How To Become A Makeup Artist: Advice From Top Professionals
Daydreaming about how to become a makeup artist? It's no wonder. Getting paid to spend all day thinking about beauty trends, experimenting with different looks, and working with cool clients is what makes being a makeup artist a serious dream job, but like any other awesome gig, it also takes a lot of hard work. How exactly do you go from lipstick junkie to full-on pro? We called on industry insiders to fill us in.
John Stapleton has been working with M.A.C. Cosmetics for 18 years. As a senior artist for the brand, he's traveled around the globe, discovering (and applying!) new trends everywhere from Lebanon to Brazil to Japan. Then there's social-worker-turned-makeup-artist Katey Denno, who's made a name for herself working with models, celebrities, and big-time photographers. And let's not forget Make Up For Ever's vice president of education and artistry, Simone Ciafardini. During her 25+ years in the beauty industry, she's developed techniques used by Make Up For Ever educators, as well as a curriculum for Sephora.
Aspiring artists, put down that brush and take note. These experts were kind enough to share some valuable career advice. Starting with...
1. Practice. Practice. And then practice some more.
We all know practice makes perfect, and makeup artistry is no exception. Whether it's trying out different looks on yourself or your friends, the more you do it, the better you'll be. "Practice is key," says Simone. "Learning from professionals is important to becoming a truly great artist, but making practice part of your everyday routine is also critical."
John suggests getting hands-on experience by working at a makeup counter at your local mall or beauty store. "There you'll find a revolving door of personalities, skin types, ages, you name it," he says. "When people need beauty help, they turn to counter artists as their go-to experts. Customer service is a major aspect of makeup services, and the counter is the best place to get the most exposure and experience."
"Figure out what you're good at and what you need more practice doing," adds Katey. "Play with product on as many skin types, facial feature shapes, and ages as you can!"
2. Research the makeup masters who've come before you.
Take the time to figure out what kind of looks catch your eye and who your makeup artist role models are. "Research who's come before you," Katey says, "and understand what you like about their work. Figure out which styles you're most attracted to." You can start by looking at books, magazines, websites, beauty vlogs, and celebrity images.
3. Get a Formal Education
If you're serious about becoming a professional makeup artist, going to school is a great option to consider. There are tons of different programsacross the country—do your homework and find out which is best for you. One such school is the Make Up For Ever Academy in New York, which, according to Simone, covers just about everything: "We offer a master program, which is comprised of four levels: beauty, fashion, TV and film, and stage and artistic. This is a six month-program that provides a certification upon completion. The Academy also offers intensive programs that range from one to seven weeks."
Another route is to obtain an associate of arts degree in cosmetology from a local community college. Whether you head to traditional college or beauty school, they'll help you prepare for whatever licensing exams and requirements your state has (find out what your state requires).
4. Get online and market yourself.
Thanks to the internet, the beauty world has changed drastically: If you want to be successful, you have to have a web presence. "Social media has had a huge impact on makeup artistry," John says. "Think of all the YouTube and Instagram sensations out there! What's amazing is that there's a whole new way to experience ideas." Simone agrees that social media can help artists stay relevant: "The more you expose your work and are exposed to others', the more you'll grow."
Katey's seen first-hand how vital it can be for your career. "I didn't believe it until my then-agent gave me a stern talking to," she says. "Soon after, I launched my blog and landed a piece on Vogue.com about my favorite products. It was at that point I realized how important it is to establish yourself as a brand in this industry, as well as establish a daily presence in the world of social media."
5. No matter what, don't overdo it on the fangirling.
For many who want to be a professional makeup artist, working with celebrities is the ultimate goal. Katey emphasizes that if you're lucky enough to score a star client, you need to remain professional. "Remember that you're there to perform a service, not try and become best friends with someone you've seen in movies," she explains. "If a friendship grows, that's wonderful, but your job is to make sure your client is in the most relaxed state of mind. This often means intuitively knowing when it's time to talk and when it's time to stay quiet and let them sit with their thoughts, their phone, or their music."
6. Take any job you can and bring your best attitude.
As you work your way up, take any job you can get to build experience, even if it doesn't pay. "Nothing is ever beneath you—no job is ever too small. You never know who you're going to meet, and where that person will end up next, so always treat everyone the way you'd like to be treated," says Katey.
7. Love your job.
Never lose the love for makeup and artistry that drew you to becoming a makeup artist in the first place! "Enthusiasm is important! Eighteen years later, I'm still with M.A.C. and my passion runs as strong as it did my first day. It encourages me to be unique and express myself through makeup art," says John.
8. Wear flats.
Working as a makeup artist requires long days spent on your feet. It's a simple tip, but an important one: "Never wear high heels to work," says Simone.
9. Find a mentor.
See if you can connect with a makeup artist who will let you tag along to their jobs. If you can work as their assistant or as an intern, even better! Having a mentor who can show you the ropes is invaluable when you're starting out. "And one day, pay it back," says Simone.