Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: Camera Ready Cosmetics, the ultimate pro makeup store.

Camera Ready Cosmetics, founded by makeup artist Mary Erickson, is becoming more and more appreciated by makeup artists worldwide due to a simple strategy: they offer only the best makeup brands at the lowest guaranteed price, the most efficient customer service, and they ship worldwide at the most convenient rates. In other words: straight forward top quality, top service, no bull and above all (and most remarkably) no greed. I stopped at the CRC showroom in La Mesa (San Diego) a couple of months ago, on my way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Not the most efficient route, I realize, but I had a sizable order to collect so I thought I would see what the place looks like, and if it would hold true to its website description of a "playground" where you can test products without obligation and with the help of  knowledgeable staff. Well, what can I say? I left two hours later wishing I could have bought the entire place, and feeling like I had made some new friends. The strategy obviously works!

The Showroom at CRC
 The showroom space is not huge, but it is big enough to display the whole collection of products in a very user friendly layout. There they were: RCMA, Face Atelier, Cinema Secrets and all those other brands I had read so much about but had been hesitant to order finally at my fingertips (literally). No amount advertisement and  no guru's opinion can be a substitute for hands on testing of a a product's colour, texture and wearability, and although the CRC website offers a sampling service, which is rare among online stores, here you can see the whole range taking the guess work and the expense out of the equation. 

The perfect testing post.
The same applies to their very extensive stock of airbrush makeup of course. They even had a Graftobian kit plugged in and ready for use, so I could actually test some colours with an airbrush, rather than just out of the bottle. They have all the major professional brands except for one of the most famous ones, that shall remain nameless here. For some reason this brand hasn't been able to include CRC among their distributors, which is a terrible shame because not only do they lose credibility with the professionals (many think that if CRC doesn't carry it, it is not worth having) but they also lose a major International outlet, as CRC will ship to countries they will not. Oh well, I hope they can take a hint. 

During my visit I was helped by the very knowledgeable and super helpful Ashlie, and later I had a chance to also chat with the stunning Ashley (similar name, different person) and with Nicole, who leads the marketing department with unsurpassed efficiency, elegance and grace. What I didn't expect was to be able to meet Mary Erickson herself, and boy am I glad I had a chance. Mary gave me a whole tour of the operation, from the offices to the extensive mail room which is the heart and soul of CRC, taking two thirds of the space. At the time of my visit the staff was processing an average of over 250 orders a day, yet everyone would smile and say hi, leaving me with the impression of a very happy crew. Mary explained to me that every single batch of makeup that comes in is personally checked by a dedicated employee for flaws of any kind, and immediately sent back if found in any way imperfect. To further guarantee the freshness of  the makeup there is also an unwritten "two weeks rule" applied on the merchandise: CRC does not stock anything that doesn't sell out within that period. Well, I couldn't have been more impressed. Mary herself is exactly as I thought she would be by checking her WEBSITE. Most makeup artists only store their portfolio and their CV there. She went out of her way to incorporate a Q&A page with a lot of information on all aspects of the profession, something I had not seen before and that can be of great use to aspiring MUAs. In other words when so many in her position and with her level of artistry are often standoffish, aloof and a little full of themselves,  she remains enthusiastic, generous and gifted with a biting sense of humour in spite of her strong business savvy. 

You don't have to be an insider to know that the cosmetic industry, at any stage from creation to distribution, is one of the most dynamic and competitive business environments in the world. Add an international economic downturn such as the one of the last few years, and you are left with a question: is it possible for an independent business to thrive, and most importantly to do so ethically? Is it possible to generate high customer satisfaction, create a happy working environment and still adhere to a strict commitment to excellence in the product that you offer? The answer is a resounding YES, and the proof is an Enterprise called Camera Ready Cosmetics

PRO TIP & UPDATE: Since we wrote this article Camera Ready has been going from strength to strength: after a major website redesign, a free App was launched bringing the latest update to your phones and tablet (available on Itunes). The Pro discount program was redesigned to include discounts of up to 40%, and the Aspiring MUA discount was increased to 10%. A reward points program was also put in place, allowing any customer to get back 10% on each purchase.

