6 ways to earn more money as a makeup artist

Hustling to pay the bills is an everyday battle for many freelance makeup artists. If you want to work full time in a freelance role, there are things you can do to make sure you can cover your living costs. While you take the time to build up your name, you may not have regular work. My top tips for surviving these difficult years for your business:

  1. Get a website. Websites are easy to come by these days. You can study Search Engine Optimisation for free through Google and build yourself a website that will show up on the keywords you think your customers will be searching. Wordpress and Wix are a few free options. I recommend getting a website created by a designer if you can afford it. You will need high quality imagery for your website and portfolio to stand out.

  2. Stop ripping yourself off. This is one of the hardest things to learn as a freelancer. At first you are so excited to get clients that you are willing to work for less just to secure the jobs. This will not be great for you in the long run. People are not going to be happy if you suddenly charge them the full rate after discounted rates. It is important to make sure you are always being paid what you are worth. Keep in mind that your services are tax deductions for businesses that hire you. If you are offering a discount or even working on a TFP shoot you need to consider whether you will get anything out of it that is worthwhile for your business or personal goals. If you will get amazing images that you can use on your website and social media, it may be worth doing a TFP shoot where no-one is paid. If the photographer does not edit skin well, the images chosen are not flattering, then there is no point. Set your fees and stick to them.

  3. Diversify your income. There are lots of things that makeup artists can do to makeup money. Think outside the box. Create your own classes, sell products, get a part time job in a makeup shop, offer niche services that no-one else in your area does. Think of ways that the skills you have can be used, I personally use my makeup skills to restore dolls for people.

  4. Promote yourself on social media. Many clients are using Facebook and Instagram to find artists in their area. If you do not have a present on these platforms you may be missing out on clients that don’t know you exist. Use high quality imagery to promote yourself and your business so you will stand out. You can work with other creatives in a TFP arrangement to create photos for your social media and website.

  5. Sell products and extra services. Stocking makeup and products is a great way to make extra income for your business. You can make sure your clients will be able to work with them correctly and choose what is right for them. Adding extras onto services such as deluxe lashes, mini facials, brow shaping is another great way to make extra money.

  6. Take a non-refundable booking retainer to secure bookings. Taking a non-refundable retainer means that if a client cancels at the last minute, you will still get paid. I prefer to refer to this as a retainer as opposed to a deposit because deposit implies that it is a part of the full fee for the appointment. A retainer, retains your clients booking. The money can go towards their booking fee but you should ensure that you are covered incase they cancel. I have had a client cancel when I was just about to knock on their door, having turned down other jobs. In this case I kept the retainer that they had agreed to when they created the booking. Make sure this is included in your contract or terms and conditions.

6 amazing makeup artist hacks to try yourself

1 - Tame your brows with soap

Use Pears Clear and Gentle Translucent Soap to tame your unruly brows like a professional makeup artist. Spritz the soap with a small amount of water. Take a mascara wand and rub it over the soap to create a thin layer on the bristles. Brush the soap into your brows and style them as your heart desires. Once dry your brows will stay put all day. Washes off with water.

2 - Mix liquid lipstick with your favourite cream lipstick to make it last

Do you find that liquid lipsticks are too dry? Did you buy loads of them that are sitting around expiring before you can use them? Try mixing a small amount of a similarly coloured liquid lipstick with your favourite cream lipstick product and it will stay on longer without feeling dry.

3 - Create your own cream blush using lipstick

Makeup artists carry heavy kits around to their jobs so finding products that have multiple uses is important. Instead of spending loads of money on buying expensive cream blush, use the lipstick you already have. You can use several colours to mix the perfect blush for you. Dab a small amount on your cheek and blend in using your hand, a soft brush or a sponge.

4 - Use a sponge to apply your powder

Use a damp beauty blender or sponge to apply loose setting powder to areas of your face that crease. If applying with this technique under your eyes make sure you tap out any creases first. Put your damp sponge into the setting powder and then press it under your eye. The water helps the powder set without being too heavy.

5 - Press setting spray into your foundation with a damp sponge to make it last

Are you sick of your foundation disappearing as the day wears on? Instead of just spraying setting spray onto your face, spray it onto a damp sponge first and press this gently in the areas that it normally wears off. This will push the spray onto the product. Powder and spray as normal.

