On July 15th, MAC Cosmetics opened their first-ever makeup studio in New York City. When I first saw that this was happening, my heart sank. I have worked so hard to build my concept at Authentic Beauty as a safe place for women to learn how to do their makeup as well as have their makeup done. And while we do offer products, we are first and foremost a service based makeup studio providing beauty services to clients (makeup lessons, makeup applications, brow services, organic spray tanning, eyelash extensions, hair and more).
As our mission statement reflects, “we are professional makeup artists and not sales associates who listen and assist you in making comfortable decisions about your image.”
So, when MAC announced they would have a studio that would charge for lessons and services, I truly thought that my business was done for. How could I possibly compete with one of the most powerful and influential brands in today’s beauty industry?
Rather than be overwhelmed, I decided I needed to see for myself what their experience was like. So, I headed to their studio in New York all the while pondering what could I learn from them. How were they structuring their lessons, what aren’t we doing and how can we improve?
AN ADVENTURE TO ANOTHER MAKEUP STUDIO
First, I was able to book my appointment online with relative ease though it wasn’t as easy a process as it is with Mindbody. The only drawback with this first step was that I couldn’t review the artists’ bios or portfolios so it was going to be a ‘luck of the draw’ type of scenario.
Fortunately, they did have inspirational looks drawn on face charts for you to look through for inspiration, but there was no mention of bringing my own makeup bag in with me or coming in with my own looks that inspired me (akin to what we do at Authentic Beauty with the Image Journey.)
Regardless, I received a confirmation email shortly after I booked online and I was off. When I arrived at the corner of Lexington and 63rd, I was blown away by the size of the studio. It is located in a beautiful area of New York. I was enthusiastically greeted by the concierge and quickly offered an espresso as I peered out at the impressive studio! In terms of the layout, there were six stations lined up (three of them two-sided) and a private room with two additional stations for the 14 artists on staff who are all licensed cosmetologists. The stations were thoughtfully arranged and the displays and design of the studio was on point. As a self-funded business, I know what it takes financially to do this and I was truly impressed; I want nothing more than to have this in my own space.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS & THE CONSULTATION
I was brought to the back room that had LED lights on the ceiling and then lighted makeup mirrors that cast a warm, soft glow on my skin. Then, I met my artist, a young, attractive and attentive woman, who at first couldn’t find her supplies. The counter space she had to work with was insufficient in my opinion and wasn’t designed to be a space set up to support teaching. Regardless, she started the consultation asking me what I wanted to learn. I didn’t tell her I was a makeup and brow artist; rather, I just told her I was a salon owner. She didn’t ask me how old I was or what my skill level was. In terms of the consultation, I would grade her at a 6.5. For me, as a professional makeup and brow artist, this is the most important part of the process. If I don’t sufficiently draw out my clients’ vision of themselves, I fail as an artist.
WHAT I WANTED
I told her I wore warm colors and a monochromatic look most of the time. I was looking for some alternatives and I wanted to learn some new techniques to give me an update and help me stay current. Since I don’t wear light on the lid or a crease cut, I said I wanted to learn that.
At no point did I say I wanted heavy or evening dramatic makeup. I also said I wanted to learn some natural contouring and highlighting techniques (I was at MAC after all) and I really rehearsed saying what I hear most from my own clients. “I want to stay current” and to “modernize” because if you are doing the same application techniques and using the same makeup from even 10 years ago, you are in danger of aging yourself.
Often times, people can tell exactly how old you are by the way you wear your makeup. So, I tried my best to articulate that to my artist and I also told her I wanted her opinion of how she thought I should do this. After the consultation with my goals clearly laid out, she started pulling products and setting up the station. I was seated in front of the mirror and given a hand-held mirror so I could observe. She put the face chart in front of me and handed me a pen so I could take notes while she was instructing.
WHAT I GOT
When she removed my makeup, she really didn’t talk about my skin or make any recommendations about how to care for it. She mentioned a serum would be great but I wasn’t really clear what it was. Was it skincare? Was it primer? She also didn’t ask me what my current facial routine was. She then began priming my skin so I inferred that this first product was in fact skincare. Regardless, I loved that she used a nice big flat foundation brush to apply the skincare. It felt really great and I will be doing that in my own lessons from now on.
THE BROW GURU STRIKES BACK?
She then began filling in my brows. She used a brow gel/wax product and a small pointed brush which she said would mimic the hair of my brow. I actually liked her technique. Then, she applied another brow product, the traditional brow mascara, which was complete overkill, but I decided to go with it. Remember, I wanted to get her opinion, and I wanted to learn different techniques.