Some of the lovely CRC Staff. Fourth from the left is Mary Erickson

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Airbrush Makeup: single action vs dual action -The truth at last!

Single action or double action gun for airbrush makeup?

This is one of the most basic questions facing those who approach airbrush makeup for the first time, especially professionals, and one of the most confusing. The reason for the confusion lies in a colossal misunderstanding of the terms themselves, which changed meaning as they started being used by the cosmetic industry. [If you just want the straight answer, please scroll to down to IN CONCLUSION, or keep reading for the whole mystery exposed!]

In "orthodox aerography", that is in traditional technical terms, a single action airbrush is one that dispenses colour by simply pushing down the trigger (or "lever"), hence the term "Single Action". The trigger does not slide back to release more colour, it can only be pushed down, and the colour and the air are dispensed at the same time much like a spray can would. You can already breathe a sigh of relief here, because NO AIRBRUSH COSMETIC COMPANY SELLS THESE. So you would have to go out of your way to find an airbrush like that to add to your kit.
To continue with traditional aerography, a double action airbrush is one where the trigger has to be pushed down to release air first, and then pulled back to release the colour gradually, the further back you pull, the more colour comes out. If you pull the trigger back without pushing down for air first you create a backwash and possibly splatter paint. This kind of airbrush is the most widely available for traditional airbrush painting.

When cosmetic companies started producing kits for commercial distribution, they looked to offer a simplified version of the double action airbrush described above. They wanted consumers to be able to regulate colour flow with the trigger, but they did not want to complicate their lives with having to push down the trigger for air first, and the problems that can arise if you don't. So they started producing (or commissioning their suppliers, in most cases) airbrushes in which air would flow unobstructed from the moment the compressor is turned on, called continuous airflow airbrushes, and where the trigger could be simply pulled back to release colour gradually. They then proceeded to rename this type of airgun "single action airbrush" in their marketing, creating the massive confusion reigning today. All the rants you find on websites like Model Mayhem or Beautylish against "single action airbrushes" are based on this misunderstanding, with a lot of gurus referring to the actual single action as described at the top of this post, rather than the "continuous airflow" conceived later.

Where airbrush beauty makeup is concerned, the only difference between single action (continuous airflow) and double action airbrush is that with a double action you have to push the trigger down to release the air before you pull it back to release the makeup. That's it. That's all. In short: a nuisance, considering that if you forget to do so you run into paint back flow problems, and that the stopping and starting of the air is harder on the small sized, maintenance free compressor that most kits come with.The sudden burst of air is also very annoying for the clients, who are inevitably startled by it and tend to jump back in the chair.
The most common objection that "with a double action airbrush you can feel where the makeup is going to be by releasing the air before dispensing the colour" is moot, because with a "continuous flow" airbrush you can do the same just by pointing the blessed thing before pulling back the trigger.
This is why even pro companies like TEMPTU PRO have now started offering single action (continuous airflow) guns in their professional kits, while KETT Always had the best of both worlds by selling a gun that they call Transformer, that can be switched to "single action" by simply substituting a small valve (included in the box).

If you don't already own an airbrush, a continuous airflow "single action" airbrush is better, easier and more efficient for airbrush makeup in general. A double action requires more practice, although it could be better for body painting if you are looking for special spatter effect that can only be obtained by stopping and starting the air. If your area of interest is SFX rather than beauty makeup the whole thing changes of course, but we will discuss that aspect in a future post. [If you come from the top of this post having skipped the middle part and still have doubts, well... you just may have to read the whole thing after all...]

PRO TIPTHIS FANTASTIC BLOG ARTICLE  will explain how to turn your double action airbrush into a "single action, continuous airflow" one with a few simple moves and at zero cost. We tested the method and it definitely works on all Sparmax airguns (Sparmax is the maker of the airguns  distributed by Kett, Temptu, Graftobian, Kryolan and Airbase among Others). Please use extreme caution and read the relevant disclaimers.
Kett's Transformer Airbrush

TemptuPro's "Single Action" SE50 Airbrush