What do you think every new makeup artist should know?
June 28, 2016 5:31 AM   Subscribe

I am starting to learn how to put on makeup as part of my retail career now. What would you like every newbie makeup counter person to know from both sides of the counter, as a client and as a professional?

Tell me about your techniques (especially for eye makeup) favorite brushes, and Do's/Don'ts. Bonus points for tips on who to follow online to get up to speed quickly on the floor.

Ideally I want to know details about what not to do as a beginner, and your biggest pet peeves as a client when working with artists.
posted by Lipstick Thespian to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (26 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
One reason I'm willing to go to Sephora maybe twice a year is that the salespeople are excellent. I went in there a few months ago looking for a replacement mascara and couldn't remember that brand, but I really liked that mascara and wasn't looking for anything else.

The salesperson helped me figure out the right brand and then asked if I also used the new Benefit eyeliner, which I hadn't. It was pretty great and I like Benefit products so I ended up buying three new eye pencils.

But that was it for the upsell. It's bad when you just know the salesperson is going to descend on you like a hungry vulture trying to get you to buy foundation and powder and blush and cleanser and all this stuff you never use. But when they show you a new product from a brand you like, they can make a sale.

It really comes down to listening to the customer and not trying to force more product on them.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:56 AM on June 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Former retail makeup artist here.

Question: are you at something like Sephora, or at a counter in a department store/free-standing shop? My answer would be slightly different, depending.

A few general ideas:

If Sephora, pick a few favorite products per department and learn everything there is to know about them. ("Yes, this nail polish indeed contains kale, and here's why that's awesome.") This is how I sold best—not through the hard sell, but just nerding out. (If it's a specific counter/free-standing shop, they should train the hell out of you.)

Know your brushes and know how to clean them. The fan brush was my personal favorite, because it's easy for people to understand and use, and gives a near-instant transformation. You can use it along bone structure for soft contouring, sweep it across apples of cheeks for blushing, and across the creases of the eyelids for quick and easy eye-makeup.

When giving a makeover, really talk to the person about what they're going for and why. If they're testing DIY wedding makeup, advise them to choose brighter or richer colors, and to play up their eyes for photography. If they're going to prom and are just going to pick up a few items to get the free makeover, ask them about their dress color and go nuts.

However, if they're looking for an every day look, please don't glam them up unless they ask for it. Ask them about their lifestyle. Most people don't do a full face every day. Keep it very simple, talk them through what you're doing, step by step. Give them a hand mirror and let them see. Don't come at them with every product all at once, go one at a time and ask them if they'd like to try one more step. (Like, when you're done with the mascara, ask them if they'd like to try an eyeliner.) Most people don't want full contouring, color correction, 5-step brows, etc. Most just want to look a little bit more put together and current.

A trick that I used for makeovers was to do an entire half of their face at a time. As in, moisturizer, primer, foundation, blush, eye, even lipstick on only half of the face. This lets your customer compare to the other side. Then do the other side. But for pete's sake, warn them first, because it'll be really freaky for them if they don't know beforehand.

Making up eyes is going to be your biggest challenge, as most people don't like their eyes touched. The phrases, "Look up at the ceiling. Good!" and "Now down at my belly button," will be your friends. If their eyelid can't stop fluttering, give them a tissue and let them hold it under their lower lid. It lets them feel more in control. (You'd be holding that tissue anyway, so that eyeshadow doesn't fall onto their under-eye concealer, so you're giving them a job, which is nice for them.)

Find a new, innovative way to use a common product and let your customers in on it, like a little secret between you and them. For example, I mixed a little bit of gold, loose mica powder into a coral lipstick on my hand, and I became a wizard in the eyes of my customer.

Oh right—you're dealing with powders all day, and probably wearing black. Wear an apron when you're doing a makeover, and take it off when you're roaming the floor. There's not much grosser to customers than black pants/skirt covered in mystery smears.

I'll chime back in if I can think of anything else. Good luck, you're going to do great. Memail me with questions.
posted by functionequalsform at 6:08 AM on June 28, 2016 [48 favorites]

Know how to find out the ingredients list for _every_ product you have, and know where any magnifying glasses or reading glasses are in the vicinity.

