What It’s Really Like Being A Makeup Artist During A Pandemic

Photo: Unai Huizi Photography / Shutterstock
What It’s Really Like Being A Makeup Artist During A Pandemic
Self

Makeup artists are finding new ways to make it in the industry in the post-Covid world.

Navigating the working world during a pandemic is tough for everyone but what if you’re a makeup artist who relies on getting up close and personal with your clients? And what if your work relies on your clients having events — remember those — to go to?

For makeup artists, working during the pandemic has created plenty of obstacles. When there is a 6-foot mandatory distance between you and your income, it can be virtually impossible to get by. But leave it to an industry full of creatives to find new ways to adapt.

Here is what it’s really like to be a makeup artist during a pandemic. 

Molly Thompson-Tubridy is a New York-based makeup artist who moved to the city from Dublin, Ireland back in 2019. She opened up exclusively to YourTango about how the makeup industry has changed in the past year. 

Having trained and worked in some of Ireland and London’s leading makeup academies teaching masterclasses and coordinating photoshoots, moving to New York was a chance for Molly to take on freelance makeup clients and work with new brands in the city. 

“With my experience, I had the skills to work with a number of areas in the makeup world. I was mostly taking clients for one-on-one lessons or makeovers,” Molly says. However, when COVID hit, these gig opportunities depleted quickly. 

“It’s been challenging being a makeup artist in New York,” Molly says, “The bookings slowly thinned out at the beginning of the pandemic.” 

Molly’s pre-Covid makeup artist days usually consisted of attending to multiple clients and working with brands but she found herself relying on brands to provide regular work when freelance opportunities disappeared. 

Refusing to let the pandemic deter her from her work, Molly found new ways to enhance her skills while social-distancing. 

“Luckily my close quarantine bubble of friends love being my blank canvases so I am always updating my main social media accounts.”

She says many makeup artists have learned to adapt to this new world in order to continue their work. “I have also been organizing Zoom consultations and tutorials; a lot of people in my field have begun collaborating with each other to reach as many people as possible.” 

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A year into the pandemic, the makeup industry has been carefully reopening and some freelance gigs have resumed. But this brings on new challenges as makeup artists must practice precautions to protect the health of themselves and their clients. 

“Even before the pandemic, makeup artists took all the precautions they could since we touch faces all day,” Molly tells us. “Some days I would have up to as many as 10 clients, so hygiene was at the tip of my to-do list after each appointment.” 

Credit: Molly Thompson-Tubridy

Safety is a massive priority for Molly and her fellow makeup artists. “I wear two masks and constantly have hand sanitizer on me. After a day of working, I give all my brushes a deep clean and make sure to have fresh sponges for the next day.” 

“In between clients, I use a quick-drying brush cleaner so I can make sure they are all fresh and dry before I go to my next appointment,” she adds.

Molly also gets tested before going to work on a new set and though some of these precautions can be cumbersome, she wouldn’t have it any other way if it means she and her clients feel more at ease. 

“When it comes down to it, makeup artists are literally in someones face for 40 to 60 minutes straight,” she says, “It is important to me that everyone feels safe and comfortable on set.”

But it’s not just new precautions that have changed the makeup industry — new work-from-home lifestyles have greatly altered how — or even if people wear makeup at all.

“When it comes to editorial shoots, the looks are more minimal,” says Molly. “For instance, where a lot of shoots would love a bold lip they understand that the idea of wearing a bold lip is challenging when wearing a mask, so a new creamy or smudged lip look takes its place at the top of the trend list.”

This more laid-back approach to makeup can be a source of concern for artists who are already struggling in the industry which is something Molly has feared. “I, along with countless other makeup artists, worry about the possibility of a new attitude of insignificance towards my own profession." 

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Many editorial shoots early in the pandemic saw models like Bella Hadid becoming their own makeup artists, stylists, and photographers which was initially damaging to the incomes of people who ordinarily carried out these roles.

But Molly says the industry has been more accommodating lately.

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“Luckily, a lot of people have become accustomed to the normality of the day-to-day life in a pandemic so we now see a more routine approach when it comes to booking shoots. Yes, maybe a model will do her makeup, but she will be given an online lesson from the artist about how to create the look.”

And while editorial shoots have been opting for makeup looks more in line with our new minimal lifestyles, having the freedom to play around with new trends from the comfort of home has allowed many makeup artists to break the rules when it comes to trends. (One look at TikTok’s makeup world will show you that.)

“With all the time spent at home, makeup artists have been able to try new things and be more adventurous with our challenges,” says Molly. 

Even her clients have been pushing the envelope. “When I have one-on-one clients who want either a lesson or just a full makeover, the ideas are endless. Most of the time they just want to be my blank canvas, which has allowed me to try new trends and step up my skills!”

The pandemic has also had a unifying effect on what is normally a highly-competitive industry. “There is an attitude of solidarity in the makeup community and it's so comforting! We have all been hit by this and it's affected our jobs,” Molly says.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve noticed makeup artists turning to each other for support, going live on Instagram to talk all about the effect of the pandemic, collaborate with each other, creating challenges.”

This new world has pushed many artists to focus on creating content online — and while you may not be able to support the makeup industry by hiring artists for events, you can always support them in other ways. 

“Sharing and spreading our names, word of mouth, and clicking that 'like' button goes a long way,” says Molly, “It means so much when I see people appreciating and supporting my ideas. Instagram and TikTok are the main platforms to showcase your talent, and seeing that one of my posts has been shared or viewed a couple of thousand times makes my heart jump!"

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.