Full disclosure: I am aware that this letter may make me seem like an old biddy who can’t adjust to new technology, but I’m hopeful that by exposing how my conversations with clients as a professional makeup artist have changed over the last 14 years, I’ll help to show how social
media has shifted the way we feel about beauty and ultimately ourselves.
In 2003, I registered for a makeup artistry course. I wasn’t particularly drawn to being a part of the beauty industry, but I wanted a skill that I could take anywhere in the world. I knew that I wanted to travel, and I loved that I could work as a makeup artist without knowing every
language wherever I ended up going. “Just show me a picture of makeup that you like and I’ll recreate the look”. The makeup classes were really fun, like getting dolled up with friends every day, and when the course was complete and I entered the world of freelance makeup artistry I was so excited to make people feel beautiful and confident with simple enhancements of their natural features.
For the first couple of years, that’s exactly what I did. The common things that I would hear from my clients when they first shyly sat in my makeup chair were requests like, “Can you cover this sunspot?”, “I’d like my eyes to ‘pop’ and look brighter”, and “I want to look natural…I’d like my groom to recognize me when I’m walking down the aisle”. It was such a joy to see how my clients stood up straighter after their makeup was done, how they smiled more, and spoke clearer and confidently. While I knew they already looked beautiful when they first entered my studio, but that bit of makeup and pampering time gave them a transformative boost of confidence which was the truest beauty.
Enter the glory of YouTube in 2005. All of the how-to’s, product comparisons, and new information available through free videos was so exciting! I started my own YouTube channel with makeup tutorials and ‘unboxing’ of monthly subscription collections. My clients’ requests
became more detailed and more product-oriented; “Should I be using a primer?”, “I like to apply two or three layers of mascara”, and “What brand of foundation is the best?”. At the time, I didn’t think much of this subtle shift in common conversation, and I was happy that my clients were getting a taste of a makeup education that I would never be able to teach during a 20-minute appointment.
Five years later, 2010 delivered Pinterest and Instagram to the masses. I started using both of these social networks pretty well as soon as they were released and they both soon became a daily check-in for me and thousands of others. Within just a few months, I noticed a drastic
change in how my clients communicated to me, and it quickly became clear that how they were seeing themselves was changing, too. “I want full-face contouring and highlighting so my face looks slimmer”, “Do you mind if we use a darker foundation? My skin is so pale”, and “Smokey eyes, please. The smokier, the better. And lots of false lashes”. I even had a wedding client tell me that if she could have everything fake on her wedding day, she would. The end-of appointment confidence boost directly depended on how closely the client looked like the photo of Carrie Underwood on the red carpet that they brought in for ‘inspiration’.
Today, in 2017, not much has changed about these conversations over the last seven years. The new clients still desire to look like someone else instead of an enhanced version of themselves, and the requests for heavy, face-shape-altering contouring have continued to increase.
Don't get me wrong, dramatic makeup is a lot of fun for me to create looks for, and I’m forever exploring new products and ways to play with how a camera captures skin and facial features. But this article is not about me as a makeup artist. It’s about my beautiful clients and the beliefs they tell themselves through conversations with me.
Social media is full of incredible ways to expand our creative ideas for our homes, wardrobe, activities, hobbies, events, and everything else in our lives. The nasty side, however, is that these networks also provided the beauty industry with new ways to show us our ‘flaws’ and the things we ‘need to improve on’.
I’m hopeful that a more positive shift in the conversation will come soon, and if these dramatic makeup techniques truly conjure genuine confidence, I am certainly not going to shame someone into using less makeup. I do suggest, however, that maybe we should spend more time admiring the natural beauty in the mirror, and less time looking at other people on our computer and smartphone screens.
It might be a cliché phrase, but it is cliché for the simple reason that it’s true: You are beautiful with or without makeup. And please don’t let social media make you think otherwise.