Where Do Makeup Artists Work?

Hello, you beautiful and talented person! Are you thinking about a career as a makeup artist, and want to find out where MUAs work? As usual, you've got nothing to worry about, because we've got you covered. Here's the answer to the question, "Where do makeup artists work."

Are you ready for the definitive answer? Here you go:

It Depends.

Ugh, that is the worst answer, but it's true! Where you'll work as a makeup artists depends on what kind of makeup you're doing, and even then, there is a LOT of variety about where you'll actually be performing makeup services.

Here is a quick breakdown of the different work environments for different kinds of makeup artists, and how much travel is involved with each type.

Photo Shoots.

Fashion shoots happen in any number of places: at film and TV studios, photography studios owned by photographers, rented lofts or hotel rooms, or locations that have been selected specifically for a shoot (a process called location scouting).

One of the most interesting things about fashion makeup is that you'll find yourself going to some really interesting places. Fashion mags want their models to be seen in the most unique and interesting places possible, so location scouts will map every inch of a city to find the most exotic spots. Different locations pose unique challenges for the photographer (for example, indoor lighting is easier to control, but can look "flat" and outdoor lighting can be very vibrant, but difficult to work with because it changes so quickly), and makeup artists have to work with photographers to get the look they're trying to capture.

Most of the larger fashion magazines have offices in the major metropolitan areas, like NYC, LA, Chicago, Miami, and so on. BUT, it's important to remember that every single city in the United States has modeling opportunities, and all those models will need makeup! If you don't live in one of the bigger cities, there are DEFINITELY fashion opportunities in the city near you, and they are a GREAT place to start and build experience.

Where Do Makeup Artists Work

Makeup Counters and High-End Department Stores. 

So, this one is kind of obvious. Makeup counters are located in high-end department stores or MAC locations, and---more great news---those are everywhere. Business districts in cities and malls in the suburbs. Chances are very, very strong that there is a makeup counter hiring within 30 minutes of wherever you are right now.

We wrote this elsewhere, but makeup counters are a GREAT place to get started. Absolutely great. The working conditions are perfect: there is no other place where you will get so much practice in such a short period of time. You'll work with people with different skin tones, various facial features, and you'll get to use products that you might not have in your own kit. Not only that, but you'll became proficient at reading someone's face quickly and determining what their next look should be.

But here's another great thing about makeup counters: you don't have to do any of the "business stuff" that you'll have to do as a professional makeup artist, such as finding clients, scheduling meetings, etc. You just sit there, and people come to you. It is a fantastic way to get the practice you need to become really capable.

And another great thing: you may meet some of the makeup sales reps who visit the counter, and you can make connections with them and learn about their side of the business.

Weddings and Engagement Ceremonies. 

Makeup artist who do weddings tend to do a lot of local travel. They may meet the bride-to-be at her home, at the wedding/reception area, or in a salon that specializes in wedding makeup. You'll be driving/taking public transpo to churches, wedding halls, and personal homes---and all the other places people get married (or get ready to get married!). Getting to REALLY know your community is one of the best parts about being a bridal makeup artist.

One thing to remember: if you're going to do bridal makeup in a salon, you'll probably need a cosmetology license. We talk more about that on the homepage, and in one of our career posts.

Here is an interview with a woman who makes a great living in a tough market doing bridal makeup (who started at a makeup counter!).

Beauty Salons. 

If you like to have a daily routine, a salon job is a great choice. You get to know people, make connections to the local community, and get to apply makeup to return customers (which is great for your business).

For the most part, salons hire beauticians with a cosmetology license, but there are definitely some spas who hire makeup artists. If you want to focus solely on makeup, we'd recommend getting a job at a makeup counter instead of a job at a salon. BUT, if you want to do both---be a cosmetologist and a makeup artist---a salon is a great place to do so. It can also be a good idea financially, because cosmetologists have a much more reliable income---especially when you're first starting out.

Special Events and Corporate Functions.

Here's another subset of the makeup professional where you'll be doing a lot of local travel. In any city in any state, there are policians, businessmen, media companies, and wealthy individuals who are having banquets, meetings, fundraisers, galas, and so on. Very often, those events are televised or recorded (and almost always, they're photographed) and very often, MUAs are needed. Makeup artists who work special events find themselves working in business centers, receptions halls and hotels, convention centers, production studios, churches, you name it!

TV/Film Sets and Production Studios.

Similar to fashion shoots, MUAs who work in TV and film spend a lot of time in production studios. Production studios aren't that exciting-looking---here's a photo of Steiner Studios in New York City---but MUAs may also be required to travel abroad for a project. That can get pretty exotic, and it's not uncommon for a respected makeup artist to work in many different countries in a single year.

For a very interesting look at a woman who's been all over the world doing makeup, read this woman's work bio. She's worked in London, Austalia, Africa, and toured around the entire world as Mick Jagger's makeup artist with the Rolling Stones.

We should include "MUAs who do work on commercials and advertising campaigns" in this category, because those jobs may require travel (both local and abroad) as well.

SFX Production Studios.

Special effects makeup artists usually work with production studios on film and TV, but they also get called to shoots "on location". That can be abroad---The Lord of the Rings movies required special effects and fantasy makeup artist to come from all around the world to New Zealand---but it can also be in the United States: The Abyss shot in Gaffney, South Carolina in an unfinished nuclear power plant!


Backstage! MUAs who work on theatrical performances usually work backstage before the curtain opens, and help actors get ready in their dressing rooms. However, MUAs may also work in production studios or warehouses and help develop the costumes and "look" of the characters in the play.

For shows that are local to a theatre (which happens in NYC and some other cities), MUAs may do some local travel, but not any extensive travel. However, for MUAs who work with a touring company---that is, a show that travels to cities across the country---there's a lot of travel involved. For many people who work in theatre, relocating is pretty common.

Will I Have to Move to NYC or LA to Become a Makeup Artist?

Great question! Not necessarily. We wrote a post about that.

Pack Your Bags! (If You Want To...)

There's one commonality between many of these jobs, and that is travel. Makeup artists have the opportunity to do a lot of travel. The travel may be close to home---bridal makeup artists will get to know every single street of their cities and towns---or it may be to faraway places. You can DEFINITELY have a job in makeup without being required to travel, but if you love traveling and want to make it a part of your life, you can do that too!

That wraps up this post! If you'd like to read more, check out our "Related Posts" section for more about the MUA life.

​Image Credit: "Stop Looking! Fashion Runway 2011" by Henry Jose via Flickr

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