6 - Thin out your foundation using moisturiser

Use a moisturiser or facial oil to thin out oil and silicone based foundation for a sheer or lighter cover. Not only is it good for your skin to have extra moisture but you can make your existing products more versatile.

10 best makeup books to inspire you

With so many makeup books available it is hard to know which ones are going to be worth buying. When you shop online you can’t skim through the pages and decide whether or not the book is for you. Makeup reference books are something I like to keep in my studio to flick through to seek inspiration. I believe that you can learn something from everyone but this is my list of the most inspirational makeup books that every artist needs to read.

1 - Art & Makeup by Lan Nguyen-Grealis

Lan Nguyen-Grealis has become a household name after appearing on the UK show Glow Up. Her style is daring and the looks she creates are breathtaking, living artworks. One of the only makeup books I have found that lists the exact products used in each look. There is a full break down of techniques used in the book at the back with step by step photos. Whether you are starting out or a product junkie, this book is stimulating and will have you gagging to turn each page. I will forever be in shock and awe over Lan’s use of colour, non-conventional shapes and textures. Lan’s confidence in herself as an artist means she is generous with her knowledge. Lap it up, devour it.

2 - Making Faces - Kevyn Aucoin


Kevyn Aucoin has a cult following for a reason. He was the first celebrity makeup artist and was sought after by top supermodels and celebrities. Kevyn breaks down the basic fundamentals of applying makeup and the tools you need. Even after training I picked up a lot of tips from this book. When I need inspiration, I flip through the pages and pick up different details each time. The book is a piece of art itself, it has huge pages filled with photos of beautiful transformations. This book is filled with essential information for beginners and intermediate artists. The instructions include illustrated how to sketches that make it easy to follow. Even with his passing we can access the wealth of information that Kevyn built.

3 - Face Forward - Kevyn Aucoin

Face Forward is the first book by iconic makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. He shares practical skills along with theoretical analysis of faces and skin. His break down of the tools he uses and the basic products you need should be included in all makeup education. Yet another gigantic book full of gorgeous images. Here he has transformed celebrities into well known figures such as Marilyn Monroe or Cleopatra. He shares an anecdotal introduction to each subject and personal notes about each look. Kevyn’s legacy continues to shine through his published books and the recent documentary about him released on Netflix.

4 - Face Paint: The Story of Makeup - Lisa Eldridge

Lisa Eldridge has created the most delicious feast for your eyes, Face Paint: the Story of Makeup. You may know her from her high class Youtube videos, or her immaculate lipstick range. Lisa is an authority in the makeup industry having been a creative director for companies like Lancome and Shiseido. She is the perfect guide for a journey through the history of makeup. An exemplary amount of research went into this book, going back as early as ancient Egypt. The impeccable historical reference images make this book unique and worth buying.

5 - Face to Face - Scott Barnes


Whether you think the Kardashians are the most stunning creatures on the planet or you have a passing interest in contouring, this book by Scott Barnes is a great reference. While it doesn’t go into the beginner level details of how to do each step, the book contains inspirational images of before and after transformations that you can break down and do yourself if you are an artist. Read about Scott’s creative process and decision making path. He is a wizard at his craft and learning about his life in itself is the inspiration to be taken from this book.

6 - Beautiful Eyes - Rae Morris

Rae Morris is considered by many to be the Australian god mother of makeup. From having her own innovative brush line to running sold out masterclasses, she has honed her educational skills. Focusing on the eyes is a genius idea as this is one of the most difficult skills to master as a makeup artist. This book opened my eyes to new and inventive ways to open and lift eyes using false lashes. The step by step instructions are easy to follow and as this is a tiny book you can sneak it in your handbag for a quick read when you are out. I won this book at makeup school when I was awarded the ‘Student of the Year’ and did not purchase it, but this has not swayed my opinion.

7 - The Beauty of Colour: The Ultimate Beauty Guide for Skin of Colour - Iman

Iman was one of the first women of colour to become a supermodel so she is well versed in makeup and the adversity faced by people of colour in this industry. At the time makeup artists had no idea how to apply makeup for her skin tone. The products available were only for pale skin tones. As a makeup artist you need to learn to apply makeup for all skin tones. This is rarely taught well in school so you need to take responsibility for being inclusive and learn it yourself. This book helped me with a plethora of knowledge about deep skin tones. The book itself is a work of art, with elegant colour photographs and images on every page. It covers skin care, foundations of makeup, lips and cheeks for every skin tone, eye makeup, celebrity transformations and makeovers of everyday women of colour.

