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The Interview: Ruby Hammer MBE

Kelle Salle
03 February 2023

Ruby Hammer MBE is a Global Makeup Artist and a fashion and beauty entrepreneur. She has over 30 years’ experience in the beauty industry.

In addition to being a makeup artist, Hammer and her ex-husband George introduced some of the world’s most recognisable brands to the U.K (Aveda, Tweezerman and L’Occitane to name a few) before she launched her first brand Ruby and Millie in partnership with Boots and Millie Kendall OBE (now CEO of The British Beauty Council).

Ruby and Millie was the first British MUA-led brand to embrace inclusivity with an extended shade offering. “We wanted to cater for a range of skin tones at an affordable price point whilst retaining cool, sexy packaging that you would want to be seen with,” Hammer says of the brand which was launched in 1998 and closed in 2011. 

When Hammer moved to London at the age of 12, she developed a passion for beauty and would cover her bedroom wall with iconic looks from her favourite makeup artists. While working at Harrods, a chance encounter led to Hammer being invited to work as an assistant for a leading makeup artist and the rest was history.

It was only a matter of time before she became a leading makeup artist in her own right, creating her own iconic looks for editorial and red carpets. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Tyra Banks, Elle MacPherson and Meghan Markle are just some of the celebrities she has worked with through the years. Hammer’s work has graced the pages of Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire and she was one of the first makeup artists of colour to feature regularly on British TV. In 2007, Hammer was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for services to the cosmetics industry. 

Hammer’s most recent venture is her new eponymous line, Ruby Hammer Beauty, which she launched in 2019 and describes as a ‘highly edited range of products that enhance your beauty routine.’ The line includes lip serum balms that are packed with skincare ingredients and innovative, interchangeable magnetic brushes that match the wearer’s needs. The inspiration behind the launch of the brand came from Hammer’s work as an artist. “I’m constantly on the lookout for new and innovative products. It can be overwhelming when you see brands with thousands of lines. As an artist, I’m constantly editing down the products I have for my kit, and I wanted to make it easy for everybody to do the same,” Hammer said. 

Ruby Hammer

The innovative Magnetic Brush Set

Hammer introduced Ruby Hammer Beauty to the market with the launch of the Magnetic Brush Sets, which consist of six interchangeable brush heads in a tapered, smudge and angled finish. All brushes work with cream, powder and liquid formulas. “I wanted people to feel free to use them whenever they wanted, using their creativity rather than feeling constrained to a name. I use the tapered brush for shadow work on the eyes as well as to strategically apply concealer. Everything is designed by an artist, made for you,” Hammer says. 

The formulation process for Ruby Hammer Beauty was longer and more drawn out due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Nothing could have prepared us for the complications that arose. Applying makeup was banned, so technology became key to the business rather than a hands-on approach. You had to learn to adapt,” Hammer said. Hammer knew she wanted to launch products that she loved and that made her beauty routine easier and more joyful.

This concept led her on to the formulation process for the brand which involved working with a small team to map out the steps, from logo to launch before filling in the gaps. One gap Hammer wanted to fill with Ruby Hammer Beauty was over-saturation. “When I browsed stores, I noticed a lot of complicated products being touted as ‘perfect’ for altering your appearance to look like someone else. The increase of filters being used online created a gap in the market for those that wanted a more natural, simple approach. I want to see people celebrating themselves and feeling comfortable in their own skin,” Hammer said. 

When Ruby Hammer Beauty first launched, they targeted everyone who loves beauty. All of the products were designed to enhance everyone’s beauty routines, no matter your sex, size, skin tone, age or ability. Although the brand launched with beauty tools and accessories only, it was well received by consumers and the beauty industry as whole, winning numerous awards and receiving many accolades.

As one-half of Ruby and Millie, a makeup brand that championed inclusivity at a time when it was still an afterthought in the industry, there was a justifiable request for colour cosmetics. “Every interview or event posed the same questions - all related to colour cosmetics. This quickly switched our priorities,” Hammer said. 

Ruby Hammer

The Lip Serum Balm

The brand’s skincare-inspired Lip Serum Balms are their best selling product. Described as a ‘hybrid of colour and care’, they are blended with a variety of ingredients including meadowfoam seed oil, licorice leaf extract and cocoa butter to smooth and hydrate lips with a wash of dewy colour.

“When developing the colours, I wanted shades that suited everyone - a nude with a hint of warmth, making it suitable for deeper skin tones as well as a bright pink to bring a pop of colour without overwhelming the face, a true red and special FX shades which could be used alone or as toppers to bring a new dimension to your favourite shades. They’re instantly comforting - like a glass of water for your lips,” Hammer says. 

Hammer has been making beauty accessible for all for years and has even been branded an ‘accidental activist’ for standing up for inclusivity for all. “I may not shout and scream but I have always stood up for accessibility. Nobody should go into a store or shop online and find that nothing works for them,” she said.

As for her namesake brand, the Magnetic Brush Set has been created with different abilities in mind. They are ergonomic and designed to feel like a pen in the hand. The magnetic closure is strong enough to keep the brushes together but not so strong that people with a weakened grip cannot interchange them. The shades of the colour lines are universally friendly. “The darkest berry shade looks beautiful on me as someone with a nude complexion and equally as beauty on someone with a pale skin tone,” Hammer said. 

Ruby Hammer Beauty is adding value to consumers’ experiences by providing them with the feedback, guidance and content they need to look and feel their best, allowing them to play up the features they love and play down those they don’t. “Looking good is all about self-confidence,” Hammer said. Hammer’s definition of beauty is simple. She doesn’t believe it's defined by cosmetics but who an individual is on the inside. “True beauty is not defined by age, colour, size or sex - it is reflected by the spirit within. Someone who has a ready smile, who shows kindness and warmth is always beautiful,” she said.

Ruby Hammer

Porcelain Brush Holder

To provide consumers with high quality products, Ruby Hammer Beauty is constantly in talks with their suppliers. “We are constantly discussing ingredients, sustainability, formulation advancements and new packaging innovation. Whilst we have to be conscious of costs in the given climate, launching products that don’t deliver would be detrimental to my credibility as an artist and brand founder,” Hammer says.

Sustainability has become one of the most talked about beauty trends over the past few years and Hammer predicts that this will continue in 2023, along with “greener formulations and a move towards more considered products that are suitable for all.”

As the beauty industry continues to go from strength to strength, Hammer’s advice for any budding entrepreneurs would be to not underestimate the power of research. “Does your product or service already exist? What is your point of difference? Also, don’t be overwhelmed by other people’s opinions,” she says.

Hammer has used her years of experience in the beauty industry to encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to embrace and accentuate their natural beauty. As for what’s next, Ruby Hammer Beauty has lots of projects in progress from new products to how they interact with customers. “Our main goal is to enhance people’s natural beauty, creating a safe space to ask questions online and encourage people to embrace their unique looks,” Hammer says. 

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