Home > How To Choose A Great Makeup Artist

How To Choose A Great Makeup Artist

Recently, I was sorely disappointed with a professional makeup application at a well-known salon. The disappointment was typical: an inexperienced makeup artist applied makeup that didn’t suit my skin tone well. This has pretty much been my reality with almost all pro makeup applications and I’m tired of it…mainly because it’s 2022 and this shouldn’t be happening any more.

Since I am not the only dark-skinned girl who has experienced this, I thought it was about time to write a guide on how to choose a great makeup artist.

A Little Background

Last week, I attended a gala celebrating a notable luxury magazine. The event was formal and let me add, the first formal event I had attended since this interminable pandemic started.

My stunning dress had arrived. I chose my accessories carefully. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my hair, and all I needed now was great makeup.

My friend had talked me into getting our makeup done at a well-known Toronto salon, but my gut instinct was waving red flags. Why? I didn’t know if the studio had a lot of experience with makeup application for Black women. Secondly, I hadn’t researched which makeup brands the studio uses.

Against my better judgment, I told myself that this will be a positive experience. “Just give it a chance! You deserve to have a great gala experience from getting ready to dancing the night away!”

Upon arrival at the salon, I was thrilled. The location was beautiful and the ambiance was fun and lively, so I started to relax and get a little excited. My friend and I were shown to the makeup stations and introduced to our makeup artists (MUA).

My MUA asked me a few questions about my skin and what type of look I wanted. I told her that I would love “natural glam” to match my rainbow-coloured dress. I wanted a little drama, but nothing grossly heavy.

She started by applying a tinted moisturizer that was too ashy. As she dabbed away with her beauty blender, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I immediately pointed out that this base was the wrong colour and that I was worried. She told me to rest easy and to wait until the entire look was done.

Dominique Baker Terrible Makeup
I am…UPSET…with this “makeup look”.

Stressed, I watched as she applied a similar-coloured foundation to my face that made me look uneven and pallid. Once again, I pointed out that this colour didn’t match my neck, décolleté and shoulders and would like it evened out. She proceeded to simply add more of the same foundation and stated: “I think it couldn’t be more of a perfect match.” I sat there feeling hopeless.

Then came the flamingo pink lipstick and lipliner that was a few shades LIGHTER than the lipstick…and the somewhat sad smokey eye applied with a flat brown eyeshadow with no warmth.

At that moment I gave up because I knew I was just going to go back to the hotel and wash it off.

It was when I looked over at my friend who was enjoying her experience and happily documenting the process with her phone when I felt extremely sad. I wanted that for myself. For once, I want to go to an event and have my makeup done…and float out of the salon on Cloud 9 like she did.

Instead, I tearfully summoned an Uber while feeling less than, dismissed and frankly, like a stupid clown. A stupid clown crawling into her clown car to hustle back to her hotel to attempt to save a terrible makeup job.

Let’s learn from my mistakes, shall we?

A stellar makeup application by my trusted MUA, Joseph of @notrebeautyblog

How To Choose A Great Makeup Artist

Do Your Research

This should be obvious. I didn’t bother to as this was a brand that had reached out to me to collaborate in the past and had a stellar reputation.

Admittedly, I did not ask any one I knew whether or not they frequented the salon, what their thoughts were or if the staff had experience with BIPOC makeup applications.

Trust me – take the time to ask around. Call the salon and ask for references. Ask who your MUA will be and look him or her up on social media. If you like their work, go ahead and book!

Feeling better after redoing my makeup by myself

Choose An MUA of Colour

In my experience, Black makeup artists know Black skin. DUH! They have years of experience working on their own skin and usually have years of applying makeup for people of colour as well.

Most Black MUAs understand the myriad of undertones of Black skin. They naturally have that eye to determine if makeup colours are too ashy, too red, too yellow, etc.

That being said, experience is king here. I have worked with very talented White, Asian and Indian MUAs who create fire looks. The difference is that the latter took the time to get educated and practice on all skin tones to hone their “makeup eye”.

Ask Which Brands of Makeup Will Be Used

Some makeup brands are better than others. While makeup has come such a long way over the years, there are still a few brands that need to catch up.

If you know that a studio uses a certain makeup brand you don’t like, skip it. If the salon has their own line of makeup, go try it first or review pictures of makeup looks created with their line.

I have found that a lot of “salon/in-house brands” aren’t the same quality as the Fentys, Lauders, Lancômes, Makeup Forevers, etc. of the world. They simply don’t have the budget for years of research and development required to assure a great line of products.

The full look! Love that cute, little dress!

