The Basics: Makeup Brush Cleaning 101

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If you follow Makeup to Go on Instagram

– and you should @makeuptogoblog – you may have noticed that things have been quite active over there. I’m finally investing time into the Makeup to Go Blog Instagram feed and it’s starting to come into form and look nice and spiffy 🙂 AND I love that Instagram offers me immediate feedback into what people want to see and learn. So one of the things I’ve come to realize unequivocally is that people want more tutorials and videos, no matter how basic the presentation may be.

With that in mind, here is an Instagram Story video where I go through step-by-step on how I wash my brushes. Now; I’m not saying this is the ONLY way to wash brushes, but this is a more typically professional method than some of the methods you may see online. And I also explain why I do some of the things that I do. This method has keep my brushes in good usable condition for years and years and years and also I have yet to ever cause anyone a skin irritation/reaction using this method (knock on wood!).

I should say, this Insta Story became seriously popular. Like WOW. I guess I’m a q-dork, but I had no idea it would be so popular. It is saved on the @Makeuptogoblog Instagram as a “Highlight” but I also thought what the heck, let’s go ahead and post it on the blog where it can live for all posterity. I am working on the capacity to be able to do more videos and I want them to look more professional, etc. but in the meantime I will be taking advantage of Insta Stories and Instagram Live as both teaching tools and ways to connect with my audience. So if there is anything in particular you want to see, lay it on me in Comments! I’m all ears 🙂

You might also like my previous articles on makeup brushes and keeping your makeup clean.

ALSO! Major thanks to Illyne Michel for helping me film this tutorial. You can check out her makeup fabulosity at @mua_illynemichel

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#MakeupMonday – Skin Prep

makeup to go blog makeup los angeles makeup san francisco tania d russell nick horne photographer

© N. Horne
Makeup by Tania D. Russell

Skin Prep

For a makeup artist, prepping the skin before actually applying the makeup is oftentimes more important than the makeup itself. Proper skin preparation helps the makeup glide on like butter and last and look fresh for hours. Without it – unless you have really perfect skin – we’re talking uneven texture, half-eaten makeup on dry skin, half-slid off the face makeup on oily skin; mass hysteria!

I come from a makeup land before time when Primers did not exist. Therefore – while I like and do use Primers now – my primary methodology for getting skin where I need it to be is proper moisturizing. Choose the right moisturizer and moisturize the skin properly and you may find you do not even need a Primer. Further, proper moisturizing can make a good Primer work even better. Therefore I’m giving my moisturizer and Primer combo tips for each skin type. PRO TIP: Not all moisturizers work under makeup. Many will actually undermine your makeup performance. The following have all been tried and tested by moi both on private clients and for photography.


Moisture Moisture Moisture must be your mantra when you have dry skin. And not just emoilient (although dry skin does need lipids), but hydration. Dehydrated skin eats makeup leaving behind blotchy, uneven and tired looking skin.

makeup to go blog skin prep ren ultra moisture day cream
REN – Ultra Moisture Day Cream
This cream is everything I love in a moisturizer for dry skin. It is both emollient and hydrating, so it bolsters the moisture layer of fragile dry skin. It is chock full of anti-oxidants to protect against pesky free-radicals. It is NOT petroleum based so it doesn’t make makeup slide (and it doesn’t irritate sensitive skin that does not do well with petroleum or mineral oils). In short, it is fab.

makeup to go blog skin prep smashbox photo finish hydrating primer
SMASHBOX – Photo Finish Hydrating Primer
I’ve mentioned this product a lot and for a long time. This product refines the skin surface for a smooth makeup application without being overly aggressive and drying the way many primers are. It also isn’t too moisturizing which can make makeup slip.