If there are no magnifying glasses, and you want to be a hero, bring your own and lend it to people (I recommend somehow tethering it to your person so it doesn't get taken).
posted by amtho at 6:19 AM on June 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

This is how I sold best—not through the hard sell, but just nerding out.

THIS. Thinking the salesperson also had a slavish devotion to Benefit products hooked me.

I mixed a little bit of gold, loose mica powder into a coral lipstick on my hand, and I became a wizard in the eyes of my customer.

AND THIS. If you can show me a little trick to use the product differently, like the Sephora person who put black eyeliner on THEN the ELECTRIC BLUE which was a revelation in subtlety, do it. I wouldn't buy electric blue eyeliner in a million years but he showed me this trick and I was like OH HELL YEAH.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:24 AM on June 28, 2016 [9 favorites]

Just, please, don't make shit up. Or if you don't know anything about a product or technology, go ahead and say so, don't make me hear you repeat verbatim what the sales rep told you - try to get to know the pros and cons of different tech/products/ingredients (beyond the marketing blurb) as much as poss, ie suck up as much free knowledge as you can about ingredients etc and understand the product in a real way. (E.g., there isn't a lot that's "natural" about a heavy silicone primer that's got like two antioxidants in it, at the bottom of the ingredient list.)

A peeve of mine is to be made up exactly in the style of the MU artist, which is usually much more made up than I like for myself. Master a natural look that is really natural and fresh looking. (Lisa Eldridge has tons, definitely check her out. Also see Wayne Goss.) And adapt those ideas to what people want, listen to them - I'm pretty minimal, I am just not going to use contouring + six kinds of eyebrow gear, so it's pointless to do something along those lines to try to sell me stuff if I say I'm only going to use concealer, powder, mascara, and lipstick. (Also, I'm going to use my fingers, not brushes, for most things, so things you can show me about that kind of application are helpful.)

Random things: water-based concealers (over a well moisturized eye) are great for people over 30, they don't settle or drift like cream-based ones do. Fiber-based lengthening mascaras are usually irritating to contact lens wearers. Some people can really only tolerate mostly zinc-based sunscreens. That's all I can think of right now, good luck!

On preview - I see many of us agree :)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:34 AM on June 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

My worst customer experience was when someone (who was helping me determine accurate foundation shade) wiped off my existing makeup and then proceeded to apply powder foundation... without re-moisturizing my sensitive, combination skin or putting on any primer or anything. My skin aged about 10 years in 60 seconds... huge pores, red and flaky around the nose and cakey everywhere else... all the joys of combo skin. I felt bad for him, so I asked the checkout lady if I could use one of those makeup refresher sprays so I could make it home without going crazy.
posted by Schielisque at 6:48 AM on June 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Schielisque - something like that happened to me once, too. My face got all irritated and swollen, too, so I looked _really_ bad (although the redness was covered up). Plus, the base was really too dark for me (hard to match my pale skin tone), so I started looking like both an inexperienced high school girl and Tammy Faye Bakker at the same time.

I was literally embarassed to be seen in public; it was entirely too much (we live in an area where people just don't wear much of the stuff, so this was really over the top for the culture here), plus it made me look _worse_. I was too embarassed to even shop more; I went straight to my car and drove home.

Come to think of it, I haven't actually gone back to that vendor since that incident (several years ago), even though I used to use them all the time. It was kind of a bad experience that made me feel like I wasn't the kind of customer they were interested in.
posted by amtho at 7:09 AM on June 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Definitely ask what the customer's daily makeup routine is like. I do a full face of makeup every day, completely with liquid liner, 2 coats of mascara, and 3 shades of eye shadow. I hate nothing more than getting a makeover where they go for very subtle, natural makeup. That's just not me.

Also, ask if they have an area of concern or specific cosmetic item that they are looking to replace. I would give my left arm if someone could find me a product that would actually conceal my undereye circles, so that would be a good selling point for me.

