There has been a recurring topic that has been coming up recently, I have been seeing or hearing it from friends, family, and other pros more and more. It has to do with the overabundance of “professionals” or “experts” that has been increasing on a daily basis. It has been happening in every field, with the availability of information on the internet leading everyday people to think that watching a tutorial or taking a short course now places them up there with those who have dedicated their life to a career, industry, or craft. I see it in my field, as do many others in their respective fields. There are different aspects to this, some people may have an education but no experience to back it up, or perhaps they have very little education and/or experience. Either way, they should not be advertising themselves as experts or teachers. I want to explore just why this is so detrimental, and how it will do no favors to you or your current or prospective clients.
Let’s start with an example, from a client or customer’s perspective: Say you need to hire somebody to design your website, so you do a search online and you notice that you are finding an enormous list of “experts”. You pick one at random and open their website, but you’re seeing zero examples of work they have done. Or you notice some “stock” images, used as examples of what they can do. So you read their bio, which explains that they just recently completed school (if not just a how-to that they found online), and that’s of course only if they are willing to admit their inexperience! They go on to talk about themselves and their knowledge and skills, but provide no examples of this being applied. I suppose it is at least comforting that they have the integrity not to steal images from other people, which unfortunately is very common in the makeup industry. But this person still uses the word “expert” to describe themselves to their clients. Now let me ask you, would you hire this designer, even if their rates were reasonable? Personally, I would not. I understand that everybody starts somewhere, and at some point has to get their first client. But this person should be perfectly honest about their experience level, and at least have built some example sites just to showcase their work. I would be more likely to hire somebody “new” if I could see the type of work that they were capable of, and it fit my needs. How can you be expected to just take their word and think that you’re going to get the desired results? Knowing something “in theory” is different than knowing from practical application.
Another example is from my own personal experience; it is something that occurred when I was a daycare teacher. I had worked at this facility for over a year at this point (I was there for just over two years), and many teachers had been there longer. They brought in a new assistant director, which is the second in command position at this place. What she did was work in the office doing admin, talk to parents, and come into our classrooms and rearrange furniture and give us lesson plans, which the teachers had been doing up until this point. After a while of us noticing that what she was doing in our classrooms wasn’t helping, and was actually frustrating all of the teachers, we found out that she had only just recently graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She had never actually worked with children; she was working based off of the theoretical information that she had been taught in school. She would arrange our furniture in a way that was “optimal for learning”, but it was not such when you have screaming children running around and climbing on them. Yet they made her our superior, and let her control everything that we did. While the information she obtained may have been developed from experience, she herself did not know how to adjust it to each situation as needed. It caused a lot of problems because what she was doing did not work in the real world, with dozens of energetic children, and we who knew our kids had no say because she had the degree. I appreciate that she had the education that she did, eventually once she began to work with the teachers we had much better results. The issue in this instance was that education doesn’t always automatically make someone more knowledgeable than those with experience.
On that other end of the spectrum from that instance, we have the uneducated (as well as inexperienced) people who are advertising themselves for jobs that they are absolutely not qualified for, and are misleading potential clients in order to get their business. You might be thinking “Well, everybody fluffs up their resume to get a job”, but fudging little bits here and there is different than completely lying. And what these people don’t realize is that the results can be disastrous! My sister works in the “self-help” field, if you will, as a spiritual teacher, writer, and speaker. She has multiple degrees and certificates, on top of nearly 20 years of varied education and experience. Does she call herself an expert? Absolutely not! Yet there are those in her field who work as “life coaches” that do label themselves as such. This means that people are trusting these individuals with their well-being, they are looking to better themselves or heal from old wounds obtained throughout life. They have entrusted this “coach” to help them in their journey, but what if this person doesn’t have the knowledge and training to deal with certain subject matters? They are dealing with the human psyche; this isn’t something to play around in because you think you are qualified after reading a single book and you want to start making money. In the end, your advice could be detrimental to their mind and set them back in the healing process, if not causing a much worse effect.
I bring up these two examples as a means of discussing the most important factor, which is balance. Education and experience are both important, and true knowledge comes from a combination. Some people could say “Well, from my experience I have approached it in this way with no negative results”. That could just be mere luck, perhaps it has more negative results in the long run. I could say “from my experience, this foundation works well on dry skin”. Well, couldn’t that just be the skincare products that I am using it with? Perhaps another artist uses it with a different product, and thinks I am crazy when their results are awful. However, if I stated that it works with dry skin because of these ingredients and these products used with it, that is using my cosmetic education as a resource to back up what I am saying. And on the other end, saying that something is, just because you were told this by a teacher or read it in a book, can be just as problematic. I can say that I have had teachers in the past that have given me information that has later proven to be incorrect. Maybe it even was correct at the time, but later on was disproved. And it was probably disproved through somebody’s experience! I mean, at one point people firmly believed that the Earth was flat. There was a time when people wore cosmetics laced with lead, because they were thought to be perfectly safe. Something could be heralded today as “the life changing beauty product to end all beauty products”, but who knows what the results will be on people who use it 50 years later. Granted, we have more in depth scientific capabilities now than we had hundreds of years ago, but the point is that information changes. Being just educated or just experienced does not make you better, having a balance coupled with an open mind to keep improving will help you get to that “expert” status.
