James Boehmer is the Global Artist Director for Shiseido makeup. From shooting campaigns, to product development and testing his days are busy and his career is expansive. Though his work involves makeup, he knows that you must find inspiration and fuel your creativity beyond the products you work with. From film and dance to art and (now virtual) museum tours.
Here we spoke with Boehmer on his beauty muse, Sayoko Yamaguchi, to online dance classes and beauty advice from his grandfather.
What is your morning beauty routine?
I love to take a very warm shower with a lot of steam to wake myself up. I’m pretty low maintenance. I wash with a foaming cleaner in the shower and apply softening lotion, serum, eye cream and SPF after. I don’t use any hair products and only wash my scalp once or twice a month with a deep cleansing product that I LOVE from Japan. If I have to be “on screen” I will use a little brow product to define and colour my brows as they are going grey.
What is your night beauty routine?
Nighttime routine is pretty simple as well. I like to use oils and heavier creams at night, and will also use more active products in the evening, like AHA and Retinoic acids, during the winter when I’m staying out of the sun. I love sheet masks as well, so I will try to do one at least once a week.
Describe what you do for a living? What does a typical day look like for you?
My job involves a lot of different elements. Product development, product concepting, shade creation and shade naming, content creation for our brand and social campaigns for Shiseido Makeup. Our global makeup team is based in New York while our brand headquarters is located in Tokyo. So we spend a lot of time on Zoom meetings, especially now that we are still working from home here in New York.
Aside from meetings and calls, I try to stay up to date on what’s happening in the arts and with culture at large. I am so “fed” by the arts and really miss not being able to engage directly right now with art, music, dance, performance - so much of what stimulates what I do. I try to give myself time throughout my week to “virtually visit” museums and galleries and auctions, revisit books in my collection to give me the sense of “travel” that I miss so much. I have recently downloaded more streaming apps like MUBI, Kino, and of course the Criterion Collection to continue to discover new and iconic films. The visual arts are such an immense source of inspiration for me so I try to absorb it anyway I can.
What is the supermarket/ drug store/ chemist beauty product(s) that you use and love?
I love Aquaphor to use on my lips and nails. I also love Dr Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap in Lavender as well as their bar soaps. My grandfather, who had the same hair texture as me, always used Baby Shampoo when he washed his hair so I love the Mustela Gentle Baby Shampoo when I wash my hair.
What is your main form of beauty body maintenance? What products do you use on your body?
I am very low key when it comes to products for my body. I will use a body scrub a few times a week to exfoliate. I am a big fan of Japanese Onsen or Sentō “spa and scrub” culture. So I love to have a steam, a soak, and a scrub whenever I can. Not only is it so relaxing, the heat and the steam is so good to purge toxins and promote blood circulation overall. I actually discovered Infrared Saunas years ago on a visit to Melbourne. So I look forward to being able to “return” to all of this in the near future (I hope).
How do you keep fit/ healthy? Does exercise form a large part of your routine?
My preferred type of movement would be dance and yoga, and to be honest, I wish that I could say I was staying as active as I’d like in this regard lately. I have definitely taken part of this new boom in “virtual” wellness to participate in dance and yoga classes when I can’t be physically in the studio. Favourite online options are SkyTing TV, Moves Pure Joy, and the Sweat Spot. I have never really been a bike rider in the city, but I have recently started riding a bike in a very “leisurely” manner. Which I guess counts for exercise, right?
What cosmetic procedures/ professional treatments do you have as part of your beauty routine?
I miss my weekly manicure and pedicure more than anything. I’m quite adept at taking care of my hands but I have literally no skills when it comes to my feet. I will always leave that to the professionals. Because I like to have mild laser resurfacing in the winter to take care of surface irregularities, broken capillaries, and mild discolouration. I really believe that the texture is the most important aspect of the skin. When my skin feels healthy and vibrant I feel the most youthful looking.
What do you do when your body needs to recover?
Massage is such an important part of recovery and self care. I am obsessed with reflexology. So even if I can’t get a full body massage, a 20 minute intensive foot reflexology helps. I love to take naps whenever possible. And I also try to give myself one day a week to do absolutely nothing other than veg out on TV, IG, or whatever it is. I spend so much of my work life speaking and being “on” so I find that silence is incredibly restorative as well.
You’re tired / rundown: what is your beauty hack?
The first thing I do when I feel a bit tired is to wear more colour or print than blacks or neutrals. Obviously I love colour, and nothing makes you feel more alive than wearing a jolt of colour. When I feel really tired or rundown, I typically make my eyebrows a little bit darker than usual. You can also exaggerate the “lift” in the arch of your brow by drawing it a little bit outside of the natural arch. Gives you an instant lift to the eyes. Curling the lashes, even without mascara, is the easiest way to make your eyes feel more awake. If all of that fails, I’ll just put on my largest framed glasses to hide a multitude of sins.
What is the one non-negotiable in your beauty routine?
I am a big believer in the “softening” step that is common in Japanese skincare rituals. This step which is in between cleanser and moisturizer for me makes the biggest difference in my overall skin texture, hydration levels and tone. I apply with cotton squares which also creates a very gentle friction and mildly exfoliates. My lips are always dry so I use this technique to remove dry skin on my lips as well.
Every makeup look that I create starts with this step as well. Makeup will only reflect the texture of the skin underneath. So this step always makes the skin feel more vibrant, refined, and hydrated. I also never leave the house without wearing SPF. And I am fanatical about reapplying when I am in the sun.
Do you have a beauty icon? Who are they and why?
I have SO many Beauty Icons that have shaped who I am as a makeup artist and creator. I feel like it is impossible to choose only one because I am ENDLESSLY inspired. I feel like the idea of beauty is so multi-layered and also ever changing that it is nearly impossible to say. Creating Shiseido Makeup has allowed me an incredible opportunity to examine our brand’s muses that have shaped our story over the last 150 years.
Sayoko Yamaguchi, the famous Japanese model and face of numerous Shiseido campaigns, is a constant source of beauty for me. She was really the first Japanese model to reach global acclaim and worked with designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Halston. And was a muse to the great illustrator Antonio Lopez. Personally and for what I’ve done with Shiseido, she is a great source of inspiration. So much in fact I named one of our cheek colours after her.
What is the best advice on beauty you’ve received?
My mom used to always say that you should never go to bed angry because it creates wrinkles. That’s pretty good advice to follow.
What is the best advice on health you’ve received?
Everything in moderation and the idea that good enough is good enough. I find more and more as I age that I am actually more content with the physical space that I occupy. We can all learn to be more gracious with ourselves. I also love the Oscar Wilde quote “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
What is the one product you can’t live without?
“Purple Kush” candle from Boy Smells. I literally stockpile them and have one burning at all times.