MANA: MUAs at the Bench

April 1st, 2022

April 1st, 2022

Since 1975, MANA has developed state-of-the-art colour cosmetic and skincare formulas for many of the world’s most celebrated beauty brands. Today, when contract manufacturers are being called upon to help lead their indie and industry brand partners into the future, MANA continues to proactively innovate what new and what’s next in beauty.

MANA’s new Artists At The Bench program welcomed three New York City–based makeup artists into its labs to create new formulas for lip colour, eyeshadow, eyeliner, concealer, foundation, and loose powder.

“MakeUp Artists are the beauty industry’s rock stars! They are so smart. The more closely we engage with them—bringing the MUA perspective into conversation with our manufacturing capabilities—the better we can develop and deliver products for the industry at large.”Maria Stadler, Vice President of Product Development & Marketing at MANA


Meredith Baraf, Marco Castro and Rudy Miles are the contract manufacturer’s season-one cohorts of MANA’s Artists At The Bench: professional MUAs working alongside MANA formulators and R&D pros to create the makeup products missing from their kits.  By partnering with them MANA combined their in-house expertise in product texture, formula, and ingredient technologies with the artists’ visions for the next generation of makeup.

For all three of the makeup artists in MANA’s Artists At The Bench program, it was their first time working at the bench in a cosmetics lab. While Meredith, Marco, and Rudy have all advised on and assessed product for brands, none of them had worked at a lab bench collaborating with chemists in real time. And yet — in just a few months — these industry rock stars co-created truly innovative colour cosmetics.

“MANA is known has been the home base for makeup artists in the industry for decades” says Jessica Olwell, Senior Product Development Manager, and head of NXTTRENDS at MANA. “Still,” she says,

“the Artists At The Bench program was a unique experience for everyone involved. Our chemists learned so much about how each of the artists work with makeup and then translated that knowledge into products consumers will eagerly use.”


For MUA Meredith Baraf, people are beautiful, imperfection is perfect, and the eyes have a lot to say.  She is known for her technical flexibility, love of artistic collaboration, and instinctive sense of colour and dimension. And, she has a remarkable ability to reveal each of her subject’s unique beauty while expressing mood and meaning through their eyes.

Her artistry has been featured in Vogue, Vogue Italia, Harper’s Bazaar, Vanity Fair and Glamour; she’s worked with photographers, such as Annie Leibovitz, Brian Bowen Smith, Russell James, Mert Alas, Marcus Piggott, Max Vadukul, and the late Irving Penn, as well as with celebrities including Linda Evangelista, Kim Kardashian, Liya Kebede Adriana Lima, Lea Michele, Brooke Shields, and Olivia Wilde.

Meredith describes her aesthetic as “wabi sabi,” a Japanese concept recognizing the beauty of imperfection.  “Humans are beautiful,” she says, noting that not all artists or products allow for that truth:

“A lot of what’s going on in makeup is about transformation and on top of that filtering. And I don’t love it.”

To create products that bring the wabi sabi aesthetic to her signature eye looks, Meredith challenged MANA to formulate both a latex eyeshadow and an eyeliner that’s at once precise, blendable, and longwearing. “It turned out incredibly well!” she says , explaining that for her NXTEyeshadow, “I wanted something that looked wet, but not shimmery. It was a difficult thing to ask for, but we got there! When paired with my new Smoothing Shadow Base, it’s the longest wearing liquid, wet-looking product that I’ve ever used,” she says.

“Working in the lab was delightful. It mimicked the process of doing makeup more than I anticipated,” says Meredith.

“It’s a messy process and not linear, but if you go with the flow, something wonderful comes out.”


Marco Castro finds inspiration in the ecology of Peru, transparent textures, and multi-functional skincare.

“The Artists At The Bench program was beyond my expectations,” says Marco, a filmmaker, creative director, and makeup artist who’s worked side-by-side with Francois Nars for nearly 20 years. “I had always envisioned that going into the lab was not personal. But this was completely hands-on and super personal.”

He tasked the team at MANA to create a NXTConcealer and NXTFoundation. “I envisioned the products I wanted to develop more as a skincare product with colour, rather than as pure pigment or simply cosmetics,” says Marco.

“I am very picky with everything; and we had a couple of back-and-forths in terms of texture because I wanted both of the products to feel a little bit balmy, not so liquid or creamy. And yes, in the end, the MANA chemists met my vision.”

Today, he lives in New York City, though the city of Lima, Peru, was Marco’s first home.

“For me, it’s very important to speak of where I come from in the developing of products,”

“Peru is big on their biodiversity in terms of materials and ingredients. My grandmother was into medicinal herbs. We used them for healing purposes, for ointments, for cooking; and I am very familiar with the benefits of ingredients that have been used since ancient—pre-Inca—times.”

As a result, NXTConcealer is formulated with Buriti Fruit Oil, an ingredient rich in essential fatty acids, beta carotene, and vitamins that help firm, deeply hydrate, and condition skin, and provide powerful antioxidant protection. Acai Extract is in the ingredient deck too, helping re-energize the complexion as well as to firm, hydrate, and help protect skin barrier function.

“The skincare benefits play a big part with the NXTConcealer and NXTFoundation; we’re offering them two-in-one, hybrid products. It’s practical and it’s the future of beauty,” says Marco.


As a makeup artist, Rudy Miles sees lots of opportunity in the beauty industry for products that don’t exist.

“It was like Willy Wonka,”

says Rudy of his experience in the lab at MANA. “I was just blown away by the raw materials and the forms that things come in, for instance, an ingredient I assumed was liquid, was a powder.”

With over 25 years of experience as a makeup artist, Rudy has beautified Susan Sarandon, Chaka Khan, model Karen Alexander, Teresa Edwards, Kirstie Alley, Kendall Jenner, Sela Ward, Nicole Hilton, and Paris Hilton. His male grooming clients range from Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, to Matthew McConaughey, Josh Lucas, and Cory Stearns.

As makeup team leader at New York’s Fashion Week, he has created runway looks for designers Zang Toi, Malan Breton, Sherri Hill, Meghan Walsh, Oscar de la Renta, Katie Ermilio, Reem Acra, Perry Ellis, and EDUN.

Rudy came to the program wanting to create “a loose powder that’s hydrating and can be used as a primer and to set makeup,” explaining that “I use powder that way artistically; and I thought it would be great if it was made for that purpose.”

The NXTPowder he developed with MANA is “a beautiful light-weight powder to set foundation. It has a blurring effect to soften and can be used as a concealer. Plus, it doesn’t drift or fly away.” And the formula is very much in line with current consumer expectations and ingredient trends.

“Among my non-negotiables for the project were cleaner, more responsible beauty.”

“I used the IPSY list because if you’re an indie artist coming out with product, it’s a good benchmark; it’s at least a place to start. If you’re someone who wants to come out with a competitive product today, you’re going to have to talk about the ingredients, sourcing, the microbiome…MANA has done that work for us.”

Rudy also created a skin-caring, mistake-proof, multi-functional mousse for lip and cheek with a smooth demi-matte finish. Packaged in an airless pump, the hybrid cheek-lip colour is “simple, easy, and quick. It’s not oily on the cheek but is moisturising on the lip. They nailed it!” he says.


To learn more about the artists and MANA’s Artists At the Bench Program, visit


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