Jennifer Nguyen, Makeup Artist & Esthetician

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Real talk with esthetician and freelance makeup artist, Jennifer Nguyen, on growing up Asian in a small midwest town, wearing makeup to the gym, & Botox injections for jaw slimming. 

On growing up in the Midwest
“I grew up in a small town outside of Minneapolis, MN. My graduating high school class was around 113 total. Our community was not very diverse. My family was one of the very few Asian families in the school district other than a few foreign exchange students. It’s a really conservative, traditional, small town vibe where people grow up and marry their high school sweethearts.

“My parents were both refugees of the Vietnam War and a few relatives from my mom’s family were already living in Minnesota so they sponsored my parents to come to America and live with them. I grew up in a really big household with my parents, my mom’s younger sister, her son, and my grandma.”

Pale skin vs. tan skin
“In my culture, having fair, pale skin, is a sign of status and beauty, one that my family pressed upon me. My grandma would always tell me to not go tanning, stay indoors to protect my skin, but growing up in America, where tan skin denotes “health,” “athleticism,” “beauty,” I felt unsure about how I wanted to express myself.

“It was hard growing up with both cultures telling me what is beautiful. I had to find myself and find what I think is beautiful. Decide what I want to look like, what I want to represent.

“I was insecure growing up in a predominantly white community. I was awkward, had acne. I was trying to fit in. Trying to understand being Asian, but also being Americanized.”

First experiences with skincare and makeup
“My mom and grandma were always focused on simple, natural skincare and very little makeup. But it was my Aunt, who lived with us while I was growing up that had all of the department store skincare and makeup products. I used to go into my Aunt’s drawer and play with her stuff. First trying to use her eyeliner to make my eyes look bigger. More American. I look back and laugh. Photos of me in high school looking like a raccoon!”

Finding a career path
“My aunt was going to the Aveda Institute for cosmetology and I remember going there for the first time to be her model. I went to Aveda and I felt relaxed, I felt loved. I felt energized. And I realized this is where I’m supposed to be. That moment stuck with me.”

Jennifer Nguyen

Starting a new path
“Since California is where my parents moved first when they arrived from Vietnam, before heading to Minnesota, I do have some family there. I decided to go to California to better myself, to grow and expand. I am from a small town and I didn’t want to stay there anymore. I wanted to be open minded.

“I left {MN} the day I graduated from Aveda and moved to San Diego to live with my aunt. My first job in beauty was selling lip glosses for Fusion Beauty on the department store floor. Then I got a job selling cosmetics for Shiseido, then Lancome and finally I became the YSL counter manger at Nordstrom.

“But I realized that I would need to further my education to advance my career so I went back to school at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and majored in merchandise marketing. When I was working in San Diego at Nordstrom, after work I would drive 2-3 hours up to Los Angeles to go to school. It was tough. But you have to fight for what you believe in.”

On rejection and building a career in makeup + fitness
“I have been turned down by so many places for jobs. After FIDM, I moved to San Francisco and finally a connection from my time working for Lancome helped get me a job in SF to start out. But I also got a job working at Sephora as an online beauty advisor helping people who call in with online purchase questions. You really had to know the products and you really had to be able to build an experience with your customer over the phone. Consumers don’t even know what they are looking for. You have to figure it out by asking them questions. I mean, how do you color match someone for foundation over the phone?! You have to ask so many questions to understand what they need.

“But I didn’t want to just work at a cubicle answering phones. I wanted to be out there where the trends were happening and interact with customers. So I got a job working for Amore Pacific as the Account Coordinator, overseeing brand sales at nine Sephora stores. I was living the life in downtown San Francisco, with this great job, but a part of me really missed my friends and Southern California. So I gave San Francisco a year, but I ultimately moved back to San Diego.”

Fitness photoshoots and creating fake sweat
“I recently got booked for a fitness shoot for Compound Solutions. I got asked by a great photographer friend, Corey Jenkins, amazing amazing work. He’s worked for Reebok and all that. He asked me if I could be the makeup artist.

“It actually gets really cold in San Diego, so I had to create this fake sweat because spraying them with water will just evaporate. And you don’t want to rub them down with baby oil because that looks fake. So I had to be a little chemist and figure out a solution, where it wont absorb quickly into the skin and it will glisten like sweat. My homemade mixture was glysterin, coconut oil and water. The photos were used in Men’s Health and GNC ads.”

“Acne has always been an issue for me. I have an oily skin type and I have tried everything to combat my acne; dermatologist prescribed topicals, oral antibiotics and even Accutane. My skin really suffered from the rollercoaster of emotions. While I was on Differin gel my face began cracking and peeling. I was just using the prescription topical, no moisturizer. No one educated me on how to care for my skin. The dermatologist just gave me a prescription. I didn’t learn about my skin until I went to the Aveda Institute. There I found out about exfoliation and the importance of hydration, even when you have acne.

“Currently for my skincare I use – Amore Pacific Treatment Cleansing Oil and then my favorite Nars Purifying Foaming Cleanser, it makes me feel so clean and good. All the toxins, dirt, and oil, it gets rid of everything. One thing my mother did press upon me was the importance of deep cleansing. Then I follow with my YSL toner, but not gonna lie, I sometimes skip the toner. I use the Peter Thomas Roth AHA Serum for cell turnover; my skin is addicted to this serum. I love gel moisturizers. I don’t like anything too heavy. My daytime moisturizer, Sisley Tropical Resins Complex matifying moisturizer, hydrates while controlling the oil. It gives the body water and moisture, so your body doesn’t over produce oil.

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“Sometimes when I want to feel a little fancy and want an extra anti aging boost, because I am nearing thirty, I use Lancome Visionnaire. It’s a great serum. Helps tighten up the pores. Sometimes I mix some of this serum with my foundation. It gives the foundation a lightweight, airbrush smooth effect.”

Wearing makeup to the gym
“I am thankful I have a Crossfit community that doesn’t judge me for wearing makeup to the gym. Shout out to Stay Classy San Diego! Yah, you want your skin to breathe, but there is gym makeup out there. Makeup to the gym isn’t bad. There’s nothing wrong with a little tinted moisturizer to cover acne scars or a little mascara. It’s however someone feels comfortable. Whatever amount of makeup you wear to the gym, I recommend wearing a primer underneath to help create a barrier between your skin and your makeup.”

Dermatologist treatments
“I will admit. I have done botox. I had it injected into the masseter muscle along my jawline, to reduce the muscle size of my jaw, to create a slimmer face. I wanted to create a slimmer V-shaped face shape. It took less than 5min and was three little needle pricks on each side. It felt like a mosquito bite. I walked out of there feeling like my jaw muscles were a little tired. And It took a month to six weeks to see the results. Everyone kept asking if I lost weight. They noticed that my jawline was much slimmer and complimented me a lot about it.”

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Beauty tips to live by

“Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Whether it’s drinking water or putting moisturizer on, even if you have oily skin, it helps to hydrate. It makes such a huge difference in your skin, your body, your lifestyle, and health overall. Thats my biggest focus now. Definitely drink more water, flush the toxins out, have a cleansed face and moisturize. Find a moisturizer thats right for you and don’t be afraid to ask. I’ve been too prideful or embarrassed to ask and my skin suffered for that. There is a right moisturizer for everyone no matter what your skincare concerns are you just have to find the products that will fit well with you.”

-as told to BOND EN AVANT
Photographed by Amy Chang

For more:

Read about “The One Beauty Supplement You Need And Probably Aren’t Taking.” 

And how Carla Oates, founder of The Beauty Chef starts her day in, “Getting Ready.”