How To Break Into The Hair And Make Up Industry!

After nearly two decades in the make up industry, we know how hard it is to breakthrough! Especially into film and tv! These days, everyone is a make up artist and the long line of candidates seems to be endless! To help you out, we spoke to some of our make up industry friends who have worked on everything from Harry Potter, music videos and The Great Gatsby to get some tips and tricks to give you a head start on your journey!


ibiza make up
Rachel Buxton
Hair and make up Supervisor
Insta: racheyroo2004

Q1- What training have you done to get to where you are today?

A- I did A-levels, then a degree in makeup for the performing arts, at London College of Fashion. I’m doing constant training to keep up to date on skills, so much is constantly changing. For example….. airbrushing, barbering, laying on hair, afro hairstyling, afro hair cutting, …… so many courses are available!!

Q2- Did you do any work experience after your initial training?

A- I did so much work experience after qualifying. When you start out you need to make contacts and get your face out there so work experience is vital. You want to be helpful and keen so the team says, let’s take him/her as a trainee. It’s so difficult to get into the industry as mostly it’s on recommendations you get jobs. Work experience is a vital way in. You also learn so much…… you’re in a crowded room learning from 10’s of artists, pick their brains and treat it as a free day’s training!!!!!! Also, we don’t know much when we qualify, ok we can do things we’ve just learnt on our course, but there’s soooo much more to learn.

Q3- What was your first job in the industry?

A- My first job was on French and Saunders MANY years ago…..

Q4- What pro tips can you give new mua’s / hairstylists starting out? And how to get into the industry?

A- Keep putting yourself out there. As I said work Experience is the best way to get known. Make yourself indispensable….. clean brushes, make tea and coffee. (Write down how someone drinks it then just keep making cups….! ) We all want good people on our teams but if you show your kind and thoughtful this goes a long way. clean/tidy stations, sweep the floor, been seen to be doing stuff. Don’t wait to be asked. A good trainee will get taken from job to job, you can’t live without one. Make yourself that one!!! Send emails to supervisors rather than designers, they tend to book people. Still, write to designers of course but send to supervisors too. The internet gives so much info now, social media.
Don’t be deterred if people don’t reply, leave it a week then try again, you know what it’s like, oooo I will reply later then you forget!!

Q5- What’s been your biggest challenge and favourite job to date?

Each job comes with its own sets of challenges…. That could range from a tricky brief, weather, difficult actors, tight budgets….. so much effects our job.
I think working in the arctic was a huge challenge, things freezing, and products changing/ reacting differently in the cold weather, even set bags freezing and cracking….. who Knew that would happen!!!! But we all work together, learn and get there in the end!!!


ibiza make up
Hair and make up artist
Ethical Health & Wellness:

Alexandra has been a professional hair and make-up artist for almost 20 years. To date she has enjoyed an extensive international career; teaching in colleges, working in the West End in London, fashion shoots, commercials, promotion and special events, as well as many TV shows, Netflix dramas and blockbuster feature films. Her credits include, ‘Life of Pi’, ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘Mad Max 4: Fury Road’, for which makeup won a BAFTA and an Oscar. Alexandra is passionate about her work and loves to make people feel special whilst demonstrating how to achieve great results for themselves. She has teamed her skills up with ARBONNE Health and Wellness knowing that they too share the same ethical and green morals.

Q1- What training have you done to get to where you are today?

A- I come from an art background and first earned a pre-degree National Diploma in Art Foundation Studies. Although I loved doing my own and friends makeup I was involved in school drama productions and was obsessed with horror films and all of the creature creation in the old Ray Harryhausen movies. Up until that point it had not occurred to me that I could train and do it as a career. There were very few makeup courses nationwide at that time and, of course, no social-media. It was at the college Open Day that I discovered and knew this is exactly what I was meant to do! I then completed a 2-year full-time Diploma in Media Make-Up and SFX. The course provided additional certificates in Wig-making, Hairdressing, as well as Period Hairstyling. I qualified in 2000 with ‘Best Student of the Year’ Award.

Later in my career, I gained a Training and Assessment Certificate which enabled me to teach hair and makeup to college students at the highest level. I believe attending college is essential to providing the foundation for your skill and comprehension but that you acquire most knowledge and fine-tune your skills once you are working in the industry. Learning is on-going as products, technology and media develop.

