Has Instagram changed make-up artistry for good?
Instagram is at the centre of image culture in 2018, and has given a huge boost to sales of beauty products, especially make-up. In 2017, analyst The NPD Group reported a 9.8% increase in sales of prestige make-up targeted towards creating flawless, camera-ready skin, driven by “the selfie generation”. But while the social media platform has given those who create visual work a free, global stage to show off their skills, it has arguably made life harder for many make-up artists.
“I think Instagram has definitely had an adverse impact on the professional make-up industry,” says Hannah Wing, a film and television make-up artist who owns hair and make-up design company Bellus Femina and is a Professional Beauty Awards judge.
From her point of view, Instagram has made it more difficult for established, professionally trained artists to manage clients’ expectations. “People typically refer to Instagram for inspiration and don’t always realise that the styles created may have been achieved using enormous amounts of product with elements that wouldn’t work on them for a variety of reasons,” she says, adding: “Instagram make-up styles are typically highly stylised as well as being tweaked with enhancing software and clever filters.”
Stacey Kilpatrick, PB’s Make-up Specialist of the Year 2017 and owner of S.A.K Designs Bridal Makeup, agrees that clients’ pursuit of perfection has been massively intensified by Instagram and other social platforms.
“Everything online is trying to paint an image of complete perfection but a lot of people don’t realise that isn’t real life. Sometimes a bride will bring me an image for inspiration that’s been very heavily edited and she’s shocked to find that out,” she says.
Kilpatrick also believes these universally lauded ideas of perfection are having a damaging effect on girls and young women. “It puts a lot of pressure on women, they think that to look good they need to be wearing as much make-up as possible,” she says, “because those images have become the ideal now and that’s what it takes to achieve it. It’s normal now for girls to be wearing a full face with contouring and heavily painted-on brows every day. It saddens me.”
That such a heavy make-up application has become the go-to look for “Insta” make-up artists could be seen as indicative of a lack of formal training and understanding of skin or what works for different facial structures and features. “It’s lots of foundation, glitter and reflective eye shadows, false lashes, sculpted brows, extreme highlighter, contouring and gloss-covered lips – fine in certain circumstances but largely inappropriate for lots of others,” says Wing.
Anushka Patel, a make-up artist and brand manager for mineral make-up brand Jane Iredale, distributed by IIAA, says: “If you look at the pages of a lot of ‘Insta’ MUAs, you’ll see they do the same look on everyone; they’ve just mastered that one look.”
Kilpatrick agrees: “I’m also a face and body painter and I can teach a butterfly that will look great on any child for face painting, but make-up artistry isn’t that. You cannot take the same thing and expect it to look good on everyone.”
Often even the diffusion and tone of the lighting in multiple make-up images on Instagram look to be exactly the same, something Patel thinks is giving consumers skewed ideas of what’s achievable in real life. “People are using ring lights to take those images but no one walks around with a mobile ring light stuck to them, and make-up is always going to look different in natural lighting, against a flash, without a flash, and so on,” she says.
Set up for success
Kilpatrick does have a ring light but says she rarely uses it “because it casts a yellow tint over your images. And with editing, if I was to edit out some fine lines under a client’s eyes, for example, that’s false advertising, because if
I promoted my work like that and someone came to me for make-up, those marks of character would still be visible. You’re just giving your clients false hope when really your job as a make-up artist is to make people feel comfortable in their own skin,” she says.
Kilpatrick thinks it isn’t necessary to have an elaborate, expensive set up to photograph your work. Instead, she says “iPhones give fantastic results with photography now, and coupled with a good lighting source you can easily get a great picture. I’m no photographer but I know to always put the client in a fantastic source of natural light. It’s the harshest light source so it’s going to make the make-up look really true to life.” However, she advises against direct sunlight and instead often opts for putting the client inside a window with the light coming in.
She also avoids adding filters to photos, saying: “If anything, I might make a slight adjustment to the light if it’s a bit dark. I don’t have the skills to edit images further than that anyway, but I think there’s pressure on classically trained make-up artists to heavily edit images now.”
Patel also hears from fellow MUAs who struggle to keep up with what’s expected. “We ran some bridal workshops recently and a lot of people were saying they were struggling to compete and create those types of looks,” she says. “You have to be realistic and explain that something might look great on camera but to look like that in person you’d have to wear an awful lot of make-up and it would look really false.”
Get clients to work out exactly what it is that appeals to them about the look they have in mind and explain that you can achieve what they want but in a different way. “You can break down the elements of the look they want to achieve: if they want flawless skin and great brows you can give them that. It’s easier for the client to understand like that compared to when they see the complete image online translated through a camera and filters,” says Patel.
Wing also says that having a portfolio that shows a broad spectrum of work and reflects your experience will help reassure clients that you know your stuff and help them to trust you, while Patel recommends before-and-after pictures without filters, as well as video tutorials.
“You’ve got a longer window to record videos on Instagram now and you’ve got Instagram Stories too, so show the process, your technique and the way you work. Show that you’re transparent in what you do.”
These are all good ways to make use of your Instagram page but try not to get fixated on the number of interactions with your posts. “You see influencers with thousands and thousands of followers and it’s easy to feel inferior, but remember that if you’re busy, being paid to do what you do and making a living from being an MUA, that’s you achieving your goal,” says Kilpatrick.
Trust that your training, experience and ongoing professional development will see you through, and don’t be afraid to explain and stick by the differences between your skills and style of make-up and that of “Insta” MUAs.
“Many people who have become ‘Insta famous’ as make-up artists are actually not professionally trained and have no industry experience beyond working on their own faces,” says Wing. “It’s one thing to be a make-up enthusiast and quite another to be a professional make-up artist.”
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