Krista Robyn's beauty blog - makeup tutorials - health and wellness blog

Dos & Don’ts at the makeup counter

Makeup Counter at Macy's

I’ve had 5 years experience working at a retail makeup counter, and I know all of the frustrations and woes that a makeup artist can go through when customers are clueless. I am creating this guide using my experiences to help you, the customer, plan a better trip to the makeup counter.. it will help both you and the makeup artist create a better environment for eachother. =)

1. Reasearch! What are your specific needs?

It’s best to get an idea of what you are going in for.. do you need a new foundation? A new shade of lipstick for spring? Or perhaps you are hoping to look like a flawless celebrity… we can dream, right?? Magazines and the internet are great tools for “shopping” for new looks. There is a 99.9% chance that the cosmetic brands you will encounter have a website that lists all available products, new products, and ideas for the upcoming seasons. Don’t be afraid to print out a photo of a celebrity or look that you admire and want to go for. I really loved it when customers brought me photos from magazines and said, “I want to look like this!”. It gave me a clear idea of what the client wanted and it was fun. Now, I am no plastic surgeon, but I am sure with common sense, you will know that a makeup artist isn’t going to totally transform you into Megan Fox.. right? I can most definitely match the lovely coral lipstick that Miss. Fox is wearing and see if it’s a good match for you.

Research the store’s policy. Some makeup counters require a minimum purchase for makeovers.

Also, if you have sensitive skin or have special needs where your face is concerned, please research the brand’s ingredients. If they don’t list anything, then go ahead and shoot them an email to customer service and ask them about their products. I spent hours and hours with clients who would talk about their sensitive skin and would freak out anytime my makeup brush touched their face. After the client had purchased hundreds of dollars worth of makeup, they returned it the next day, saying they itched all over… if you know you are alergic to something, please do check out product ingredients beforehand. It will save you both so much time and hassle.

There are also makeup forums where you can talk to other men and women about specific makeup products, reviews and a lot more. Check out:
I have been a member of that site for many years and anytime I have a concern or question about particular products, I consult my buddies there!

So once you have a plan.. it’s time to get your wallet and head down to Makeupland!


2. Where should I go? Are there any good places?

Honestly, stick with Nordstroms, Neiman Marcus, and Saks 5th. I haven’t been to Bloomingdale’s makeup counters yet, but you might want to ask around. Places like Sephora and Ulta are good for people who are picking up replacement products or gifts. I like to play with the makeup there, but I am scared of germs (hello, Swine Flu??). I am not trying to deter people from going there, I just think that dealing with a makeup artist that knows everything about one brand is better than dealing with an associate who has very little knowledge about 30 different brands. I find that high-end makeup counters offer the best service and staff knowledgable, courteous people. Don’t be afraid to scope out the counters for your new makeup guru buddy, ask for his or her business card and schedule some one-on-one time so they can get you familiar with the products. I find that Mondays – Tuesdays are the best days to get alone time with your makeup guru. Mornings are probably the best time of day to go. Not only will the makeup artist be refreshed and ready to go in the morning, but they won’t be tired and rundown from a day’s work. I hated end-of-day appointments!!!


3. What can I expect once I get to my appointment?

You can choose to come with a clean face or not. If you are wearing makeup, it’s okay. Just be prepared to remove your own makeup with either makeup removers that are provided by the artist or soaps and cleansers given to you by the artist. I was lucky enough to work near a bathroom with a good sink so that customers could wash everything off before we started.

You better expect to get what YOU want but also be open to the makeup artist’s suggestions. Don’t be bossy or talk about your life stories.. we are not your personal shrink. A makeup artist’s worst nightmare is the scary customer that comes just to talk about their son’s horrific wife, or ex wife.. or any kind of drama. We are there to make money, and time is money. Normally, a makeup artist is only supposed to spend about 30 minutes or less on a client, unless it’s a wedding makeover, then they may be allowed more time with the bride (or an entire bridal party!). I can’t say it enough.. be courteous to your artist and don’t take up too much of their time. They have specific daily goals to meet! Don’t be scared to ask, ” How are we doing on time?” just to check in with your artist to let them know you are aware of time restrictions. If it’s a super slow day, you might get lucky and get to spend a little more time.

As far as what the makeup artist will do, it all depends on the counter. Some counters focus on their color line, like MAC, for instance. Some places focus on their skincare, like Clinique. The artist may use a primer before they apply a foundation, or they may use a moisturizer. Remember to let your artist know ahead of time if you are allergic to something. A total DON’T at a makeup counter is to try a foundation on your hand. What good will that do unless you are a hand model? You must try foundations on the face, or you will not know what it will look like. If you can, try to take a mirror outside to look at it in natural light. This rule also goes for any other makeup are not going to see the true color of the eyeshadow, lipstick, etc. if it’s on your hand. If you absolutely need to test eyeshadow on your hand, make sure to put an eyeshadow primer on your hand to see what the true pigment will look like. Your hand is dry and produces very little or no oil, so everything will look diffferent than if it was on your face.

