to work. A recent favourite has been Bobbi Brown’s eyebrow pencil. When she was working as a makeup artist, she would always use powders on the brows instead of pencils because the finish of a powder looks more similar to the texture of the brows than a gel or pencil does. Her brow pencil applies like a powder, but in the form of a pencil so it’s a lot easier to work with.
Overnight I alternate between Sarah Chapman’s Skinesis Overnight Facial and Alpha H’s Liquid Gold. I’ve used those two for years and I’m scared to imagine what would happen to my skin if I swapped them out. One of my best friends (who is a dermal therapist/skincare genius) recently enlightened me on the wonders of Vitamin B in skincare. It’s a ‘booster’, so it basically heightens the effects of anything else you’re using. I’ve added Aspect’s Vitamin B serum into my morning and evening routines and I can confirm she wasn’t lying.”
What ‘Real Beauty’ means to her...
“Just loving yourself, as boring as that sounds. I’ve said that before and people respond with ‘easier said than done’, but if you’re just happy with yourself everything else comes secondary.”