She did ask me if I wanted to do the other side for practice and I told her I got it. That was the only time she asked if I wanted to practice what she was teaching me that day. And that’s when I noticed she was not applying the makeup straight onto my face but coming in side to side. That meant, if you looked closely, I was not even close to being even from one side to the other.
Next, she applied a product to highlight my brow area. I have seen this done with concealer but this was some special product. It gave me that Instagram brow instantly. Since I am affectionately known as the brow guru, I was pretty fascinated by this technique. I specialize in the more natural brow, and I did like how clean the brow fill looked, but it also enhanced the poor execution of the brow shape she originally created.
Then, she began on my eyes. She repeated back to me what I originally said I wanted and she asked me if I was opposed to shimmer. I said, “No,” but I only wanted it in one place. I did say I didn’t think it was good to put it all over since I was older. Then, she started immediately in my crease. She said she wanted to use cooler tones which would bring out my eyes and compliment my warmer skin, and I went with it since I wanted to see her execution. She combined a pebble color and a burgundy (the colors you use in a bruise) and even though I do believe it brought out the color of my eyes, it also made me have dark circles immediately.
She used way too big of a brush in my opinion and in two minutes, the color, since it was matte, was down my face. She blended for a really long time, and if I had been one of my clients, I would have lost her the second that my first stroke was with a dark burgundy.
She placed the two colors on the outside and inside on my crease , and then she used a lighter color on the inside of my eye. She kept working that burgundy and pebble color over and over. Then, the shimmer she chose to place on my lid was a pink iridescent that gave off a green glow! WOW! That was an interesting choice! Again, I just listened to her instructions.
At some point, I took a selfie and started seeing the inconsistencies from eye to eye. This is significant. One contour was higher than the other, one was darker, and I realized that she was applying from side to side rather than straight on. I think that if she had been working from me straight on she wouldn’t have had this much of a problem. Unfortunately, her perception was skewed and it seemed to me to be a very amateur mistake. I let her keep rolling, and she started cleaning it up which made it a little better. She then started in underneath my eyes. I am not afraid of the waterline so I let her at it, but when she started layering and setting the burgundy under there I immediately looked like I had been in a fight. Whoa!
Then, she started smoothing and talking to me about contouring and highlighting. I liked the effect she created but hated the placement. I actually bought the color and mineral powder she used, but if you look in the pictures, where she chose to place the light, she enhanced the area directly below my eye sockets which is not a particularly good place to place a highlight in my opinion.
THE POUT THAT MADE ME POUT
Next, she worked on my lips, and she reached for a very pink lip pencil. I told her that my lips would turn really pink and that I was not a fan of the color. Regardless, she did it anyways, and immediately they started turning pink. At that point, they were stained, and she had to choose a browner color to tone it down. The result was a lip that looked really Goth, but it was a whole lot better than the brown plum with pink pencil she was going to use. I was not protesting the application, and said it looked fine but if I had been a real client I don’t even know what I would have said.
She finished up my face chart and didn’t fill it in with the colors she used, nor did she write down the brushes she used. Even if a client says to me, “ I have everything down,” in my experience, you still need to write down everything for a client. I told her I wanted the highlighter and contour and although I told her I liked the brush she used earlier, she forgot to offer it to me. I would have bought it. Then, I checked out and everyone was gracious, and I even got a free mascara. Then, I stepped outside and sent the after pictures to all my artist friends back home.
THE PICTURES SAY IT ALL Their reactions were priceless, and they were instantly mortified. (Check out this video of my clients’ reactions looking at the pictures).
I was going out to dinner with a dear makeup artist friend who is a seasoned expert. When she showed up at my hotel room, we both looked and evaluated the application so it could be fixed and balanced and it took the two of us talking about what to do to figure it out.
But will I ever apply this look again on myself and did it align with my goals for a natural and modernized look? Nope and nope!
FINAL THOUGHTS I am no longer afraid of the MAC makeup studio. I am happy they exist the same way I am happy Anastasia exists. I get more clients because of them. Their marketing efforts make it known that makeup services are now a thing and I don’t think many women know there are studios where you can learn how to do your makeup. I can’t afford to do what needs to be done to get the message heard to the larger audience, but in Atlanta I sure can.
Authentic Beauty has and always will be a makeup studio offering makeup lessons, makeup applications and a host of other beauty services to clients in Atlanta. More importantly, I would put my makeup lessons and makeup applications up against that studio any day.
I have spent my life perfecting the art of how to instruct women on applying makeup so that they love what they see when they look in the mirror and I have an incredible team of licensed makeup artists that do the same. We take the mystery out of makeup application, and any technique I teach can be easily duplicated.