Know about the products you sell, but also what else is on the market out there. If I tell you I'm currently using XYZ and you can tell me how ABC compares and is better, I'll trust that you really know the business.
posted by tryniti at 7:13 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also: just like there are people who find Andrew Wyeth's art exquisitely beautiful, and there are others who adore the frisky bold graphic work of Keith Haring, there are legitimately people who will find the quieter colors more compelling than electric blue or strong black lines. Know how to find the stuff without sparkles in it; it's not easy.
posted by amtho at 7:14 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you were working in a Sephora-type place, I would almost certainly buy everything you recommended if you knew which brands were cruelty-free and some vegan products within those lines. (And knowing that many brands that are themselves CF have parent companies that test, or which ingredients make a product non-vegan.)

Also, I guess this is common sense, but if you're applying make-up on clients all day, please don't wear strong perfume.
posted by cardinalandcrow at 7:42 AM on June 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Cleanliness and attention to proper hygienic methods are BY FAR the most important things to me, as a customer. The bad makeover with wonky eyeliner is just a laugh until you get a skin or eye infection caused by poor hygiene.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:54 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

+1 for knowing how to clean your brushes, and sanitation in general.

I would want to see that you don't double dip from the kit: load both sides of the brush, use one for each side of the face, then put in the used pile. Scoop or dispense the product onto your (clean!) hand then apply from there, allowing you to use the applicator more than once and discard the excess. Use disposable applicators where possible, you can spray swabs with a makeup primer spray to get a little more glide if they seem non-glide-y compared to brushes. Sharpen pencils after previous client, then in front of new clent prior to application. Load up a brush with lipstick, then apply. etc.

And, to be frank, I would want all points of your personal hygene--breath, nails, b.o.--to be well attended to. For me, traditional colognes/perfumes formulas are overwhelming, so think about the impact of your fragrence as well, and tend toward light and clean. (cardinalandcrow, jinx!)

Wayne Goss is a fabulous source for advice and technique (he has more than one channel, I recommend all the cleaning advice, and reverse cheek contour as essentials.)
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 7:54 AM on June 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Biggest pet peeve is makeup artists not getting the foundation color right, or using way too much bronzer -- basically, making my skin a color that my skin is not. I have borderline rosacea and so very pink skin, which I actually like, but I've had makeup artists act like they had to eliminate any trace of pink and make me look two shades tanner. I'm happy for them to play around with almost any other techniques, but they need to get the foundation to look like me, not like me after a two-week desert vacation. (Which, for all I know, may just be a total personal preference, so maybe that's something to ask about.)
posted by lazuli at 8:35 AM on June 28, 2016 [6 favorites]

Oh and...please give me a free thing to try and make it seem like it's not random free stuff; make those freebie recommendations specific to me. I will always return for custom free things.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:11 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Be acquainted with basic color correction. Like lazuli, I have very mild rosacea, and it drives me crazy when the folks at Sephora just want to use their fancy color-matcher device because then I end up looking like a piglet. If you're not sure if someone wants correction, there are many polite ways to ask.

Actually listen to the person when they tell you what they want. My most unpleasant makeup counter experience was with a woman who was VERY INSISTENT that I needed a particular moisturizer despite my telling her that I already had one that I liked and that if I was going to buy one, I wanted one with sunscreen. I actually did buy quite a bit of other makeup from her but she actually got kind of mad that I wouldn't buy her stupid moisturizer. I don't know if she had a bet going on with her coworker or what.

Make sure you aren't just putting on the makeup and explaining in a rush, but actually teaching the client how to use it. I am 10X more likely to buy a product if I'm reasonably confident that I can replicate the look and it won't just join the graveyard of things that seemed like a good idea at the time. I like the "artist does 1/2 the face and client does 1/2." technique. This is also a good way to get people to buy brushes, primer, etc.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Help me make sense and be accurate -- "I want one that isn't glittery" could be literal, just nothing too glitzy, or it could mean "I will be furiously returning this if it is not perfectly matte and has the slightest hit of sparkle/glint/twinkle whatever." After a long day it can be hard to be precise. By "no sparkle" I do mean matte...I think? I just can't stand the tiniest bit of sparkle. "Dewy" might be okay so I try to steer clear of "matte." But "no glitter/sparkle" still gets me products with tiny glinty flecks...