Read The Reviews

Again – this goes without saying. If you are about to pay money for something, especially if it is fairly expensive, ALWAYS READ THE REVIEWS. Nothing holds more truth than reviews written by every day people and return customers.

Speak Up!

If you are having your makeup done and you don’t like what you see, speak up, speak up early and speak up often!

If the MUA doesn’t listen to you, doesn’t understand or is rude at all, speak to the manager. Don’t pay for bad service and most definitely do not reward bad behaviour.

I love natural makeup looks where my true skin tone shows through. This makeup look generously provided by Glossier – a brand I trust

Bring Your Own Makeup (UGH!)

I cannot believe I am writing this, especially in 2022, but I always bring my own foundation and concealer when I have my makeup done. Personally, I think in this day and age it is completely inexcusable for any makeup artist to not be able to work with Black/dark skin tones.

All MUA kits should have colours to suit all people. As I live in a small city that doesn’t have a lot of MUAs, I always bring my own makeup just in case. This has saved me many times from looking crazy at shoots and events.

Is it right? NOPE, but it is what it is. Every single time I have encountered an MUA with an incomplete kit, or a hairstylist who cannot do Black hair, I point out that I deserve to feel as beautiful as my lighter-skinned counterparts. Basically, I deserve the same treatment.

Have you had a bad makeup application experience? How did you handle it? Please share in the comments!

Dominique Baker
Dominique Baker

Dominique is a Canadian-based fashion and beauty influencer with a strong voice in Ottawa’s black community. Since launching her blog Style Domination in 2015, she has amassed a global fanbase. Dominique shares her life through beautiful imagery and compelling story-telling that speaks to her fans on a personal level. She’s been featured in The Guardian, Flare, The Kit and Cityline. She also hosts events for Dress for Success, the Gem Conference, and has been named a United Way Person 2 Know for the past three years.

Find me on: Web | Instagram


  1. May 18, 2022 / 7:25 am

    UGH….I can’t believe you had to go through this and I agree that in this day & age, this shouldn’t be happening. That said, your keen eye caught that this MUA was definitely using the wrong shades on you and I don’t know how it ended up with her, but I hope you either told her or her manager that you weren’t happy. Glad you were able to fix the issue yourself and for what it’s worth, I think you did an amazing job with your own makeup! You looked stunning!
    As a white woman, I’ve had my share of crappy experiences with ‘makeup artists’ (major eye roll) — wrong foundation shades, eye makeup that lasted just to the point of walking to my car (true, I swear), and looks that aged me about 20 years. Thankfully I was able to correct all these looks myself, but I shouldn’t have had to. Many lessons learned, lol!

    • Dominique
      May 18, 2022 / 12:45 pm

      Eugenia – I’m so sorry that you’ve had bad experiences too. That’s how I felt – like I had aged 20yrs in her chair. The makeup was soooo bad. So bad. And again – a ruined experience and zero ambiance for me.

  2. Sandy
    May 18, 2022 / 9:09 am

    In 2022, we’re STILL dealing with this! I’m so sorry you had to deal with this. And I still carry my foundation because I’ve had to deal with this myself.

    • Dominique
      May 18, 2022 / 12:44 pm

      This is really sad. I have spoken to many Whyte women who have NEVER had to carry their own makeup to a shoot or application. This is discrimination and privilege at its finest.

  3. Kate
    May 18, 2022 / 9:05 pm

    Unbelievable. You shouldn’t call yourself a makeup artist if you aren’t well versed in accentuating the beauty of all skin tones. I’m so sorry you had that experience and that this still remains such an issue for persons with darker skin tones. You deserve more than that. On a positive note, you did a beautiful job on your re-done makeup and your whole look was incredible!

    • Dominique
      May 19, 2022 / 8:03 am

      Thank you so much, Kate. It was a really bad experience that I’m still sore about. She gaslit me too, saying she didn’t see the problem and that the “makeup was a near perfect match for my skin”. So frustrating.

  4. Michelle
    May 18, 2022 / 10:39 pm

    Wow! That is inexcusable and completely unacceptable! I would be crying. I once had my makeup done by a “pro” who piled it on so thickly dns such a pale colour that I looked like a freakish porcelain doll-it was the middle of summer and I was sweating profusely. I’ve since learned to speak up and complain to somebody with the power to remedy the situation. You should complain to management, if you haven’t already done so. A reputable shoppe will want to make it up to you.

    • May 19, 2022 / 8:06 am

      Thanks for this, Michelle. I did indeed complain and now I have a call with their management tomorrow. What a miserable experience.

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