How to Communicate Effectively with a Pro Makeup Artist

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Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: you’re getting a makeover, but you find yourself tongue-tied when describing what you want, and you’re not sure what to say when the artist asks questions. As a result, you don’t see what you had envisioned in the mirror when the artist is finished.

How can you speak the artist’s language and translate what you’re seeing in your head into the real-life face that looks back at you in the mirror at the end of the session? The good news is, you don’t have to learn a whole new set of lingo – communicating with beauty pros is easier than you think! Here are some tips for getting the most out of your makeover:

1. Picture this. Can’t figure out how to describe that perfect shimmery smoky eye you’ve been daydreaming about? Track down the picture(s) that gave you the idea in the first place and bring them to your session, or send links in advance. That way the artist can get a sense of your tastes and adapt a look you love for your features and coloring. Magazines, Google image searches, makeup blogs, and Pinterest are all great resources! However: Try to choose pictures that show models with similar features to your own, and remember that what looks good on one face won’t always look good on yours. Provide images as a way to share what you like, not to provide an exact template (your artist will know what will and won’t work to enhance your features).

2. Who’s your point of reference? One request makeup artists hear almost every day on the job is “I want a natural look.” And who wouldn’t want to look naturally gorgeous, right? But I always ask a few follow-up questions when I hear this, because what I think looks natural and what my client thinks looks natural might be two very different things. I might be thinking a barely-there/”no makeup” look like Tilda Swinton, whereas you’re thinking Kim Kardashian. (I would never in a million years hear the word “natural” and think KK!) “Smoky eye” also means different things to different people, so when in doubt, show, don’t tell.

3. Think happy skin. If you know you’re allergic to aloe, your makeup artist will need to make sure not to use an aloe-based moisturizer. A latex allergy means several common eyelash adhesives are not an option for you. While most artists stock their kits with products that have few active ingredients in order to avoid skin irritation, everyone has different allergies and sensitivities – and claims of “hypoallergenic” and “noncomedogenic” are largely marketing (they’re not medically regulated terms and offer no guarantee that your skin won’t react). Be specific and, if you have a product you’d like the artist to use, don’t hesitate to bring it along and politely offer it to them as an alternative. Also, be sure to speak up – in advance – if you’re vegan, so the artist can use products and brushes that aren’t derived from animal products.

4. Got plans? Where will you be wearing your fabulous face? Artists take lighting, wardrobe, setting, and longevity into consideration when making someone up. You’ll probably want a bolder and more long-lasting look for a night out at a club, as opposed to a professional headshot photo session. Will you be outdoors in daylight? If so, we’ll probably keep the complexion natural looking (direct sunlight makes heavy foundation look unflattering) and start with a layer of SPF. Will you be photographed? If so, camera-friendly products are key. You get the idea – just let us know what your plans are.

5. Be honest… A good artist wants to know what you think, and ultimately wants you to love the look! So don’t hesitate to give us your honest feedback when you finally get the big reveal.

6. …but keep it real. Unless you’re getting full-on Halloween makeup, you’ll probably still be able to recognize your face in the mirror when the artist is through. Usually this is what clients want, but sometimes the unspoken expectation is that makeup will erase certain features that you consider to be flaws. If you’re concerned about a particular feature, be sure to tell your artist about it so he or she can explain what will and won’t be possible with the makeup (for example, it’s impossible to erase wrinkles just with makeup, but you can minimize their appearance). We won’t automatically know that you hate your mole and want it covered up (especially if we thought it was a lovely beauty mark!), so definitely speak up. But most importantly, don’t expect to look exactly like your inspiration pictures when the artist is done – it’s still your face, and a good artist should help you enhance and celebrate your unique beauty, not spackle over it.



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