If you take my foundation/powder off please ask if I like to use a primer, need a moisturizer, want SPF, etc, layered on before you replace it with new product. (Bonus if you ask if I have a preferred product for that. Once I went home with my face on fire; apparently I was allergic to a remover or primer...)

I am 41 and have kind of given up on questions like "Right now I am using X; do you know of anything else that might work even better to stop lipstick feathering?" and "Nothing I use lets me wear shadow without it creasing; is there anything new on the market?" Sephora does not seem to be in to hiring people past 30. I remember not having these issues at all under 30. They clearly have little understanding and can't actually help. If you can school yourself on different needs for different types of skin and different age groups, that would be delightful. (I don't need another lip primer. I have wee wrinkles around my lips that lipstick settles in to. Helpful as they may be at 25, liners and primers do nothing for this. Right now I draw a circle around my mouth with a wide, heavy clear wax brow pencil to fill in the creases. No MUA has ever come close to suggesting something like that; they haven't had the problem, they haven't really asked a lot of questions of the older folk, they just default to what they have read about primers and regular liners. Argh!)

I shop with a tween girl in tow and am totally suckered in to browsing longer and looking for a thing to buy if you have not pretended she's not there. The best are the ones who ask if she wants a mini-makeover, ask me if it's cool if it looks like she's wearing make-up or if it needs to be super-subtle (usually fine if she wants fuchsia; depends on plans for afterwards), and then hits her with some blush and gloss etc. Part of the reason she's dragged along is not babysitter laziness but so she can eventually navigate her own way around make-up counters, so... Also, spending a few minutes helping her choose a product to have applied (in which case make clear that you are going crazy with cleaning brushes etc, please) means she is then busy admiring herself in the mirror and looking at the similar glosses with curiosity, which gives me more time to look at stuff myself. (If you give her little samples of what she liked to take home I will think you are the nicest MUA ever and will go out of my way to find a thing to buy from you.)
posted by kmennie at 10:24 AM on June 28, 2016 [8 favorites]

If you become an expert in non-smudging volumizing mascaras, I guarantee you will have grateful customers.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:35 AM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

I find a lot of people don't understand about matching eyeshadow/lipstick colours to their skin tone, how to blend eyeshadow properly (where to put the darker colour etc) and how to use highlighter.
posted by intensitymultiply at 11:25 AM on June 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Many makeup shoppers are already well-versed in cosmetics and their ingredients; if you can demonstrate you know at least as much as I do, I'll trust your advice and be more likely to buy products you recommend. For example, don't get excited about a product being paraben-free unless you can tell me what a paraben is and why I wouldn't want it in my lipstick. (You don't have to get into advanced chemistry here, just be familiar with the ingredient's role in the product and its advantages and disadvantages.) Read labels and pay attention to the ingredients that appear regularly.

If customers have specific requests, don't hesitate to ask questions to figure out whether you're on the same page. The "no sparkle" example from kmennie is a good one: do they want to avoid frosty or metallic finishes, discrete flecks of glitter, or anything that reflects light no matter how subtle? If someone's looking for a low-maintenance daily routine, how many products/minutes are they aiming for? Things like that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:31 AM on June 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Try 2 (or more) foundation shades before applying on the entire face. Every time I shop for foundation, the sales person wants to just choose one shade and apply it all over the face. This never works out well for me because I'm not easy to match -- I have a skin tone that's quite neutral with a lot of pink in some areas. I look terrible when the foundation is too pink or dark enough to wipe out all the pinkness. I prefer it when the sales associate asks how I'd like to handle it or offers to test different shades.
posted by wryly at 12:59 PM on June 28, 2016

Second in "don't make shit up". If you use the words 'toxins' 'minerals' or 'chemicals' it will peg my BS meter. You probably don't know what you are talking about. If you say "It's made from minerals, so it's good!"