4. Should I buy everything that the makeup artist shows me?

Only you can be the judge of that. If you already have a foundation that you are happy with at home, then stick with it until you are through using it and come back to purchase the new foundation if you want to try it. There’s no use doubling up on stuff you already have at home. Ask if any of the products that you like are limited edition, because chances are, if the lipgloss you are totally swooning over is limited edition, it will be unavailable for purchase in a few months. Of course, the goal of the makeup associate is for you to buy as much as you possibly can.. so be smart and make sure you buy only the things that you NEED and possibly only one or two “I have to have this or I will die” products. I’ve been in many situations where I know that I don’t need a lipgloss, but it just made me feel like a million bucks, so as long as you can still pay your cable bill, you should be okay. Do not even go near the makeup counter if you are totally low on cash or can only use a credit card. I made the mistake of putting a lot of cosmetics on credit and I am still paying for those mistakes.

TIP: You want it all? You can have it all, but it will take time. Let’s say you loved everything the artist put on you, but there is no way in hell you could afford it. Buying ONE product per week, or every two weeks is the way to collect makeup safely. Eventually, you will get everything you want, but you will have to be patient. Spreading your purchases out is the best way to go if you are hurtin’ for the cash money.

5. What should I do if I don’t like the product?

Sometimes at the makeup counter the customer just nodded “yes” to everything the makeup artist says because they either trusted them too much or they didn’t want to be mean and say that they hated everything. Please.. please speak up if you don’t like the brown lipstick or the overly glittery eyeshadow. The worst thing that happened was a customer who I caught in the bathroom freaking out and crying because they didn’t like the makeup job that I did. Yeah, my feelings were hurt and I felt like I totally wanted to get defensive, but I did not know that the customer didn’t like shimmery products. If the customer told me that they hated shimmer or didn’t like the look, they should have spoken up. They ended up returning all of the products at another counter.. even though the rules at my counter was that you had to purchase $50 in cosmetics to get a makeover in the first place. So not only was the customer not satisfied, but I also lost money that day due to lack of communication. When I do makeup, I normally show the customer what I am doing every step of the way and even ask them if they are sure they want shimmer or matte products. If the artist applies an eyeshadow that you aren’t too crazy about, you can ask to try a different shade or to possibly play up the shade with a contour color in the crease. It can be quite difficult to remove an eyeshadow quickly, so sometimes the artist will put a color over the top of the unwanted color and everything gets muddy looking. Normally, I would wipe away as much shadow color as I could, then re-apply the eyeshadow base or a concealer before continuing on with a new color.

If you must return the product, try to return it to the counter where you bought it and maybe look for replacement products. You can try to reschedule a complimentary makeover with the artist or try a different artist. Please let them know you weren’t too crazy about the look and would like to try something else. Always be nice!! If the makeup artist is being bitchy about the situation, then I advise trying a whole different person or counter, you don’t want to deal with a negative Nancy when trying to update your appearance!!!

6. What if I just didn’t like getting my makeup done by another person and I want to try to learn how to do it on my own?

If all else fails, there’s YouTube. There are many extremely talented makeup artists on YouTube, you will just need to find the one that has a style that best suits your own. A lot of these artist show you how to apply the makeup, but of course, they will not really discuss what colors will suit you or what their suggestions are for you, you will have to experiment with that on your own. Check out magazines and pictures of people with similar coloring to your own. I also would suggest purchasing makeup palettes with various colors you can play with. There is a really cool eyeshadow palette from Coastal Scents, which is a cool website with tons of palettes and ideas:

7. Once you get the look you want, perfect it!!

Once you figure out what looks good on you, you can practice.. practice and perfect your look. Don’t be afraid to branch out and experiment with things like face shimmer, bronzers and various types of highlighters. I recommend that you try to get facials done regularly so that your makeup will look great on flawless skin. I have recently gone in for microdermabrasion treatments and I follow that with a glycolic peel from Avon every few days. I noticed my pores are reducing in size and that my makeup looks a lot better. I also use an eye cream on a daily basis (I switch from Arcona to Benefit’s Eyecon) and I also use an eye de-puffer in the mornings (Benefit’s Ooh La Lift and Mark Cosmetics Hook up eye de-puffer gel). Just have fun with it, it’s just makeup!!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Makeup Artist | Beauty Blogger
I am Krista, the author of I started a career as a pro makeup artist in 2001 for Benefit Cosmetics in the San Francisco bay area, and transitioned in 2006 to pursue jobs in the Silicon Valley. I am currently working as an editor in the media industry, where I contribute to original content that includes beauty articles. I am occasionally doing freelance makeup jobs, but spend most of my time working on improving my health and wellbeing. I have Hashimoto's and PCOS, and plan on contributing articles that touch on these areas, as well as weight loss and Paleo Diet recipes.

One Response to Dos & Don’ts at the makeup counter

  1. Great pointers…thanks…I didn’t know Makeup Artist’s were on a time limit to do makeup..don’t these people look in the mirror at the finished product? uh duh…I remembered I got a makeover at Sephora let me tell you you couldn’t even tell she put anything on my face..My daughter said mom you do a better job than she did..the only noticable item was the bright red lipstick..I didn’t purchase anything for this makeover..I just received a huge Sephora keyring..hhmm by the way speaking of that keyring…where is it..?

Leave a Reply