Normal skin usually does not need much and that’s why the rest of us hate you 😉 If you have “Normal” skin, the trick is not to do too much. Overuse of mattifying, “pore refining”, etc. type products which are meant for oily skin can make your skin appear dry. OR you can overdo it in moisturizing products meant for drier skin and make your skin act oily. The key for Normal skin is to go easy.

makeup to go blog skin prep cerave moisturizing lotion
CERAVE – Moisturizing Lotion
This is just a good, solid, basic moisturizer with no actives which is my preference for underneath makeup applications. They do make a version with an SPF30 if that is easier for your personal use instead of using a separate sunscreen. The key to CeraVe is their use of ceramides which helps to replenish the lipid barrier of the skin which helps to protect the skin. Dry and Normal skins can generally benefit greatly from the use of ceramides. Oilier skins should proceed with caution as too much ceramide use can cause breakouts in some folks.

makeup to go blog skin prep earth science naturals herbal tonic mist
I recently posted about Smashbox’s Primer Water – which I do like performance wise – but upon doing some further research I realized I didn’t love the ingredients in that product. There are a few different “primer mist” products out there (MAC, MUFE, Smashbox, etc.) and really all a Primer mist really is, is a diluted form of a toner in a spray bottle. Therefore instead of recommending a makeup brand, I’m keeping it 100. I have used Earth Science Herbal Tonic Mist for nearly 20 years. I use it on myself and in my pro kit. It is hydrating (thanks to aloe vera, sodium hyaluronate, NAPCA, and a host of skin-lovin’ botanicals), refreshing, yummy smelling (faint herbal smell), and altogether fab. AND it’s around $10 for an 8 oz bottle.


Wearing makeup with Oily skin is rough. My skin is so oily still (hello?! 45 years old!) that I frequently do not bother. When I do wear makeup the key is keeping my skin balanced so that it doesn’t kick up excess oil that will make my makeup disappear. Super drying products are actually counter productive as they will cause your skin to overcompensate with the oil. Keep your skin hydrated and lightly mattified and your makeup will stay in tact longer. (and for heavens sake NEVER use Magnesium Hydroxide – most commonly known as “Milk of Magnesia” – on your face. It destroys the acid mantle and causes all types of distress to the skin.)

makeup to go blog skin prep embryolisse hydra-mat emulsion
EMBRYOLISSE – Hydra-Mat Emulsion
Yes makeup artists love the 24-Hour Miracle Cream aka Lait Creme Concentre. NO it is not appropriate for all skin types and situations. The base is paraffin and beeswax. My skin got oilier just by typing that. The Hydra-Mat is an emulsion of glycerin and apricot kernel oil which is a lightweight oil. It is rich in antioxidants and lipids to give skin the protective barrier it needs but it won’t make most oily skin folks skin go cray. The formula also has cornstarch to help absorb any excess sebum that does make an appearance.

makeup to go blog skin prep aubrey organics pure aloe vera jelly
AUBREY ORGANICS – Pure Aloe Vera Jelly
I’ve said it before but it’s been a long time; my favorite primer for truly oily skin by far is pure Aloe Vera. Not the cheap kind in rainbow colors you can get at the drugstore (aside from the artificial coloring, the binders that thicken those types of aloe gels are no bueno), but pure aloe vera jelly as you can get from a natural foods store. Aloe binds moisture to the skin, provides a protective layer, reduces inflammation, contains anti-oxidants, and is in general The Truth. I use Aloe on my skin everyday.

(this post was published on the road so apologies for excessive typos/errors… We’ll edit it into shape soon 🙂 )

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#MakeupMonday – Summer Proof Makeup

Summer Proof Makeup

For most of the country we are in “the dog days of summer” (I’ve never known exactly how that expression came to be before now). I say most of the country because for those of us in Southern California, this weather is going to continue until October. But for everyone else this is the height of summer heat. A while back I wrote a piece called Extending Your Summer Glow, which talked about keeping your summer glow going a bit longer as the weather may be starting to change. But when you are in the height of summer heat you may find you are glowing a bit too much. It’s hard to stay cute when your face is melting but there are products and techniques out there that can help.

1 ) Take Care Of Your Skin

As an oily-head with breakout prone skin I’ve learned that the easiest way for my skin to look its best in the summer is to just take care of my skin. As a pro makeup artist, I can always tell who is and who isn’t when a client sits in my chair. Always. If you are feeling it, you can be one of those ladies who does 6 steps in the morning and 10 steps at night. I’m not the one, I need my skincare routine to be effective and fast. Whatever approach you choose, the key to having a skincare routine really make a difference is consistency. Find a plan that works and do it every single morning and night. Whether you feel like it or not. Just do it. And go drink some water while you’re at it.
(I’ve written a number of skincare articles on Makeup to Go. Click here to check out the Skincare archives if you want to see some of the products I recommend….)