Beyond the issues with individuals just awarding themselves the title of expert, there is also the issues that arise when people bestow the title of teacher upon themselves. Myself and others are seeing an alarming increase in new artists with little to no portfolio work offering classes. Their portfolio at most consists of a few images taken from their camera phone, using a blurring app that completely hides their real work and makes everything look more blended, concealed, etc. They don’t have proper products in their kits, nor do they have the skills and techniques required to call themselves a professional. Yet they throw the title on after their name and think they are now qualified to teach others! Of course, we can blame the people taking classes from them for not doing enough research, or for not noticing the absurdly filtered images. But in this day and age, unfortunately this is becoming the norm and people think it is real life. Just look at IG artists, people think they are “flawless” when really they have 10 filters on the image. It has me wondering though, when did this newer generation (because let’s face it, it is mostly people under 30) as a whole seem to decide that education, experience, and skill play no part in professional or expert status?
If you think there is any question or wiggle room in these definitions, let’s refer to those handy dictionaries.
(of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.
A person engaged or qualified in a profession.
Key words: “qualified” and “main paid occupation”
Having or involving authoritative knowledge.
A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.
I don’t see anything in there that says, “A person with little to no training, education, or experience”. Because that isn’t how it works! Something else that has come up in groups like Glossible (I know, I talk about them so much) is the fact that these people are talking themselves up, accepting the jobs that they aren’t qualified for, and are then coming to US after the fact for advice on how to do this job!
“Hey guys, I got a job doing a detailed body painting for a fashion show, but I have never body painted or worked a runway show before. What products do I need, how do I body paint, and what should I do at the show?”
I am not even exaggerating, we see these types of questions all the time. The person takes a job with the assumption that they can wing it, or pick it up in a day before showing up to set. If you’re messaging me on Facebook asking me how to color correct something, then you should definitely not be holding a Color Correcting class right after. If you don’t even have a basic understanding of skin, or what ingredients work for what skin types, you should probably not be working at all, let alone showing somebody else how to apply their foundation and telling them what type to use. What makes this so frustrating though is not only how insulting it is that they don’t want to do the work of educating themselves, and expect us to just throw them our hard earned knowledge for free, but that we are actually having to compete with these people for work! Somebody who was fully qualified for the job lost out to a newbie who asked a fraction of the price and is then coming to the other artist’s peers for tips on how to do the job. You’re taking away somebodies livelihood, and slapping them in the face while doing it. People who have higher rates that are based on their experience, and make a living from this work, lose out to those who talk a big game and fail to deliver. So everybody loses: the experienced artist, the client, and even the artist who worked the job! This can actually tarnish their reputation, and give the client a warped sense of what makeup artists should be capable of.
So again, not only are these people not qualified to even call themselves a professional or expert, which they are doing anyway, they honestly think they are worthy of teaching others. In my opinion, as well as the opinions of those I have talked to, this is what we look for in a teacher: Somebody with a comprehensive portfolio, years of experience, and skill up the wazoo. Not to mention they have to be able to teach, because that in itself is no easy task. The content is only as good as the teacher, if they cannot lay out the information in a way that the students can understand, then it just doesn’t work. I want a teacher that doesn’t just tell me how to do something, but WHY I am doing it. It isn’t as simple as “Put green on that red pimple”. I expect the explanation of “You use green because it is the opposite of red on the color wheel, so they neutralize one another.” And you had better be knowledgeable enough to answer any and all questions that your students may have. If you tell them to use salmon under the eyes, but the person doesn’t even have blue hues there, then your student may ask you why. But you don’t know how to answer, because you are just reciting what somebody on YouTube, who also doesn’t understand color correction, said you should do. How do you think that looks on you? I see videos of “artists” so-called color correcting their faces, and they just use random colors all willy nilly with no concept of the purpose. Then their fans recreate this so called technique, and perpetuate the circle of ignorance. And I have even seen these InstaArtists teach classes, showing the same BS methods to paying students. I’m looking at you, Miss Clown Contour.
