“In order to observe you have to be incognito”. 

This is something I’ve wanted to research & write about for an absolute age. I am constantly wondering what it must be like for someone to come and get their makeup done – to trust me with their face. Your face is your face, no one else has the same one. Even identical twins have their own unique differences. How you wear your makeup, and how you like to look, is extremely personal. It has taken me many years and a thousand questions asked, to learn how to get into someones mind and understand what they want to look like. It also took a while to realise, that even if I hate the makeup I have done on a client, if they are happy & feel amazing, then that is all that matters. The key to a being a good makeup artist, I believe, is listening.

SO!!! For a while now, my mind has been consumed with the idea of pretending not to be a makeup artist for a day. Why? I wanted to go to a makeup counter, and feel the feelings people feel when they go to get their makeup done. Right from walking in to the store, to walking out of the store. Do you know how many times I have heard the words, ‘I’ve always been too scared to get my makeup done by someone else’, or, ‘I hate walking on to MAC, it’s so intimidating’, or even, ‘makeup artists can be really rude and bitchy’. Excuse my french! Why do people feel like that?? I simply HAD to check it out. And let me tell you – what an experience it was.

As all the makeup artists in Manchester seem to know each other, I was sure to be busted. So I hopped on the train to London for my long exciting day of investigating. Before I continue, (I know this is cringe) but these are 100% my own views, I am not affiliated with any brand. This blog is completely truthful & a product of my own wonderings.

The aim of my research was absolutely not just to see how someone else could do my makeup. It was to experience the whole package. How comfortable I felt, if the counters were approachable, the hygiene levels, the friendliness, how engaged the person doing my makeup was, the skill level and the product quality.

Here’s what happened…..

I chose 3 makeup counters. The ones I chose and why;

  1. Illamasqua. Commonly thought of as ‘theatrical’ or sometimes ‘drag’ makeup.
  2. Benefit. Commonly thought of as ‘natural’, ‘pretty’ makeup.
  3. Charlotte Tilbury. A newbie makeup range, offering 10 different looks to choose from. The idea being it’s easy to choose how you want your makeup to look.

3 completely different counters. I knew full well that at each one, I would be asked what I wanted. I told them only these things; ‘I’m going to an awards ceremony tonight, I want to look different from my usual daytime self. I want to look glamourous and lovely.’  When each asked their own further questions, I told them; ‘I like winged liner and false lashes, don’t like my face too heavy, I usually draw on my brows, I like some shine on my cheeks, and I like all different lip colours’. Now you may think that’s a lot of information. But that is ridiculously vague for a makeup artist to hear. What about my skin type? The type of eyelashes I like? The liner size? Eyeshadow? What colour? Do I overdraw my lips? Do I get oily? Do I like bronzer? Blusher? Contour? How dark do I like my brows? What about lipgloss? Lipstick? IT’S AN ABSOLUTE MINEFIELD!!

Here’s how I arrived at all 3 counters. A little bronzer and concealer, so I could walk on to the street without frightening the birds.

Photo 18-04-2016, 09 31 55

1. ILLAMASQUA! – £50 appointment, redeemable on products.

First stop, Illamasqua. I was nervous as hell. I think a mix of the idea of another person doing my makeup (knowing how picky I am) and having to stick to a false identity. I was Philly Noone, Sales Manager for my family business in fresh food wholesale. I also had a plain black dress for the Awards ceremony that night. So inventive. Hilarious.

What can I say? I was very pleasantly surprised. The girls in the store were extremely welcoming. The makeup artist for me sat me down, her makeup was soft, natural with an immaculate red lip. Her brushes were clean, the station was clean, her hands were clean. The only thing I could critique, is that she didn’t introduce herself, I had to ask her halfway through the appointment what her name was.

After I’d told her my brief idea of what I wanted, she really investigated further. Asking me what types of shadow colours I like, how I like my skin to look, asking what I usually like to use. She did my brows first, which I was slightly wary of, as sometimes if you do them first, they can take over the makeup when it’s finished. She then moved on to eyes, then concealer, skin, contour, highlight, lips, lashes. She chose products to suit my dry skin, talking me through why she was using them. I was impressed. During the appointment, she was completely engaged, asking me about my makeup bag, telling me about products she liked, asking me about my life in general. She was absolutely lovely, just the type of girl you would want to do your makeup. She took me to the lashes stand and helped me choose, and also to the lipstick stand for me to try the colours on my hand before I chose one to wear.

I felt completely at ease. I’m going to post some pics now, but before I do, the things I will say, are that my brows were way too dark, she put more powder under my eyes than I would have done – I felt a little creasy, and I would have put liner in my waterline. She didn’t ask if I wanted that but I liked it all the same. Overall, I was impressed with her, and I really liked her personality and professionalism.