2 ) Now Is The Time to Prime

If you’ve ever taken a lesson and/or class with me you know that I like primers but I’m not married to them. Particularly for my photographic work they are often a needless added step as I will likely change the makeup throughout the shoot. That said, for personal use and/or any situation where you want the makeup to last Primers can be a lifesaver. Right now I am digging;

Hourglass Cosmetics Mineral Veil Primer: This is an amazing “does it all” product. It neutralizes minor uneven-ness in skintone, creates an even skin texture, and it is both mattifying AND water-proof so it will not break down when summer’s heat makes you a bit more “dewy”. It’s pricey, but it is worth every penny (and anyway you will not need to use much at a time so it is cost effective). Pro Tip: As mentioned in my article about doing makeup for awards shows, this is a Must Have in my pro makeup kit.

Boots No7 Stay Perfect Primer: As we all know I do not love drugstore brands as a whole, however Boots No7 products are overall pretty darn good. Like the Hourglass Mineral Veil, this primer neutralizes uneven skintone a bit, and creates a smooth skin finish upon which to apply your makeup. Unlike the Hourglass, it is $12.99 not $52. For the budget conscious beauty-ista, this is a very nice option. Honorable Mention – No7 Beautifully Matte Makeup Base which is the stronger mattifying formula for oily skin. It’s a bit thick, so apply sparingly so it doesn’t go chalky on you.

Smashbox: Overall if I had to pick one brand for all of my Primer needs, I think Smashbox makes the best array of Primers overall. I have used and loved so many of their priming products, but two of particular note for fighting summer makeup melt are the Hydrating Under Eye Primer which keeps under-eye concealer from slipping, and the fantastic Photo Finish Primer Water which hydrates and refines skin texture and creates a pretty glowy finish. Sidenote: As of right now as I am writing this article they have a limited edition Try It Kit of their primers containing the Water, the Undereye, the eyeshadow primer and the iconic original Photo Finish Primer. Try It Kit Primer Authority.

3 ) Take It Easy on Foundation & Concealer

Even out the skin and leave it at that. The more product you pile on, the more there is to slip off (or become an oil-slick). Also for me, too much makeup in the heat just feels gross. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I dig silicone based foundations. They don’t slip (as much), they don’t cake, you can use very little and get very good coverage, and they are generally lightweight in feel. I have professed my love for Face Atelier’s Ultra Foundation many times and it is fab. This year they introduced Ultra Skin which is a pro-grade BB-cream-type formulation. It has just enough coverage to give smooth finish and even out skin tone without feeling heavy in any way. AND it has a nice array of colors, including one deep enough for someone of my complexion.

If you are a concealer user, the right formulation in summer can make all the difference. Too creamy and it can cake, separate and slip but too liquid-y and it just doesn’t do anything. I love Keromask but I have gotten feedback that folks would like a product that is easier to find and purchase. Enter Make Up For Ever’s Full Cover Concealer. This concealer is no joke. It is oil free with a matte finish, waterproof, and highly pigmented. The Full Cover Concealer is a liqui-cream formula, which is generally my favorite concealer type (it is flexible and moves with the skin for less chance of creasing and cracking), and it comes in a full range of colors for every skin tone.

4 ) Embrace Creams and Stains

Most women are more used to powder cosmetics so the thought of using cream and/or liquid products can be daunting but it need not be. Today’s formulations are easier to use than ever and many of the best products actually come in chubby pencil form, which is easy peasy to use at home or on the road. For eyes, I love Dedra Beauty’s Smudge Pencils. The Smudge Pencils are creamy and blendable but then stay put once set. With these you can do a sheer neutral eye, a daytime eye or a smokey eye and the most difficult tool you’ll need are your own fingers. (Disclosure: I am a Team Dedra Beauty artist and Dedra is a personal friend of mine, so yes I get Dedra Beauty product for free and yes I am totally biased. That said, I really do think the brand is excellent across the board – and you know I do not say that about many brands – hence, I am one of her Ambassadors…).

For cheeks and lips I’m headed back to by beloved Tarte Cosmetics. You know I love my Tarte and that I have loved their cheek stains since forever. For the lips, the LipSurgence Lip Stain sticks are the bees knees. They come in a wonderful array of colors, they are long lasting and they will not suck the life and moisture out of your lips (in fact they are hydrating).