8 - Asian Faces: The Essential Beauty and Makeup Guide for Asian Women by Taylor Chang-Babaian

This book contains a variety of looks and styles for different Asian faces. I would recommend that you have at least a grasp of beginner makeup techniques to be able to follow along with the directions. The tips I found the most useful were about eyebrow and lip shaping, skin tone matching and popular eyeshadow designs in Asia. Definitely one to add to your collection if you want to learn how to work on all eye shapes, follow the trends of the East and make your clients happy.

9 - Korean Beauty Secrets: A Practical Guide to Cutting-Edge Skincare & Makeup by Kerry Thompson

This book is pure delight on paper, whether you are new to K-Beauty or a pro. Getting into K-Beauty can be overwhelming with so many products available. Starting your own 10 step routine is easy with this book. You will be able to create your own routine uses the the best products with proven efficacy. Makeup is mentioned in this book, but being Korean style there is no heavy contouring or massive smokey eyes and lashes. Everything is soft and thoughtfully placed, which is an important skill to learn. Meticulous research combined with information about the latest ingredients makes this book pack a punch.

10 - ProMakeup Design Book: Includes 30 Face Charts: The Makeup Artist's Creative Workbook - Lan Nguyen-Grealis

Due to my adoration for Lan’s previous book, Art and Makeup, I pre-ordered this book as soon as she shared it on Instagram. Lan Nguyen-Grealis is one of the most creative makeup artists in the world. This book was developed for makeup artists to gain practical experience, as guided by Lan. The book contains face charts for you to work on and is organised by technical themes. Super excited to get this when it comes out and elevate my creative makeup skills. I predict this book will be a must have as her other books are excellent.

The best makeup brushes created by real makeup artists

Makeup artists have been creating their tools for years but these products never seem to be popular in the influencer market. As a makeup artist I look for quality products that work well and last. When selecting makeup brushes I look at the shape of the brushes, are they designed for the steps of makeup in the way I like to work? Is the hair of high quality whether it is real or synthetic? Are they going to be easily stained? Will they handle my harsh treatment with sanitation and washing regularly? I have fallen for the marketing hype so many times and purchased consumer level brushes that did not perform the way I needed them to. Bristles falling out after the first week, firm hairs that don’t blend well and handles that fall apart are just some of my complaints.

Here are my favourite high quality, professional makeup brushes, designed by working artists.


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The Australian godmother of makeup, Rae Morris created her own line of innovative magnetic brushes. The brushes stick to metal surfaces such as your palette and stand up. They are easy to find and stay clean while you work. The only downside is that they are made from animal hair. They are made in Japan where creating the highest quality brushes is an art form and the main income for many villages. My favourite is the medium point shader. They are available at Mecca.



Cozzette Beauty brushes are created by the one and only Roque Cozzette. Of all the brushes I own (there are hundreds) these brushes are my favourite. I have had several sets of Cozzette brushes for years now and not one single strand of hair has ever come loose. My brushes get treated pretty harshly with daily sanitisation and washing. The shape of each brush is so well thought out, and perfectly matched to the human face. The eye blending brushes are my die hard, must have brushes. They make working on any eye shape a dream. I cannot live without the D220 Pencil Brush, S185 Mini Eye Blender, S165 Magic Blender and S123 Diamond Stylist. These brushes are fully vegan, made from synthetic hair. Makeup superstar Danessa Myricks uses these brushes.


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One of the first makeup artist created brush brands that I supported was Makeup Weapons. Created by Brisbane makeup artist Sheri Vegas, she has since branched out into brow balm and bio glitter. You can tell by looking at the shapes and sizes of the brushes that a working makeup artist designed them. Each brush is shaped perfectly for it’s designated task. I was super happy to see a miniature angle brush when this brand first launched. I also adore the Deluxe Pigment Brush and use it for concealer under the eyes and the Pointed Blending Brush for blending shadow in the crease. Sheri’s brushes are vegan and the handles are made from sustainable bamboo.



