Paxson Answers Call for Specialized Make-up

Paxson Answers Call for Specialized Make-up
ABOVE: Nicole Paxson. BELOW: Before-and-after client photos.
Photos courtesy of Nicole Paxson Cosmetics 

Posted: Friday February 20, 2009

Nicole Paxson
began experimenting with make-up at the age of 12, but not to play dress-up—she had been diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can produce blotchy, deep-red rashes all over the skin, including the face. After years of trial and error, she has created and launched Nicole Paxson Cosmetics, a line for people dealing with lupus and other skin issues including acne, rosacea and birth marks.

“I spent much of my life trying to conceal rashes by mixing products,” Paxson said. She tried theatrical make-ups ranging from Joe Blasco to Dermablend, mixing them with Estēe Lauder and Shiseido, but the result was always heavier than she wanted. “Growing up in south Florida, it was awful. I was layering sunscreen with make-up, but it was so thick, I’d go out in hot weather and feel like I was wearing a T-shirt on my face.”

Though she wasn’t trained as a make-up artist per se—“I attended Pepperdine and did theater make-up, but that was it”—she approached some friends of the family (father Bud Paxson is a TV executive) who run a lab called Oxygen in Florida.

“I came in with a wish list and started creating the line with a chemist,” she said. That list included the highest UVA/UVB protection possible in a mild, unscented formula, since lupus can cause sensitivities to sun, chemicals and fragrance. She was looking for serious coverage without a cake-y feel: As she put it, “If I could stick a tissue to my face, I didn’t want it.”

In the beginning, she was told that what she wanted was impossible, or at least not easy. But through the process of hands-on experimentation, Paxson and her collaborators produced a small line featuring a maximum-coverage face and body make-up she dubbed “pudding,” crème-to-powder foundation, concealer, powder, bronzer and liquid foundation. The make-up comes in six shades and is water-based, with lots of silicone; it appears to be water-resistant, Paxson said.
Make-up artist Julianne Kaye, founder of, has tested the line on herself and others; she found that its different components suit different needs, not all of them medical. “I use it a lot on different clients of mine,” she said. “It’s good for girls that have oily skin or will be on the red carpet all night. It covers a gamut.” She has used the crème-to-powder foundation to cover her own freckles, and on two recent shoots for Harper’s Bazaar, where she found it photographed well. The pudding, which she has used to cover acne and varicose veins, is heavier, but she believes professional make-up artists can adapt it to suit their purposes.

“When I first got it, I thought it was pretty intense, but have found a lot of ways to use it,” she said. “You know when it’s too much and you can always take it down with moisturizer. If you mix pudding with shimmery lotion, it looks like pantyhose. That’s my magic trick.”

The line retails online, and a percentage of the proceeds benefits research on lupus and other skin disorders. Each product is named for a different type of butterfly, a reference to the so-called butterfly rashes associated with lupus. The butterfly packaging was part of Paxson’s effort to keep the line approachable for the general public as well as make-up artists.

“I didn’t want to do strictly medical,” she said. “It’s also fashion. I really didn’t want girls to have special, different or medicated make-up; I didn’t want them to go through what I did.” She hopes to eventually expand into a skincare line, but at the moment, she’s focusing on the make-up, the response to which she has found gratifying. “I get a lot of before-and-after photos and thank yous,” she said. 


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