Airbrush Makeup vs. Traditional Makeup

I wrote an article just like this several years ago, at the height of my anti-airbrush parade. I stormed up and down these cyber alleyways loudly explaining why I just loathed this trendy makeup application, and let me tell you I had good reason! I had seen just so, so many terrible airbrush makeup applications, thing gone wrong, streaks and smears… I even had photographers who used our services because they hated having to retouch it. And then, in Feb 2011, it was like the clouds parted and I finally GOT it. This super-fantastic uber-artist came to town and offered an Airbrush HD class. The wealth of information I obtained was well worth the price of admission, and now I can gracefully end the parade knowing I’m savvier for it.

Now I tote my compressor and equipment with me wherever I go, but I don’t use it on everyone. Let’s start by going over the myths:

**NOTE: Airbrush makeup is NOT to be confused with Airbrushing in Photoshop. It often is.


Myth: Airbrush Makeup will make me flawless.

Any makeup can make you the prettiest version of yourself you can be, it doesn’t have to be airbrush and there are many times it isn’t. The correct application for your own personal needs is more important. (Read: It’s much more important that you hire a great artist than an artist solely based on if they airbrush or not). You know all those nifty You Tube video’s that show you how entirely unrealistic magazine images are? We cannot change the texture of your skin. Only Photo Shop can.

Myth: Airbrush Makeup is waterproof. (Is airbrush makeup waterproof?)

Well, there are a few makeup lines that are water resistant, but it has nothing to do with weather or not is comes out of an airbrush gun. And, when makeup is water resistant, it comes with it’s own set of problems. Personally, I adore Makeup Forever’s Full Cover Concealer. That stuff is the Mac Daddy of concealers, it comes out of a tube, and… its totally waterproof. No airbrush gun required.

Myth: Airbrush Makeup is good for bad skin.

No. Airbrush makeup is WAY to thin to be used as a foundation for acne, scarring, fine lines, wrinkles, or dry skin. At best, it may be used as a fine finish on top of a traditional foundation simply to give it a finer finish once most of the work has been done. And by work, I mean that a professional makeup artist will more than likely lay down an entire face full of foundation and concealer, giving you a flawless look long before the start button on the compressor is pushed.

So why all the hype?

1) You see this flawless model in a magazine whose been airbrushed. (Makeup or Photoshop?)

2) Airbrush makeup got a water-proof reputation, mostly because retail-lines promoted it that way. And because women saw all these airbrushed models, that became a buzz word and shrewd makeup artists figured out that they could charge more for it. So, of course, then they started promoting it as a better service with a higher price, and because women wanted to look like models, they paid. So the circle continues.

3) There are some cases where airbrush is not only suitable, it’s IDEAL, especially with High Definition camera’s becoming the norm. Especially on film or commercial sets, where durability isn’t an issue as there is a makeup artist standing by for touch ups. It’s also equally awesome when covering large portions of the body, doing body painting or tattoo cover, and of course special effects.

Bottom line:

Airbrush makeup is a much finer product, thinner than a traditional foundation. Because it comes out as a spray, it very closely mimics the way cameras see your face. Think of it as tiny little pixels being applied as opposed to a big block of color. Also, it makes blending a breeze! Carrying it down to the neck and decollete is smooth and seamless. The caveat is that because it is so fine, it only works best on skin that is already in pretty great condition and should never be applied heavily. And, it doesn’t really have a leg up on traditional methods unless a specific and unique look. You’ll find most well-respected celebrity makeup artists use traditional makeup, because it is more precise.

Traditional foundation is more opaque, and has a richer coverage. Also, because the finish is in hand-blending, you can work the product into skin that may have some texture issues, filling in all the nooks and crannys. It allows you to be more involved, more detailed, because you don’t have to worry about ruining a finish since the finish is largely contingent upon your skill as an artist and not a machine. Not to mention, traditional foundation is more flexible when it comes to building up or sheering down coverage, which gives the artist more control over the final outcome. With many professional brands offering silicone based formula’s, the durability of a traditional foundation is more water-resistant rather than water proof, but it looks, acts, and feels more like skin. It will still take patience and a makeup wipe to remove, but not an intense scrubbing.

For those wanting a water-proof application, keep this in mind: Makeup that is best water-resistant is not super dry, it’s actually still got some viscosity to it. The water beads up on the skin, as opposed to re-wetting it, kind of the way a freshly-waxed car would bead up against the rain. For live engagements, like your wedding day, silicone based traditional makeup or hand-applied airbrush formula’s tend to be the artists’s preferred method, for control and precision.

Our artists tend to prefer the following foundation lines: Temptu S/B, Makeup Forever, NARS, and IT Cosmetics. New technology emerges all the time, so this may change in the future. Either way, we know our clients will be camera-ready and all-night-long fabulous!