Q2-  Did you do any work experience after your initial training?

A- Most definitely! Even after years of experience in London, when I emigrated to Australia I had to start from scratch again and take a few low paying hair and makeup jobs to get my foot in the door. You have to seize opportunities and put yourself out there to gain contacts by showing your ability and keenness to learn. If you are good, work hard and are likeable then it does pay-off. It’s a tough industry to break into, with even more people trying to become HMUA’s than ever before, so if you’re not self-motivated, disciplined, and determined enough then someone who is will replace you. However, you must also know your worth and not allow others to take advantage. Once you feel competent, be confident and learn how to negotiate. Weigh the job up to decide whether it is worth it. You should only agree to the work experience if you feel it is something to help you progress and/or lead to paid work. You have to be business-minded. Having said that, don’t expect the ‘big-bucks’ when you are starting out. Your prices should reflect your level of ability and experience.

Q3- What was your first job in the industry?

A- I was fortunate to get my first paying job as an HMUA only weeks after completing my course. I was employed to work on a music video called ‘True Love Never Dies’ by Flip ‘n’ Fill. I remember being very nervous as I was working solo making up the singer and main cast members. Although it will be dated now, I am still proud of my work on it! It definitely pushed my comfort zone. In that short time, I learnt a lot about production running, budgeting and scheduling. I got this job by first doing unpaid work for the producer of the music video. He produced many local projects as well as providing headshots for actors. I was introduced to him by the hair & makeup designer of the Liverpool-based film, ‘Al’s Lads’, which I also did some work experience straight out of college.

Q4-  What pro tips can you give new MUA’s / Hairstylists starting out? And how to get into the industry?

A- I believe it’s important to be a team player. You have to collaborate with a variety of people and, often, several departments so you must be able to get along with others whilst communicating your ideas and being confident in your decisions. If you are truly determined to succeed, work hard, build your resilience and keep knocking on doors, the statement ‘it’s WHO you know, not WHAT you know’ is true to a certain extent.
While starting out, you should volunteer for as much work experience as possible. You just never know where it’ll lead. Take initiative and contact local photographers, production companies, theatre companies, salons, other hair and makeup artists, etc and offer your services. Invite/request a meeting, show them samples of your work and ask for advice and to help with other leads. Always make the effort to find out people’s names to address them personally. Keep track of who you’ve spoken to and when. Don’t be afraid to go back to them if you haven’t received a reply or it’s been a while since your initial correspondence. Polite persistence pays off.

Unless you know exactly what you want to do, I would suggest gaining experience in different fields and media to broaden your skill-set which makes you more employable. Once you have some experience you can decide where you want to establish yourself. As I mentioned earlier, learning is on-going. Always keep your eyes and ears open and note how things are done. If you don’t know how to do something then don’t be afraid to say, or, if the situation allows, have a go yourself! Practice makes perfect. Like with anything, the more you do the better you get. Take well-lit and focused photographs of your work and use social media to your advantage. Once you’ve got a decent portfolio and are making money, invest in having a website made and advertise wherever you can. Attend local events and offer promotions to build a client base, your portfolio, experience and speed. Build professional networks too. You will need them.

Q5-  What’s been your biggest challenge and favourite job to date?

A- I believe the biggest challenge of working as an HMUA is the long and unpredictable hours. It makes it difficult to plan ahead and you have to be willing to drop everything last minute. I have lost count of the important and social events that I have had to miss or cancel. One job often leads to the next so jobs can be hard to turn down to take time off. Depending on the field of the industry, the work can also be seasonal. Therefore, not providing a steady income all year round. Self-employment is not secure so I would advise anyone to support your passion with another income stream, preferably residual. Having said that, apart from the last few years when I became a mum, I worked continuously. I had built a good reputation which did allow me to go travelling on many adventures too. It is hard to pick a favourite job as I have loved so many for different reasons. I absolutely loved working in theatre, it was such good fun! My first theatre job was working on the touring Disney production of ‘Beauty & the Beast’. I got the job by first doing work experience at my local theatre where I met the manager and he recommended me to their team. I was only meant to be employed for 6 weeks, but within a week, I was offered a full-time contract and ended up touring with the production for 18 months! This was the real making of my career and inevitably led me to London. Another standout job was being part of the creative process on ‘The Great Gatsby’ whilst living in Sydney, Australia. I was credited as a Hair & Make-Up Assistant, working on/with the main cast, supporting cast and establishing looks for the supporting artists. Director Baz Luhrmann and his costume designer wife, were incredibly detailed in developing every character’s look, so far as, even the 300 supporting artists had a character name!


ibiza make up
Liz Phillips
Hair and make up designer
Insta- liz_p_make_up

Q1- What training have you done to get to where you are today?