In the cheek stain category, Tarte has just introduced “Energy” which is a reactive formula that will create the perfect color of a pretty flush based on your own skin PH. This is not a new concept in makeup (anyone remember when “mood lipstick” was all the rage in the 80s?) but it is a concept that is trending once again. If you are not about trends, get the OG Tarte Cheek Stain. My fave colors are Tipsy and Flush.

5 ) Add A Little Glow

Illuminators and Highlighters look so pretty on the bronzed skin of summer, and do not just limit it to the face. A little sheen and shimmer on shoulders, collarbones and legs is absolutely gorgeous. If you are a naturally fair beauty whose skin does not take on bronze-y glow, you can either create a fake one OR (my vote) illuminate your natural porcelain complexion and let your fair skin be great. I just talked about some great illuminators/highlighters in the Strobing article from a couple of weeks ago. In that article I mentioned NARS Malibu Multiple which isn’t great for strobing for most complexions, but is fab to either create or enhance a slightly bronzed glow. Now, of course, I am no longer seeing it on the NARS website. NARS will break your heart by discontinuing favorite products on the regular so do yourself a favor and try not to become attached. I’ll have to find a replacement product for Malibu now. #LeSigh

For deeper complexioned beauties, I have long loved Iman Cosmetics Sheer Finish Bronzing Powder. It is finely milled with just right right amount of shimmer to create a sultry summer glow. AND I’ve been using it for well over a decade. Unlike some other brands, Iman is not a cruel heartbreaker. 😐

My philosophy about summer makeup is that is should be as easy living as the season itself. Between beach days, bar-b-ques, summer concerts and pool parties, summer is the time to focus on the fun and let makeup take a bit of a back seat.

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#MakeupMonday – Strobing – What It Is What it Ain’t

makeup to go blog strobing ellis faas glow up powder

Ellis Faas Cosmetics Glow Up Powder S501
Perfect for the Strobing Technique

So strobing.

Yet another “makeup trend” for folks to follow. And of course, as with any makeup trend, there are certain products that are “must haves” in order to achieve the look and then once you get one set of “must have” products another set comes along telling you that you “must have” those too.

In all likelihood, if you have a complete makeup kit either for yourself or for your use as an artist, you already own a number of things that can be used to Strobe, so let’s break down what it is, what it isn’t, how it works best, and what you do need in order to accomplish the look.

What Is Strobing?

Basically Strobing is using highlight to sculpt and emphasize bone structure. It’s the “softer side” of the (overworked) Contour craze that has been trending in makeup for a while now. What “Strobing” isn’t is new, in any way, shape or form. As with Contouring, artists have been doing this since forever. And as with a good Contour job, Strobing takes a deft hand because it can quickly go awry when done incorrectly. The point is to create subtle highlights, not to look like you’re oily or worse, covered in glitter. My favorite video demonstrating the technique doesn’t even call it Strobing. Here makeup artist extraordinare Ellis Faas demonstrates the technique as she’s introducing her Glow Up powder.

and obviously if you want a more extreme strobe, you can just apply more product. If you do that, however, you’ll need to be VERY precise in your application lest you end up looking like you hit the chicken shack full force.

If we’re using the term, I guess, I “strobed” this model. Again, I didn’t call it “strobing” but I wanted to bring out her bone structure without the use of Contour. Truth be told, I’m far more into this look than I am the heavy contour look. I think this look is lighter, fresher and more modern.

makeup to go blog strobing what it is

© K. Szatmari
Makeup by Tania D. Russell

What Products do I Need to Strobe?

