February 15, 2022

What Does a Makeup Artist Do? Is it a Good Career for You?

Work you do as Makeup Artist

A makeup artist is one of the last people a bride sees before revealing herself to her wedding guests; likewise, when an actor walks out on stage or in front of a movie camera. From festivals and fashion shows to behind-the-stage and film cameras, a career as a makeup artist can work anywhere people seek the transformative power of expertly applied cosmetics.

What Does a Makeup Artist Do?

A Makeup Artist is the person responsible for turning your makeup vision into reality; whether you are a client attending a special event or a film company bringing a story to life. These are only a few examples of how exciting and financially rewarding your career can be. How high you soar will be determined by the education you receive, the skills you learn, and the commitment you make towards your career. 

There are so many important traits that define being a great Makeup Artist, and there is no one skill that holds more weight than any other. Attending an Accredited Makeup School and having professional makeup artist training in all styles of makeup artistry, including Beauty, Airbrush, Body Painting, and SFX Makeup, will make you marketable and provide for the most incredible opportunities. And, always remember, makeup artistry does not discriminate. Professional makeup artists transform the world no matter the skin tone, age, face, or body shape.  

Things a Makeup Artist Does 

  • Practices sanitation and safety standards at all times. 
  • Has appropriate equipment needed to set up a makeup workstation mobile or fixed? 
  • Owns a Makeup Kit filled with the latest cosmetics, tools, and brushes up to industry standards.
  • Has experience working on different faces and eye shapes. 
  • Understand how to apply makeup to different complexions. 
  • Understands how to use makeup on different types of problem skin. 
  • Has the ability to color match different skin tones 
  • Uses color correction when dealing with problem skin. 
  • Comprehends the best eyeshadow colors that complement different eye colors.
  • Can re-create any makeup look given by a client and customize it if needed.
  • Has confidence and can communicate ideas with the client.
  • Stays up to date with current makeup trends. 
  • Can provide makeup lessons to individuals to gain confidence in new techniques.
  • Is comfortable using Face charts to sketch out makeup looks. 
  • Masters technical skills in different styles of Makeup Artistry. 

How Much Do Makeup Artists Make?

Makeup artists earn a median annual salary of $48.07 an hour, or $99,990 annually, according to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Comparatively, Licensed Cosmetologists earn an average of $17.55 an hour, and Licensed Estheticians, $19.82 an hour.

What you can expect to earn also depends on where you live. Here’s what the average makeup artist earned in 2020 in the five highest-paying states (which also employ the greatest number of makeup artists):

  • New York $122,970
  • California $112,380
  • District of Columbia $110,850
  • Florida $70,670
  • Texas $ 69,550

Job Growth for Makeup Artists

The BLS doesn’t keep industry-growth statistics for makeup artists specifically but instead offers projections for the larger field of cosmetology, which includes not just makeup artists, but hair, skin, and nail specialists, as well. The industry expects to grow by 13% between 2016-2026—nearly double the average for all occupations, 7%.

Makeup Artist Career Options

Your career options are wide open if you’re a skilled makeup artist. And the exciting thing about makeup artistry is the limitless opportunities. You can take your craft and work anywhere in the world! Makeup artists and special effects artists work in film, television, photography, print, fashion, music videos, freelance, mortuaries, salons, or retail. Here are a few exciting possibilities.

TV / Film Entertainment

You might work prepping actors and models for appearances in films, on television, or the theater stage.


You could apply your trade everywhere, from runway shows and photo shoots to private exhibitions and advertising campaigns.

Clinical Makeup Artists

The clinical makeup artist works at hospitals, plastic surgery clinics, and med-spas. They use their cosmetic know-how to help lessen the effects of minor facial deformities, such as scars, birthmarks, and burns, so their client can feel more confident and ‘normal.’

Retail and Consulting

Working for retail stores or makeup counters requires training. Companies like Sephora will audition you, and you will compete against other artists to represent these companies or brands as a makeup artist. Cosmetic companies and manufacturers also hire Certified Makeup Artists as regional or national trainers.

Independent Contractor

As a freelancer, you might sell your services painting faces at carnivals, prepping bridesmaids at weddings, working on film or haunts. You’ll be in business for yourself, working on a contract-to-contract basis without the constraints—or security—of a steady employer.

Online Influencer

The digital age offers a new outlet for ambitious freelancers. You might start a blog, YouTube channel, or social media profile dedicated to sharing ideas, educating, enlightening, and inspiring followers who share your passion for makeup artistry.

Salon or Spa

Texas and Nevada are two states that allow makeup artists to work in salons without a Cosmetology or Esthetician license.   

Resort and Cruise Ship

You could seek employment with one of the many luxury hotels, resorts, theme parks, and cruise ships that offer amenities to their clients. Additionally, cruise ships, theme parks, and resorts provide on-board entertainment, which requires makeup artists. What a great way to see the world!

As you can see, makeup artistry is a fascinating career with endless possibilities and an excellent outlook for the future. If you’re excited about it, stay tuned for our next post, which will discuss how to find the training you need and the personal traits you’ll need to succeed.

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