Merton Muaremi has thrown his hat into the makeup brush ring with his Essential Brush Collection. While I do not own these brushes, they are on my want list. I love the design breakdowns on his website that cover all of the niggly little issues I find with brushes myself. Things like not being able to find an angle brush that is thin enough is something that bothers me. I would love to find out if his can compete with the Zoeva winged liner brush. I think a lot of the consumer brand brushes are just too big, highlight brushes that cover the whole cheek, lip brushes that are too wide. Merton has thought of everything including avoiding stains. As a professional artist your kit needs to look spotless at all times.

Who are some other makeup artists that have released their own brushes?

How to be a great makeup artist's assistant

Why should you assist other makeup artists?

Assisting more experienced makeup artists is a great way to develop your makeup skills and network within your industry. When you go to makeup school you learn the basics. These foundation skills (ha) allow you to explore and create your own style safely, but you won’t be an expert. The skills you need to be a great makeup artist are honed over time through practice and experiencing different scenarios, lighting conditions, eye shapes and skin types.

How to be a great makeup artist assistant

  • Ask for clear instructions at the start, not sure what you are expected to do, ask.

  • Let the artist know if there is something in particular you have struggled with that you want to see.

  • Don’t be distracting while the artist is working, I have had assistants that chat to me non-stop while I am working. I am usually busy ensuring the best service for the client so need to focus.

  • Watch and learn, if the artist hasn’t given you a task, watch what they are doing and discreetly ask questions.

  • Be prepared to do the dirty work, washing brushes is one of the most crucial tasks my assistants can do that will actually be helpful to me.

  • Be their second pair of hands, my favourite assistants are always there anticipating what I will need and handing it to me just as I turn around to look for it.

  • Take note of how they set up their kit and how they work, every artist is different. I have a very particular way for setting up my work area.

  • Research their style and work, working with people that have styles that are totally different to yours will mean looks can be inconsistent.

  • Don’t take photos without permission and never post them without first checking. Lots of shoots are confidential until the release date. Posting instagram stories of shoots can mean that magazines won’t accept the submission.

  • Stay out of the way with your phone, the number of times I have been trying to take a photo and a makeup student jumps in to take one on their phone is astounding.

  • Don’t hand out your business card on the shoot, this comes across as trying to steal the makeup artists clients. We are all happy to share with other respectful artists.

  • Check before taking tools from the makeup artist’s kit and return them. I once had an assistant take my makeup chair when I asked her to do a minor lip touch up on some models, when my next model showed up she had to stand. So many times I have had makeup students borrow something from my kit and not bring it back to me, so when I need it I cannot find it.

What should you expect in return for being an assistant?

If you want to assist other makeup artists you should treat it like a learning experience and so should they. I provide my assistants with a break down and brief of what I want them to do before hand. Most artists will not have a budget to pay you for assisting. If they do then you will be expected to perform higher duties. For this reason many are hesitant to take on assistants as it cuts into the budget. I won’t take an assistant onto a job where I won’t have time to instruct them if there is no budget. I prefer to take assistants to jobs where they will learn something outside the norm that could be useful for their business. Or if they are particularly interested in something but cannot access it, like fashion shows. On the other end of the scale are makeup artists that will exploit free labour. I once assisted an artist that asked me to apply 4 full faces of makeup for a wedding using my own products with no guidance from her. She didn't show me anything and got paid $120 for each face I did. I walked away feeling gutted, like I had been taken advantage of. Of course she asked me to assist her again next weekend but I said no.

I often refer jobs to my previous assistants so being a good assistant is an important step for your business. There are enough jobs to go around and some artists have a bigger network so receive more jobs. I actively support and promote anyone that has assisted me where I can.

Happy assisting!

xo Katie

10 Carmine free eyeshadow palettes that are fully vegan

I am allergic to carmine. After having a slight itch on my eyelids after using burgundy eyeshadow they broke out into full blown dermatitis. Every time I did makeup on a client I would cough and wheeze, my nose would drip. I started wearing a face mask because I couldn’t work out what was wrong with me. Eventually I realised that it only happened when I was applying eyeshadow or contour powder. After ridding my kit of carmine containing powder products I no longer have these reactions. Don’t despair, there are plenty of beautiful options available that are not going to cause you an allergic reaction. So many lists on the internet mix vegan and cruelty free items but for people with a carmine allergy this is not good enough.