So you like Strobing and want to add it to your technique arsenal? It’s as simple as reaching for your nearest Illuminator/Highlighter. That’s it. No special product required. Here are the illuminators/Highlighters I currently have in my rotation:

makeup to go blog strobing hourglass ambient lighting palette
1 ) Hourglass – Ambient Lighting Palette
I professed my love for this palette in a previous post and I still love it. I can use this highly versatile palette of subtle sheen anywhere on the face to create a pretty glow that is never overly sparkly. And with three colors in a palette, I always have the right shade for whomever I may be working on.

makeup to go blog strobing becca cosmetics shimmering skin perfector® powder
2 ) Becca Cosmetics – Shimmering Skin Perfector®
Like the Ambient Lighting powders, Becca Cosmetics Shimmering Skin Perfector® pressed powders are finely milled and apply like velvet. I would say these are a bit more shimmery than the Ambient Lights, particularly depending on what color you get. I tend to like Highlighters/Illuminators that are more nude-y so I can use them all over the face (and on a wider range of skintones). I have the Shimmering Skin Perfector® in Moonstone, which is a pale gold, and Topaz, which is a golden bronze. The latter I use on deeper complexions and the former I use on fairer complexions.

makeup to go blog strobing kevyn aucoin celestial lights powder
3 ) Kevyn Aucoin – The Celestial Powder
The Celestial Powder is almost difficult to describe. You remember in Old Hollywood how they allegedly used to put Vaseline™ on the lens in order to diffuse the image and give the actress a “glow”. The Celestial Powder is that glow in a compact. It’s a truly beautiful product. It is lightweight, almost suede-like in feel, and adds a subtle but present highlight to any area applied. If memory serves it only comes in one color – Candlelight – which as the name suggests gives the skin a beautiful candle lit glow.

Sadly I do not actually own Ellis Faas’ Glow Up powder, so I cannot speak to it. I already have too many products of this type to justify purchasing it. If anyone out there has the Glow Up powder, hit the Comments and let us all know how it is 🙂

PRO TIP: Any pro quality powder cosmetic can also be applied damp to intensify the color and effect. So if you want a more intense highlighting effect, simply apply with a slightly dampened brush. Be sure to let your product dry completely before closing it so it doesn’t warp or get moldy.

makeup to go blog strobing NARS cosmetics copacabana multiples
4 ) Nars – The Multiples – Copacabana
NARS is really doing the most with The Multiples nowadays. The Multiples is one of NARS oldest and most successful products in their brand, but now they have new Matte Multiples and all these bizarre colors, and this that and the third. Needless to say I’ll have to visit a boutique soon and see what all that is about. In the meantime as far as strobing needs are concerned, I would look no further than Copacabana which is a nude-y sheen-y color texture. It has long been my favorite Multiple by a mile (I love Malibu as well but it’s the wrong color for our purposes right now). A cream product can give you stronger “Strobing” action than most powders will, and in fact it can be layered with powder.

makeup to go blog strobing all over shimmer liquid stila cosmetics
5 ) Stila Cosmetics – All Over Shimmer Liquid
A liquid will potentially give you the most strobing action of any product type. You can apply lightly for a subtle sheen, or you can go for it and kick up the bright lights. Use With Caution! Stila’s All Over Shimmer has long been favorite of mine for giving pronounced highlighting action without being sparkly. It used to be available in a truly nude color (#1), but unfortunately that color is no longer. Of the available options, I’d recommend Kitten.

makeup to go blog strobing moonbeam highbeam benefit cosmetics
Honorable Mention: Benefit Cosmetics Moonbeam and HighbeamMoonbeam is an iridescent apricot color, and Highbeam is an iridescent pearl color. They are a little bit more glittery than the All Over Shimmer liquid, and they can also be either applied for subtle sheen or for all out shine.

makeup to go blog strobing becca cosmetics shimmering skin perfector® liquid
Honorable Mention 2: Nowadays I actually use Becca Cosmetics liquid version of their Shimmering Skin Perfector®. It’s a more subtle sheen (less sparkly), but also buildable and Pearl is a perfect nude-y white sheen color.

PRO TIP: I would not use a liquid highlighter/illuminator around the eyes. I’m sure people have, but I cannot imagine what that would feel like if you accidentally got some in your eyes. I’ll stick to powders around the eyes. Do not say I did not warn you.

makeup to go blog strobing ben nye lumiere powder
5 ) Ben Nye – Lumiere Powder

If you are tired of playing games and want intense sheen and highlight, this is the product for you. This is a theatrical makeup, so it’s meant to withstand lights and read from off stage. AKA – it’s strong: Proceed with caution. That said, this has been one of my favorite products which I’ve kept in my Kit for years and years.

How Do I Strobe?

