One of the most common questions for film makeup artists, sfx artists, bridal cosmetic artists, and makeup enthusiasts in general is what is the difference between Film quality cosmetic products, and everyday quality cosmetics. Are there any differences, even, at all? Although I wish all cosmetics were created equal, as you most likely know or have experienced, the answer is that they are not, by far, the same. I'll explain the differences, what to use for different projects, and why it's important in this blog!
Your number one concern while creating cosmetic looks for film ( whether bridal, television, feature film or runway ) will be the camera. Yes, your client/character should look believable and amazing in person, however, if that look doesn't translate well IN camera that work was done in vain. Some cosmetics look fine in person. When you put them in front of a professional grade camera however, the look can fall apart.
Cosmetics are created with varying qualities of ingredients. Some of these ingredients are bad for the skin, and reflect like a disco ball in a camera lens. Some of these ingredients are great for the skin, and yet, still reflect like a disco ball in the camera lens. Some will wipe off almost immediately and have zero wearability. Some will possibly make your client/character break out. Worse, certain cosmetic ingredients can cause a client/character to appear as if they've been attacked in the face with baby powder. This is known as "GhostFace" or "Flashback." What causes these issues exactly? How do you avoid it? What should you purchase for your kit?
Ghost Face, Flash Back and Avoiding Being Attacked by Baby Powder: Don't blame the camera, blame your cosmetics! Cameras are made to pick up on details. If your cosmetics are filled with certain ingredients, they will reflect in certain camera lights and create a hot mess.
Mica, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Silica, cheap foundation, cheap translucent powders AND yes, even expensive HD powders can be to blame. So what in the hell do you purchase? It may feel like everything available has these ingredients. Avoiding Flashback can be easy, if you take the time to do some research. Read the ingredients on cosmetics before purchasing them. If you see those additives or minerals, avoid them if possible.
Next, TEST, TEST, TEST your cosmetics in front of a camera! Test them in flash, without flash, in front of HD and non HD. What do you see? Document it for future reference, and stray away from the cosmetics that give you strange results or look like they give off a residue. Many theatrical brands have already done this for you, and are safe in all lighting scenarios. However, many drugstore or retail cosmetics are not. Some cosmetics with Silica or Mica surprisingly will not cause flashback. HD powders in particular are created for HD film, and usually look beautiful in front of an HD camera, but - sometimes - they do not. This can be frustrating. Use a camera with flash on those same cosmetics and you may be in for trouble. It's unfortunately hard to tell unless you test out the product. To save you time, here are some brands that do not usually cause flashback.
Ben Nye Cosmetics
Cinema Secrets Cosmetics
Cover FX Foundation Drops
Dior Diorskin Forever Flawless Foundation
Duo Mat Powder Foundation
MAC Studio Foundation
Makeup Forever HD Foundation
Revlon Photoready HD Foundation
Revlon Photoready HD Powder
Too Faced Cosmetics Born This Way Foundation
Cosmetics Labeled as "Professional" - Are They?
The title "professional" means nothing in cosmetics, just like the title "natural" now means nothing in food. Fortunately, for food, if it says 100% Organic you're usually in the clear since there are laws in play when labeling Organics, for cosmetics unfortunately its trial and error. You won't know if something is truly professional quality until you try it, so as always, test your cosmetics prior to debuting them for a project. What makes a cosmetic professional quality? A few things. Wearability - does it hold up to sweat, 24 hour shoot days, heat or cold? Believably - does the pigmentation look natural, is the quality of the pigment there? Camera Friendliness - how does the cosmetic appear in film, flash photography, or high definition? Blendability - does the product seamlessly apply, or is the texture off, cheap or too rough? I've found drugstore and pro brands that work perfectly for professional projects, and some don't even claim to be professional. For your convenience, here's a quick list of brands that work.
Ben Nye Cosmetics
Cinema Secrets Cosmetics
Cover FX Cosmetics
European Body Art Cosmetics
Fleet Street Cosmetics
MAC Studio Cosmetics
Makeup Forever HD Cosmetics
Media Pro Cosmetics
Revlon Photoready HD Cosmetics
Skin Illustrator Cosmetics
Too Faced Cosmetics
Alcohol Activated Palettes
One of the major differences in everyday cosmetics at the
drugstore and professional brands is, like I mentioned, wearability. This is where alcohol activated palettes come into play, and they will be your best friend! Everyday cosmetics in retail or drug stores usually, even with primer, don't hold up due to the ingredients they're created with. Alcohol activated palettes are alcohol activated of course ( 99% isopropyl alcohol ) and therefore won't come off as easily by far.
