Boylan & Balfe

boylan and balfe

Lots of us use makeup, and most of us use it every day. But does that necessarily mean we wouldn't benefit from a little help from the professionals?

The art of makeup is a bit like cooking - we can all do it to some extent, and generally do it daily. But I certainly know I'd love to take a class with a chef and be taught all those special techniques that really add a professional touch and which would also expand my repertoire.

Makeup is no different - there are so many little tricks and tips you can be taught that will give you the polished edge we all long for. How many times have you gazed at smoky eyes in magazine spreads, sighed and thought, 'I could never get that right'? So, you stick to your old tried and trusteds, even if they're years out of style, and you never update your look.

I took a class with Boylan & Balfe last weekend, and it was a complete eye opener. I own a lot of makeup, a good few proper makeup brushes and all the stuff you 'need' to have in order to create a polished makeup. But I was always a little hazy on the whys and wherefores of what brush was meant for which application, particularly in terms of shadow.

This course changed all that.

Ellie Balfe and Ken Boylan are a funny, approachable and extremely knowledgeable pair who really love their subject and teach it with wit and wisdom. They also have the biggest collection of makeup I've seen outside of BT's beauty floor, and I spent a large portion of the day casting my beady eye over it, longingly. The class was also small - typically between 6-8 people, so you get a lot of personal attention and feedback, which is brilliant.

The course I took was a day long basics session, and we were given a huge amount of incredibly interesting and helpful information throughout. We were taught how to identify a good foundation - it should feel like silk or satin between your finger tips, how to precisely match the shade that's right for you (test on your cheek, not your hand), what brush is for each job, plus how to correctly use them - and a lot more besides.

Both Ken and Ellie are firm advocates of using products that suit and work for you, not necessarily the newest launch or the most expensive ranges. During the day we used a big variety of brands like L'Oreal, MAC, Pout and Lancome as well as RMK, Stila and Armani. It was fantastic to get to play with all this stuff, some of which I hadn't used before, and I was in heaven. I also have a shopping list as long as my arm - no change there, so.


To begin with though, we were all asked about our various routines, and what we felt we were lacking in and wanted to learn. We were then told about the various foundations, bases and concealers we'd be using during the day, and products were handed out to everyone so we could get a proper look and feel.

We then went into the course proper, which was structured in three parts - day makeup, day to evening makeup, and a night time look. During the morning, Ellie showed us how to create a natural daytime look. I was particularly interested in this because, er, I'm not very good at subtle, and acid bright eyes aren't really on at 8am. The look they showed us was quick, simple to achieve and really, really gorgeous. It was demoed on one of the class, so we could all see how it was done, what steps we should take, and what brushes were required for each stage.

We were then let loose and we all matched foundations to our skintones with help from the intrepid pair, and off we went. I tried an Armani Luminous Silk and it was gorgeous - it's now number one on the aforementioned list of must haves. We were shown how to properly apply it - never down the neck because if it's the right shade for you to begin with, it shouldn't need to be blended down. Ah - so simple, and yet so right!

Less is more was the mantra here - we weren't aiming for the dreaded makup mask effect, but rather a wash of coverage to even out the skintone. We were also taught about using concealer properly to hide dark circles, pigmentation and blemishes. This daytime look used the same tones for eyes, lips and cheeks, basically a warm brown with a lot of peach in it, and this suits everyone. It's true - when we were made up we all looked great, but equally totally different, despite using the exact same products.

Next up was the transition from day to evening, and Ken showed us how you'd be able to quickly nip into the loos and work and vamp up your lovely natural day look no time at all. He recommended patching up your foundation if it needed it, and then emphasizing the eyes by adding more intensity of colour above and below the lashline. He also used a more vibrant lip colour, and it really was amazing how different it made the daytime makeup look. And it would quite literally take a couple of minutes. Oh makeup, how I love thee.

And now to the main event, as far as I was concerned - the night time look. This is my favourite part of makeup and I like nothing more than thinking up new colour combinations and buying fab new glittery and colourful products. We were shown how to do the perfect smoky eye - the bane of many a womans life, so I was absolutely delighted with this because it's one I always felt I never got right. Ken and Ellie matched the right sort of shades to suit each of us and we all set to work, after Ken had used me as his guinea pig to demo the look on.

I, being foolhardy and willing to put any sort of fabulosity on my eyes was given a wonderful peacock blue Pout cream shadow to start off with, and a pot of sparkling MAC pigment in purple to pat over it. We were taught about blending, blending and more blending - truly this is the secret of the perfect smoky eye. And I loved loved loved how it turned out, especially after Ken decided I needed a bit more va va voom and layered some MAC glitter liner over the top of my handiwork. Less is more? Oh, not on this lady.

Much giggling and fun was had all day, and we all became firm friends. This was a really worthwhile experience, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's a fantastic thing to do for so many reasons - to improve your own skills and learn new ones, to have some quality time with a sister, mum or mate, or purely just for the fun of it.


The Basics course I did costs €250, and Boylan and Balfe regularly hold classes outside of Dublin, so they're definitely not limited to those in the capital. Check their website for details of their forthcoming courses - they also offer an Intensive course and a Bridal guide and they can come to you for makeup parties with food and wine. Mmmm. They also do a beginners course for girls who are just starting down the beauty path, and this is such a brilliant idea - no terrible teenage photos to be ripped up later for those lassies!

If you're keen on giving a course a whirl - book now because Boylan and Balfe are offering readers a massive 20% discount on courses booked during April and May and taken up by the end of August! Just quote when you phone (01 280 1025).

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