How (and Why) to Hire a Professional Makeup Artist

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You’re not getting married, or planning to walk down the aisle in the next few months. And the last time you checked, you weren’t a celebrity with red carpet appearances and lots of flashbulbs to deal with. So why would you – someone who doesn’t have photographers trailing after her all day – want to spend the money to book an appointment with a professional makeup artist?

“Many of us think that we have to wait for a once-in-a-lifetime occasion in order to justify getting our makeup done by an expert, but there are so many other times in life – besides your wedding – when it pays to look your absolute best,” says Raychel Wade, La Prairie Color Ambassador and owner of the Cheek to Chick makeup consulting firm.

Whether you’re heading into an interview for a dream job, going to a charity luncheon or speaking engagement, or getting photographed for headshot or online dating profile, you literally want to put your best face forward. Another reason it pays to go with a pro? “A makeup artist can teach you how to update that look that you wear every single day, allowing you to stay current with the trends,” says Jamie Chavez, a lead artist with Bare Escentuals cosmetics. “Just as you update your wardrobe each season, you should update the colors and textures you’re using on your face.”

You vs. The Pros

Even if you know plenty of tricks and tips to applying your own makeup, Wade explains that an artist will take far more time, and be much more deliberate in her application than you probably would be at home (when was the last time you spent an hour in front of the vanity mirror?)

“Not only does a professional continue to take classes regularly to improve her technique, but she’s constantly stocking up on new colors and products that you probably wouldn’t invest in yourself,” says Wade. “That means you can try something a little different – without spending the hundreds of dollars it would require to buy products that could be out of date next season.”

Ultra-bright cheeks or super-smoky eyes might not be your thing, but women who want a fresh-faced, nude look might be the ones who benefit most from sitting down with a professional. “Many people don’t know the correct way to make themselves appear “natural” – they almost always underdo it,” says Wade. “Makeup artists are skilled at achieving a flawlessly bare look even when using lots of makeup. There’s an art form to it.”

Finding the right fit

Take a quick stroll through the cosmetics section of any department store and you’ll quickly realize: There are a lot of people out there who want to help you update your look. Avoid the temptation to seek out the person with the prettiest-looking makeup,” says Wade, “Just because she can do her own doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be skilled at applying yours.”

Instead, whether you’re visiting a department store or contacting freelancers in your area, be prepared with a few key questions, recommends Antonio Rosa, make-up artist and co-owner or Senses NY Salon & Spa in Manhattan. Ask about the artist’s background and professional training: How many years have they been doing makeup and how often do they attend classes to update their technique? What cosmetic companies has the artist worked for in the past? Who is their “typical” client, and what type of look does she usually request?

In addition, you should always ask to view portfolios before you make a decision. “You’d never choose a photographer without seeing her pictures, and you should never hire a makeup artist without seeing the faces she’s done, “says Chavez. “Most take pride in the work that they’ve done, so if they balk, you may want to go with someone else.”

While most experts will insist that they can “do any look you want,” the answers that you get – and the images that you see – will give you a much better sense of whether their beauty philosophy and sensibilities come close to matching your own.

Not sure whether to visit the department store or hire a freelance makeup artist? Consider this: While she’s typically more expensive, the latter will almost always make house calls and won’t pressure you to buy extra makeup that you may not need or like. Either way, it’s essential to make an appointment to avoid the chances that the artist you’ve selected is busy no not working that day.

Getting the look that you want

As with most relationships, communication is key (and that goes double when you’re sitting in the makeup chair!).

“In order for the artist to give you the look that you want, she needs to know more about how you typically make up your own face,” says Wade. “Tell her what products you wear every day, and how you apply them. Let her know if you have trepidations about certain looks, like eyeliner above or below your eye, or bright colors on your lips.”

You should also share whether you’d like to go really natural, a look similar to your own everyday technique, or if you want a more dramatic look than that you’d typically attempt on your own. Chavez also recommends bringing in a photo of the look that you want to archive. “That way you can be sure you’re on the same page,” she says.

“If you’re feeling a little nervous about how heavy-handed the artist might be, ask her to apply makeup in stages – that way, you don’t have a jarring sensation at the end, and you can always add more if you’d like a more dramatic look,” recommends Wade.

While you’re probably going to be thrilled with the outcome, there’s always a chance that your makeup artist has missed the mark. If that happens, don’t panic! Wade recommends trying to figure out what you do like, and what what’s throwing you off. “If you’re not sure, go feature by feature and share with the artist what’s working for you, and what’s not,” she recommends. “If you’re calm, and communicate well, a less-than look can almost always be fixed.”

Once you’re feeling totally confident, it’s smart to purchase the products you’ll need to maintain your look throughout the rest of the day and evening. That may include a lipstick, shadow, lip and eyeliners and powder. “Never leave the cosmetic counter without the lip products that were applied on you,” recommend Chavez. “While your look will probably last longer than it normally would if you’d done your own makeup, at some point, you’re definitely going to need a touch up.”

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Dawn Thom
Dawn Thom

How do I hire a professional artist to help me learn how to use makeup correctly. I’ve never worn anything other then eye shadow and mascara. Now I take a medication injection that causes acne and breakouts. I just need help to learn to cover those blemishes without looking caked on.

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