By Erin Williams


Celebrities do it. Models do too. Both men and women do it, and we see it every day. Airbrushing, or retouching, is a post step in photoshoots that transforms imperfections and takes years off the face. In the last 25 or so years there has been a quiet but ever growing movement to use airbrushing before the photos are even shot. “What is it?” and “how does it work?” are questions a lot of women have about this makeup technique. It used to be utilized mostly on cars and in art but in the 1980’s it found its way into the cosmetics world. The benefits are a longer lasting and sheer finish that can mask almost any imperfection. But is it practical for at-home application? Or is it just for the world of professional makeup artists?

First you have to get a grasp of the machinery in both of its major components – the compressor, or air source that gives you your power, and the airbrush, which acts like a gun to spray the foundation. I spoke with Laura Morgan from Iwata-Medea, a leader in the airbrush industry, about how you know your way through the somewhat confusing list of options. “First determine the size of the job and the level of intricacy needed. For example, will you be spraying foundation face makeup or…body, as well? …Basic, or more advanced work, such as, body or facial contouring? The answers will determine how much power is needed from your air source (compressor) and what model of airbrush gun you should get.” Also know that if you mix brands, you’ll probably need to get a special adapter.

For basic at home/professional foundation face makeup the Silver Jet Compressor from Iwata is a good “starter” compressor because it isn’t too expensive. Retailing for $199 (compressors can run over $1000), it has a touch soft enough for the face. An ideal partner is Iwata’s Eclipse HP-CS Airbrush Gun for two reasons – first, it is a dual action gun vs. being a single action. Laura said that “dual action offers more control to the user so it is universally preferred by artists.” Secondly, it is a gravity feed airbrush, meaning it has a small cup, where you put your foundation, attached on the top (it can be on the side as well) of the gun. This allows for less clogging and bubbles, letting nature do the work for you. Iwata is a safe bet because of the level of quality that goes into each design and implementation. You get a finer spray, less clogging, and less internal corrosion and wear of parts with Iwata, making it a great long-term investment.

So, now that you’re outfitted with your equipment, you need some product to use with it. Temptu has some of the best and most versatile airbrush foundations on the market. You’ve probably seen them, though in more vibrant hues than you’d care to use at home, in the “X Men” movies on the characters Mystique and Nightcrawler – just to name two examples. Samuel Zuckerman, an award winning chemist who put the stripe in toothpaste, developed the first foundation, the waterproof Dura formula, for airbrushing in the mid 80’s and it’s still around today. Later came Aqua, a water-based formula that has 22 shades and a matte finish, and then in 2002, came the S/B Hi-Def, the first and only silicone-based airbrush foundation. The S/B is perfect for everyday because it mimics the skin, has a flawless glow, and is easily retouched. How do you do it?

Six to ten drops into the airbrush gun’s cup does a full face. As in many things, less is more. You just pull the trigger and go. I spoke with Tara David from Temptu and she offered this advice, “Go back and forth over the face, circles make you focus on the same spot and further away is better too. You get a more even spray.” When I asked her why airbrushing as a technique was superior to normal methods, i.e. a sponge, fingers, foundation brush, she said, “it wears better as a whole because it (foundation) isn’t being pushed into the skin. It’s layering on top of the skin and it just doesn’t move.” A basic foundation for someone with relatively normal skin would take her 2-5 minutes. For a flawless face! Not the 2-5 minute job I do in the morning to get out the door – the results of the 15-20 minute job it takes when you’re going out for an evening. And let me tell you, it covers and it stays put all day. Tara said she can cover anything from tattoos, to rosacea, to spider veins, to portwine birthmarks.

And that’s not all. She loves to do the whole face in airbrushing techniques – “everything but the eyeliner and mascara”. Blush looks particularly pretty because, “it gives a flush on the cheek rather than a line of demarcation where your powder blush starts and stops. It looks like you were out and it was a cold day.” The Aqua formula works well for eyes since it’s a matte finish and the S/B is nice to add shine and highlight. Tara likes all three formulas for lips, switching between them depending on the occasion, and will apply gloss to give an extra shine. As a note, any time you’re changing colors or formulas, you want to clean your gun with a cleanser that Temptu has – that way you make sure you’re getting the most out of your products. When you’re finished with your whole makeup, you want to do the same with either water or a cleanser to keep everything clean and running well.

Most of all, it takes practice to get better – just like anything else. But I have to tell you that it sure is fun walking around with amazing looking skin and just a thin layer of foundation on – so light you can’t even feel it! You’ll be ready for all kinds of close-ups!

Iwata products can found at and Temptu products at The websites also provide information on classes and private sessions.

All makeup courtesy of Temptu.

Originally published November 2005



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