WRITTEN BY Lesley Holland Downey
I love doing my own makeup—it’s relaxing—and a little “me time” in the midst of a busy day is always a treat, but I realize that many people don’t feel this way at all. When faced with a big day, a black tie event or gala, a wedding or being photographed, many people just want to hand it over to a professional. Even choosing products for everyday wear can cause “analysis paralysis”—there are simply too many choices out there for most people to navigate. Thank goodness there are true experts—ones with years of experience and knowledge that you can tap into when choosing what to wear on the daily occasions or taking the stress out of a big life event.
I had the pleasure of interviewing three different makeup artists (MUAs) who shared with me the importance that makeup can be fun, a confidence booster, and that communication is the key in getting the desired results. Reading the client is a big part of what a good MUA does, listening to cues from a consultation (either in person or via text or email). Pinterest and Instagram photos also come in handy.
A VA native who came to NC for college, Danielle is a freelance artist who spent many years after college at the counters (mainly at Bobbi Brown, but she did stints at Stila, Shu Uemura, and La Mer) and now is out on her own. Her road to becoming a makeup artist came out of her desire “to make people feel better about themselves” which was a theme across all three of the artists I interviewed. As a bonus, Danielle does both hair and makeup—a boon for anyone who hires her. @spreadingthepretty and dmaddoxmua.com
Everyone loves glowy skin these days, and Danielle likes to prep the skin with products that soothe the skin and prepare it for makeup. She likes Beautycounter Counter+ No. 1 Face Oil and Bobbi Brown Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm to prime the skin and add that sought-after radiance without irritation.
Graftobian HD Glamour Crème Super Palette is Danielle’s go-to for foundation, enabling her to customize perfectly for her clients.
Like Danielle, Alexxa fell into doing makeup after college when she realized her side hobby (doing her friends’ makeup) could be a career. After college, Alexxa took a job with Neiman Marcus, so she works both at a counter (Chanel at Nieman Marcus) and as a freelance artist. Her job is all about “making people feel pretty” and building relationships, with a healthy dose of encouraging people to not compare themselves to what they see on social media. @glambyalexxa
Alexxa preps skin with an express facial mask while she does eye makeup to give clients’ skin a boost— she swears by Sisley Radiant Glow Express Mask.
Another secret weapon for making skin look great is Chanel’s Hydra Beauty Essence Mist—a dual product that can be used under and over makeup to give the skin a hydrated and dewy finish.
For foundation, Alexxa’s holy grail product is from Giorgio Armani, Luminous Silk Foundation.
A self-proclaimed mascara junkie, Alexxa’s current fave is Dior’s Diorshow Pump ‘N’ Volume HD Mascara.
Charleston-based Page Luther got her start as a teen in Atlanta working at a local Aveda hair salon. Tagging along to assist at a fashion show at a local nightclub, Page jumped in to help when the makeup artist was a no-show—and found her calling. For 20 years, she worked in print, video, and other commercial work before honing her craft to fit her family’s life. Page works mostly with brides, which means she often books out a year in advance and only works one wedding a day. She loves her job because “everyone’s happy, they want to be there, and it’s the best day of their lives.” @pageluthermakeup
NARS The Multiple Stick in Maui—This color looks great on eyes, lips, and cheeks.
MAC Face and Body Foundation—Buildable coverage for all ages; doesn’t crease and is long-lasting.
“Don’t be a mascara snob” is what Page tells her clients. Her current go-to is Maybelline Volum’ Express The Falsies Mascara (both waterproof and washable).
Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner in 926 Purple Choc—Glides on easily and stays put.
Totally worth the money and so good according to Page—Chanel’s Soleil Tan de Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base and Foundation Brush.
Tips for working with a MUA
- Communicate. Speak up about what you really want. If you don’t like something, tell your MUA. They want you to feel pretty and be happy.
- Bring pictures. Images from Instagram or Pinterest go a long way to make sure you are on the same page about your desired look. A smoky eye can mean different things to different people.
- Consider a trial run. For weddings, this is crucial. Many brides will do a test run with several artists and then pick the one they feel most comfortable with, possibly hiring them for their portrait and/or engagement party as well.
- Look at their work online. Most artists have social media accounts full of images for you to peruse. Or they may have a portfolio that will give you an idea about their style or signature look.
- Use referrals. Get names from friends, wedding planners, photographers, or other professionals.
- Ask about costs up front. Having an onsite artist at a wedding or family portrait session is an expense but can really take the stress out of planning. Brides can expect to pay $150 and up—and should anticipate additional charges for makeup for other members of the wedding party. One artist I spoke with will stay on-site for $100 per hour to provide touch-ups during pictures and the reception and will even provide touch-up supplies (blotting papers and lipstick) for the wedding party.