To avoid carmine I shop for and use vegan eyeshadow palettes. Cruelty free shadows can still contain carmine.


1 - Dreamy eyeshadow palette - Nabla Cosmetics - € 35,90 (ITALY)


Contains a lovely mix of purples, lilacs and warm reds which are all hard to find without carmine. Don’t feel left out of anymore. A good mix of matte pigments, matte shadows and shimmer colours to create romantic cool toned looks.

2 - Light + Shade Eye Contour palette by Kat Von D $68 USD (USA)

Take the guessing out of colour selection with this palette of perfection by Kat Von D. Each section is divided into cool, neutral and warm tones. This is a staple in my carmine free professional kit and is the basis for all of the eye looks I create. The black in this palette is one of the most pigmented you can buy.

3 - Soul Blooming eyeshadow palette - Nabla Cosmetics - € 35,90 (ITALY)


Yes, it is another Nabla palette. This time they bring us spring fresh colours. I was sold after seeing the coral colour Bolero and the cool blue toned lilac matte shadow, Flowery. Garden gate, Philosophy and Honey drip are gorgeous duotoned shadow toppers and Caravaggio is the perfect deep brown for smoking out the corner of the eye. The Art Director, Daniel has his own Youtube channel that you must check out.

4 - Twenty Seven by Melt Cosmetics - $58 USD (USA)


This unique palette contains firey, rich, warm autumn colours that will make brown and blue eyes pop. 1 More Thing is a great transition colour and works with all of the colours in the palette. I love that there is a rich chocolate brown and a more purple brown that you can use to deepen and contour the eye shape.

5 - Blood Sugar palette - Jeffree Star - $52 USD (USA)


Just when you thought you would miss out on pinks, reds and purples, Jeffree brought out a highly pigmented and blendable red themed palette. No carmine is used in this vegan formula so you can safely make yourself look cute, or scary!

6 - Thirsty palette - Jeffree Star - $48 USD (USA)


If you are looking for brights to die for then this palette is for you. The yellow is one of the best yellow formulas I have ever tried. On trend peaches and corals are another draw card for this palette.

7 - Pro Palette - Sugarpill - $120 USD (USA)


Before I studied to be a makeup artist I used to buy Kryolan eyeshadow products on ebay from a sweet lady called Shrinkle. Sugarpill is the amazing vegan brand that Shrinkle went on to create. Her shadows are second to none in brightness and pigmentation. The pans are huge and you can select your own to make your palette.

8 - Infinite Pro Palette Mattes - Cozzette beauty - $48 USD (USA)

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Cozzette is a brand created by the amazing makeup artist Roque Cozzette. His brushes are my all time favourite brushes to use and his products are divine. Each product can be used for multiple tasks when applying a makeup. The colours in the mattes palette are high quality, easy to blend and the perfect choice when working with clients. He is one of the nicest artists I have ever met. They come in 3 sizes.

9 - Holy Grail by Violet Voss - $68 AUD (UK)


When I found out I was allergic to carmine I was devastated, then I found Violet Voss. Her palettes contain SO many colours and are laid out exactly how I would lay them out. If you are looking for wearable, staples then this palette is for you.

10 - Infinity palette by Linda Hallberg - $48 USD (SWEDEN)


Linda Hallberg is a true makeup artist and influencer, she was one of the first people I started watching on youtube. I am so happy that she has launched her own brand and created products designed for professionals. This palette contains the perfect colours to do eyeshadow and blush, contour and highlight on fair skin tones.

So there you have it, my favourite carmine free and vegan eyeshadow palettes. I am not vegan but do think brands that go as far as creating good formulas without hurting any animals should be applauded.

x Katie

Best online courses to study beauty photography and retouching


Online study is a fantastic way to add skills to your business without outlaying thousands of dollars. Through studying online I was able to go from being a beginner makeup artist, struggling to get good photos for my portfolio, to a beauty photographer, getting paid to take photos for other artists.

What I am looking for in a course is that it is easy to understand and follow, has real world examples, the tutors are highly skilled and exercise files to practice on.

I started out by studying retouching and then moved into beauty photography and posing classes. Not all online classes are created equally. Here are the best online courses in beauty photography and retouching I have taken.


