‘Empire’s’ Makeup Artist Karen Lynn Talks Life and Grooming

In 2015, EMPIRE gave viewers an in depth look into the behind the scene of family, music and entertainment politics. We follow the Lyon’s, a fictional billionaire family who went from famous to legendary status, as they take their brand and management company public. The new hit show on FOX amazed us and wowed us with dope fashions, great music and good old fashion drama. I wanted to talk to the person who puts the ‘care’ in skin care when working behind the scenes to make sure the show always goes on. I caught up with Karen Lynn, a makeup artist to some of the country’s most famous faces and, the master mind behind the talent that goes into making the gentlemen on Empire look their best on the screen. I wanted to get to know Karen better and how she use the Dove Men+Care line to keep the men of Empire looking their best to play the part. I also wanted to see if I could get some Yoda-like knowledge on skin care for my readers too.


Ruggedlygroomed: First, give us some background on you (how did you get started in the industry and how long you been in the business etc.)

Karen Lynn: I started in the advertising industry, out of college. I started at a major creative agency called N.W. Ayer. I worked in the creative department and I assisted everyone, the creative director, the art director, the producers and the writers. That’s where I learned about production make up artist and how their artist contributed to our print ads [and] the TV commercials that we were able to produce. From there I went freelance and started working in catalogue houses, yes very glamorous, but that’s where I cut my teeth. I later got picked up by Playboy Magazine and that’s when I got noticed; that was my game changer right there. I spent 22 years as a contributing artist for Playboy and the rest was history. I don’t think people understand how big Playboy is, everyone always thinks it’s just the magazine, but we had the catalog division and we did a lot with cooperate communication, and celebrity interviews. I had a well-rounded experience doing everything from pictorials to the catalogs.

RG: Was being an A-list make up artist always on the “when I grow up” goal list?

KL: Well I have to say, I have been obsessed with make up since I was a little girl. I would watch my mother sit at her vanity and transform herself into the most beautiful happiest woman I every saw. This was in the 60’s, most of the moms I knew [were] a housewife and it wasn’t the most exciting life. When I saw her get ready to go to the parties with my mother, I was hooked. You can’t believe the power of make up, hair and wardrobe and how that really transformed her. To me she looked like a movie star. I was obsessed; I couldn’t get enough. I was always into make up and always getting in trouble. I couldn’t stop [laughs], my mother didn’t want me to be a make up artist or wear make up at all so it was kind of taboo in my house. They just thought a life of an artist was not going to be a lucrative one.

RG: I understand that very well; photography runs in my family but somewhere in the generations it fell off. The view and mindset of an artist life was very similar. My grandmother wanted me to be a business major [laughs]. It’s nice to see you stuck with it and it paid off for you.

KL: If it’s your passion, you have to follow it. It’s your path and your purpose. You can relate to that.

RG: I sure can and I commend you for that. I was looking at your website; you have had a lot of success. Congrats on your journey thus far. If you were to walk from the job right now, give me one thing you have learned that you would give as advice to someone starting out.

KL: Having gratitude and humility goes a long way, as well as working as hard as everyone else and going the extra mile for your client.

RG: Yes I like that, I agree and that is an idea that a lot of people have to come to terms with. We see a lot of people get some success and it goes to their head or they are not thankful for the blessings that have come their way.

KL: O yes, we see that on both sides of the camera.

RG: Talking about the show Empire, it has such an explosive cast and it became one of FOX’s hit shows. How was it working behind the scenes on the show?

KL: If I can sum it up in one word, it is fun! What you see on the screen, as entertaining as it is, it is the same way off the screen. It is great to have such a great cast. We laugh and we dance and we sing, we really enjoy what we are creating and what you see on screen we are doing off the screen.

The whole cast toasts to Empire.

RG: It looks like a lot of fun. I met Terrance Howard in person before and every time I see him I walk up to him and we laugh. He is a pretty cool dude. I bet being around a cast with such good personalities has to be a lot of fun.

KL: Everyone is a lot of fun and it’s like a family.

RG: What was your favorite moment working with the show?

KL: When Lee Daniels, our show creator came up to me and said my make up was flawless and that he loved my work. One of those moments that will always be a highlight in my life. He is very direct and he is a creative genius and he has a vision. I love how he has such a vision to be outspoken; he just wants to communicate what he sees and what he created in his own mind. He rewards people when he loves what you do and he honors you and that’s really something.


RG: That’s really cool! On the show you work with Terrence Howard, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Y. Gray on their skin care. What kind of skin care regiment do you have the fellas on?

