7 Things MUAs Wished You Knew About Being A Makeup Artist

Donned in all black, you’d be forgiven to deem the MUA (Make Up Artist) profession as purely elegant. In some cases, there are MUAs who do get to live the jet set lifestyle, rub shoulders with celebrities and play a major role in setting upcoming beauty trends. Nevertheless, whether they’re an A-list MUA or at the assistant level, they can all agree it’s not an easy career. Even though they often execute their tasks with such composure and somehow remember which brush to use. In addition, they’re all in consensus about just how powerful the artistry of metamorphosis is. Here are some facts on what it’s like to be a MUA in the industry of fashion:

[Image: Kissbobo]

It’s science and an art.

It’s not just about mastering the cat-eye liner and throwing on a red lip. MUAs approach a look from a complex perspective, taking into consideration that several disciplines overlap each other here. Starting from the canvas, that is the face, they look at skin care and follow hygiene protocol to ensure everything is sanitary. Then comes the chemistry knowledge to guide them product ingredients and formulations, as well as, what mixtures to avoid and safe ways to remove certain products such as facial glue. All that blending, foundation matching and selecting which lipstick will go with that eyeshadow? That’s colour theory. Your favourite trend at the moment – contouring – requires the understanding of bone structure, as well as, facial anatomy and shapes. At times, they must do this analysis under a time crunch.

[Image: Estee Lauder]

It requires tenacity and patience.

Whether they are self-taught or went the school route, they learn majority of their skills in the field. This calls for long work-days running anywhere from 12 to 16 hours. For photo shoots and filming, they’ll stay on set throughout to make sure the look stays intact. Plus, they are on their feet a lot of the time. Between their bookings, forget downtime, as they’re promoting themselves and running the business end of things.

[Image: The Lash Chick]

Yes, it’s a business like any other.

We may only see the beauty aspect of the job, but there’s a business side to this artistry. While some may be under an agency or hire a team to run the show, many wear multiple hats to grow their brand. Systems such as scheduling, bookings, paying taxes and invoicing are set in place to balance expenses and assets. They also run their marketing, with social media platforms being crucial to get their portfolios noticed. And that kit you see them hauling to every shoot? It can get rather costly. Firstly, because they invest quality products that also convey that they keep abreast of cosmetic trends.

Secondly, they’re working with a variety of men and women who will have different skin tones. Not to mention that each shoot will call for its own creative spectrum. Now, consider how many products are required to complete a full face of makeup. Denoting, MUAs invest in a large array of shades and tones of the makeup and foundations. Keep in mind, that they all have a short shelf-life and once the clock’s up, they must replace them, even if they have a lot left. So, asking them to do a shoot for free still costs them.

CLM Eyeshadow [Image: Carlton Davis]

They work in close quarters.

It really is a one-on-one experience and they do need to come into your personal space. It could be to do a simple beauty look or full body paint, but most MUAs will tell you that having to touch people intimate and invasive ways comes with the territory. Overtime, they do become efficient at reading people’s moods and energies. So, depending on who is sitting in their chair, they can be dishing out custom makeup advice for the individual. Or Perhaps work on building up the individual’s self-esteem if they notice they’re a bit nervous or worried.

Sure, wearing all black makes MUAs look chic and sophisticated, but it’s not the main reason why it’s their colour of choice when they’re on the clock.

There’s a reason behind all the black.

Sure, wearing all black makes them look chic and sophisticated, but it’s not the main reason why it’s their colour of choice when they’re on the clock. MUA – DeShawn Hatcher – shares the reasons behind this hue in the video below.


They need clear communication.

Knowing the science behind the craft is one thing, but manifesting your vision requires involvement prior to shoot date. The creative team – photographer, art director, stylist, model and MUA – need to have a constant stream of communication so that the MUA can advice or plan each look according to the storyline. They also must take into consideration the specs of the location, as well as, the lighting which is integral to the end product. All this information also helps them narrow down their kit to the tools they’ll certainly need for this particular project. Remember, they have a lot of equipment in their arsenal.  For example, MUA – Pat McGrath – travels with 75 makeup bags during Fashion Week.

Pat McGrath [Image: Vanity Fair]

Clear, concise communicating is also necessary to streamline the entire process, to ensure that the team operates like a well-oiled machine and the project stays within the set time frame. While, they do work well under pressure, some looks will require more time than others to create.

[Image: Joshua Caudwell]

They’re artists too!

MUAs work hard for their clients and it’s in their best interest that your fashion projects culminate in success. But just because they do a great job in blending into the background, doesn’t mean they don’t want to grow as artists too. However, some creative teams will only involve their input last minute or fail to credit them when sharing the work on social media. Thus, incorporating them through the process can create better synergy in the team.

And should the creative director or photographer decide to edit the picture to the point the makeup is altered or completely different, sending them some images of their original work will go a long way in building strong networks in the industry. Lastly, don’t just tag the photographers and the stylists. MUAs deserve some of the shout-out love on social media too.


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