Retouching Academy is my favourite online learning platform, offering free and paid classes for beginners to advanced students. One of my favourite photographers, Julia Kuzmenko, one of my favourite beauty photographers, worked on several of the courses.

I have completed all of the free online learning modules as well as the Master Dodge and Burn course and the Studio Beauty course. The courses are delivered via a mix of video tutorials, exercises and reading material. My photography and editing skills were elevated after accessing these resources. I also use their Beauty Retouch Panel.


Another fantastic online course is by retouching guru, Pratik Naik. This course contains over 100 videos, all broken down into the steps your workflow should take. Easy to understand and follow along with. Pratik is also one of the nicest people on the internet! I also use his Infinite Color Panel for colour grading.

The Retouching Series by Pratik Naik


Tina Eisen is one of my favourite beauty photographers so when I saw that she was creating an online class, it was an instabuy for me. When I saw the price I was gobsmacked, it is incredibly good value for money. The class is not hugely in-depth but covers all of the basics you need to start creating beauty photographs. Lots of people on photography groups I follow have been using her lighting set up with great results.

The Foundations of Beauty by Tina Eisen


Sue Bryce is a powerhouse of photography education. Lots of successful photographers that I know have mentioned going to her classes. When I was struggling with posing fresh models I looked for a class that could help me and found Sue. I took the Posing classes and they gave me amazing tips to guide models while shooting.

Sue Bryce Education

Well that is it from me! If you know of anymore excellent online classes for beauty photographers please comment and let me know.

How to select a model for beauty photography

Makeup & photography: Katie Saarikko  Model: Leanne Mitchell  Hair: Emma Jones

Makeup & photography: Katie Saarikko

Model: Leanne Mitchell

Hair: Emma Jones

When you are shooting beauty photography, the choice of model is super important. As I shoot with a macro lens, the smallest details will be picked up on the skin. If the skin is not appropriate for shooting in such fine detail, the time spent on post production can be huge. Selecting a model that is suitable for beauty photography is the first step to a successful shoot.

7 tips for selecting a model for beauty photography

  1. Find a skilled model - Being pretty does not mean the person is a skilled model, you should carefully check the model’s portfolio for a variety of facial expressions, poses and emotions. When you are shooting just the face there is not much room for movement so they need to be able to emote. Fresh models can be stiff and have no movement or flow experience which means you need to direct them through all poses. This is OK if you are confident with posing people.

  2. Eyelid space - look for a model that does not have a heavily hooded lid if the eye makeup is going to be a feature. While you can work with a hooded lid (Claudia Schiffer has hooded lids!) it is easier to feature eye makeup if you have space. I also look for balance and smooth eyelids.

  3. Full natural brows - drawn on eyebrows will show up when shot with macro lens, the less a makeup artist has to fill in the brows the better.

  4. Full natural lips - lip filler is incredibly popular at the moment but the filler can lose the edges of the lips and create a fake look. If you are shooting natural beauty images it is best if the model’s lips are full but natural or filled by a skilled doctor. I have had a model show up to a shoot after getting filler done that she didn’t have on her portfolio images and it ruined the look of the shoot.

  5. Age - for this type of shoot it is better to work with a model under the age of 25. There is nothing wrong with shooting an older model, but you will get the best results under these conditions with younger skin. The lighting used in a beauty shoot is direct and ideally picks up all the highlights and skin texture. I would shoot an older model using softer light.

  6. Skin - everyone has breakouts but finding a model with clear, well cared for skin is the most crucial aspect of shooting beauty. Skin texture cannot be photoshopped to look better if it is dry or cracking. Editing with non destructive techniques keeps most of the skin’s natural texture, so if you have lots of unwanted cracks and bumps highlighted by the macro lens you will spend a lot of time editing for a poor result.

  7. Hair free - removing all hair including peach fuzz from the face gives the best results when shooting beauty. In Australia, makeup artist’s are not qualified to remove hair, so it is best if the model can arrange this several days before the shoot. Applying makeup over freshly waxed skin doesn’t work as the waxing removes the top layers of skin and it won’t stick. To minimise issues, faces should only be dermabladed by a professional. That said all hair removal comes with the risk of breakouts. The model’s well being should be considered at all times before, during and after your shoot.