Oct 18, 2016

PRO VS. FAUX: What Makes a Professional Makeup Artist?

There's more confusion today then ever about what makes a professional makeup artist or "MUA" and who should hold the title. With the increasing popularity of social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram, it seems like everyone's an MUA. Many of my clients want to know what makes a Professional MUA and who should hold the title. As you will find out it's not all glitz and glam, there's a lot more to being a professional working makeup artist than having a large following; let's break it down.

State Laws & Professional Licensing: I cannot stress this enough, if you've always dreamed of becoming a makeup artist the first thing you need to do is get educated on state law. State laws are going to dictate to a large degree whether or not you can slap the title behind your name, or need a license first. In New York State which is where I live, a Cosmetology or Esthetics license is legally required in order to do makeup on other people in exchange for money. If you're caught operating without a license you will face up to $2,500 in fines and possibly become ineligible to get your license in the future. In addition many problems stem from illegally operating MUA's. Here are some of the issues that arise and the problems they create.

Health & Safety: This is probably the biggest issue and the reason the law came into place in NY.  Without proper education on the topics of universal precautions, contraindications, skin conditions, & sanitation how can one keep their clients safe? All of the sudden it's a lot more complex than just makeup. Not knowing the basic precautions perpetuates the image of "the dirty makeup artist" and hurts our industry. Licensed or not, be a clean makeup artist.

Operating "off" the Books: This goes hand in hand with licensing. If you're operating illegally there's no way your business is on the books, and no way you can receive insurance, which serves to protect you if anything ever did go wrong with a client. you have now skipped all the steps and jumped right to the finish line. Tell me how risking trouble with the IRS sets the framework  for a successful business?

Undercutting the Industry: Both legal and illegally operating artists can be guilty of this. The person is interested in makeup but lacks industry knowledge, experience or maybe doesn't have a full kit.  They should likely be practicing on friends and family or mentoring with an artist, but they want to be an MUA now and YouTube showed them how! Because they're dying to have a client, they go out and charge rock bottom prices. Once you charge $20 for a full face you will not likely get that client out of the mind set that makeup should ever cost more than $20, nor will you be able to making a living or build that kit.

Now lets get back to what makes a professional working artist and who should hold the title. We already established that you must be operating within your state laws whether that means you need a license or not. It cannot be skipped over or you will never get to the fun part of  owning that title!

Working on Clients for Money: Once you're operating within your state laws the second piece of being a MUA is working on clients as your main source of income. Many people have become famous for doing beautiful makeup only on themselves, some are quite skilled and inspiring, but in order to call your self an MUA you must be working on clients! Clients of all ages, skin types & ethnicity. This is the work that get's you paid! This can be in print, fashion, film or bridal. Whatever your flavor is, you must be taking clients and getting paid. Work within your state laws and work on real clients, that is what makes a true professional makeup artist.

For people who read this with some discomfort I'm assuming it's because you're claiming the title without doing the work? The intention is not to be condescending or discredit skill. I want ALL artists to be the best they can be, and I want ALL clients to be SERVED the best they can. I am certainly not perfect, I've made many mistakes along the way but I am always open to learn. I hope this inspires you to  push yourself and raise the bar. I love my community of artists in Rochester, NY and there are soooo many talented ones! The best part is that there's enough work to go around. I want all of us to make it, but I want us to make it the right way, I respect those that respect the industry.

With Love - Tierney


  1. Absolutely fantastic posting! Lots of useful information and inspiration, both of which we all need!Relay appreciate your work. laser hair removal technician course

  2. I additionally befuddle about being Professional makeup artist and because of this blog I get it. You're the best. For more information visit Professional Makeup Artist Philippines http://reapinpin.com/

  3. If you want to get different makeup courses and perfection, then Lina Cameron's basic and professioanl makeup lessons are for you. Providing personal expert advice for people of all ages and experience levels in London studio. For more information on the individual lessons check the website.