The Not So Pretty Face Of Makeup

Two East London makeup artists give the lowdown on working for the biggest cosmetics companies in the world.

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Anna: “ I studied makeup for five years. As clichéd as it sounds, I love makeup and I would go as far as to say it’s my passion. My heart lies in prosthetics and horror makeup but glamourous makeup is also something that I will always be interested in. After finishing my three year makeup course with a distinction, I was so pleased and couldn’t wait to get into the big bad world of makeup. My first London makeup job was through an agency called BCB – full name, the Beauty Consultants Bureau.

“The jobs that makeup artists are given via this company are always high end, and you can be placed in prestigious makeup counters in places like Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. I thought that these jobs might be glamourous and we’d be well looked after due to the nature of the multi-million pound brand we’d be working for. Oh how wrong I was. We only received a measly rate of eight pounds an hour. When your rent is £570 a month, your travel £100 and food shopping £50 a week… You do the math.

“Eight pounds is just not enough for any adult in London to survive. And to add insult to injury you are expected to work on your feet all day for this amount with targets to hit. But you will receive no commission whatsoever for all your efforts.

“I’d say the most prestigious (and funnily enough the most painful place) I’ve worked in, is the Christian Louboutin makeup concession in the Bond Street Selfridges store. The name Christian Louboutin is a real heavyweight in the fashion and makeup industry. They must make millions of pounds a day. However the way they treat their staff is appalling. Firstly we are expected to wear the famous Louboutin shoes for the entire nine-hour day. The shoes didn’t fit my feet and left me with painful blisters. The clientele were either browsers or wealthy people who saw me as a mere servant, whose only function on this planet was to serve them. Not every customer was like this but the vast majority didn’t say so much as a simple please or thanks, let alone a smile, after you’ve effectively been their slave for the past 40 minutes.

“I also worked through another agency called Blow. This is an online app which allows clients to request that you come to where ever they are and do their makeup. This app is better in my opinion than the high-end brands, as you can make up to three times more money and wear comfortable footwear, and work on your own terms.”

Rachel: “Just like Anna, I studied makeup in higher education and I also passed with a distinction. Shortly afterwards I landed my dream role (or what I thought was my dream role) working in the Canary Wharf Mac cosmetics store. I have always used Mac makeup, especially the lipsticks, so I was ecstatic even when I was offered an interview. The interview for the job was intense. We had to do the makeup on a model. I am confident in my makeup ability so this was fine for me, despite it being nerve wracking.

“When offered the job, I was over the moon. However, I was disappointed to find that the hourly rate was eight pounds fifty, and there was absolutely no commission at all, despite there being unobtainable weekly sales targets set by the manager. For an adult living in central London this just isn’t enough for all the necessities. For such a big brand which makes such a huge amount of money, I find it unreasonable for them to pay so little to those who actually sell the products.

“The job itself entailed long hours and lots of compulsory weekend shifts. A common practice in Mac is to give the client makeovers using the tester products in a bid to help them choose what is best for them. However in Mac we tended to get a lot of time wasters who had no intention at all of buying any products and simply wanted a free makeover. This takes up your time when you have serious buyers waiting for your help, who may end up going elsewhere in the meantime because they’re tired of waiting. The worst thing is not only are you giving someone a free makeover, they may have poor personal hygiene which is unpleasant at the best of times, let alone when you’re using your personal makeup brushes on them.”

So there you have it. The not so pretty face of makeup from the people required to sell it to us.

Names in this story have been changed.