With the right maintenance they can hold up all day, especially for special effects needs. These palettes even come in regular skin tones for projects that require tattoo cover ups and more. The only downfall is that they can be expensive, but they are WELL worth the cost and will increase the wearability and believably of the looks you create. NOTHING in a drugstore compares, period.
Whoever told the public that airbrush somehow is magical needs slapped. Every other bride who contacts me wants airbrushed, when in reality, for bridal especially, airbrush doesn't hold up half as well as basic cosmetic application nor does it look any better when applied by a skilled makeup artist. In fact, for basic beauty applications, airbrush can look WORSE. MUCH WORSE.
THE ONLY time airbrush is actually a preferred method is in SPECIAL EFFECTS projects due to the speed, the technique, the fact that you're applying it on prosthetics/latex, OR on artistic/runway projects where stencils or unique intense blending techniques are being using. If you're using an airbrush for basic makeup applications you're doing yourself and your client a disservice. Airbrush cosmetics are full of awful ingredients and of course - silicone and alcohol. Silicone and alcohol on bare skin looks awful in front of a camera, is awful for the skin and holds up like garbage. A professional primer, pro foundation, skilled hand, pro powder, and pro setting spray on basic beauty applications works wonders, looks cleaner, clearer and holds up better throughout the day. The fluffing up of using an airbrush hopefully will eventually go by the wayside, and stay where it functions the best - SFX, and creative cosmetic applications.
SPF, to use or not to use?
There's an internal conflict within the professional cosmetics realm over whether or not products that include SPF should be used. From a makeup artist who's experienced clients that were sun-burnt during a long shoot in the sun, and had to deal with those sunburns later my opinion is PLEASE, USE SPF. Don't skimp on it especially if you know you'll be out in the sun shooting all day! Ask yourself in a situation, would you apply SPF to yourself? Don't leave your clients out! SPF has never caused me issues, and I always mix it in my primer or moisturizer before I apply foundation. Of course, you won't need this if you're applying a prosthetic, or rather simply add it to the parts of skin that won't be affected by the prosthetic fx. Use a UVA/UVB protective SPF such as Clinique Super City Block Broad Spectrum SPF 40. Some artists swear SPF gives them flashback, or ruins the wearability of cosmetics. I respectfully, highly disagree, and feel like it's not only a necessity in outside shooting situations, but shows that you're thinking of healthy skincare - which is crucial. Which leads me to...
Is Skincare My Problem as a Makeup Artist?
Actors and Actresses, Brides, Grooms, Models, and even TV Anchors are pressured more than ever to have flawless skin, and they pay attention to how you treat their skin. I shouldn't have to say that you NEED to care and be aware of skin care issues, but so many makeup artists feel like skincare "isn't their job." Would you pour acid on your canvas, ruining it completely, before you painted upon it? Would you not take care of your canvas before creating your masterpiece? Take care of your canvas, which is of course ON your clients, and demonstrate clean, healthy skincare. Analyze your client's skin, and take it into consideration. Do they have issues with acne? Use acne prone skin friendly products. Do they have age spots? Use products friendly to skin with pigmentation issues. I carry primers, moisturizers, and cleansers for all skin types in my kit. I usually have a "character sheet" that I use for each client, and on it, I write notes for myself on what products I decided would work best. On top of caring for your client's skin, CLEAN your tools continuously, in front of your clients. Let them know you aren't just slapping the same dirty brush on everyone's face.
Use individual cosmetic palettes that allow you to apply cosmetics without contaminating them. For instance, instead of using lipstick straight out of the stick on everyone ( gross, I've seen it way too many times ), scrape some of the lipstick with a CLEAN metal spatula tool into a CLEAN individual metal palette tray. Put your client's name on it, and use this palette only for their needs.
I hope this blog gave you some insight on why FILM quality and EVERYDAY quality cosmetics differ.
Hopefully you can dig through your kit, find some problematic products and ditch them, and some pro-friendly cosmetics and keep them!
Feel free to always ask me any questions concerning pro grade cosmetics, and I hope it's now easier for you to decipher what you should and shouldn't try on your personal and professional projects!