Chances are I'll probably respond letting you know that asbestos is a mineral...
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:29 PM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You have gotten a lot of great advice. As a very frequent makeup shopper (VIB Rouge, which I am never sure if I should be proud or ashamed of haha), here are things you can do that will make me preferentially seek you out when I'm in the store and buy things from you:
1) if we're doing a makeover, ask me what I want and do that. (Related: probably good to keep up at least a little with popular social media makeup trends so you can answer questions about them.)
2) teach me to do what you're doing. I never used to do my brows until my awesome Sephora lady did them and taught me to do them and they looked awesome (not Sharpie-drawn, which was how I thought they would look if I did them) and I bought a gel, a powder, and a brush from her to do them at home.
3) don't be afraid to guide me to something new as long as it is based on what we've done already. Ask: "You know, it's a bit unusual, but I had a client the other day that this worked on... would you mind if we gave it a try?" This is how I ended up with a luminous foundation. I have oily skin so I'd never have tried it on my own but it looks SO PRETTY on.
4) if I come in wearing something and I've done it well, tell me so. But be sincere, I know if you're blowing smoke.
5) don't act like the brands you sell are the only brands that exist. I have mad respect for someone who will admit/say when their brands might not be what you need. (Props, MAC lady who, after I described my skin type, told me, "I don't think MAC is the best foundation brand for you.")
6) If I come in a lot, remember me and say hi!
7) you will likely deal with both very informed shoppers and very uninformed. Know the products you carry and their pros and cons. Be able to explain why you suggest it.
8) do NOT say disparaging things about a client's appearance! Like ten years ago a woman at the Chanel counter told me I couldn't wear red lipstick because my mouth was too small and it took me years to be brave enough to wear it anyway. I love red lipstick and I get tons of compliments on my retro red lip. Screw you, Chanel counter lady. I'm still a little mad when I think about it, haha.
9) Don't try to sell me on a bunch of woo. Don't just echo the marketing copy on the back of the box. Try out the products, talk to others about their experiences, and speak from a position of knowledge. Don't be a shill for the product even though you are in sales: be my trusted makeup advisor.
posted by oblique red at 2:45 PM on June 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Fresh breath is a delight.

Offer to have someone record how you apply the makeup so the customer can follow the video at home.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:26 PM on June 28, 2016

Best answer: Similar to what other people have said: tailor it to the person. I go in looking for that persons advice (worst powder I ever got was from sephoras stupid skin matched thing when I had come in to buy a Sephora powder I loved but the color number had rubbed off of). I can watch videos of how to do stuff at home, but no one on YouTube is going to say what exactly works for ME.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:17 PM on June 28, 2016

Best answer: I'd say the biggest problem makeup artists (and hairdressers) have is they don't understand ingredients, differences in textures, and the effects of using the right or wrong thing on different kinds of skin (or hair). Read Paula Begoun's extensive advice and analysis of what's irritating to skin and what's not, and why sunscreen is so important. Study Beautypedia for information on new (and old) products you'll likely be seeing at the store you're working at. Then for make-up application, check out Lisa Eldridge who is truly brilliant as a makeup artist, but as evidenced by both her advice and her own skin (which always looks hugely irritated to me), wouldn't know a bad ingredient if it smacked her in the face. A reasonable number of real make-up aficionados start using make-up to cover up skin problems; if you learn how to genuinely help them, you'll have clients for life.
posted by Violet Blue at 10:55 PM on June 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have yet to find a MUA who respects my extreme sun sensitivity. They all think they're very well informed when they tell me that more than 30 SPF is a scam, etc. That's great advice for your average citizen, but if I tell you I have a skin condition and I need 70 SPF plus a hat, do not insult me by trying to convince me otherwise because someone told you so at a sales/education seminar.

Along similar lines, learn how to apply foundation without rubbing off your client's sunscreen. I have never been able to leave a store during daylight after getting my makeup done, because the MUA always uses a sponge or brush and drags it across my skin, removing sunscreen as they go. As far as I can tell, patting very gently with fingertips is the only way to go.
posted by Frenchy67 at 6:30 AM on June 29, 2016

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