I don’t make tutorial videos (yet… we’ll see in the future), but I would say the video I posted from Ellis Faas is a good outline. The areas you’ll want to highlight are;

– Brow Bone
– Inner eye corners
– **tops of the cheekbone**
– **center of the nose**
– and possibly the cupids bow of the lips (use a light hand as that highlight sometimes just looks sweaty)

Ms. Faas also did the center of the lower eyelid in order to further accentuate the Orbital Bone, and I like to do the center of the forehead (as long as there is no breakout or whathaveyou) and right above the brows to further accentuate the temples.

You’ll note both of the brushes she used were rather small. This is important so as to maintain control of your product instead of your product going all over and controlling you. I recommend brushes such as;

makeup to go blog strobing bdellium tools maestro 939 brush
Bdellium Tools – Maestro 939 Angled Detailer which is a small, angled detail brush for precise application on the nose, cheeks, etc.


makeup to go blog strobing bdellium tools maestro 780 brush
Bdellium Tools – Maestro 780 Pencil for the inner eye corners. “Pencil” brushes are short, dense hair brushes that allow for clean application of product in that difficult inner eye area. I also like Pencils for smokey eyes so I get smokey eyes not Out Of Control raccoon eyes.

Bare in mind also that different products are better for different skin types and conditions. If you have really perfect skin without a lot of texture, you can use pretty much whatever you want, as strongly as you want. However if you have acne, wrinkles, enlarged pores, or any other type of skin texture issue, shimmer will accentuate the texture so less is more. For more mature skin I love the Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Powder. For skin with a lot of texture, I like the Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector® Liquid or the Hourglass Ambient Lighting powders.

Have you tried the Strobing phenomenon? How did it go? Let us know in Comments, or better yet, send in a picture!

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#BizTalk – Taking Your Makeup Kit From Student to Pro

makeup to go blog Los Angeles makeup San Francisco makeup Tania d Russell taking your makeup kit from student to pro

I was asked to make a post specifically about taking your kit from student to Pro, and I wanted to be sure to do so before this weekend’s The Makeup Show trade show. This one goes out to all of my Emerging Artists who are finishing up makeup school and about to head out into the Real Makeup World. If you’re just starting out DIY-style and didn’t go to a makeup school, hopefully this helps you as well. 🙂

makeup to go blog taking your makeup kit from student to pro

…but one of the many variations of my working makeup kit…

Ahh product. Product is great. Don’t you love it? I sure do. And lucky us, as makeup artists we legitimately need product to do our work. HOWEVER product is but ONE piece of the financial puzzle of growing a makeup business. Obviously, buying new makeup is the fun piece of the puzzle, right? But buying makeup because you actually have JOBS is even more fun. And getting jobs means doing what it takes to get booked as a freelancer. Thus, when transitioning from a student to a Pro, you have to resist the temptation to just wildly buy AllOfTheThings and develop a plan of investing in and building your kit.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]A lot of would-be artists never make it because they tether themselves financially and cannot afford to invest in their makeup business[/pullquote]

Let me say that again for the folks in the back: If you do not allocate the money necessary to grow your business, you will soon be out of business.

What are these business expenses of which I speak?

– Promotions (business cards, promo cards, your website, a digital or print portfolio, etc.)
– Continued Education
– Trade Shows
– Testing and/or low budget projects (if a job isn’t making you money, it’s costing you money, period.)
– Job opportunities (??? Yep. As a freelancer many jobs require money spent up front (travel, accommodations, special items like Wigs, etc.) and then you’ll be paid back when the client pays your invoice.)
– Transportation to and from tests and jobs including parking, tolls, train fees (BART goes up seemingly every time in working in the SF Bay Area).
– Business and personal insurance
– Liscensing and/or professional fees where applicable
– Taxes (as a freelancer you pay business tax and eventually you’ll be kissing those refunds goodbye)

If I took the time to think I could probably come up with 5 more things to add to this list. Also, be mentally prepared for the fact that – at least for those of us who work in media makeup – you will likely NOT be paid right away. Sometimes you can negotiate for that, but more often than not you will invoice a client and the industry standard is that they have 30 days to pay you. Some international jobs take 60-90 days. And real talk: 30 days often means 40-45 days. Therefore maintaining your cashflow so you can keep going is one of the most important aspects of becoming and staying a freelance artist.

