Thursday, 24 August 2017 19:26

Beauty Happy Hour: Makeup Bar

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For most makeup artists, the high point of their job is hearing the excitement and revelation clients experience when seeing how a professional makeup application could enhance their appearance. Almost nothing makes a professional makeup artist happier than hearing a client exclaim, “Wow! I never knew I could look like this!”


The most successful strategies to reach this moment have shifted in recent history. Twenty-five years ago, the goal of a makeup application was to create the perfect face at any cost, without regard for ingredients, sustainability, or client ease of use. As a result, packaging was bulky and glamorous, formulas were packed with talc and petroleum, and women would sit at the makeup counter for an hour receiving a makeover with someone they had never met, only to return half the products a week later after realizing they had no idea how to use them in their everyday lives. The initial “Wow!” moment was too often overshadowed by a frustrating hit-or-miss process. As the millennium approached, consumers became savvier and the makeup industry was forced to change. Clients needed something simpler, healthier, and more realistic.

In October of 2012, The Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Face Time at The Makeup Bar.” The piece focused on the growing trend of makeup bars popping up around the country and discussed how busy clients were trying this new alternative to the traditional makeup application experience. When this piece ran, the makeup bar concept was not truly new – a few smart professionals had been offering similar formats for years, but nobody until that moment had called it a makeup bar. This term articulated the easy, convenient solution the industry needed; just like that, makeup bars started popping up outside the department store counters, offering the next evolution in professional applications.


The official definition of a makeup bar is a user-friendly beauty zone where makeup inspiration meets convenience; the customer can play with products while also receiving education, applications, and a shoppable experience. Simply stated, it is a dedicated space, often within a salon or spa, that offers quick makeup applications. Some locations allow consumers to do their own makeup using the products at the bar, while others have professionals there to guide the consumers through their applications. The common denominator of most makeup bars is that they all promote an idea of fun, casual, easy-to-create beauty.

Makeup bars can be incredibly lucrative if operated correctly, but propping a fun-looking makeup tester unit in a spa or salon is not enough. A makeup bar must be properly executed and managed. If skin care and makeup professionals are looking to increase opportunities to generate income within their existing business, the following are three reasons why a makeup bar is a good idea:

1. Consumers will purchase makeup somewhere. If not at the spa, then somewhere else.

2. Industry research shows that sa­lon and spa clients would rather pur­chase their beauty products from a professional they trust than from a retail salesperson at a general department store they do not know.

3. A beauty business cannot sustain growth on services alone. Once the professional’s book is full, their money will inevitably plateau. Professionals break through that plateau by supplementing services with retail.

If skin care and makeup professionals are interested in creating a makeup bar experience in their location, the challenge is attainable with a few key strategies. Above all, keep in mind that the term indicates a space of leisure and fun, not of high pressure. Consumers who are attracted to the informality of makeup bars understand that learning does not have to be laborious. Baby Boomers through Millennials are all looking for a casual way to increase their makeup skills and buy the newest lipstick on the block.


Make sure that the chosen space has plenty of natural light and good accessibility for all who wish to participate. Think of it less like the buffet at a restaurant and more like an elementary school art station. It needs to have enough room for multiple people to play simultaneously.


It is important to have enough makeup to meet everyone’s needs, but also make sure there are enough disposable applicators, brushes, and hand sanitizer. Most importantly, make sure there is someone present who is available to draw clients into the space, prompt them to play, and teach them how to apply makeup.


There are so many makeup brands and an endless variety of price points to choose from, so do adequate research to select the right line. Do not just choose the brand that offers the best markup or profit margin. Professionals should ask themselves if they would be willing to use the products on their own face. Think about today’s consumer and remember some elements that might make a difference to them, like high-quality ingredients, long-lasting wear, sustainable and cruelty-free business practices, and high-performance shades for all skin tones.


Create a customer service protocol that will give a consistent experience for every customer who participates. Some locations start it with a glass of champagne or a hand massage, while others simply focus on asking those key questions that will help the professional to meet the client’s needs more efficiently.


Do not just have hand mirrors lying around that people have to pick up. Have large, mounted, lighted mirrors that illuminate their faces beautifully so the makeup looks fabulous. Use LED lights so the area does not get too hot. Professionals can even play with ring lights designed for selfies so clients can snap their look before they leave! It is also beneficial to have a few magnifying mirrors on pedestals so people can look up close if they want to.



Remember that today’s society is a time of e-commerce; the client experience has become an advantage for shopping experiences in brick and mortar locations. Therefore, it is important to make the makeup bar a fun, exciting atmosphere that clients will want to frequent. Have music playing, drinks and snacks available, and images for inspiration. Make clients feel loved and special. That is the commodity that they will return for time and time again.


Promote the makeup bar on social media, advertise with signs and flyers for at least a month before starting, and have a grand opening party to get consumers in the door. Give away door prizes and do some live applications on models or guests at the party. Also offer introductory gift certificates to go towards their first purchase.



Whether the professional works in a salon, spa, or medical practice, as an aesthetician, they have the ability and the right to charge for makeup applications. That said, many talented skin care professionals stifle their income opportunities in this way. In an effort to maximize their earnings, many will charge a fee for all of their makeup applications, leaving their customers less money to purchase product. It is understandable to charge for weddings or special occasions, but remember that more clients will be willing to sit in the chair and try products if they do not have to pay for the application. The more products they try, the more they will purchase. Most importantly, the products they purchase will need to be replenished, which creates steady income.

Skin care professionals have the chance to build a lucrative business for themselves if they act strategically. Creating a makeup bar rather than just offering makeup as a sideline is a great way to achieve this goal. Nevertheless, professionals should not open up a makeup bar without an existing clientele unless they can afford to open it in a high traffic area. If the professional is operating independently, they should seek out an existing spa or medical practice that is interested in trying a makeup bar within their location. Many spa and medical practice managers do not have time to focus on a makeup business. What they might be looking for is someone who will take on the responsibility of creating and developing the makeup business for them.


The simple truth is that, no matter how great of a grip professionals think they have on the beauty industry, it will inevitably change right before their eyes. The next best thing is always just around the corner. Do not let that fact be a point of fear! Most of the newest trends are renditions of old ones; most of the techniques that are emerging are easy to learn and almost all of them can translate to fiscal growth for the professional and their business. Skin care professionals should keep their mind and eyes open for new information, welcome new trends, and never be afraid to try them. Above all, they should remember that their relationships with clients is what will keep their business alive and growing. Professionals have a tremendous opportunity to touch and empower people’s lives through showing them how beautiful they are. See you at the bar!


Shawn Towne is a global educator for jane iredale with decades of versatile makeup artistry experience. A recognized expert in the beauty industry, Towne's portfolio includes editorial work in fashion and beauty publications around the world and runway artistry for New York Fashion Week shows by Badgley Mischka, Tracy Reese, and Oscar De La Renta. Through his career with jane iredale, Towne works to educate and inspire professionals across the globe while collaborating on product launches and creative projects for the brand. His commentary has been featured in top publications including Allure, Marie Claire, and many spa and makeup trade magazines.

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