Highs & Lows of being a Makeup Artist

How to Become a Makeup Artist

If you’re after a fulfilling and exciting career choice, becoming a Makeup Artist might just be the career for you! You’ll be responsible for helping your clients feel beautiful whilst having a chance to express your artistic side. On the flipside, just like any other career, makeup artistry has its low moments. From time to time you may even find yourself wondering why you became a MUA in the first place!

Take a deep breath – it’s okay! Remember, it’s normal and everyone (regardless of their job) feels that way from time to time. We’re here to help you understand the pros and cons of being a makeup artist.

Being a makeup artist can be great especially if you get bored easily with routine as you won’t have to be sitting at a desk job from 9-5. Every day will be varied and every client is unique, so you’ll always be on your toes… this can be exhilarating!

You also have a lot of freedom in that you can work in a team, you can be employed by a major makeup company and you can even be a freelance makeup artist or self-employed makeup artist. For many people, being their own boss is a lifetime dream and you have the opportunity to achieve that! Makeup artists also get to meet loads of different people so if you’re a social butterfly, you’ll absolutely love the networking opportunities.

Being a makeup artist can be immensely rewarding when you see the looks on your clients faces as your skills in makeup help them to feel beautiful. Not many people get to feel a sense of satisfaction in helping people in their chosen careers, so that’s something truly wonderful about being a MUA! Everyone wants to feel gorgeous, after all. If you practice and work hard to rack up certifications, a portfolio and experience, your credibility in the industry will only grow and grow.

Being a MUA also allows you to experiment with your creativity… it truly is an art form and even if applying a simple daytime look of makeup to a client, being a makeup artist requires you to have an understanding of different face shapes and features and how to transform the look of someone using visual illusion. That’s truly a skill and a creative one at that.

If this all sounds amazing, you’re not the only one thinking that! Many people wish to become makeup artists. However just like any other job there are highs and lows.

The downsides of being a makeup artist, namely, are that competition can be incredibly tough. This means that even if you’re an exceptional makeup artist, you’ll still have to really put yourself out there and win jobs. There will always be someone cheaper than you and some clients will value low prices over quality experience, so you must grapple with how you want to market yourself.

It can be very stressful considering how to market yourself as a makeup artist and how to get clients – and this struggle applies regardless of whether you’re employed or freelance. Every makeup artist wants to make sure that they stand out!

Unfortunately too, there can be a stigma in society that makeup artists have a ‘frivolous’ career so some people won’t take you seriously. Although this is their problem and not yours (and you certainly shouldn’t spend time with people who don’t respect someone based on their passions and chosen industry in general!) it can still get under your skin, so you’ll need to learn not to take people’s poor attitudes personally. On that note, starting out as a makeup artist can be especially tough as you look for jobs and clients, so you’ll need to learn to deal with rejection and develop a thick skin.

Becoming a makeup artist takes time so you’ll also need to exercise some patience. Obtaining training and certification can be costly, so you’ll also need to have a backup plan or you may need to work a second job to help yourself make ends meet as you get started in the industry.  Building your personal brand can take time so especially if you’re wanting to be a freelance makeup artist, you may become disheartened if you find it’s taking a little while to build up a client base… and knowing where to start in finding clients is a daunting task in of itself! Your portfolio will need to be an evolving document/website too, so be prepared to constantly be updating to reflect your work as you become more skilful in makeup.

So how do you know if being a makeup artist is right for you?

Only you can answer this question! Do your homework, understand the pros and cons of being a makeup artist and decide whether you’re truly passionate about the industry. For those who work hard and are dedicated to doing what they love, being a makeup artist can be a wonderful and rewarding career path!

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Occupational Risks for Makeup Artists

How to Become a Makeup Artist

When you think of dangerous situations, being a makeup artist probably doesn’t spring to mind! However, it’s important to take into account some of the common occupational hazards that are common among makeup artists… this will help ensure you have a healthy and safe career as a makeup artist!

Some of the most common occupational risks impacting makeup artists are:

Latex Sensitivity

Of all the disposable gloves available, latex gloves are the most common. As a makeup artist, you may choose to wear latex gloves when applying makeup to your clients (although not all MUAs choose to wear gloves). Unfortunately, when individuals use latex gloves regularly they can develop sensitivity to latex after a while… this commonly happens to hairdressers too. This is because latex gloves are often lined with corn starch powder to make them easier to put on, and the corn starch can absorb the latex proteins making the skin become irritated. For some people this will be a slightly annoying itch and for others it can become an allergic reaction (appearing as dry, raw skin, sustained dermatitis and even respiratory symptoms in severe cases).

You are not required to wear gloves as a makeup artist and sometimes gloves can get in the way, so If you can do without gloves then this is advisable.

However if you do really prefer to wear gloves, you can invest in some low-allergen powder free gloves to reduce the chances of a reaction.