How would I suggest proceeding thoughtfully and wisely with taking your makeup kit from Student to Pro? Here we go…

1) First Things First
Without any doubt, when you are first coming out of school the two main things you need to invest in are your foundation/skin products and your tools. The inter-webs are constantly inundating you, as a young artist, with the latest greatest thing that is supposed to take you from rank amateur to superstar makeup artist in five seconds. But do you really need a new gadget to help you clean your brushes when you haven’t invested in good brushes yet? Do you really need a new doodad to give you a “flawless foundation finish” when you don’t have a full selection of foundations yet? If you get called to a job and you find you do not have the proper color foundation for your client you’re going to wish you had bought foundation instead of some silly thing to clean your brushes. And PLEASE do NOT forget skincare!!!!! Your preparation prior to applying makeup can be more important than the makeup application itself. This is a time where cheap-o drugstore brands will largely NOT get it done (although there are a few exceptions). Quality skincare will absolutely, positively elevate your makeup applications.

2 ) Think Like A Pro
If you’re saying you’re a pro makeup artist then it is time to start thinking like one. The latest greatest products do not necessarily work for us. Mass-market/drugstore brands do not necessarily work for us. Does the caliber of product I am using correlate with the work that I am doing? (i.e. – if I’m doing a $150 headshot job, is now the time to pull out my $80 Tom Ford foundation?) When I open my kit am I making a good presentation/first impression to my client? These are all things that must be considered when building a kit. I am NOT a fan of an artist running out and buying all the most expensive product in an attempt to impress a client. Even if you can afford it, a lot of that stuff does not even work in a pro kit. That said, you absolutely cannot open your kit and have a bunch of cheap brands (BH Cosmetics, Coastal Scents, etc.) and mass-market/drugstore stuff with a couple of popular items stuck in there and call that a working kit. Your kit should be a balance of professional product and high quality brand-name product that you know will perform when you go to use it. Oh and forego the temptation to buy these super-premium makeup brushes that are all the rage as well. Some of them are amazing, some of them are all hype, none of them will turn you into Troy Suratt overnight. Artistry is in your hands and your skill-set which is developed with time, not product.

3 ) Not Everyone Is Your Color
Even if you get a good brand-name product, it does not mean it will work on everyone. Below is a picture of my hand. On top is a “black” eyeshadow color from a popular consumer brand, middle the Black eyeshadow color from the LORAC Pro 1 eyeshadow palette, and the bottom is the BLACK eyeshadow color from the Viseart #1 neutral palette. See the difference? When you are purchasing for your kit, remember that people of color not only need a different color range, but we also need a lot more pigmentation. I’ll tell you right now those cheap-o 1-zillion color eyeshadow palettes do not even register on my skin. It will look like you did not even put anything on me. It is vital to bear this in mind when you are selecting your color cosmetics.

makeup to go blog taking your makeup kit from student to pro

black-ish, blacker, blackest… not all color cosmetics are created equal

4 ) Get Organized
The way I see a lot of students carry their products is – and I mean this in the most loving way possible – laughable. You will never be able to work with these setups. The most common mistake I see is people trying to carry EVERYTHING with them all the time because they’re “afraid” of not having something. A ) That’s highly inefficient and will make you work more slowly. B ) It’s unrealistic almost anywhere other than LA where we drive everywhere. In NYC and SF – for example – you will likely be on public transportation to the job and then you may have to carry that kit up multiple flights of stairs. How’s that train case looking now? C ) That’s a good way to have your entire inventory of product damaged, lost or stolen. D ) If you are working on a private client in their home or hotel room, they are not checking for you dragging some big a** setup into their space. Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

On the flip-side, those little boxes that open up with the drawers are really only good for smaller jobs/private clients where you can take a more edited kit. Otherwise you’re trying to cram too many things in too small of a space and it gets messy and cluttered, which slows you down and also does not make a good first impression. And your product can become easily damaged that way.

I have posted articles on my kit setup before (click to read), and I am about to do a new updated post because things have changed again. But if you do some research online it is easy to find information on how working artists organize their kits and even though every single artist on the planet has their own method, you will see certain commonalities repeated and you can start to emulate those practices.

