An Explanation for the Question: Why is Makeup so ‘Expensive’?

Hi All!

I just wanted to take a moment to clarify how professional makeup services are priced. I’ve read many posts on various forums & heard comments from clients expressing confusion about pricing. It seems that many people just don’t know about all of the reasons makeup services are priced the way they are. For special occasions, getting your hair & makeup done helps take the stress of getting ready off of your shoulders. With a skilled & competent makeup artist you will feel relieved to know that someone is taking care of you on your most important days, & you will feel pampered. Your hair & makeup experience should be enjoyable, relaxing, & confidence boosting, with you looking & feeling amazing when all is said & done. Professional makeup services also ensure that you are not going to get pink eye, or some other infection from a novice who hasn’t been educated in the proper sanitization procedures. Professional makeup artists also understand how makeup reacts with different skin types & can make sure that your skin isn’t negatively impacted by low quality or harsh products. Finally, a good makeup artist understands how makeup & photography work together & can ensure that you get the absolute best results from professional photography. Of course, there are different types of makeup & hair services & a variety of venues you can use, all at different price points & levels of quality.

Department Store Makeup Counters or Stand Alone Cosmetics Stores:

Getting your makeup done at a makeup counter in a department store or at a cosmetics store (MAC, Estee Lauder, Origins, Sephora, Merle Norman etc…) may cost in the range of $50 to $75. The fee can be paid outright or in some cases, you are required to purchase a certain amount of product to receive your service for free. This fee is set to account for the time that the artist is spending away from the floor with you instead of making sales with walk-in customers. After all, it is a retail location where makeup applications are considered a courtesy. In the state of New Mexico, it is not required that these individuals are licensed & are likely trained on the job. I do not recommend that you take a chance with someone at a makeup counter or stand-alone store for your important events unless you have worked with them in the past & are happy with their results. Additionally, these locations generally do not offer hair styling services so you will likely have to go from location to location to get all of your beauty needs met before your special event.

At these locations, artists are paid either a flat hourly rate or by commission. Most often, they do not get a bonus or added perk for taking your appointment. Tipping is generally accepted & appreciated by these artists, & contributes greatly to how most of them make their living. If you were satisfied with the service & your artist, then you should tip. 15% to 20% is standard, just like you would tip your server at a restaurant. However, if your service was inferior or your artist was unprofessional, you should never feel obligated to tip.

Hair Salons:

Many hair salons also offer makeup services which is convenient for clients getting ready for a special event. Makeup applications at these establishments generally range in price from $40 to $85, possibly more if it is a very high end salon. Please keep in mind, however, that a higher price does not automatically mean you will get better results & makeup is usually not a priority for these establishments because the majority of their income comes from hair cutting & coloring. It is important that you research your artist to make sure they understand your personal style, have good interpersonal skills, experience applying makeup, & that he or she is willing to listen to you.

Keep in mind that only a portion of the amount you pay is going to go to these artists directly. Artists who work in salons typically pay a fee to rent out their chair or, a certain percentage of what they make is automatically deducted from each service.  Once again, tipping is accepted & appreciated for these artists.

Freelance Makeup Artists:

Freelance makeup artists face the most confusion in regard to pricing; however they offer the most flexibility, customization, personalization, & the most hassle-free experience. Freelance makeup artists work for themselves & come to you, on location for all of your special events. When hiring a freelance makeup artist, pricing will depend on a number of things. I will expand on this below but they include: your location & travel required, the type of event & services required, & the size of your group.

Location: In every region there is a market standard rate for makeup artists, hairstylists, photographers, etc… Higher cost of living will always equate to a higher cost for services. The overall cost of starting & maintaining a business sets a standard rate for artists & if an artist quotes prices drastically lower than industry standard then they would be undercutting fellow artists & making it harder for all artists in the area to earn a living in their profession.

