Tips and Tricks of the Trade, Part 1

To be a great makeup artist, you simply need to be great at makeup, right?

Nope! Well, yes, you need to be great at makeup, but that's not all.

Like most professions, you'll face all sorts of weird situations and challenges that'll keep you on your toes.

Here's are some insider tips that can make a big difference when you're on a job.

Have Snacks in Your Bag​

If you're working with models or brides or even people in a salon, a hungry client is a cranky client. Have something you can reach for if someone needs a snack.

The trick here is that oh my GOODNESS there are so many different diets that people are on. No milk, no gluten, vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, kosher, high fat/low carb, etc. The list goes on. So how do you pack something for everyone?

You can't. So just have a few staples in your purse---some dried fruit, nuts, low-fat granola bars, whatever. One of those small yogurt things you can drink. Obviously nothing sloppy or messy. Just something you can reach for and say, "I have this; maybe it would help?"

This is particularly helpful if you work for brides, because very often, a bride's wedding day is packed sun-up to sun-down with tasks that making eating REALLY difficult. And even those brides who are prepared and have food misplace it or give it to a friend who loses it, etc. Having a little bit of food to give a hungry bride makes you look like a superhero.

Have a Sewing Kit Handy​

This is another one that is a must for bridal makeup artists, but is great advice for a makeup artist at any kind of job: always carry a small sewing kit with you, even if it's just in your purse and not in your kit.

Here's my favorite story about this:

A friend of mine was at a hotel (in Brooklyn, where I live) getting a bride ready for her wedding. And, wouldn't you know it, her client's dress wasn't fitting properly, because the tailor had messed up one of the buttons in the back, and it popped off when the bride put it on. It was a BEAUTIFUL dress, but without this button, it just wasn't fitting right, and she was falling out all over the place. The bride, who was cool as a cucumber---always a good thing---said, "Mmmmmm we're going to have to find a way to make this work. And, soon."

My friend, always quick on her feet, said, "Listen, this is the kind of thing that would drive some women crazy, but I have some white floss in my purse. It's really sturdy and I can use it so sew the button in place. Yes, you'll have floss on your dress, but absolutely no one will know."

And the bride---whom I love, and I love this answer---said, "As long as it does the job, I won't think about it again. I look absolutely amazing."

So, a little floss and some quick thinking saved the day! My friend obviously carries a sewing kit now instead of floss, but you get the picture. 🙂

(And, it should be noted, my friend has gotten a LOT of work and a lot of referrals from that very happy bride. Networking! It's like magic!​

Learn and Remember Names​

Tips for New Makeup Artists

This is a little tip that will make you seem like an absolute pro. When you remember people's name and use it not long after hearing it for the first time, it is an INCREDIBLE way of building rapport with your client. And, it's just kind of impressive. If you can walk into a new job and remember everybody's name right off the bat, you're well on your way to a very positive work experience.

This, as I'm sure you know, is super super super hard. When you're meeting someone new, you almost NEVER hear their name. You're thinking, "How am I coming across right now? Do I look a mess? I had an everything bagel before, is my breath terrible? Am I smiling like a crazy person? Am I..." and then the other person has said their name and you have no idea what it is.

It takes some practice, and some time to practice it, but being present when you meet people and learning their names is totally worth it.​

Proper Clothes and Shoes That Won't Make You Want to Cry​

We've mentioned this elsewhere, but proper attire is an absolute must for a makeup artist. You need clothes that will give you a full range of motion, allow you to move quickly, and that make you look like a professional; in other words, wear black. It's pretty much the go-to makeup artist clothing color, and if you want to personalize it a *little* bit, you can. Also, obviously, nothing dangling off you---no long jewelry, loose sleeves, or anything like that.

But here's the other most important thing---you want shoes that are both comfortable and not clunky. That may be a life-long search, but it is what it is. You want shoes that you can stand up in for HOURS, because on certain jobs---many or even most jobs, really---you'll be standing up for hours. If you close your eyes and imagine a makeup artist, I doubt you're envisioning someone sitting down. So, comfortable-but-professional looking shoes: very important.

Wear a Watch​

Think about it: in almost all instances, you will be putting makeup on a client for a function that happens at a specific time. Nobody hires a makeup artist to go to the beach for the day or to lounge around at a picnic. They hire a makeup artist for a wedding that starts at 7pm, or a runway show that starts at 9pm, or a photo shoot that starts at 5pm.

In other words, you need a watch, and you need to be looking at it, a LOT.

Yes, you have a clock on your phone. But you have to reach for it. You need constant access to the time, and that means a watch. On your wrist. At all times.

Know the Details of Your Event​

This one is closely related to the "Wear a Watch" tip. Just as it's unusual for a makeup artist to be at an event that doesn't start on time, it's rare for a makeup artist to be working solo. They're usually a part of a much bigger system (ie, at a photo shoot, there may be the hair person and the photographer; at a movie shoot, there will be the hair person and then the wardrobe person and then etc etc. You get the picture). The point is, if your client is going to be dealing with multiple people, it makes you like look like a superstar when you know how the entire system functions. Having an idea of what everyone is doing makes you efficient, punctual, and reliable.

Which leads me to the last tip, which is...

Keep It Cool​

Very often, makeup artists work at emotionally-charged events. Weddings and runways shows, particularly, are high-energy functions with a lot of characters doing a lot of different tasks. They're exciting, but they can be stressful, and very often, that leads to some stressed clients.

If you can keep your cool when things get stressful, you will ALWAYS be in demand. A makeup artist who can remain calm, cool, and efficient when things are moving fast is something who will have a VERY successful career.

That's a tall order for some people, and it's waaaay easier to keep it cool when you've got a lot of experience under your belt and you have the confidence that you can fix any problem that comes up.

Here's how you gain that confidence:​

  • Practice. The more experience you have, the better you'll be at handling problems. You'll have the wisdom to tackle problems you've experienced before, and you'll have the courage to fix new problems you haven't encountered before.
  • ​Let It Go. If you've messed something up, don't beat yourself up about it (and if you're going to do that, do it later!). Just ask yourself: "What do I need to do, right now, to fix this?" Then get it done.
  • Be Present and Literally Tell Yourself To Keep It Cool. This is so important---if you can say, in a tense or rushed moment, "This is a tense or rushed moment. I need to keep my wits about me, and do my job," you will be WAY more calm than everyone else who is going with the flow, feeding off the environment, and getting tense. In a panicky moment, say to yourself, "I need to calm down and get back to work." Your panic won't disappear---that's not how people work---but it'll help you readjust and get moving.


​These are some of the things that don't really occur to you *before* you're a makeup artist, so I thought it would be a good post. Also---

I really enjoyed writing this! Maybe I'll put together another post like this? A Part 2, maybe.

If you have any questions, leave them below! Cheers!​

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