The secret recipe for Pat McGrath's Maison Margiela peel-off porcelain makeup revealed

Patrick Bateman core

Beauty Crew Beauty Editor / February 05 2024

Paris Couture Fashion Week kicked off on January 26th and although designers like Schiaparelli and Jason Wu captivated the front row with their sculptural designs, all anyone can seem to talk about was Pat McGrath's makeup for Maison Margiela. 

The artisanal runway show brought together McGrath and Maison Margiela creative director John Galliano for the first time in over 10 years. The iconic duo executed some of the most iconic and historically influential runway makeup of the '90s and '00s when Galliano was the brains behind Dior. 

For Maison Margiela's Couture 2024 runway the pair transformed models into broken porcelain dolls costumed in surreal interpretations of 19th century corsets and bustles, with their hand-painted faces bathed in a glaze of porcelain lacquer. 

While Galliano used a variety of specialist undergarments to accentuate the jaunty swagger of models down the runway, McGrath's process has become the subject of speculation. Makeup artists and fans of McGrath have publicly applauded the industry veteran's inspiring innovation but McGrath was strategically silent for days until she decided to reveal how she achieved the unique glass skin effect on Friday 2nd February.

The technique had fans befuddled, because after the show, footage began to surface of models peeling the makeup off like a second skin.

McGrath shared a detailed list of the makeup products she used on the models via Instagram immediately after the show, which included Pat McGrath Labs Divine Skin: Rose 001™ The Essence ($139 at Sephora), Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Foundation ($120 at Sephora), Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Concealer ($55 at Sephora), Divine Blush: Legendary Glow Colour Balm ($50 at Pat McGrath Labs), PermaGel Ultra Glide Eye Pencil ($50 at Pat McGrath Labs), MatteTrance Lipstick ($63 at Sephora), and various Mothership eyeshadow palettes.

However, she didn't reveal the secret ingredient she used to create their porcelain glazed finish straight away. Instead she let her fans play a makeup guessing game; admirers of the makeup artist carefully eyeballed backstage footage from the runway desperately searching for clues. All they could surmise was that the makeup was liquid-based and applied on top of the makeup in thin layers using an airbrush machine. 

Cheekily, in an Instagram post McGrath has thanked her admirers and hinted she will share the secret product, eventually.

"MAJOR LOVE, just back from Paris and wanted to thank you ALL for the love and support," she gushed in the post. "All will be REVEALED very soon. Stay tuned!! xx Pat."

McGrath's fans speculated that the makeup artist used Kryolan Liquid Glass to create the model's porcelain skin on the runway, but again McGrath did little to confirm their theory: "Amazing! But we will show the real product soon. Stay tuned," she said in the comments section of one theory video.

Celebrity makeup artist Erin Parsons thought she knew exactly what McGrath used to create the porcelain glazed skin that model's later peeled off backstage.

"I may have figured out what Pat actually used and I'm going to give you the clues before I show you the product," she revealed in a TikTok video. 

"[She's] basically [said] it was not the Kryolan [Liquid] Glass," explained Parsons. "I mentioned the clear gloss illustrator in my [theory] video], but I had not seen this [footage] where they were peeling off the [makeup like a mask] at the end." 

The makeup artist and enthusiast explained that she saw another TikTok creator use a peel-off face mask to create a comparable glass skin effect. "This looked so similar to what Pat did," she continued.

The final clue that led to Parsons' conclusion was a tip off from one of Pat McGrath's makeup assistants who worked on the show. "It's a custom mix," Parsons shared. "They said it was a water-based product, 'so we had to be careful with what we used underneath'."

"When they said it looked like a Listerine mouthwash, I knew I had it," she said triumphantly. "This is the Freeman's Peel Off Gel Mask in 'cucumber' ($9.52 at iHerb)."

The mask has a gel consistency, which Parsons has guessed McGrath thinned out with water in order to airbrush thin layers of the product onto model's skin without disrupting the makeup underneath.

"You have to thin it out with water, and a lot of water," she explained.

"You're going to think that this is not going to work anymore because it's so thin, but that's why you have to spray it in layers," she advised.

"Because [McGrath] diluted it with water, it does not feel uncomfortable, although [the models] were probably not supposed to move their faces. It also is completely dry, so if anybody got dressed or they had their hair done, it [wasn't] going to mess anything up," she demonstrated, running her fingers along her skin. 

"This look was so incredibly genius and the technique [was] mind blowing. Like nobody's ever done this," she gushed. "It's almost so simple, but it is perfection."

@erinparsonsmakeup Replying to @. All hail Pat McGrath 🙇🏻‍♀️ @Pat McGrath Labs i still hope she announces what it is! #patmcgrath #glassskin #margiela #johngalliano #kryolanglass ♬ original sound - Erin Parsons

As it turns out McGrath's admirers were on the right track with their theories about the ingredients in the makeup artist's 'custom mix'. McGrath finally dropped the secret recipe behind the porcelain skin of Maison Margiela's couture runway, which she said took her three years to develop in an Instagram live. "It really was about this beautiful serum-like finish of all our foundations and products to make the skin look glassier … We had to take it to that perfect consistency," she explained.

After applying the model's makeup, McGrath and her team applied SFX glue to the corners of lips, nostrils and the inner eye to ensure the longevity of the makeup. She then mixed together four peel-off face masks: Freeman's Peel Off Gel Mask in 'cucumber' ($9.52 at iHerb), Que Bella Hydrating Pineapple Peel Off Face Mask (not available in Australia), Proot Calendula Peel Off Face Mask (not available in Australia) and Daggett & Ramsdell Australian Tea Tree Oil & Vitamin E Peel Off Facial Mask (not available in Australia). Then she thinned out the masks using Skin Illustrator Clear Gloss (not available in Australia) and water, and airbrushed seven to eight layers of the mixture over the top of model's makeup, drying each layer with a hairdryer.

She used a plastic spoon to protect the models eye, cheek and lip makeup from the airbrush gun, applied Pat McGrath Labs lip gloss to their lips and eyelids to complete the glassy look, and added a coat of mascara to the model's lashes. 

The makeup artist also revealed that she has been developing a glass skin product for her makeup line Pat McGrath Labs, which will be available for customers to shop in the not too distant future. 

@gzelle_kabir Incase anyone missed @Pat McGrath Labs live today. She done the entire make on IG live, btw shes coming up woth her own product to creat this glass skin look #patmcgrath #makeup #porcelinedollmakeup ♬ original sound - Gzelle

Main image credit: @gwendolineuniverse

Briar Clark got her start in the media industry in 2017, as an intern for Marie Claire and InStyle. Since then, her keen interest in fashion and beauty has landed her gigs as a Digital Content Producer and Beauty Editor with titles like Girlfriend, Refinery29, BEAUTYcrew and beautyheaven. She loves the way seemingly innocuous topics like skin care and style have the ability to put a smile on people’s faces or make them think about themselves a little differently. A big believer in self love and experimentation, Briar has made a point of becoming the Australian beauty industry’s unofficial guinea pig for unusual treatments and daring hair trends. When she’s not testing out the latest beauty launches, Briar is big on broadening her horizons, mostly in the form of food but she’s also partial to travelling to new destinations both near and far (and of course, allocating an extra bag to bring their best beauty offerings home with her).