How To Communicate With Your Makeup Artist


I have been a working makeup artist for over 13 years and I have had some amazing interactions with clients, and some that have left me questioning myself and my choice in career.  That can probably be said with any creative field right? When you’re a creative, you have a certain emotional bond with the work that you produce so if that work is criticized, it’s easy to be offended.   I realized it’s not that I’m doing a bad job, but instead there is a lapse in communication.  So now, I start out by telling every client that “it is not about me, it’s about how you feel”.  That immediately releases tension and opens a stream of communication.  The last thing I want is for someone to leave my chair unsatisfied. 

With the cosmetic industry booming the way that it has, there are a lot of terms that are tossed around and misinterpreted.  Today, I am here to clear things up and give a little bit of advice on how to clearly communicate with your makeup artist! 

First of all, if you have never worked with your makeup artist before, I recommend having inspiration photos.  Show some CLEAR photos of when you have felt the most beautiful.  Please exclude filtered photos that include bunny ears, dog ears, heart eyes, or anything else that changes your face.  One time, I had a client show me a Snapchat filtered photo where she had bunny ears and a bunny nose as inspiration for how she wanted her wedding makeup done.  Needless to say, that was one of the moments where I walked away questioning myself. 

Next up, if you’re having a hard time describing what you want your makeup to look like use the internet!  Just a heads up, if you are looking up pictures of Jennifer Lopez (medium complexion with dark hair and features) and you look more like Jennifer Lawrence (fair complexion, blonde hair and lighter features) that same makeup will not translate.  However, if your makeup artist is a professional, they will know how to tailor that look to you.  Just be aware that you won’t look exactly like the photo you’ve shown.  Be open to looks that are customized for your face shape, eye shape, and complexion.  Even better, look up photos of people that have similar features to you.  


  Let’s talk terminology!  


The thing that I hear the most while doing makeup is “I don’t want to look Cakey”.   Honestly, I cringe when I hear a client say this.   I am NOT a baker and have no intention of turning you in to a baked good.  Actually, I’m Gluten free so rest at ease!  

What you mean when you say cakey:   

  1. I don’t want heavy foundation
  2. I don’t want to see too much texture in my skin  
  3. Make my pores magically disappear  

Understand that there are different types of makeup for different occasions.  That beautiful celebrity on the red carpet.... her makeup is cakey!  She needs that makeup to stay on all day without a smudge.  If you zoom up close, you can see a ton of makeup and a ton of texture.  However, she will look like a million bucks in photos!  See below for a great example. 

Katy Perry Up Close 


 Katy Perry photographed on the red carpet 




The next term that I hear used incorrectly is natural makeup.   Sometimes when a client tells me that they want “natural” makeup, they truly mean it.  Most of the time when a client wants “natural” makeup, they mean this:


Let me say this loud and clear.... THE ABOVE PHOTO IS NOT NATURAL!  Actually, it’s a shit ton of makeup.  If you’re looking for a look like the one above, try telling your artist that you’d like to use more taupe shades with matte textures.  What your makeup artist envisions when you say a natural makeup is truly minimal makeup that is used to enhance the features of your face. 



When you say Smokey Eye, your makeup artist probably envisions a beautiful, well blended cloud around your eye.  A traditional Smokey eye carries the darkest part of the shadow closest to your lash line while diffusing as you pass the crease.  This eye shadow technique is great for any eye shape, size, or color.  If you’re not expecting it, it can feel like too much makeup.  


However, when most of my clients refer to a Smokey eye I know that they mean lighter shadow closer to the tear duct and darker shadow on the outer corner.    If this is the look that you’re wanting, just tell your artist that you would like a smoked out outer corner.   It is important to know the difference and to effectively communicate it with your makeup artist!


I hope this advice helps and it takes any anxiety out of having your makeup done.  Remember to discuss your preferences, use photos as reference, and don’t expect to look like Jennifer Lopez when you’re done!  


Let me know what you think of this article by leaving a comment and follow me on Instagram!  @sheena_zar