Makeup artists, wielding little more than a makeup brush and a whole bunch of talent, are compensated quite well, particularly if they earn a solid reputation in the industry. In fact, a 2012 Forbes article called makeup artistry one of “America’s Most Surprising Six-Figure Jobs.”
Sure, a makeup artist new to the profession is unlikely to score a six-figure paycheck, but makeup artistry has definitely earned a reputation as being a lucrative beauty profession. Skilled makeup artists are often snatched up by famous Hollywood stars and musicians, and some of the hottest makeup artists in the industry work for some of the biggest names in fashion.
Some of the most famous makeup artists in fashion can earn thousands of dollars a day. Sam Fine, for instance, one of the highest paid makeup artists today, commands more than $3,500 a day for his services – and that’s before travel and overtime allowances. He has beautified such famous faces as Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, and Iman.
Charlie Green, another famous makeup artist known for his whimsical makeup designs, has worked with some of the largest cosmetic companies in the world, including L’Oreal, Lancôme, Maybelline, and Revlon, and some of the celebrities that use his services include Katie Holmes, Paris Hilton, Elizabeth Hurley, Angelina Jolie, and Celine Dion. The work of Tom Pecheux, a famous name in makeup artistry, has been a regular with the fashion houses of Prada and Gucci, and his work has been featured on several covers of Vogue.
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Average Salaries by Setting and Location
But what about makeup artists who aren’t world famous? It turns out that salaries for these professionals can be quite attractive, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which broke down salary averages for makeup artists in their May 2013 report, found that the mean, annual salary for makeup artists in the U.S. was $66,330.
The median salary for makeup artists during the same period was $47,210, with the top 10 percent earning more than $121,910.
The BLS also reported that the top earners were in the motion picture and video industries, with makeup artists earning an annual, mean salary of $88,010, as of May 2013. The film and video industries were also the biggest employers of makeup artists.
Makeup artists in the theater (performing arts) industry earned an annual, mean salary of $57,570 during the same period.
The states with the highest employment of makeup artists in the U.S. came as no surprise, with California and New York leading the pack. Other states with higher numbers of makeup artists were Florida, Texas, Nevada, Illinois, and Massachusetts.
New York makeup artists, according to the BLS, earned the highest annual, mean salary, at $103,620, followed by California makeup artists, who earned $78,250. The gap between the two highest paying states for makeup artists and other states is quite significant, with Massachusetts makeup artists earning a mean, annual salary of $60,480 during the same period.
The top-paying metropolitan areas for makeup artists reflected the country’s top-paying states, with makeup artists in the New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ metropolitan area earning an annual, mean salary of $104,100, as of May 2013, followed by makeup artists in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, California metropolitan area earning an annual mean salary of $83,490. The third runner up, according to top metropolitan area salaries for makeup artists, was the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas, with makeup artists there earning an annual, mean salary of $42,610.
Other Factors Affecting Makeup Artist Salaries
In addition to the geographical location and setting in which makeup artists work, there are a number of factors that likely affect a makeup artist’s income.
In addition to the education required to become state licensed, which usually includes a cosmetology or esthetics program of study, many makeup artists continue their education as to specialize their area of makeup artistry. For example, it is quite common for makeup artists with an interest in special effects/performance makeup artistry to pursue additional study in this area as to gain additional skills required to do everything from 3-D makeup artistry to prosthetics.
Many makeup artists new to the profession also choose to first work under a more experienced colleague as to gain valuable experience in the profession. This type of work often allows makeup artists to also make industry contacts and develop beneficial professional relationships that may eventually lead to more opportunities.
The capacity in which a makeup artist is employed may also affect their income. Although makeup artists may be employed by a production company, salon, or spa, for example, many makeup artists work as freelancers or independent contractors, which allow them to pursue clients and jobs and work as their own boss. Working in a freelance capacity is attractive to many makeup artists, as it provides them with new experiences and travel opportunities.