KL: Ok, it’s super simple. Cleansing and hydrating and it’s amazing that 48% of the men do not wash their face or use a moisturizer. Actors on the other hand are mindful of their skin care, we always cleanse the skin before we do anything and hydrate. There is a tendency for oily skin on this show, oily skin is dehydrated skin. You still have to use a moisturizer. My favorite is the Dove Men+Care Hydrate and Sensitive Face Wash; its super gentle on the skin and wont clog the pours and will get rid of the bacteria. They also have the Dove Men+Care Hydrate and Sensitive Face Lotion. Also a new one that I love, which is the Ultra Hydrating Cream.

These actors are under the lights for 14 hours of the day, we don’t want their skin to be shiny and the one thing I love about the Dove products is that it leaves a matte finish. If you leave too much powder or mattifier, you know you are drying out the skin. I want skin to look like skin and I want it to look radiant and youthful and I want it to glow.


EMPIRE: Lucious (Terrence Howard, L) tells Anika (Grace Gealey, R) that he has ALS in the "False Imposition" episode of EMPIRE airing Wednesday, Jan. 28 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2014 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Chuck Hodes/FOX

RG: Yea, yea, I was going to ask you about that. How do you keep their skin looking less shiny or oily being under so many lights on set? Being in photo-shoots or on set, it will cause you to sweat and that will cause a build up of dirt in your pours.

KL: That’s why we have to cleanse to get rid of the dirt and bacteria. We cleanse before they start and then afterwards.

RG: A lot of men do not manage their skin and the problem is after awhile, your skin will take over and that won’t look good.

KL: People really notice your skin. It is your biggest organ, you know, and people can make a judgment on you skin. It says are you healthy and are you clean. Cleansing and hydrating is key. Also, when it comes to shaving everyone need to use a hydrating shave cream. To many of the shave products are too dry and I love the Dove Hydrating Shave Creams. Your going to get a closer shave, your going to prevent in grown hairs, the red patches that guys get, and the key is you have to use a hydrating shave cream.

RG: Can you give the readers 2 skin care tips that would make their daily skin care routine easier this summer?

KL: Summer is a really active time so I’m going to repeat what I do with my actors. They have to clean your skin, get rid of the bacteria by cleaning your skin and by doing so you will prevent the breakouts. Your more active so there is more dirt, more oil and the sun. Cleansing is everything, which brings me to another point I would love for the readers to start exfoliating their skin. It is not going to make the skin care routine easier but it is imperative. Even Dove has a product that is a cleanser and exfoliator. Your going to get rid of all that bacteria and it is going to give you a deep clean so you will swab away the dead cells on the other layer of your skin, your going to keep your pores clean and that will prevent acne and that will also help with ingrown hairs. Try the Dove Men+Care Deep Clean Face Scrub; it’s amazing! It also helps with skin dryness too; you’re out in that sun and it will dry out your skin. The third step is you have to hydrate with a moisturizer. Even if you have oily skin, it does not mean you have hydrated skin.

RG: I 100% agree and I am always telling my readers that. Now I have a pro backing me up! Sticking on the conversation of men’s grooming, the men’s grooming industry has grown a lot in the last couple of years. What do you feel is lacking when it comes to men’s skin care?

KL: It’s the men that are not actually applying it as practice. Men need to make it a daily practice. Men need to be educated on men’s grooming, the minute you get out the shower or shave in the shower. You should be moisturizing your face and your body. That moisturizer should be right there next to your shower so it’s a no brainer, next to your toothbrush [laughs]. I think men are more conscience of how they’re aging and if you want to prevent how your aging you have to moisturize. You have to keep your skin hydrated; it will protect you from the sun and the UV rays. It will give you a more youthful appearance because your skin is hydrated instead of dry and old looking.

RG: That is one thing I speak on all the time. I believe we need to have more men grooming education so men can understand. I am still very much a man though. Even though I got deeper into men’s grooming then my friends, I still mess up. I tell myself to stop and slow down, go take care of your self first [laughs]. Then I will go and cleanse my face and put my moisturizer on and my lady will notice. A lot of men wait for their ladies to tell them or put it in front of them. That needs to stop, we need to do it ourselves so we can keep looking good.

KL: Yes, here is a good point for the readers. When they go to drug store or grocery store, they can find the Dove Men+Care. It’s right there; they don’t have to make a special trip. It is so easy, if your going to pick up your groceries you can pick up your skin care. It’s all in one spot! You can pick up your 6 pack and your skin care at the same time [laughs].

RG: Now I get to groom like a Lyon [laughs]. To finish up with our conversation, what’s next for you Karen?

KL: Season 2 of Empire; we start filming in a few weeks. We need an Emmy! Especially the make up department [laughs].

For More Information on Karen Lynn, go to Also, check the Dove Men+Care line at

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