7 things you need to know before becoming a professional hair or makeup artist
Two industry heavyweights dish their secrets
If there’s anyone that understands the professional hair and makeup industry in Australia, it’s four-time Makeup Artist of the Year and best-selling author Rae Morris and four-time Australian Session Stylist of the Year Sarah Laidlaw. As they have both been working for editorial and advertorial clients over the last couple of decades it only made sense to ask them for their advice on getting into the beauty industry and their top tips for remaining relevant.
#1 / Invest in training
If you’re eager to get into the industry, both Morris and Laidlaw agree that it’s important to invest time and energy into being trained up properly, whether it’s through a course or learning directly from a professional in the industry.
Morris explains, “it depends what kind of makeup artist you want to be, but some form of basic training is good for things like knowing about hygiene, health, safety, what you need to do on set, and technical tips you need to know. A basic course will also force you to do face after face after face, but it’s also important to assist a working makeup artist to learn on the job. At the end of the day, a course might give you discipline, but if you want to work in fashion, you have to assist someone in the industry and bring something to the table.”
Laidlaw follows, “For someone who would work on shoots, the actual piece of paper doesn’t matter, however the experience is important. Learning from someone very talented is the key. I never did a course, I learned from maybe 12 different makeup artists and for hair I did a hairdressing apprenticeship, but being on set and assisting is really valuable.”
#2 / Be proactive
When it comes to landing experience with a leading makeup artist, Laidlaw suggests reaching out directly to whomever you want to assist. “You need to really be willing to actually work, and you’re there to work and support that artist. Agencies will usually have professional hair and makeup people, so just get in contact with the agency.”
#3 / Update your kit constantly
With so many options for makeup and hair looks, it’s important to have a versatile kit that’ll allow you to create any look with ease.
"My kit can weigh up to 60 kilograms as I’m a hairdresser, a makeup artist and I can airbrush as well,” says Morris. “I’m quite extreme, but I like to buy new things weekly. My rule is to never ever turn up to a job and say no I don’t have that product. That’s embarrassing, and I could never do that.”
As for hair? “Hair products are a different beast to makeup products as they age in a different way,” says Laidlaw. “Plus, there are new things coming out every day and new products being developed. Makeup-wise, products have an expiry date and they change when they’re in heat, and also can change depending what they’re made of (eg. oil or water).”
#4 / Stock up on the essentials
You may be surprised with some of these makeup and hair essentials - Morris and Laidlaw explain further.
“Skin care like sunscreen is essential when you’re on location and prepping products are a must-have, such as a gentle face scrub like bi-carb soda,” explains Morris. “Foundation is the most essential, as you need formulas for the face or body, but you also need a range of different products for different skin tones. You also need luminisers and mattifiers to make things more or less shiny, and you need to be able to blend different colours together for blushes, so it’s important to understand the colour wheel really well.” On top of that Morris adds: “You are responsible from head to toe, so that includes lips, eyes, nails and even [to] be able to cover bruises.”
The same can be said for hair kits. “I always pack good quality heat tools (ones where I can control the temperature), styling products that range from strong hold to super light, scissors as I sometimes need to cut wigs, a good set of combs and brushes, and extra hair in case a client wants Victoria’s Secret hair and the model doesn’t have a lot of hair.”
#5 / Understand your clients
With so many clients in the industry within the editorial and advertorial realms, it’s important to be familiar with who you’re working with ahead of your job.
“Editorial can be no makeup, or editorial is knowing when to put the brush down. I always say, the most creative thing you might do on that job is nothing, which is just as strong as painting a Cirque du Soleil face,” says Morris. “Editorial for Vogue and marie claire can be clean and beautiful, Russh is about raw skin, whereas advertising jobs for the likes of Pantene, Witchery and sass & bide can be about beautiful skin and a soft lash.”
#6 / Master your skills
Doing makeup editorially goes beyond knowing the right colours to use together; it’s also about different textures to use for particular jobs.
Morris explains: “In the editorial world where retouching can take place, you’ve got to get the texture of the skin right without covering it - it’s not about shine, or matte, or velvet - it’s about knowing your textures. For example, is this look going to be oily, or shiny with an oil, or highlighted, or matte with a shimmery highlight? You’ll never work a day in this industry if you bake someone’s face.”
#7 / Get familiar with different products
If you think that all brands and products work the same, think again. “The way something is photographed is different to what you see with the naked eye,” explains Laidlaw. “There are some products you’d only use in editorial and some that you’d use at home. Digital photos show more than what you can see with the naked eye, therefore you need products that look invisible.”
Want to learn more from Rae and Sarah? You’re in luck. Get your tickets to their educational event on October 29 for your exclusive insight into the workflow of the editorial world.
What’s your best advice for people who want to break into the professional makeup and hair industry? Share your tips in the comments below.
Iantha is BEAUTYcrew's Beauty Editor, and has been part of the team since the site launched in 2016. Besides pinot noir, she has a healthy obsession with fake tan smell, wispy false lashes and CND Shellac in the shade Romantique. Her words and styling can also be found in previous issues of SHOP Til You Drop, Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health.