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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