August 3, 2022

What kind of education do you need to be a makeup artist?

Education to become makeup artist

In order to be a professional makeup artist, you need to have more than just a love for makeup. A career in makeup requires skill and education.

In previous posts, we’ve answered questions about makeup artistry, like: What do makeup artists do, and how can I become one? How much do makeup artists make? How do I start a career as a makeup artist? Do makeup artists need a license? How do I become a special effects artist? What are the top makeup schools?  Let’s focus on the training required to be a successful makeup and special effects artist and the available training options. 

With the seemingly unlimited learning resources on sites like YouTube and Instagram, it seems like anyone should be able to teach themselves how to be a professional makeup artist. But, we’ve found that that’s simply not true. Social media or online makeup courses are great for picking up a few pointers for personal use, cosmetology schools will teach basic beauty makeup techniques, and workshops are great for continuing education. 

However, anyone serious about having a career as a professional makeup artist understands that, like any profession, it requires foundational, technical, professional training in all styles of makeup artistry. 

Here are some of the most common misconceptions associated with makeup artistry training:

1. I went to Cosmetology/Esthetician School – they taught me makeup, so why should I pay to go to school again?

Attending a cosmetology program only scratches the surface of makeup artistry. To be a professionally trained makeup artist takes months of full-time, hands-on training in all styles of makeup artistry, including beauty, editorial, airbrush, body painting, character makeup, and special makeup effects. There is a difference between on-set hairstyling learned at a makeup artistry school and what you learn in a Cosmetology Program. Training that prepares you to be a successful professional makeup artist requires a proper hands-on curriculum, products, instructor knowledge, facility design, lighting, and equipment.

2. I don’t need to be a trained Makeup Artist to work for a retail cosmetic company such as MAC or SEPHORA.

Maybe for a sales position. However, when applying for a makeup artist position, you are required to audition. This is for employers to assess your experience and technique that you can only receive by being professionally trained. While these are wonderful jobs that shouldn’t be diminished, we hope this is the first step in your journey and not your final destination.

3. I already watch YouTube. What would I learn from school that I can’t get for free?

To be fair, you can find a wealth of helpful makeup knowledge, tips, and trends on YouTube, and we encourage you to explore it and learn independently! But don’t make the mistake of thinking you can substitute YouTube for professional makeup artists and special makeup effects training and still land the same jobs and earn the same level of client trust. It may seem easy, but makeup is an art and science that you can only learn through months of daily, fundamental, hands-on instructions.

4. There are many successful Self-Taught Artists. Why is school a better option? 

Many amazing artists are indeed self-taught. Several successful MUAs and special effects artists did not attend makeup school mainly due to the lack of options available when they first started; however, that takes years and years of practice. Unfortunately, in many cases, those artists are skilled in only one style of makeup artistry or great at putting makeup on themselves.

Makeup School 

Thousands of cosmetology schools and new online “master classes” pop up every day. However, only a few schools specialize in teaching makeup artistry, and even fewer offer accredited programs offering classes in all styles of makeup artistry. So, which one do I attend? Professional makeup artists, or MUAs, specialize in applying makeup and prosthetics. They use makeup, cosmetics, paint, prosthetics, wigs, and special effects to change their clients’ physical appearances. Anything that requires a change to a face or body needs a makeup artist. From film production, special events, and weddings to horror films, haunted houses, special effects labs, and Broadway theatre, no matter your makeup passion, they all require professionally trained makeup artists, not cosmetologists.

Accredited makeup artistry schools design their curriculum around those skills employers, production studios, clients, and agencies require so you are ready to work upon graduating. In addition to the curriculum, teaching makeup artistry effectively requires specialized lighting, equipment, classroom design, and makeup stations. Additionally, students’ makeup kits are extensive and include top cosmetic brands. Training is hands-on and supported through a low student-to-teacher ratio. 

L Makeup Institute is the best place to gain hands-on, technical education that will lead you to a meaningful makeup certification. To compete and have the skills needed to take on any job, you will also need to train in all styles of makeup artistry. These styles include beauty makeup (which goes way beyond prom and bridal), basic hairstyling so you can work on-set, airbrush makeup, and body painting. You will also need to learn special effects makeup (SFX). This requires training in making and applying bald caps, blood, wounds, scars, and character makeup, which will require making and using prosthetic pieces.

Cosmetology Program

A cosmetology program will provide training in hair, skin, and nails. This sounds simple, but cosmetology schools have started offering a two to four-week add-on makeup artistry course with the promise of preparing you for a career in the world of makeup artistry. These types of makeup artistry workshops just scratch the surface of beauty makeup, bridal makeup, and complexion. They fall well short of the complexity and depth of skills necessary to be a professional makeup artist. 

Beyond the time required to learn makeup artistry, cosmetology schools follow a state-mandated curriculum that prepares you to pass a state test. Completing a cosmetology program is very involved and provides a complete level of training and preparation. Cosmetology school is great if you want to focus on careers like cutting, coloring, styling hair, doing manicures, pedicures, or skin care treatments. But to become a professional makeup artist, you should attend a makeup artistry school that can provide the curriculum, resources, equipment, and expertise in makeup artistry. 

Esthetics Program 

Esthetics focuses on the study and treatment of skin care, including 50–75 hours of makeup training (depending on the state requirements). As an Esthetician, the makeup training only touches on basic techniques and blemish cover-ups. The main topics covered include hair removal, facials, exfoliating, and masks. If being a skincare specialist and doing facials, acne, body wraps, and other skincare treatments appeals to you, esthetics is your path. 

