Saving Face

Makeup magician Natalie Ruelle loves to look good, but helping others look great is her passion.

Photograph by Jared CastaldiIn Natalie Ruelle’s world, a little dab will do ya, hon. As the colorful personality who rules all as a cosmetics consultant, Ruelle, former owner of Mix Makeup Studio in Hockessin, brings almost a lifetime of makeup experience to bear on her canvas—the faces of her custom-makeup devotees.

“It started in high school, when friends would always ask me to do their makeup,” Ruelle says. “Makeup was always my real job, although at the crux was a passion for acting.”

Her makeup prowess took her from New York to Phoenix and Atlanta, where she worked for such lines as Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, Prescriptives, Laura Mercier and Lancome in capacities like account executive, trainer, cosmetic manager and fragrance buyer.

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During a stint in Los Angeles, she tucked a Screen Actors Guild award into her makeup bag by scoring a recurring role on “Baywatch.” She also did independent films and theater work.

“Acting and makeup kind of go hand in hand in the entertainment industry,” she says. “Sometimes I’d be on set and other actors would think I was there to do makeup, and I’d whisper, ‘No, I’m here to act today.’ I was like this double agent.”

Ruelle was “pretty much a gypsy. I couldn’t get enough of new cities.” She eventually made her way back to Delaware, where she started. Women who crave a unique spin on their everyday look are forever grateful.

“When I worked for Prescriptives, I was at a trade show and there was custom lipstick blending and I thought, ‘Wow, that’s what I need to do.’”

That’s good news for you: When your favorite shade of lip color is discontinued, you can experience Apocalipstic Now. From just a nub of an old tube, Ruelle can recreate the color. Or she can create an entirely new shade, just for you. Though she no longer owns the shop, she still does custom work for friends and clients.

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“It takes almost three hours for me to mix it, so we really spent a lot of time with clients to make sure it’s what they really want,” she says. If it’s not? “They don’t have to buy it.”

In an industry in which image is everything, Ruelle knows her role. “I love to be where the fashion is,” she says. (After comically squabbling with a coworker about how to classify Ruelle’s style, the duo came to agree on “street chic.”) She does the bulk of her shopping at H&M.

“I like knowing what’s going on in fashion because it helps transition makeup trends,” she says. Because she gets dirty at her 9-to-5, she wears a lot of basics: black and silver. Looking good is important to her, but it finishes a distant second to making her clients feel good.

“A lot of people unfortunately have self-confidence issues, to the point where they have trouble even looking you in the eyes,” she says. “Or it’s the opposite, when women put so much makeup on their face as a mask to hide behind.”

Ruelle takes baby steps to empower her clients. “Maybe a little concealer here, and someone starts feeling a little bit better about themselves. Really, I just like to get someone to the point where they think, ‘I look pretty.’ It’s a powerful thing.”

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