I participate in various makeup communities online, because it is a great way to network, discover products, learn new techniques, and just share in my passion and love for the industry. But with the popularity of "Insta Artists" and "YouTubers", and the ease with which information spreads on the internet, I have seen an alarming increase in the misinformation being put out there. I am very troubled by some of the conversations that I see, and what people are presenting as fact because they saw it in a video or blog even though the “artist” had nothing to back it up. One particular area that I see this as being extremely detrimental lately is when new, aspiring artists look to people with no training or knowledge of the industry for information on how to build their kits.
Just because someone has followers for having a pretty face, which they have learned to contour to perfection, does not mean they know a lick about the industry and what it takes to work in the field. Especially those who have never touched another face, and only work on themselves in front of the camera. Don’t ask a group of makeup enthusiasts on Facebook who exclusively use drug store products and think that quality products are a waste of money, chances are they are uneducated about the products they speak against. Don’t look to people who are paid to promote products, because you’ll never get an honest response. If you are legitimately interested in become a makeup artist, and I mean a true makeup artist (not just someone famous on Instagram, or a one trick pony who can only apply cookie cutter styles to clients) then you need to find the right sources for your education. If you prefer to get your information from the internet these days, there are far better websites, blogs, social media groups, artists, etc. that you can follow and interact with that will help you grow as an artist. I have found some that I have personally found to be of enormous help to myself and my career, I will make some recommendations at the end of this post.
When it comes to the products that you put in your kit, I cannot stress how much the quality matters. Just because somebody tells you that a Wet N Wild shade is a “dupe” for a high end lipstick, does not mean that they are the same quality! Sure, the pigments might be similar. But the actual body of the product, the base ingredients that it is made with, are not going to be the same. And the difference is apparent when you try them side by side, or when you’re looking for all day wear and the “dupe” barely holds up for an hour.
This is NOT professional quality. No matter what anyone says, this should never be in your professional kit, to work on clients. If you went to a salon, would you be happy if the products being used on your hair were cheap, made in China, and purchased from CVS? No, you wouldn't. Even Supercuts has better standards than that. Do you want to be a Supercuts level artist, or a luxurious high end salon?
Though some might like to have you think that companies are charging more for a product just because they can, this is not always the case. This is not to say that all high end products are going to be superior, I have used expensive products that I was just not impressed by. And there are low end products that even the most experienced and knowledgeable pros will swear by! But there are just some corners that should not be cut, and I will explain why.
First and foremost, what goes into the product is going to make huge differences in how the product looks, acts, and feels when applied, as well as the effects on your client’s skin. The better the ingredients, the better the product. Plain and simple. You can pick up a random drug store foundation and examine the ingredients, and chances are you will not recognize more than half of them, nor will you be able to pronounce them. Then you look at a high end foundation, and you see ingredients such as aloe, vitamin E, miscellaneous plant extracts, etc. that are all meant to soothe skin, help with age lines, or add hydration. What do you think skin will react better to? Say you stock your kit with various drug store foundations, and you get a client with sensitive skin. You have a bridal trial, you’re actually able to get the skin to look good with this product, and they are satisfied with the end result. Great! They then call you two days later to tell you that their skin has broken out horribly. You try to offer a new trial, but they no longer want to book with you.
You need to realize that just because you’re okay with using something with these lower grade ingredients, and your skin does not have a bad reaction to it, does not mean that this will be the case for your clients. It isn’t just foundation either, your kit should be fully stocked with quality skin care products. You need to know what to use for clients with dry skin, oily skin, normal skin, inflamed skin, puffy undereyes, and an enormous number of other situations that may arise. Cheap ingredients are just not going to have the same effect, and in the end your makeup application and the client’s skin will suffer!
This definitely effects the skin more than anything else, as even I will admit that drugstore brands have broadened their range of other products in recent years. But as someone who has tried in the past to use drugstore foundations, I know how limited their color ranges are. They cover absolute basics, and do not address mixed undertones, olive tones, dark skin tones, extremely fair skin tones, etc. You basically get a range of light to medium/dark, and every other tone is out of luck. And rarely do they have an even range of cool, neutral, and warm undertones. And they sure as hell do not make adjusters, like high end brands do. I have multiple cream foundations palettes in my kits for a broad range of tones, as well as several adjuster palettes containing primary colors, secondary colors, black, white, etc. for when adjusting foundations is necessary. This is makeup 101, you have to be able to address every skin tone under the sun! And these cheaper brands simply do not measure up.
An example of when close enough isn't close enough. Perhaps this artist simply does not know how to match skin tones, but if you don't have a proper range of shades and adjusters when needed, you'll end up with similar results.