Just today I saw a Buzzfeed video where they had a “beauty expert” teaching girls how to do makeup. She did not address proper color matching, or assist them in any way in selecting their shade. They were all too dark, too ashy, or just the wrong tone. She showed them where to apply their contour, giving them all the exact same placement even though they had completely different face shapes and bone structures. She showed them all how to do their lips, which was in a way that made them bigger. Even the girl who already had enormous (and beautiful) lips. She gave all of these ladies the exact same instructions, having no regard for their individual features. Then it shows her doing examples on herself, and she herself is packing on a foundation that is way too yellow for her skin. Then it dawns on me, that I recognize this girl. This is the same blogger that I saw telling girls to put red lipstick under their eyes to conceal dark circles (please, don’t get me started on everything wrong with this) and using a bright fuchsia lipstick as her blush, which did not match her at all, saying “this is what you should do if you have dark skin”. There was no regard for skin tone or under tones, and both of these suggestions of hers had disastrous results. Yet, this is what Buzzfeed is calling a “beauty expert”. She does not know how to match products to her own skin, and is telling these girls how to do their makeup. The end result was sad, I thought the makeup artist community was going to have a collective heart attack after viewing it.
This brings me to yet another part of the problem that I have been seeing: YouTube. Yes, you have heard myself and others talk about our dislike for beauty gurus many times and I already got into it a bit above. I’m actually going to address a different piece of that puzzle though. It isn’t solely about the content of these videos, but the sheer volume of them. I swear, every single day I see multiple people post in one makeup group or another, “I’m starting a YouTube channel, subscribe to me!”. Why should we subscribe to your channel, what exactly do you have to offer in these videos? The people that I see doing this aren’t professionals, or even aspiring professionals. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as they have the necessary knowledge and skill to back it up. I am not suggesting that only people who do it professionally know what’s up. I know some amazing artists who have no desire to obtain an “official” education, nor do they wish to pursue makeup as a professional career, but are just natural born artists and study/practice on their own because they love it. And that is great, because I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. I would rather there be less videos, with more solid information. As long as their content can be backed up with honest, logical reasoning and information then I don’t necessarily care about credentials. There are different standards for YouTube videos, as opposed to somebody charging for classes. But these girls who are popping up every second with a YouTube channel are just cycling the same information, which is where my issue lies. They all look the same, they have the same Instabrows, contour, and overdrawn lips. They are wearing the new Kylie lip color, and use the same Morphe palette that Jaclyn Hill stamped her name on. Their eye makeup is comprised of a cut crease or smokey eye, and a heavily winged liner. It is practically a paint by numbers of recent and current trends. They don’t have anything to add that is any different than the videos that they themselves learned from watching, they are essentially just recreating them. When they say “This is how I do my eyebrows”, what they are really saying is “This is how this famous guru does their brows, and I do the same thing”. This isn’t a technique that they learned over time, through trial and error, or from actually educating themselves on eyebrow shapes in relation to eye and face shapes.
In my opinion, these individuals are only doing it because they just want to be seen and hopefully one day discovered like their idols. They aren’t doing it for the love of the craft, or because they feel that they have something to offer to the makeup world. They are doing it because they want to be adored, they want people to tell them how beautiful and wonderful they are. They want someone to pay them to make videos and give them free product, so that they don’t have to work a real job. They want to be able to put their name on a Morphe product and make tons of money. It is the “thing to do” these days if you want to be famous without putting as much work into it (at least they see it as minimal work, which is not exactly the case). But all they are doing is regurgitation the same incorrect information that these big names spewed first, and hoping that nobody notices. I may not be a fan of the whole YouTube guru obsession, but at least the big names were putting out original content at the beginning. Now it is all the same, but there was a time when it was new. Or at least new to the consumer world, since techniques like contouring, cut creases, and “strobing” (aka highlighting) have been around for a LONG time.
Now, everybody has to learn from somewhere. Whether you read it in a book, were told by a pro/teacher/your mother, or discovered it through trial and error. But when you are just reciting or copying what is already in a million and one videos, it just adds to the pool of videos that are all the same. Where is the innovation? Where is the personal touch, the information based on well-rounded education? What about the people who want to learn different techniques, who want to learn from real makeup artists? How are they expected to find the content that they want, if it is buried under millions of videos showing how to contour your face in the exact same way? We can only see the same thing so many times, and not everybody is into the same looks! Even the current popular YouTubers are running out of material, because they don’t know enough to make truly educational videos. They are usually just a pretty face that follows the trends, so they are constantly having to come up with some insane new version of the same old trick that will keep them relevant, but won’t actually benefit anyone. A perfect example is the contouring tutorial using scotch tape. It may have been met with a lot of ridicule, but it got her name out there to people like myself who had previously never heard of her. And some of those people might look at her other videos and be converted to fans, which translates to views and subscribers, which means more money will pour in from sponsors.