5 ) Think Long-Term and Cross Platform
I think the reason a lot of artists become fixated on the latest greatest new palette or whatever is because they are trapped in their current circumstance, and not thinking about further down the line. Let’s say you are currently primarily doing Bridal. On a Bride you may very well use a lot of the popular consumer products, because there is a lot of psychology involved with doing “real people” clients and part of that is making them comfortable with product with which they are familiar. What many consumers think of as “high end” and “professional”, however, most artists would not. If you only build a kit with bridal/consumer clients in mind, what happens when you go to move beyond Bridal? If you have ambitions to move into media makeup, for example, you need to build a kit with that in mind, starting now. First of all, quite frankly, your bridal will come out better. If you think of Bridal as a photographic event – because once you do the bride’s makeup she will be photographed all day and night – you and your bride will be much happier with the final makeup outcome. Secondly, there is no more sign of being an amateur than having to do the mad dash shopping trip before a job. That’s just lack of preparedness. Buy products that can work in multiple venues. I already showed the difference – for example – between the Viseart and LORAC Pro palettes, and the run-of-the-mill consumer brand palette. If you select professional foundation/skin products and then stick to color products that can work in multiple mediums, you have just saved yourself a lot of time and money AND you’ll be ready to work when the opportunity presents itself.

6 ) What Else Are You Doing?
Thus far we have talked about the Beauty makeup kit. This blog is run by a beauty makeup artist and hence, most of my discussion is from that point of view. Also on the practical level, it is where a lot of artists start since a lot of artists nowadays start out with bridal or working for a cosmetics line, etc. However, for most of us the Beauty Kit will not be the only game in town. For example, a goodly percentage of my jobs – over half, I would say – also necessitate that I do hair. This means I had to invest in and now have to maintain a hair kit. Hair product is expensive. Tools are expensive. One of my best clients also required that I carry extensions. Extensions are expensive. Therefore, you will need to plan for that as well. I also do a lot of men’s grooming so I had to invest in a good clipper/trimmer, a nose/ear hair trimmmer (which thankfully I rarely ever have to use, but I do have it), and with the whole “Lumbersexual” trend, beard grooming/styling product, etc.

And we have not even touched upon maintaining an FX kit, which you will obviously need to do if you plan to work in FX. I do NOT work in FX at all, HOWEVER I’ve worked on projects where I had to bald cap or do some facial hair work. Or create a bruise or bloodshot eyes. So while I do not often carry it with me, even I have to own some theatrical/character makeup (I refuse to keep any blood of any kind whatsoever. Refuse!!! LOL)

7 ) How Do You Get There?
If this post seems like more questions than answers, my apologies but it kind of is. I am throwing out guidelines for you to think about as you grow your kit and your business. Here at Makeup to Go, I focus a lot on thinking, which is exactly what a lot of these trend brands and trend items do not want you to do. They want you to blindly purchase whatever it is they are selling so they can keep making money. I want you to not be a sheep and to build a successful makeup business. if you want a particular popular item because you have thought about it and decided that it is going to add value to your kit/business, go for it. The name of the game, however, is making informed choices based on your priorities of what you are trying to do and where you are trying to go. If it is not adding anything to the party, skip it. Once you have what you feel is a fully materialized kit where you can walk out the door to any job feeling prepared, then you can start adding in doodads, trinkets, and the latest palette du jour if you so choose. 🙂

8 ) Give Me Some Specific Recommendations, Dammit!
As you know, I talk a lot about products I am actually using here on the blog, so that is a good place to start. I am reticent to “prescribe” specific products because the journey of developing a kit is quite personal. What one artists loves another may disdain, hence I am a huge advocate of getting a lot of samples and trying a lot of product before you settle down and start committing.

THAT SAID: If you just want to know what products I use and recommend, there is always my Makeup to Go Preferred Products List. You can buy the List for $10, or you can by a Subscription (updated quarterly or so, and actually a new update is coming soon) for $25/year. The links to purchase are below.

MTG Preferred Products List –

MTG Preferred Products List SUBSCRIPTION –

As you can see, there is a lot to think about, purchase, maintain and upkeep in the professional working kit. Do you really have time for another contour kit? Nah…and not only that, if you have a functional pro kit, you do not need a contour kit at all. You’ll already have about 10000 different products you can contour/highlight with.