Quality, and the effects on performance
Ingredients effect not only the client’s skin, but your application as well. A low grade product will never act like a high grade product. It just won’t. I have seen newer artists ask about good product to build their kit with, and every single time I see someone suggest getting eyeshadow, blush, foundation, lips products, etc. from companies like BH Cosmetics or Coastal Scents, it makes my fucking skin crawl. Or they suggest looking for no name brands on eBay or Amazon. I visibly cringe every time. Usually these people have zero background in the industry, they are just enthusiasts who use these at home and think they have the authority to tell others how to stock a PROFESSIONAL kit. These people have never touched a high grade product in their life, but have just decided that because they are too expensive they must not be worth the money and cheap palettes are just as good. They can tell themselves this all they want, if it makes them feel better. But it is just not the truth.
One that is commonly used to prove them wrong is Viseart, which is considered among pros to be one of the top products out there. These shadows are hand pressed, contain the most finely milled pigments, and are made in France where their cosmetics grade ingredients are far superior to those allowed in the US. When you dip a brush in these shadows, you are seriously touching pure pigment. There is no filler ingredients, which usually help bind everything together in cheaper products, so these shadows are extremely fragile. And when you put them on the skin, it is like blending cream product. They are silky, and the color never dilutes to that almost dirty look that I find common with low end product. You do not have to pack it on to get color pay off, they are pure color. But because they cost $80 a palette, people suggest getting something from Morphe instead and try to claim it is just as good.
To quote Kandee Johnson from her blog post about Viseart: “These palettes are $80, but worth every penny if you are a make-up artist or make-up lover. And that's an average price for professional grade make-up. There's more pigment and less fillers in pro make-up, than in the cheaper make-up you'll find in Sephora and especially in drugstores, that use less pigment to save money to sell it for cheaper prices.” It isn’t just this one brand, obviously. But this is a common example of the misconception behind low end vs. high end.
You tell me if this looks comparable:
Here I have compared 4 Coastal Scents eyeshadows against eyeshadows from Inglot, Yaby, and Lorac which all came from my kit. Each of the CS shadows required several swipes to get the color to even read on camera well enough to see. The shadows from my kit, on the other hand, required a single pass for a rich deposit of color. These products are more blendable, so the end result is vibrant colors, smoothly blended transitions, and overall higher quality looks.
Another thing that you have to understand is how different makeup looks and acts in different settings. You may be able to pack on some lower quality products to the point of looking great in person. However, if you put that person in front of a *professional* camera, you will see uneven textures and coverage, and many colors won't read on camera. The equipment that they use is far superior to your camera phone, or the point and shoot you got to take pictures of your makeup work. While those are great for showing everyday looks, the tools that real professionals use on set will show every little flaw. You need to be prepared for this.
We live in a day and age where information is available at our fingertips. You cannot assume that your client does not know about makeup, I have had clients peak into my kit and point out professional products that they recognized. More so than ever before, we are not only being judged by the quality of our work, but by the products that we choose as artists to carry in our professional kit. If your clients takes a gander at the products you have pulled out of your kit and see names like BH, Coastal Scents, Elf, or Milani, there is a good chance that they are going to be turned off by this. Sometimes they even ask in advance about the quality of products that you use, because they won’t even hire someone to begin with that uses these types of products.
Bringing it back to my comments above, what happens when your bride or photographer sees the images? Your bride is happy with how she looks in person, she pays you for your work, and feels great. But then she sees the photos from her big day, and she looks washed out with a reflective white face. Do you know how disappointing that is, and how much money she probably spent on those pictures? Or how about when you're on set? The photographer sees your work in person, and everything looks good. He even checks his screen while shooting, and it is looking okay. But then he sits down to edit photos and sees them at full quality, and is horrified at the result. A photographer already has a lot of work to do during or after a shoot, they don't want or need any more. Why are they going to hire you if they have to Photoshop every inch of your work?
And guess what? People like to talk, a lot, about their bad experiences. Perhaps a friend of theirs is looking for a makeup artist, and inquires about you since they had just worked with you. Rather than a good recommendation that will gain you new business, she tells them about the cheap product you use and that they shouldn’t hire you. They also tell other makeup artists about their experience. I’ve had situations arise where they were looking at my products, and said something along the lines of “I can tell you know what you are doing by your kit.” Or even “You wouldn’t believe this other makeup artist I had to work with, she used this and that horrible product.”
It isn’t just clients either, people in the industry talk as well. Models, photographers, and even other makeup artists will have no problem discussing these issues amongst each other. When they have a sub par experience, it can get around. One photographer might tell their buddy about it, who in turn will tell others about it. And then before you know it, you’re trying to work with a photographer who has already been told not to work with you. You might find yourself working with another makeup artist on a project, this is not uncommon. If the other artists see you pull these products out of your kit, you have basically lost all of their respect as an artist and coworker. Maybe it isn’t fair, but it essentially boils down to this: You will come across as uneducated, and incapable. How are you expected to produce an end result of high quality, if the products in your kit just are not capable of delivering it? Once it gets around within the industry and between potential clients, unfortunately the damage is done.