Of course I am doing a bit of generalizing here, I know that not every person who starts a YouTube channel is doing it for this reason. There are people out there who legitimately love makeup, and want to share techniques to help others. I too have watched how-to videos for techniques that I wanted to learn or had been having trouble perfecting, and I appreciate the resource! I am merely providing observations that I have made recently, and what I take away from what I am seeing. It isn’t about me feeling wronged or being jealous, as people always try to argue when people speak against their idols. I have an immense respect for this industry, and what it has contributed to the world over the years. It pains me to see people walking all over it, using it as a stepping stool in hopes of instant fame. It is the overall state of education in this industry, as well as many other industries, that is my cause for concern. There are schools popping up just as quickly, cashing in on the current makeup hype by offering to teach people how to be a pro. But the classes that they offer are bare bones, they teach a few popular trends, leaving sanitation, color matching, skin analysis, and many other important aspects out. They then send these people, who don’t even know how to sanitize their products and tools, off into the world telling them that they are professionals. I once saw a girl who was a few weeks into a 12-week class ask a makeup group how to clean and sanitize her brushes. They had been applying makeup, but were not taught how to clean their brushes. The education that these students receive lacks substance, and no real, self-respecting makeup artist would teach these classes. So again, we’re back to the unqualified artists teaching classes, because they will do it for less money and these pop up schools cannot afford real teachers. This industry that I love so much is becoming nothing more than a cash cow, a bandwagon that people with no makeup background can hop on and ride to the big bucks. If you know anything about Glam Squad, this is exactly what their creator did, which is part of why the makeup artist community despises them (among other reasons).
So now let's take a step back, and evaluate ourselves. If you think that what I am saying could apply to you, or you are questioning your methods, maybe ask yourself a few questions:
If you’re branding yourself as a professional, expert, or teacher, what is your level of experience and education?
Would you want to learn from somebody that had your credentials, or would you have a higher standard? Why do you believe that people would benefit from learning from you? What do you have to offer to them?
How often do you find yourself BS-ing your clients or students, or consulting resources like YouTube or others in the industry because you don’t know something?
Do you often find yourself lying or stretching the truth to sell your services to others?
Do you have a solid portfolio of your work, showing a range of styles, techniques, skin tones, ages, etc.? Or are your images all fairly similar, with the same general looks applied to the majority of your clients?
What are the rates that you are charging for your services? Are they comparable to others in your area? If so, what is the quality of work you are seeing for those rates?
Most of the questions are pretty self-explanatory, but I included that last one because it is important to know the true value of your work. If you’re offering lessons at $25 a head while others in your area are offering the same type of class for $300 a head, this presents a problem. There is the possibility that you are just unintentionally undercutting because you don’t know how to price these services, but honestly that still shows a lack of experience. Or perhaps you are brand new to makeup, so you’re charging a lower price that is on par with your skill level. If you are inexperienced enough that your skills are only worth $25, you should 100% not be teaching. Maybe you just do it as a means of supplementing your income, and you don’t even work professionally as a makeup artist and never have, so you charge low rates. Remember that there are people who do it for a living, as their career. If you undercut them like this, you are contributing to them potentially going out of business. This all goes back to what I was talking about previously, regarding undercutting and attempting to take work from a more qualified and experienced artist.
In the end, it goes back to the old saying: honesty is always the best policy. Everyone needs to stop thinking that it is okay to cut corners to achieve the results that they want. If you want to be seen as an expert, then put in the work! Study, take an apprenticeship, work your butt off to build your portfolio. Respect must be earned, you can’t just pick up a brush and expect to be taken seriously. But people respect honesty, if you’re open about your experience there will still be clients for you. Work your way up, the way others have! It is hugely unfair to clients that they have to weed through so many “fakeup artists” to find somebody that actually knows what they are doing. Whether it is a bride or a production company, they end up paying more in the end because they waste money on a bad makeup artist, which means that they then have to pay for a new one or spend extra time editing their work. If you’re accepting jobs or teaching classes that you’re not qualified for, you are cheating your client. There is so much more to the job than just slapping foundation on a face, and your clients suffer when you are dishonest about what you have done and can do. With the current trend that the title Makeup Artist seems to have found itself in, too many people are in it for no better reason than because they bought a contouring kit from Sephora and thought it would be an easy way to make money. But if you really do love the industry, you should know that it requires integrity and a strong worth ethic. You should be learning everything that you can, and consistently bettering yourself as an artist. You’re doing yourself and your clients a disservice by offering anything less. Put a hold on the lessons, even just calling yourself a makeup artist rather than a professional makeup artist or makeup expert can make a difference. There is no shame in starting out, everyone has to! Openly display your credentials, even if they may not seem as impressive as others’. They are yours, own them! If you work your way up the right way, eventually you will have legitimate credentials that you can be proud of. And you will gain them while keeping your reputation intact and without losing the respect of your peers.
Cover Image Copyright Jaime Klein
Hair and Makeup by Krystall Melody