The Secrets Behind Keke Palmer's No-Makeup Makeup in 'Nope'

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Photo credit: Everett
Photo credit: Everett


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Typically, sci-fi movies with aliens and UFOs conjure images of green face makeup and obscure special effects. But Jordan Peele’s new release, Nope, a follow-up to his award-winning films Get Out and Us, is anything but your average alien film.

Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, the film follows Otis and Emerald, siblings who see a mysterious UFO in the sky. (The rest is, well, hard to put into words.) The movie has received praise for Peele’s uniquely complex, sci-fi-thriller tone, and the makeup feels just as novel—especially for Palmer’s character.

“We wanted to take away the Keke that everyone knows to make her Emerald,” Tym Buacharern, the film’s makeup artist, tells BAZAAR.com. “We still gave her a little contour here and there, because it’s pretty. But we needed her to look as natural as possible for this character. It’s a nice departure from what people see of her. Keke loved it so much, she continued the natural makeup even after we filmed the movie.”

Ahead, find out more about how makeup helped develop the characters in one of the biggest films of the year.

Skin Prep Was Key

Ironically, achieving the no-makeup makeup look requires a lot of prep and products, and it took about 45 minutes each day. Making sure the skin has a hydrated, smooth canvas is a critical first step. Palmer has been vocal about her struggles with acne, so Buacharern used the CurrentBody LED Light Mask, which kills bacteria and has anti-inflammatory healing properties, to help the actress keep her breakouts at bay.

“Our filming location was in California, so we were in the midst of dust, rain, humidity, and we had to work hard to keep the skin clear and refreshed,” Buacharern says. Not only did the film shoot in a hot climate (it’s set in the desert town of Agua Dulce), but filming started around four in the morning. Buacharern relied on good under-eye care, from Talika under-eye patches to Bellefontaine eye cream, which was also beloved by Kaluuya, to hide dark circles. “It wears really well under makeup too,” Buacharern adds about the cream.

Matte It Out

Although the movie takes place at night (when UFOs tend to be visible, of course), it was also shot during the day in the heat with high levels of humidity. With that in mind, the makeup was matte—but not too matte.

“I kept the T-zone mattified and the rest of the face glassy, because we shot with an IMAX camera, which shows every little detail,” he says. NARS Sheer Glow Foundation was a go-to on set to get rid of excess shine while still letting glow peek through. Then, Buacharern used Estée Lauder Double Wear Concealer to “ensure dark spots are completely covered.” To avoid looking too matte, he balanced out the face with cream blush. “I love the Besame Crimson Cream Rouge to death,” he adds. He finished the look with Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Red Dahlia on Palmer’s lips.

Staying Cool

“It was a fun job, but with the weather conditions, it was a challenge to prevent the actors from sweating,” Buacharern says, adding that Palmer was the exception and rarely sweats on her face. (Editor's note: Keke, tell us your secret!) But Buacharern says one key product on set helped keep the cast cool, and it stemmed from a happy accident. “I had the Pause Well-Aging Cooling Mist in my kit and I sprayed it on Keke’s wrist and back of my neck and she was in heaven. After that, I had the rest of the cast come up to me and say, ‘I hear you have something that can make people cool down,’” he says.

A Natural Eye

The key to Palmer’s no-makeup makeup look was all in the eyes. The actress wore short lash extensions for a natural look, which Buacharern says fit her character’s aspiring-influencer persona. But as she started running during filming, the lashes started to fall out—which Buacharern left alone for an authentic moment. He then used MAC Skin Mineralizing Powder in a deeper shade to contour the eye and the cheekbones. To make the lashes seem fuller, Hourglass Retracted Gel Liner was applied to the upper waterline.

Anti-Euphoria Looks

Barbie Ferreira, who appears as Nessie in the film and Kat in the hit HBO series Euphoria, showed Buacharern images of her Euphoria character’s makeup, and he knew then that her Nope looks would be quite the opposite. “I kept her makeup very ’90s—brown lips, heavy lip liner, slightly smoky brown eyes.” For her skin, he opted for the Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation and NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer.

“When you work in film or television, it’s about realism, and people forget that,” Buacharern says. “That’s what makes this movie so interesting to watch. There are a lot of twist and turns.”

Nope is in theaters now.

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