Repetitive Strain Injury

RSI is an injury to the musculoskeletal and/or nervous systems that is caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations, mechanical compression, or sustained, awkward positions. And unfortunately as a makeup artist, you will frequently be in awkward positions! Think hand cramps as you painstakingly apply false lashes, hunching over to get the right angle to apply the contour to a client’s skin… carpal tunnel syndrome is common in makeup artists for this reason. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful disorder on the hand caused by nerve pressure running through the wrist with symptoms of pins and needles, numbness and pain.

RSI can happen to anyone and it is by no means a life or death situation, but if you have any symptoms of RSI at any point it is important to take a break and make an ergonomic assessment of the way you work. The worst thing that you can do is ignore RSI symptoms as repeated over time, it may cause more serious and painful problems.

Chemical Reactions & Irritations

As a makeup artist you will be exposed to chemical compounds all day, every day! Whilst major cosmetic lines are comedogenically tested to ensure they’re safe for human skin and placement around the face, eyes, nose and mouth, certain individuals may have reactions to certain products such as eyelash adhesive or plumping lip glosses. If you come into contact with a substance that produces a reaction in you, you may experience mild irritations of the eyes or skin, rashes or in serious cases, allergic reaction. Repeated contact with irritants causing allergens is called contact dermatitis.

Depending on your genetic predisposition and how strong the chemical is, the extent of your reactions can vary. It’s important to take chemical reactions very seriously as they may trigger greater health problems. If you experience any chemical irritation as a makeup artist, always be sure to see your doctor.


Being a makeup artist can often involve being on your feet for long hours – sometimes eight or more hours a day of being on your feet, running from client to client, being backstage at fashion shows doing model makeup, or doing the makeup for a whole bridal party… and these are just a few examples! This can really have an impact on your overall health and wellbeing.

To combat this, when appropriate, try to get off your feet and sit on a stool or chair to apply makeup – also ensure that the chair your client is sitting on is appropriate height wise, if possible have an adjustable seat for your clients to ensure that you can always raise or lower their position to the perfect height for you to clearly see their face without straining your posture.

Also, be mindful of your footwear choices. If you’re wearing high heels, they may not be practical for standing and walking all day so be kind to your feet and invest in a pair of comfortable, low heeled shoes that can still be stylish.

Try to also take scheduled breaks and lunch hours as going long hours without eating or drinking adequate water can increase the effects of fatigue. If you allow yourself to get too fatigued you may find yourself feeling dizzy, nauseous and generally unwell, this can also put you at risk for fainting and seizures (if your medical predisposition leans this way).


An unglamorous and disgusting aspect of the job is the risk of infections being transmitted to you from your clients! As a makeup artist you’ll be in constant contact with skin, so you need to ensure that you understand the risks associated with this. Infections transmitted can be bacterial, fungal or viral – these are all exceptionally common and can be easily transmitted if you are not vigilant about health and safety.

Most of the time, infections will be visible on a client (such as sores or lesions) but if you don’t know how to recognise the symptoms or are too relaxed about safety, you are at risk! Always ensure that all your tools are properly cleaned and sterilised to avoid any outbreaks – the last thing you want to do is get yourself infected. Worse, if you are not vigilant, your tools could transmit an infection from one client to another and this can absolutely ruin your reputation.

Viral infections aren’t always visible and can be incredibly serious (including Hepatitis C, herpes and HIV). It is a good idea to visit your doctor and enquire about precautionary measures you can take such as ensuring your vaccinations are up to date.

If in doubt and you suspect a client may have an infection, it’s always better to ask them and clarify than to ignore it. No doubt that will be an awkward situation, but health and safety is paramount.

Further tips for good working practices in makeup:

  • Always thoroughly wash and dry your hands before and after applying any makeup. Dry carefully – damp hands spread germs! It’s a good idea to carry antibacterial wet wipes in your makeup toolkit too.
  • Don’t blow on your brushes or makeup, as this can transmit saliva and germs with it.
  • Always ask clients if they have any sensitivities or allergies before you start applying makeup to them. If you’re using a product that is known to cause issues (such as a brow tint) then always be sure to do a patch test on your client.
  • Don’t double dip your products by going from a product to the face then back into the product with the same implement, as this can contaminate the whole product. Instead use disposable applicators, a cotton bud or a spatula to remove the product from its container.
  • After you’ve used lip and eye pencils, give them a sharpen after you’re done using them. This will keep the lid nice and clean.
  • Use makeup disinfectant sprays to help kill any bacteria that may be on your makeup.
  • Never keep makeup beyond its shelf life. Expiry dates can be found on the product packing and use the golden rule – if it smells or looks funny, throw it away!
  • Sterilise all tools after use.


The Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (valid in each Australian State) places an obligation on every person associated with work in any way to ensure his or her own health and safety and the health and safety of others. Under the Act, a person can have more than one set of obligations… so whilst proper health and safety precautions are just good practice, your livelihood whether freelance or employed also depends on you having good hygiene as a makeup artist!

Don’t take any chances, understand your risk factors and always follow protocol.

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