Be mindful of the fact that what you do now will affect your future. Saving a penny now is great, but it could be ruining your chances of a successful career down the road.
The Right Way
I get that you are eager to get started, and you want to build a full kit as quickly as possible. But if you cannot do it all at once (which is rare, and most people cannot do) and still keep your integrity as an artist intact, do it slowly and with purpose. There is a reason that the term “quality over quantity” is so popular in so many different aspects in life. I have spent 5 years, and probably thousands of dollars getting my kit together. I started with basics, and have built it over time by researching, talking to pros, reading books, etc. Your kit will never be complete, you'll always be adding new products, replacing old ones, or finding stuff that you're missing. Don't just drop $200 at Target or Walgreens, and think you're good to go.
This is not where you should be going to put together your professional kit. Leave the drugstore makeup aisle alone until you know which products are actually going to be useable.
The best way to go about building your kit, in my opinion as well as the opinion of many other artists, is to do so through pro stores. These stores carry only professional grade products, sometimes the brands cannot even be found anywhere else. And some professional quality brands are actually extremely affordable, occasionally even comparable to drugstore prices! But the ingredients and performance of the product are far superior. Plus, these stores offer discounts for pros and aspiring pros, which is always a huge perk! You’ve heard me talk about some of them in other posts, and I even work for one! The most known stores are:
Camera Ready Cosmetics
Nigel’s Beauty Emporium
Look through the credentials that they require, and see about setting up a discount account with them. Often times they will accept just a certificate from a makeup school for a full pro account, which on average gets you 20-40% off of the brands. Most of the brands they sell offer direct pro discounts themselves, but they are stricter in their criteria. Going through these stores gets you discounts on amazing companies like Make Up For Ever, Becca, Hourglass, Inglot, Kevyn Aucoin, and more! CRC in particular has kits for students and beginning artists, they range from about $200 to $800 depending on the kit. But they contain all high quality, professional grade products. These are great to start with, and then build on to over time. Your kit won't be huge at first, but you'll have the right products.
When you are trying to figure out what you need in your kit, it goes beyond just makeup. There are tools and random products that you would never guess you would need. This blog has one of the most complete lists I have found. It does not really provide specific brand or product names, but this is information you can get through other blogs, FB groups, etc.
My favorite blog, Glossible, has a great article on how to build your first kit without breaking the bank. The author is very knowledgeable and provides specific products that are inexpensive, but will still perform well.
And another favorite of mine is In My Kit. The site is being updated, but you can access the posts through Kevin James Bennett’s website. The wealth of information available on his site is so beneficial for new and experienced artists alike.
Facebook groups can also be a great resource, if you go to the right ones for your information. These are great because you can ask questions and get responses from very experienced and respected artists. You can join in conversations and even access previous threads for more in depth information.
My favorite blogs are also my favorite FB groups, but there are some others I recommend as well:
In My Kit
Working & Aspiring Makeup Artists
Mastering Makeup with Donna Mee
Worldwide Alliance of Makeup Artists
Makeup Artist Talk – For Pros and Aspiring Pros
The Complete Make-Up Artist: Working in Film, Fashion, Television & Theatre
Once you have started working a bit, you can join working artist groups. They usually require that you have a website to join the group. My two favorites are:
The Working Artist
Over the last year and a half, since starting to work at CRC, I have really expanded my horizons when it comes to where I gather my makeup knowledge. Before this, I had read books from my favorite artists, like Kevyn Aucoin and Rae Morris. I had gone to school, I practiced, and worked on occasion. But one day, I started a Facebook account for myself as a representative for CRC, to interact with artists and promote the company. I ended up joining all of these groups, and found that I was gaining a lot of knowledge. So I joined those and more on my own pro artist profile so that I could interact more freely (not just in a "business setting"), and my knowledge, skill, and quality of my kit have all grown tenfold. I have also begun following artists that I respect on FB and Instagram, and I learn about products they use as well as study the quality of their work. I am more confident in my skills, and comfortable when on set knowing that I have the right products for the job.
I hope this information has been helpful, and that you will find as much use out of these resources as I have! The more artists that use cheap products, the cheaper the overall industry becomes. If you use cheap products and in turn charge cheap rates, then consumers begin to think that all makeup should be cheap. But people who use quality products can't charge so little, and they are then put out of work because people assume they are overcharging, and the expected standard of quality in the industry goes down. Pretty soon, even you can't make a living doing what you love because no one can survive on these low rates. It may seem like I am being dramatic, but the more people who get in on the cheap end, the more is lessens the value of our work. We've already been seeing it happen, and the makeup industry is suffering.
So if you want to do it, do it right. And please just remember that the best people to talk to about beginning your professional career, are professionals!