Travel: The main cost associated with freelance makeup artists is travel. Travel is a luxury service provided to help ensure you experience a stress-free day. The benefit of working with an artist who will come to you is that you are able to get ready with your entire group in one location, eliminating scheduling issues, individuals getting lost or being late, etc… For this type of tailored service prices are adjusted to compensate for travel time to & from your venue, kit preparations, gas, parking, tolls, valet, etc…

In addition, travel is extremely hard on a makeup artist’s makeup kit. When travelling, makeup items take a lot more abuse – items break or might melt in the heat; they can get lost, or even risk being stolen.  Because of this, freelance makeup artists generally have a higher insurance rate which is also factored in to price.

Type of Service: There is a difference in pricing for brides, bridesmaids, prom applications, personal photo shoots, etc… Makeup for brides typically costs more than makeup for prom or bridesmaids because brides require more time & special attention. Leading up to the wedding, brides usually require many hours of preparation & correspondence. Keep in mind that for every email you send, your makeup artist is working to reply quickly, get answers, & work on scheduling. These tasks add up to many hours working for you, behind the scenes. On the wedding day, brides are the focus of the day, & the main concern for makeup & hair. A good artist will ensure that you feel pampered, your makeup looks lovely, & that it will last all day, through photos, the ceremony, dancing, & tears of happiness. Additionally, the artist will spend a substantial amount of time with a bride compared to the bridesmaids or any other type of service. They will typically take their time, & possibly take a few extra steps to complete bridal makeup. Bridal makeup applications usually include additional services that are not included for other types of makeup applications. Pricing for personal photo shoots tend to be higher, closer to rates of bridal makeup, because certain steps & product are required for the makeup to photograph wonderfully & for you to look your best on film. These steps add a little bit of time onto the service & the products used to achieve the looks are an added cost to the artist to keep stocked in their kit. 

Group Size: For a wedding party, some artists offer wedding packages for larger parties. It helps the party save a little bit of money & guarantees the artist a certain income. Some artists also have luxury packages available where he or she will spend all day on site to touch up the bride & wedding party throughout the day, truly guaranteeing you flawless makeup from start to finish. With this type of service, you will definitely get what you pay for & part of the value is that it ensures one less worry for you. The fee accounts for the hours that the makeup artist is spending on site. 

Cost of Maintaining a Kit: A makeup artist who owns their own business literally builds it from the ground up. They supply their own business cards, pay for & often design their own websites & social media, pay for their own advertising, business insurance, etc… The products that makeup artists use to makeover their clients can be very expensive. Quality products do not come cheap, often have to be ordered in bulk, & are not always found locally. A professional makeup artist, providing excellent results, cannot simply stock their kit from the makeup section of a drugstore & call it a day. One makeup brush can cost upwards of $50 & I have at least 30 brushes in my belt. A simple, basic, beginners’ makeup kit costs thousands of dollars & then must constantly be maintained. Therefore, when we set our prices, we need to keep in mind that a certain amount of our fees is going right back into our kit. 

Travel: Travel includes cost of gas, car payments, maintenance to account for the added wear & tear of using our vehicles for work, & cost of insurance. Our car is how we get your event & most fees are set to account for a certain portion of travel. If we are travelling over a certain distance or we have to take a flight to the location, we must require that cost to be covered by our clients. Otherwise, we’d essentially be paying to go to work, & would end up in a deficit.

Now, the biggest question comes to tipping. For a personal service (bridal, prom, personal photo shoots, etc…), unless gratuity is included into their pricing, tipping is accepted & very much appreciated if you feel that their services were satisfactory. How much you should tip is really dependent on the cost of the service & how satisfied you are. Word of mouth & a recommendation for future work is perhaps the greatest tip of all. That is how we stay in business & keep food on the table. Freelance makeup artists have no job security & really make their own opportunities so guaranteed income from future clients makes us very happy! 

We look forward to working with you & understand that weddings can be very expensive. We want to provide you with the most beautiful hair & makeup services that you’ve been dreaming of for a price that you can manage & we are always willing to work with you to get you the best possible value for your special event. Visit for more information.