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Makeup Artist Careers



Working with new and interesting clients, experimenting with colors, exploring new cosmetic trends, and applying technique and inspiration to enhance natural beauty – these are just a few of the things that make working as a professional makeup artist so much fun. Take the first step by finding out about the training you need to become a makeup artist today!

How to Become a Makeup Artist

To quote uber-famous designer Marc Jacobs: “To me, beauty and makeup and color is like the finishing touch on everything.”

Through the use of cosmetics and skilled application techniques, makeup artists improve the skin’s complexion, minimize or conceal imperfections, and highlight specific areas of the face to bring out a client’s best features.

Enter Zip:

As a makeup artist, you could be booked months in advanced for a bride’s special day or for an important black tie event; you could work to ensure TV personalities are camera ready; or you could demonstrate the newest makeup techniques for customers at the makeup counter of your favorite cosmetics store.

On the opposite end of the spectrum in the theatrical and film industries, makeup artists may dramatically transform a face to make a bold statement, or to create a character.

Many makeup artists today are veritable rock stars, often earning celebrity status as they travel the globe, start their own cosmetics line, and work with some of the biggest names in fashion and film. Even if you’re not interested in this type of glamorous career, working as a professional makeup artist will still bring exciting opportunities, a variety of professional options, and plenty of occasions to be creative, artistic, and imaginative.

Sure, the art of makeup isn’t anything new – even the ancient Egyptians dabbled in it – but makeup today is truly an art, with makeup artists possessing expert tools and the finest cosmetics to hone their craft and take makeup artistry to the next level.

Getting an Education in Makeup Artistry and Qualifying for a State License

Regardless of state licensing requirements, if you have aspirations of a career in makeup artistry, you will surely benefit from formal training. Before you enroll in a makeup artist program at your local beauty school, it is important to learn more about your state’s licensing requirements.

The majority of states now require makeup artists to be licensed as either cosmetologists or estheticians when working in a salon setting; however, makeup artists working outside of the salon may not be bound by the same licensing requirements. Louisiana is currently the only state to offer a dedicated makeup artist license.

Although it may vary from one state to the next and one program to the next, a comprehensive program in esthetics, will typically include 300-800 clock hours of theoretical and practical instruction, while a cosmetology program typically includes 1000-2000 clock hours.

In addition to learning about facials, skin analysis, pore cleansing, skincare regimens, chemical exfoliation, temporary hair removal, and body treatments, the makeup component of these programs will typically cover:

  • Fundamentals of makeup artistry
  • Business of makeup artistry
  • Product knowledge
  • Color theory
  • Facial anatomy
  • Overview of basic skin care and analysis
  • Highlighting and contouring
  • Bridal makeup
  • Glamour makeup
  • History of makeup
  • Editorial makeup
  • Skin tone
  • Visual and career development

In addition to a formal program in cosmetology, esthetics, or makeup artistry, a state license typically requires taking and passing state and national exams.

Specializing in a Particular Area of Makeup Artistry

In addition to basic makeup artistry programs, which generally result in a professional certificate, a number of makeup artist schools offer advanced certificate programs in areas such as bridal makeup, theatrical makeup, and special effects makeup.

Most makeup artists focus their career on a specific area of makeup artistry. In general, these areas include:

  • Film/television
  • Theater
  • Fashion
  • Salon and Spa Industry
  • Event and Bridal Industry
  • Cosmetics Companies

Depending on the area in which you choose to focus your career, specialized training may be required. For example, if you’re interested in working in the theater and film industries, you may choose to further your education by taking courses in special effects makeup, 3D makeup, and prosthetics.

It is common to work under the guidance of a senior makeup artist that serves as a mentor during your first few years in the business.

Building a Portfolio and Networking

A well-developed portfolio is often the most important tool for an aspiring makeup artist, so most makeup artists today take the time to develop both a print and online portfolio.

As a new makeup artist you might photograph your own work, but as you become more experienced you may have your work professionally photographed. You may even consider having professional models showcase your work.

In any case, you should ensure you are showcasing a variety of styles, such as bridal makeup, magazine styling, haute couture makeup and avant-garde makeup. Early in your career, you will benefit from developing a diverse portfolio since clients and employers will undoubtedly want to see examples of your work, as well as proof of your ability to easily transition from one look to another.

While building a comprehensive portfolio, you should always focus on broadening your network of contacts by attending industry events, volunteering your services, being active on social media, and taking the time to meet new people and learn new techniques.

Because so many makeup artists work independently, offering their services on a freelance basis (the U.S. Department of Labor reports that 1 in 3 personal appearance workers choose to be self-employed), you may also take the lead in promoting your skills and establishing your name before going on to rent a station in an established salon or offering your services as an independent, mobile artist for special events.

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