Whether you’re a beauty lover or not, getting your makeup done professionally is a treat. But it doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes we’re quick to blame the makeup artists when our look doesn’t turn out right, but logically, it can’t always be their fault.
To find out how to be better makeup clients, we decided to poll the pros, asking a group of experienced makeup artists exactly what they wish clients would and wouldn’t do when sitting in the makeup chair. What makes their job easier? What can ruin a good application?
If you plan on getting dolled up by a makeup artist anytime soon, keep reading for our inside advice on how to make the most of your professional application!
This post has been updated by Amanda Montell.
“Do not get your brows waxed (or any facial waxing) the day you are getting your makeup done,” says makeup artist Mimi Tran, a Chanel brand representative. “Besides the area being sensitive and red, foundation has a hard time adhering to or sitting well on the waxed skin.”
According to Tran, “products like moisturizer or primer sometimes break down the chemicals that are supposed to deepen your skin." This could leave your face looking unevenly tanned, or not tan at all, which would be a waste of both the spray tan and makeup.
“Everybody has their own ideas of what they think would look good on you based on their own makeup experience, and it may not bring out your best features,” says Tran. “Instead, leave it to the professional.”
“The most important thing not to do when getting your makeup done by a professional is watching the process (unless you are there for a lesson),” says Sarah Torrento, a freelance makeup artist. “The entire look has to come together, and if you analyze the look before it is completed, chances are high that you won’t like it, and stress out during the process.” Getting your makeup done is a luxury that’s meant to be enjoyed, “so sit back, relax, and trust the artist you hired!” says Torrento. “He or she can always make the tweaks when the look is complete!”
A “smoky eye” is one of the most requested looks makeup artists get, but according to Torrento, “a smoky eye can mean a completely different thing to two different people.” Depending on how heavy a hand the artist uses or what color shadows she chooses to layer, the look could end up not at all like you expected. “Don’t assume the makeup artist knows exactly what you mean by a look,” she says.
“I really like when clients show inspiration photos,” hair and makeup stylist Ana Buitrago says. “You may not look like the person in the picture, but it will give the artist an idea of your preferences.”
“Trust the artist to give you suggestions based on your features,” advises Buitrago. “We’re trained to know what will look good based on your features, and if you’re paying for a makeup artist, you might as well get that service.”
“Play up one or the other, but not both,” says Carl Ray, resident makeup artist for The Four Seasons in Washington, D.C., and personal makeup artist for Michelle Obama.
Pick a focus feature that you want the makeup artist to zero in on, whether that‘s eyes, skin, or lips.
“Whether it’s a full strip or even just a few in the corner, wear lashes. The camera loves it,” says Ray. Plus, if you find it tricky to apply them yourself, getting your makeup done by a professional is the perfect opportunity to embrace false lashes without anxiety.
“Some shimmer on one area, like eyes or cheeks, looks great. Don’t put shimmer everywhere,” Ray advises.
“If you’re going to a makeup artist and want them to do your makeup, the most important thing is to be open to new trends,” says MAC senior artist Regan Rabanal. “If you have a certain way of doing your brows or your lips or contour, be open to a new shape because those are the things that change from season to season and are aligned with trends.” Here’s the thing: If you’re particular about keeping your features a certain way, you could “set yourself in a time capsule of that trend,” says Rabanal. “I usually have to work someone to get out of their habit. If you aren’t open, you will never let the magic of makeup affect you,” he adds.
“We get a lot of clients showing pictures they want of straightforward Instagram makeup, which means a strong, dramatic brow with a dark lip, with a contour and highlight, with a smoky eye—and it’s overkill,” says Rabanal. “It might look really beautiful on a picture that was run through a few different filters before it was posted, but is it going to look the same in person and more importantly, is it trendy all together? No,” he says.
“A client will come with expectations of what they want, a makeup artist will do exactly what they want, and then the client will freak out because it’s outside of their comfort zone,” says MAC senior artist Tiffany Johnston. “My primary advice is don’t do something too outside your comfort zone.” If you’re going out and plan to have your photo taken, come into the session knowing that you can go a little bit outside the box. “But take baby steps,” says Johnston. “Otherwise, you’re going to look in the mirror and say Who is that?”
“Makeup artists have been doing this long enough that you aren’t going to hurt their feelings. They want you to tell them what you don’t like. Be brass-tacks honest,” says Johnston.
“I think clients think they should come with no makeup, and show up with nothing at all,” Johnston says. “If you do show up with your makeup, a makeup artist can remove it, but at least then they have a visual of how you’re comfortable.” Johnston says if a girl comes in and has on nothing but mascara and says, “I got really dressed up today,” that provides a clue as to her definition of “natural.” “My idea of natural is only two sets of lashes and a little bit of glitter, and her idea is ChapStick and a brow set,” Johnston says. “So I think it’s actually good to come with your makeup on.”
“When you say, ‘Do whatever you want,’ be ready for them to do whatever they want,” Johnston advises. “Don’t say that and then afterward say you hate it. You probably should have told them what you wanted if that’s going to be the case,” she says.