As a professional makeup artist, I always ask a new client if they’ve had their makeup done before. If so, I ask what they did, or didn’t like about it.
Unfortunately, sometimes a client tells me they had it done previously and disliked the outcome. They sometimes say they were so unhappy, they went home and washed it off.
Clients tell me they didn’t ask their artist for changes because they didn’t want to hurt their feelings or seem difficult. While it’s admirable to consider others’ feelings, this is a paid service, not the artist’s personal portfolio project.
You need to be happy with what you are purchasing, just as if it were a pair of jeans or an entree at a restaurant. If worded correctly and kindly, feedback doesn’t have to be negative and this is a business transaction, not a personal attack.
Here’s how to give clear direction when getting your makeup done, as well as kind but direct feedback, ensuring you leave with a look you love, or at least like.
Photos say what words cannot. I always tell clients that while you don’t have to find an exact look you want top to bottom, it helps me to see what the client is attracted to. I often see several images of the same celebrity, or a reoccurring theme that runs through the photos. That helps me to understand what the client finds beautiful.
Most artists will ask what you like about each photo, but if not, make sure to note which parts of the look you like best.
Examples: “The eye makeup here is darker than I would want, but I just really love how the skin looks.”
“I love the bronze eyeshadow look, but definitely want a lighter lip than shown here.”
HOW TO FIND PHOTOS
When I’ve asked clients what they searched for, most say “natural,” and I have to giggle. By now, there is such a wide and varied spectrum of “natural” makeup that the search term no longer seems effective.
What to Search
Instead, of natural, try searching neutral if you want a look without bright colors.
The term soft should get you closer to “natural” makeup results. I had better luck when I searched “soft bridal makeup” on Pinterest vs. “natural wedding makeup” but “soft glam” can still be more glam than soft.
Try searching for your specific features “makeup for green eyes” or “makeup for deep skin tones”. A smoky eye will look different on blue eyes and fair skin tone than deep brown eyes and an olive skin tone.
Pinterest is great if you know the right terms, and they have a new predictive feature that will allow you to narrow results by skin tone.
Searching hashtags on Instagram can be helpful, but some are too broad so try to niche down or prepare to scroll.
HOW TO REQUEST SPECIFIC LOOKS
If you didn’t have time to save any photo references, here’s how to make several common requests.
Don’t want your eyes too dark and heavy?
Ask for: light and bright, inner corner highlight, dark brown liner instead of black, delicate false lashes
Want to make sure your complexion isn’t too heavy?
Ask for: sheer to light coverage only where needed, maintaining freckles are still visible (if applicable)
Makeup that feels special occasion but isn’t super glamorous.
Ask for: makeup that keeps the focus on the eyes, but a softer lip.
If you never wear makeup and are nervous even a little will look heavy.
Ask for: A fresh, slightly elevated everyday look. Light eyeshadow, minimal or no eyeliner, skip false lashes and a tinted gloss for lips.
EXPRESSING YOUR DISLIKES
I think it’s almost more helpful to know what someone doesn’t like, more than what they do. If you never like certain colors or textures on yourself, make it known.
For example, I know that I hate grey and silver eyeshadow on myself, so I would ask for warm tones, stating that I do not like cool tones like grey.
If you feel that some lip colors look too orangey on you, tell the artist you prefer a cool tone lip and want to avoid warm tones.
Artists don’t know what we don’t know, but once you put it out there, it eliminates the possibility of creating a look someone hates. In the past, clients have expressed things like “I know I don’t like winged eyeliner on myself” or “matte lips aren’t for me” and that helps me to avoid those things right out of the gate.
Ask for what you want, be clear about what you don’t, and if you don’t know, ask what the artist would recommend. This way, you and your artist can maximize the time you have together, instead of guessing your way through or making endless tweaks.
There are 2 important aspects of feedback: identifying the issue and verbalizing it. Many struggle with expressing it, but sometimes, it can be difficult to pinpoint what feels off as well. Here are a few tips on how to do both.
Identifying the issue
When your makeup artist hands you a mirror and your initial look reveals that something is off, here’s a way to identify what aspect of the look needs tweaked.
When you first look at your makeup, if no feature jumps out at you right away, that’s usually a good sign because it means the look feels balanced. If your eyes go straight to one area, in a negative way, that is likely what is throwing you off.
Example: if you notice your brows right away, they might be a bit too heavy for your taste.
Asking for changes
Start with a positive, express the area of concern, use and instead of but where possible.
Example: “I love how my skin looks, and could we just soften the brows a bit?”
“I like the lip, and I think I’d love it more if the shade were more pink.”
Don’t demand, inquire
I want to introduce you to one of my very favorite phrases when it comes to asking for changes:
“Would it be possible to?”
Examples: “Would it be possible to add a bit more cheek color?”
“Would it be possible to try a lighter lip color?”
“Is there a way to soften the appearance of these pores on my cheek?”
No need to explain yourself, simply ask the question.
WHEN IT’S TOO FAR GONE
While I hope the following scenarios don’t happen to you, here’s what to ask for should the following go awry.
Your foundation color looks wrong, too dark, light, or the wrong undertone entirely.
Say: “Could we take this color all the way down my neck for photos?”
If too light, “Could we add a little bronzer to warm things up?”
Your skin looks matte, dull and dry.
Say: “I’d like to add some glow to my skin. Do you have a dewy highlight or hydration spray we could add?”
Your eyes are way too dark.
Say: “Would it be possible to buff out some of the eyeshadow to lighten it?” Or if the lower lash line is too dark, “could we leave the lower lash line bright?”
You hate the entire look, start to finish and time is of the essence.
Say: “I think I’ll feel best if I make some tweaks of my own and I don’t want to hold anything up. Thank you for getting me most of the way there. It was nice meeting you!”
If you can make changes discreetly, out of sight of the makeup artist, that is preferred, but if you may need to get ready for wedding party photos in the same room, this may not be possible.
FOR CURRENT OR FUTURE MAKEUP ARTISTS
While makeup artistry is considered a creative profession, it’s still a service being performed on another human being with ideas, past experiences and hangups of their own. If feedback hurts your feelings and your first instinct is to take it personally, I would not suggest makeup artistry as a career for you. That isn’t because you are not talented, smart or capable, but because it will simply be too much for you emotionally.
I love what I do, but have only come to that place by disconnecting myself somewhat. I recognize that while I may not love a certain look for a client, if they’re happy, I’m happy. Conversely, I may think a certain color palette is stunning on someone but they might feel out of place, therefore, it’s not the right look in the end.
If It were up to me, I’d probably do more cheek and lip color on a lot of clients, but it isn’t my face, my photos, my wedding or my money.
I still tell myself over and over, “It’s just business; it’s not personal,” because it rarely ever is. Once you accept that you are performing a service but not executing your personal vision every time, you’ll find greater satisfaction in this job.
You got this
I want you to fully enjoy getting your makeup done, both comfortably and safely. Armed with the right direction and ability to deliver concise feedback, I believe you’ll leave with a look that makes you look and feel good.
If you take nothing else from this, remember, “would it be possible to…”