We like to think of makeup face charts as an (extremely aesthetically pleasing) architectural blueprint. Before you can start building a house, for example, you need to map out a plan. Essentially, face charts are used primarily by makeup artists to test out or plan a makeup look, illustrated on special paper using real products like eyeshadow, lipstick, contouring, and so on. For example, some makeup artists will offer a bride an example of what her wedding makeup will look like beforehand, or give a celebrity client some options before they hit the red carpet.
They’ve been relatively popular with makeup artists throughout the years (since at least the ‘80s, according to some pros we spoke with), who’ve utilized face charts as either a blueprint, a test drive, or both. But they've certainly seemed to have lost their prevalence, especially in a faster paced, social media-heavy climate.So we had to ask: Are face charts falling out of favor for more advanced techniques in the new decade? We interviewed both novice and seasoned makeup professionals for their thoughts, and their answers are totally varied (and might surprise you). Read on to find out if face charts are still relevant in 2020, or if they’re more likely to be left in the past.
There’s better technology out there.
Megan Garmers, a professional makeup artist of nearly 30 years, argues that the advances in technology are exactly what’s contributed to the diminishing popularity of face charts as of late (although she’s utilized the technique in the past). Instead, she simply uses the features on her phone (and we’re not talking about any fancy apps here).
“I feel like notes and photos are better catalogs of what you’ve done,” she says. “Technology is great because you can actually take photos and make notes on the photos with product shades and names in ways you couldn’t in the ‘80s.”
Sometimes, all you really need to map out a plan is your own camera roll and Notes app. She doesn’t think face charts are completely irrelevant, but argues that tech-based plans and blueprints simply have more benefits in terms of communicating a makeup look to a client. “I think face charts can be used for basic communication, but there are definitely more opportunities in technology for better communication nowadays.”
They’re too generic.
Jenna Menard, a 17-year makeup veteran with a client roster that includes the likes of Kate Winslet, Rachel Weisz, and Kerry Washington, only uses face charts when it’s asked of her, but really never does otherwise. “I’ve never liked face charts very much,” she says. “Maybe it’s because they just don’t look or feel like a real face in any way, or they remind me of trying to ‘make the sale,’ like back in my retail days.”
She explains that face charts are, essentially, just two-dimensional pieces of paper. “You lose so much with a 2-D, generic image of a face.” For example, things like texture and bone structure—that undoubtedly play a major role in our makeup preferences—go more or less undetected on face charts.
Even though she doesn’t use them much, Menard says there is one instance where face charts can be useful: When beauty newbies need to note where exactly to put products on their face, it can be helpful for them to see it illustrated and mapped out. Other than that, she doesn’t use them at all.
They’re like carrying around a "printed recipe."
With over 21 years of experience (and publications like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar on his resume) makeup artist Nigel Stanislaus believes face charts are a big part of the job—specifically during fashion shows where he and his team have to carry out the exact same makeup look on dozens of models over and over again.
“Face charts are like a printed recipe to any look,” he says. “I use it to create the vision in my head, and multiply it by 50 models [at fashion shows].” He believes this allows for more consistency and serves as a point of reference for the whole team.
Faces have way more features than face charts can account for.
With 10 years in the industry, Stace Cho has never been a fan of face charts—echoing the same concerns as Menard that she feels they're a little too two-dimensional. “The face is not flat, nor is it a canvas,” she says. “There are so many existing features that make each face unique!”
Real faces have too many distinctive factors at play for a 2-D face chart to overcome. So while something like walls, doors, and layouts can be an accurate depiction of a room, for instance, faces have far too many factors at play to be able to be accurately laid out on a two-dimensional sheet of paper.
Speaking of paper, makeup just lays on it differently.
Although she’s always “loved to play with face charts,” makeup artist Anna Ivanova hasn’t used them frequently during her six years of experience. “The way makeup lays on paper and the way it lays on skin is completely different,” she says. “When I’m experimenting with different colors and textures, I need real skin to see how it’s actually going to look.”
Again, face charts can come in handy for certain situations—like for applying the same makeup look to multiple models before a fashion show, or showing a beauty newbie where to put the products. But overall, most makeup artists would prefer to rely on other methods—whether it’s their camera roll or a real face—as more reliable blueprints instead. Of course, like a house and its blueprint, how the final product turns out is the most important thing. How you get there doesn’t really matter—so keep on face-charting if it’s helpful for you.