To an outsider, the beauty industry might seem like a fabled place where one is solely tasked with swatching lipsticks, spritzing salt sprays, and trying out various sheet masks for a living. We’ll admit that is part of the job—our Hoarders-level bathroom situation is proof—but anyone who works in beauty will tell you it’s also so much more. Depending on your specialization, your job might require you to write swiftly under multiple deadlines, deal with demanding clients, and/or come up with new, creative ways to get your brand noticed. In short, the beauty business is like any other high-paced, forward-thinking industry, and it can be equally as hard to get your foot in the door.
With that in mind, we spoke with seven top beauty professionals and asked them to share the one main thing they’ve learned after working in beauty—from career-related advice to major shifts in thinking. Whether you’re wondering how to get into the beauty industry or just curious about how it works, we think you’ll find these choice words inspiring and, hopefully, a little encouraging, too. Keep scrolling for seven things you probably didn’t know about working in beauty.
Annie Tomlin, freelancer (former beauty director for Self, Lucky.com , Refinery29, and PopSugar)
“If you want to be a beauty editor, you don’t need to have the skills of a makeup artist or a master stylist. But you do need to know how to interview a perfumer, how to ask intelligent questions, and how to tell a fresh story—which, when you’re writing about red lipstick for the umpteenth time, is more challenging than it might seem! Strong journalism skills and engaging writing are essential, and the better your writing is, the further you’ll go in your career.”
Carly Cardellino, beauty director, Cosmopolitan.com
“Being in the beauty industry, I’ve learned that more expensive doesn’t always equate to better quality. Beauty editors have access to all makeup, prestige and mass, and I’ve come to find that a lot of the drugstore products are just as good as the more expensive brands, so you can’t always judge a product by its packaging.”
Daniel Martin, celebrity makeup artist
“When you’re working with a celebrity, it’s not about you. Coming from the editorial world, hair and makeup artists are hired because of a specialty or strong point of view with their craft. When you work with an actress for red carpet, you have to be flexible and understanding of their comfort level, as well as be collaborative with the hairdresser and stylist. You can be the most talented makeup artist in the world, but if your client doesn’t feel good, you didn’t accomplish what you were hired to do.”
Deven Hopp, beauty director, Clique Brands
“I’ve been a product junkie for as long as I can remember, but since working in the beauty industry, I’ve learned to be a much more discerning consumer (and editor). The importance of ingredients is something we’re all starting to get wise to. I now know to look beyond the active ingredients. Sulfates in my cleanser? Alcohol in my toner? No, thank you. Every time I pick up a product, the first thing I do is look at the ingredients list. As much as I’m a sucker for great packaging and marketing, you can’t always trust the claims on the front of the box. If you’re holding a glycolic peel and glycolic acid is the eighth ingredient down the list, put it back.”
Meg Young, founder, Meg Young Media Group
“Before I began my career in beauty, I had no idea what the difference between a chemical and physical sunscreen was, why hydroquinone was controversial, or how much research and science goes into producing and selling even the most generic product.
“When I say I work in beauty (skincare specifically), people often assume that I spend my day emailing about Botox and getting facials. Yes, I do email about Botox (and have learned A LOT about it) and I do indulge in more facials than I ever have, but we beauties work hard and have brains!
“The evidence: Brand founders and product developers can cocktail ingredients to temporarily erase wrinkles and drastically enhance eyelashes, editors and publicists can tell you what a product does just by looking at the ingredient list, and marketers can maximize sales through the strategic naming and packaging of a product. You will learn so much from the creative and savvy people in this industry!”
Sabina Ellahi, PR consultant and brand strategist, EX1 Cosmetics
“Working in beauty goes beyond trends and color forecasting—there is a massive education component involved. I always knew that the ingredient and formulation story plays a vital part in promoting certain beauty products, but behind the scenes, I never realized how much constant education I needed to always maintain for both existing and soon-to-be-launched products. With technology advancing and new research being conducted so rapidly, we have to make sure we stay on top of relevant messaging for products and also be able to adapt it to current and newsworthy trends. Sometimes, as I read the education materials on products, it makes me wish I’d paid more attention in chemistry class!”
Sarah Horan, talent and brand relations, Starworks Group
“I think many people would be surprised by how small and tight-knit the industry is once you get to a certain level of expertise. Red carpet beauty involves many moving parts, and the close, long-lasting relationships between agencies, hair and makeup artists, their clients, publicists, beauty editors, and brands are the result of years of working and growing together. People might think there is cattiness, but it’s like a family.”