Photo 18-04-2016, 11 46 15Photo 18-04-2016, 12 07 05Photo 18-04-2016, 12 00 57

Good work Illamasqua! Now time to crack on.

2. BENEFIT! – £30 appointment, redeemable on products.

Even though I’d done the first one, my nerves came back again! I was like for God’s sake, get a grip. I arrived, walked in to the shop and the team of about 9 were having a meeting on the right hand side. I kind of had to go in and wave for someones attention, despite me being in clear eyesight. I felt a bit funny, like I was interrupting them. Nevertheless, a girl took me over to the diary, saw she was actually doing my makeup and sat me down. Her makeup was very natural, yet fresh and well put on. The station was extremely clean, tidy and already set up for my appointment.

Once again, I gave the quick brief I had prepared. She also found that I have dry skin, so used a lovely smelling, very hydrating moisturiser, followed by ‘Porefessional’ primer. I’m not really a fan of ‘Porefessional’, finding it makes foundation separate. But I had no choice in the matter, as this was ‘the best selling primer’. I found it odd that she was using these tiny, flat, rectangle sponges (about the size of a black jack sweet) to apply these products. I think most would agree this is not the way to apply a moisturiser – you gotta get your hands in there and work it in! She next applied concealer & foundation, also good for dry skin, and giving a natural dewy finish. Followed by a powder to set. I’ve got to give it to her, she really talked me through the products. And every time she applied something new, she showed me in the hand mirror. When she started contouring with ‘Hoola bronzer, too low under my cheekbone, I started to panic. Tiny bit of highlight then moving on.

Brows. Scared. She asked me if I had used ‘Browzings’ before, which I have (and I don’t dislike too much). Using a chunky angle brush I wouldn’t touch…with a bargepole…one for the northerners…she used a mix of the wax and powder to fill in my brows.

After telling me gold and brown would suit my eyes, I agreed, if she thought it would look nice. She’s the professional, right? Using a liquid eye primer, which she explained would enhance the colour of the eyeshadow, she got to work. Watching closely what products she was using, she placed the dull gold all over my lid. Then reached for the shimmery dark brown. I knew that was going in the crease. Palms sweating, I felt the brush that was too firm to blend with, hit the top of my crease, dangerously high up. Liquid liner, palpitations. As she trotted off to get some lashes, I snook a quick selfie.

Photo 18-04-2016, 13 09 08

The lashes were standard winged lashes. They were not trimmed correctly and she applied them to my eye with metal tweezers, which is dangerous. Good lord, imagine if she sneezed, coughed or flinched, poked my eye out and then had to take me to the hospital as Philly Noone, the lying MUA. Nightmare. Even more of a nightmare – she then layered the lashes with lashings of super black mascara. Following up with a choice between a nude-ish or bright pink lipstick, to which I said I wasn’t sure, so she reassured me the pink would look amazing and ‘red carpet’. I lost the will. Pictures? Here goes;

Photo 18-04-2016, 13 46 18Photo 18-04-2016, 13 25 55Photo 18-04-2016, 13 32 56

Sweet girl. Not sweet makeup. Infact I looked like I had aged 14 years in an hour.

As a customer, I found one thing particularly annoying. To have my makeup done it was £30, redeemable in products. She only told me after she’d finished, that ‘lash application’ is classed as another service, and isn’t possible to redeem off the £30. Then informs me that ‘lash application’ is £15. So automatically you’re spending £15 extra. On some badly & dangerously applied eyelashes! Not cool.

As a positive, I bought a really nice highlighter called ‘Watt’s Up’.


I had every faith in the world with the CT counter. I’ve used a lot of her products and I absolutely LOVE them. Upon arrival, the store was relatively busy, I got sent downstairs to the appointment area. The very first thing I thought, was that the lighting seemed too dim to do makeup. But hey, lets see. The staff were very friendly and professional, the appointment area oozed glamour. The girl doing my makeup was confident, bubbly and I had a feeling she had been doing makeup for a long time. I felt she spoke about makeup with a the same passion I have. I immediately felt at ease. I felt sure my makeup was going to be beautiful. YAY!

At CT, you choose a look you like from ten looks, and your personal look is created based on this. The girl did explain to me, that I could add things in or take things out. She also explained all about who Charlotte Tilbury is, her influence in the makeup world and showed me images of her work. I had to pretend I didn’t know. TEEHEE.