A – My journey has been a long one.
I’ve always wanted to be a Make-Up Artist since I was a little girl.
My favourite films growing up were The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, Legend. Any kind of monster movie, bad 80s horror, Sinbad etc.

I never wanted to make people pretty I wanted to make monsters and creatures!
My school classically had no idea where to send me to I got sent to a hairdressing and beauty college. Little did I realise at 16 that this is actually a part of the job. I lasted a year before I dropped out in search of a proper make-up school. I wish I’d finished!
At 17 I was still too young to go to the holy grail of The London College of Fashion so I got a part-time job and waited till I was 18 to apply.

I spent 2 years at LCF and as I was still only 20 and quite shy, I searched for another course and an adventure to find my adult feet in the world.
I chose Scotland for an old fashioned ‘Uni’ experience and at 21 moved my whole life to Glasgow for a 2 year HND in Make-Up Artistry course. I had the best time and really had the chance to grow up away from home.

Upon coming back to London, I realised I had no idea how to get started. I have no connections in the industry. I worked for a bit in Charles Fox (a theatrical make up shop in Covent Garden) and eventually found myself working as a casual wig and makeup person in The Opera House.

Over the next 4 years, I worked on both the opera and ballet and jumped between a few West End shows as a swing and managed to combine working at the Coliseum as well!

All through this time I learned so much about wigs but continued to contact people, do courses and attend events to meet Designers, doing dailies and small jobs for magazines and commercials mostly.

Q2- Did you do any work experience after your initial training?

A- I think it’s important to limit the amount of work we do for free. Everyone needs to live and pay bills and people can take advantage.

I did a couple of student films (one whilst I was still at college and one after) and quickly realised they don’t lead to paid work.

I did a lot of test make ups with photographers for very little money and the prints in exchange. Again I realised I didn’t want to go into Editorial or Fashion so this was largely a waste of my time so I stopped.

I found short courses way more useful in gaining further experience and meeting people in the Industry.

Q3- What was your first job in the industry?

A- My first proper job as I see it is my first film.
The Dark with Sean Bean and Maria Bello that I was lucky to be Trainee on when I was 25 with Oscar winning Make-Up Designer Sarah Monzani.

I was still bouncing between wig work and odd editorial shoots but contacting people and attending everything I could when I saw Sarah at The Make-Up Magazine Tradeshow. Everyone as bugging her with cv’s and as I didn’t, it got her attention and she asked for my number. I got a call a few days later and my first proper film job as her main team Trainee! I was over the moon.

Q4- What pro tips can you give new mua’s / hairstylists starting out? And how to get into the industry?

A- My only real secret for getting started is dedication.
My mantra was always someone’s got to do it so why shouldn’t it be me?

It took over my life for a good 10 years before I really felt I was getting anywhere. I read the books, got the magazines  went to Trade shows, Union meetings, emailed and wrote letters to Designers and Production Companies, phoned people, did short courses, and went to any other event to do with the industry I could.

You will start to meet the right people and they will start to remember your name. Although do remember there is a very fine line between being keen and stalking 🙂

Q5- What’s been your biggest challenge and favourite job to date?

A- Hmm biggest challenge and favourite job…
I worked as a daily a lot on War Horse so to say you have worked on a Spielberg is pretty amazing and big films are always fun. The big scale spectacle of it all is why we all want to do the job let’s be honest!

Being in a full-size recreation of the trenches surrounded by 100s of background actors and horses was amazing!

I was also lucky enough to do some days on Harry Potter, mainly with the goblins. The sets were always so detailed and mind-blowing, especially Gringotts Bank, wow.

Biggest Challenge,
Things go wrong or unexpected things happen a lot on set so you learn to roll with it and think on your feet.

When I was Trainee on The Dark, I was in another unit on my own. This had never happened to me before. I was looking after a double little girl with a wig sewn on who was being dangled off a cliff. As you do.