Choosing a Makeup School

Once you have decided you want to turn your passion into a career and work professionally as a makeup artist, which makeup artistry school do I attend? With social media and technological advances, online makeup artistry schools are popping up everywhere, promising the same: “Take this ‘Master Class,’ and in just 50-100 hours, you will be the next great professional makeup artist!” Don’t you think the top makeup artistry schools would offer online instruction? After all, they do makeup artistry every day and are expert educators in the field. 

Unfortunately, too many people have learned the hard way after spending thousands of dollars that there are no shortcuts to any career, especially a career as dynamic, competitive, and rewarding as makeup artistry. Before you sign up for a program or course, be sure it will serve your needs for the career you want. What training and licensing do you need for your particular career goals? What type of accreditation will your future employers look for? Let’s look at the different kinds of makeup courses you can take and the career goals each one matches the best.

Beware of programs that are only online. You can find online makeup courses or workshops that provide 50-100 hours of training and certification. But how much of that training is available for free through YouTube? You may be able to learn some cool tricks or trends online, but makeup artistry is only learned in person and through hands-on repetition.

They do not because preparing for a career as a professional makeup artist takes months of training, as with any career path. Online courses or in-person workshops are great for learning a new trend or brushing up on a particular technique. However, you need in-class, repetitive, hands-on practice with different materials with makeup artistry. You also need the guidance of qualified instructors working on all skin types, skin tones, face shapes, and ages.

Lengths and Types of Training

  • Esthetics Program: This varies by state, but you can earn an esthetician license in six to 8 months by attending a program with around 700-900 hours of training. 
  • Cosmetology Program: This also varies by state. It can take up to two years to earn a certificate in cosmetology. These courses range from 1,000 to 1,600 hours.
  • Makeup Artistry Programs: Since there is no state requirement, training hours are up to the school and you, the aspiring makeup artist. How long and in-depth the course is, how much hands-on experience you’ll get, and the quality of facilities and equipment are all important when considering where to receive your makeup artistry education. Diploma programs and makeup courses differ widely, but generally, they should be a minimum of 800 hours to cover all the fundamentals. Courses can continue even longer if the programs include specializations in airbrushes, body painting, on-set hair styling, and special effects makeup classes.
  • Assuming eight hours of instruction a day, these online courses offer only 6-12 days of schooling. Would you want your skin extracted or your hair cut or colored by someone with one to two weeks of training? It is the same for makeup artists. It’s unrealistic to think you would get hired for an event or on a movie set with that amount of training.

Facilities and Equipment

To provide hands-on training, a school needs good facilities and a wide range of equipment for students to learn.

Bright and welcoming, the L Makeup Institute boasts a clean, mid-century modern design with chic urban hipness – well-lit, open spaces; exposed, vaulted ceilings, metallic epoxy concrete floors, and glass walls; in all, a stylish atmosphere with all the accouterments, technology and seriousness of a top-notch educational facility. 

Each classroom is designed and equipped based on the curriculum being taught and features every tool students will need: Electrical drops, specialized equipment, high definition TVs with surround-sound and video projection and recording, whiteboards, recorded video surveillance, and dispensaries, as well as custom-made ovens for baking moisture out of molds and cooking foam latex. 

The Institute features professionally designed lighting with a 90+ CRI for perfect skin tone matching and technical applications. Outside of class, students enjoy convenient access to an elegant, expanded student lounge, student store, library equipped with multiple workstations, printers, books, magazines, and movies, and a large photography room.


The U.S. Department of Education recognizes accrediting agencies. The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and the National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences are two significant organizations that accredit makeup, esthetician, and cosmetology programs. 

Accreditors establish an accreditation process that evaluates areas like hours of training, curriculum, facilities, and instructors’ qualifications. The school must demonstrate the instructional resources and support services necessary to assist its students in achieving their educational goals. The school must also demonstrate that they meet or exceed established graduation and job placement rates. 

Accredited programs can offer government-funded financial aid, student loans, and grants. L Makeup Institute is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and is approved to offer federal financial aid to students. 

Certification vs. Licensing 

Which do you need? In general, estheticians and cosmetologists need licenses. Estheticians and cosmetologists may or may not earn certificates, but makeup artists always do. It can be confusing to sort out these details. Getting your Cosmetology or Esthetician license fulfills legal requirements held by the state you’re working in. The schooling you receive prepares you to pass a required state exam. 

On the other hand, makeup artists are certified by an accredited trade school, not licensed. This certification proves they are professionally trained and specifies which styles of makeup artistry they learned—which is essential because most MUAs do freelance work. 

Earning a Makeup Artist Certification or diploma prepares you to work in your field immediately upon graduating. It is issued by the school you attend based on completing their training program or course and all its requirements. Because of this, the hours of training and educational curriculum required of the school issuing your certificate is crucial. 

Do your research!

It’s important to know that requirements differ depending on the state you’ll be working in. Some states require specific licenses (and a certain number of hours of education), and others don’t have requirements. It’s crucial to do your research on your state’s requirements before you begin looking at training options. 

Remember, not all certification is the same. Employers recognize the difference between a certificate from one of the top makeup schools in the country and a 25-hour master class or workshop. If your only training experiences are small workshops and online courses, your potential employers will likely be unimpressed. 

Learn More About LMI

Have you found yourself falling victim to any of these common misconceptions? No worries, get in touch with us today, and we would be happy to have a conversation about how you can get out from behind YouTube and into the classroom! Teaching the art and science of makeup artistry to the next generation of makeup and special effects artists since 2010, the L Makeup Institute offers classes covering all styles of makeup artistry. 

There are thousands of cosmetology schools, but only a handful of schools like L Makeup Institute. We focus exclusively on preparing you to work as a professional makeup artist immediately upon graduating. Learn more about why LMI is well known in the MUA community as producing talented, well-rounded, and sought-after graduates.

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