Out of the 10 looks, I chose Dolci Vita. (Because the MUA in me knows that’s the most popular look people go for). Plus it is a beautiful look…

Photo 20-04-2016, 23 17 12

Imagine looking like that. FML.

Ok.  So the girl spent ages talking me through the skincare process, makeup removal, beautiful skin. Which was nice, my skin felt fresh and pampered. However, after makeup removal, she did then apply two moisturisers, an eye cream, a primer and a radiance glow product. For me, that’s way too much before foundation, my makeup doesn’t stay on with that many layers. But I was quite happy to let her try, maybe she could prove me wrong. She did my skin first. Concealing the eye with a corrector and then a concealer mixed with more eye cream. Apparently I need all of these things because I have purple under my eyes. I mean, should I take offence? Nah. On we go. Because she had prepped my skin to high heaven, I knew I wasn’t dry anymore, so whatever foundation she put on, would probably be ok. Good job I’m not oily. She chose the Magic foundation, which I know is amazing. She let me choose between 2 colours, a shade apart. I knew both were too pale for my skin, but because she was so confident, a little too so, I felt too awkward to tell her I wanted darker. She hadn’t noticed my body was a bit more tanned than my face. Maybe it was the lighting?

A little powder & the ‘Filmstar Bronze & Glow’ to highlight and contour. My skin looked quite nice actually by the time she’d finished. On to the brows. She didn’t ask what I usually use, and she didn’t ask how I like my brows to look. If only she knew how particular I actually am about them. She shaped them naturally with a match to my natural brow colour. Where’s Illamasqua when I need them – I cant go to the Awards bald!!!

Eyes. Shimmer. Everywhere. The colours were lovely, and the Dolci Vita palette is beautiful. It just needs a matte colour in there. She was using all the right brushes, but just too much shimmer from the eyelid to the eyebrow. I asked for a winged liner added to the Dolci Vita look. A pen liner was used, and was applied too thick across the lashline, which I think the girl realised, as she then started to blend more brown shimmery shadow over the line. Dropping the shadow all over my perfectly concealed purple bags. Oh no. And no wings. OH NO. Off came the concealer. Back on went the concealer.

I don’t think CT offer false lashes, so she set to work trying to curl my lashes. To which I was trying to explain, my lashes have been LVL’d (permed) so are already curly! Only on the second eye did she comment ‘oh your lashes are really curly anyway’, consequently squeezing my eyelid instead of my lashes. Ouch. What had happened!! It had started so well. Here come the pics, some in the CT lighting, some in natural lighting.

Photo 18-04-2016, 16 18 52Photo 18-04-2016, 17 11 09Photo 18-04-2016, 17 15 10

I feel this one, started off well. But I don’t think the girl investigated enough in to what I like/don’t like. It was more like what she thought was best. Again, from a customer point of view, I didn’t particularly feel comfortable with how the appointment was closed. As the girl wrote everything that she had used on a product list, she told me in the meantime to choose what I wanted to take with me, and to start with the skincare. When I then just waited for her to fill in the product list, so I could look at it first, she asked if I was not going to choose what I wanted. To which I replied, ‘If I could have a read through the product list so I’m clear what everything is.’ She gave me the product list. Because I already felt pressured, I knew I wasn’t going to buy much. I HATE being pressured!! When I chose an eyeliner and the concealer, the girl asked me, ‘Is that all you want?’. To which I replied, ‘Yes, thankyou’. If she had closed the appointment in a different way, I know I would have spent so much more, I actually need to buy some CT for my kit! But the stubborn customer in me refused. Off I went, shiny-eyed Sally.


So there you have it! My mystery makeup shop revealed. I wouldn’t, by any means, say I had a bad experience at any of these counters. I actually thoroughly enjoyed myself, the girls were all likeable enough, they all looked nice & were all clean and tidy. I can however comment, that my experience at Illamasqua was my favourite. For me, the level of skill, friendliness and approachability, outshone the other two. I would also say that I would have approached certain situations in a different manner, and this experience has reinforced my belief that it is definitely necessary to ask a million questions before I even start a makeup. Don’t ask, don’t know.

I now know what it’s like to have my makeup done. I would definitely get it done again! But if the makeup artist wasn’t asking exactly what I like/dislike, want/don’t want, I would be sure to say exactly what I wanted. Please don’t be afraid to go and get your makeup done. It’s a brilliant experience.

On the tube back to Shoreditch, I had a thought. I would go back to the hotel, shower, wash everything off and do my makeup how I would have liked it to be done. And plus I needed more eyebrow to go out that night. Obvs.

Over & out xxx

Photo 18-04-2016, 18 46 05Photo 18-04-2016, 18 48 57Photo 19-04-2016, 10 37 38