I did checks and then noticed Sophie, the young actress playing the little girl run past me with a different hairstyle and I knew it was direct continuity! I had to find my voice and shout to a whole professional crew that I needed them to stop lowering her over the side as her hair was wrong and I needed to fix it. I had to cut the wig off (it had been stitched on as it was really windy!) in the back of a minibus with no guidance from anyone that I was doing the right thing. Everyone was cross at me holding things up but I was right and saved the shots from being useless and needing to be reshot! Terrifying at the time but I’m glad I did it.

Also my first Design Job, Clique, series 2.
Following up on an existing show and keeping the Actors, Execs, Producers and Directors happy. Phew! Nerve-wracking but so much fun! One of my most memorable work experiences for sure!


ibiza make up
Natasha Livesey
Hair and make up trainee
Insta- tashliveseymakeup

Q1- What training have you done to get where you are today?

A- When I first left school I thought I wanted to be a Fashion Designer so I studied Art and Design: Fashion at college but soon realized this wasn’t for me (pattern cutting and me: no no no!). I then went on to do a Level 2 Beauty Therapy qualification. I enjoyed this but found it wasn’t creative enough so I also did a Level 3 Media Makeup qualification – all at my local college. At the time I was 21 and knew that I had some travel, fun and general growing up that I wanted to
do so I moved to Ibiza and got a job at the incredible Kiss My Fairy! What started as a part-time Body Painting job which I thought would keep me busy for 1 or 2
seasons turned into 7 glorious summer seasons! At season number 5 I think? Karen advised me to return to my training in order to follow my
dreams of working in Film and TV. – Thank you The World’s Best Mentor! I moved to London and completed a Level 5 HND in Specialist Makeup at West Thames College. I graduated in 2018. I have also just done a 6-week intensive Barbering Course at the London School of Barbering.

Q2- Did you do any work experience after your initial training?

A- I was quite lucky to go straight into working as I have friends that already work in the industry and
by recommendation I landed a few jobs which led to more. However, I did do some Work Experience at Phantom of the Opera in the west end, which I got through my lovely tutor at college, Tanya who is head of makeup at Phantom. This was great because I had never really seen how theatre works
and it also led to some paid work at the end of last year as a Swing in the Wig Department!

Q3- What was your first job in the industry?

A- My first job was a TV interview for Dame Jane Goodall for Discovery TV. I was very nervous giving her high status – she had come to the interview straight from a meeting with Prince Harry at Buckingham Palace!!! However, she was extremely lovely and actually preferred to do her own hair and makeup so I was just there for checks!

Q4- What pro tips can you give to any new mua’s / hairstylists starting out? And how to get into the industry?

A- I am still very new to the industry so I myself am still starting out, but my main advice would be to be prepared to work hard, never say no and always have a smile on your face. Starting out and being a Trainee (The first step after college) is tough, work isn’t always regular until you get a contracted job. I suggest a side hustle or 2!
When I started studying I got a job at M.A.C working in their Pro store 3 days a week, I’m still there now! Getting a part-time job on a makeup counter is great to help pay the bills but also to get free makeup training too, also most brands offer a good staff discount so its a great way to build your
kit. Job’s will come up super last minute, be prepared to drop social plans and go with a smile on your face because it could lead to more work 🙂

Q5- What has been your biggest challenge and favourite job to date?

A- I would say that my biggest challenge has been to learn not to compare myself to others. At 29 I’m a bit older than most Trainee’s, and living in London working numerous job’s, long hours, sometimes 7 days a week it can be tough but everyone has their own path and with that comes experience. Be positive and focus on your goals and they will happen! 🙂 My favourite job has to be: **other than Kiss My Fairy of course!!** Working as a Crowd Trainee on Endeavour which is a Drama on ITV. I was lucky enough to work on most busy crowd days and even got to go to Oxford – which was beautiful! The series is set in 1970 and a dream for me because I love a Period Drama! I learned so much and it has definitely confirmed that TV and Film is the industry for me.


We hope you have enjoyed this months blog and found some useful information to help you with your artist journey! To celebrate our Ibiza opening we have 50% off our long-lasting liquid lipsticks in-store and online! Offer ends midnight on the 20th July 2020.

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