Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The State of Airbrush Makeup 2016: truth beyond fiction, and the rant of all rants!

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In early 2011 I was shopping online for my very first airbrush makeup kit. Five years, over 15 more kits and countless applications later that initial curiosity has turned into a passion -some would say obsession- for this amazing technique. Today, as we publish the most complete and up to date directory of airbrush makeup brands worldwide, the time has come to reflect on where airbrushing stands in the makeup industry, and on where it's going.

The Gold Standard
Since the advent of HD technology, the expression "airbrushed finish" has become a leit-motif in the beauty industry.  Some courageous and passionate artists and entrepreneurs have devised a way to achieve that goal with an actual airbrush, and have built brands and a whole culture around this. They have become unsung heroes in an often ungrateful industry that never fully acknowledged them at a mainstream level, yet has burnt all the stops to do exactly what they do while maintaining their marketing margins. Almost all the leading mainstream makeup brands today are offering products conceived to achieve said "airbrushed finish". Some of them mimic the texture of those produced by actual airbrush makeup brands,  yet are made with roughly three times the amount of chemical ingredients. These foundations are so similar to our airbrush formulas that you can actually apply them with an airbrush, but are marketed to the public as "easy to use" liquid foundations.  I am talking about major brands ranging from Dior, with its Nude Air foundation line, to Lancome with its Miracle Air de Teint, all the way down to Maybelline and Boots with its N.7 line. Some of these brands have even got so far as bottling their foundation in a spray can, yet none of them would even dream of marketing an actual made-for-airbrush line, with the notable exception of Mac Pro. The question is, can airbrushing have a life outside of the echelon of the professional world, or will it forever be considered a difficult niche dominated only by the most skilled or the most fanatical?

Enter the Airbrush Makeup Brands.
With the mainstream market locked in this ambivalence, the art of airbrush makeup has been able to advance thanks to smaller companies who have made it their focus. Some of these, like Kett, Graftobian and MUD, only cater to professionals. Others like the legendary originators Dinair and  their silicone based counterpart Temptu have kept their professional lines but have also opened up to the mainstream public, and have worked tirelessly to promote the idea that anyone can airbrush makeup with great results. While Temptu offers a simplified tool created for the consumer (the AirPod), Dinair has made its own airbrush kits as consumer friendly and easy to use and maintain as possible, and invests enormous amounts of energy in its training, with courses that aim to teach anybody to tackle any aspect of makeup application with an actual airbrush.
Next to these and other historical brands, a plethora of smaller companies has emerged that try and ride the "airbrush wave". Some have a genuine commitment to quality and represent interesting alternatives to more renown names. Others are in it only for a marketing opportunity, and often disappear as quickly as they surface. We are actually sad to see them go, because even the most basic of them may offer someone an introduction into the world of airbrushing, and if I do say so myself, even the "worst" airbrush brand I have tried has allowed me to get above average results over their traditional counterparts. 

The Real Enemy
The professional makeup world has long been aware of airbrushing. In the United States the technique has officially become a part of the curricula of beauty schools. In spite of this there seems to be no uniformity in the actual teaching of the subject, which is left in many cases in the hands of teachers who have a limited view and knowledge of the subject themselves, and who fall prey to many misconceptions. False myths and lack of proper education, coupled with arrogance, are the worst enemies of airbrush makeup. Certain makeup artists will take a short class with a minor brand and immediately start pontificating on YouTube on how "you should do this", and you can NEVER, under ANY circumstance "do that" with an airbrush. I personally know of a teacher charging $ 600  for a 5 hour class on airbrushing foundation only, because "it is absolutely impossible to do anything else". Another teacher in an accredited school was teaching their class that they should disassemble their airbrush and clean completely it after each single change of color. It is a wonder that any of the unfortunate students pursued the discipline outside of that school...

Europe and the World at large
If the public at large in the USA is becoming aware of airbrushing as a valid alternative, Europe represents practically virgin territory in this respect.  With Customs restrictions on makeup of any kind making even import for personal use very difficult, makeup enthusiasts who live in the EU have to rely mostly on local distributors of American brands. However some new European brands have started to produce more comprehensive and very valid lines, such as Mistair and AirBase in the UK, and Cazcarra in Spain. The first brands have also started emerging in Africa, Oceania and Asia, where the culture of perfect complexion borders on the extreme Even China has a very interesting offering with the wide range of products conceived by Taiwanese makeup artist Nien Tsz Lee. 

The Truth about airbrush makeup
The truth about airbrushing makeup is one and simple, and this whole website, the videos we produce and  all we do lives to attest it: airbrushing can do EVERYTHING.  My own experience shows that "if it isn't working for you, you are simply not doing it right". The larger question of course is why should you bother? The answer is up to your enthusiasm and your preference. Whether you are a makeup artist or a home user, airbrushing doesn't have to replace your brushes -although it could. It can simply be an alternative or an enhancement of what you already know. But be sure to give it a fair chance, and you may never want to do without it again. So many of those who have, like myself, believe that airbrushing allows them to achieve a faster, cleaner, healthier and ultimately more precise makeup application.

The Future
Innovation remains the key objective and the most marketable aspect of any beauty related enterprise. In the airbrush makeup field the leading brands have been expanding their lines significantly to cover any skin type and any corrective need. Airbrush equipment has never looked so attractive, with a strong emphasis on portability that has seen both Temptu and Dinair come up with rechargeable, ultra compact systems for consumer use. Yet airbrushing is unlikely to achieve mainstream dominance anytime soon. The reason is simple: profit. With its reliance on a single tool, and with the extremely high color payoff and coverage power of even the basic formulations, there is simply a lot less to exploit in terms of marketing and sales. Why should big companies promote an airbrush when they can sell a set of twenty five brushes with a 400% markup? Too much is invested in traditional makeup for it to change quickly, and for the time being airbrushing remains a well guarded "industry secret". The best example that comes to mind is that of a mega popular TV period drama, where the makeup is admittedly airbrushed using one of those previously mentioned historic brands, but where the head of the makeup department was sponsored by a totally unrelated traditional makeup brand to show how to achieve that same look "the traditional way". Whether public awareness will ever wake up or not to the effectiveness of the airbrush application, to those who have experienced its advantages airbrush makeup has become irreplaceable.
So much so that I will finish this little rent by paraphrasing none other than the Bard himself:

"If makeup be the food of love... spray on!"

Daniel Pacini,

This article is dedicated to all the hard working dreamers that push this wonderful medium forward, against all odds. Thank you for spraying the world beautiful. 

Disclaimer: no compensation or sponsorship of any kind was received by the author for writing the above. This article, like any other on this website, reflects the author's genuine experience and opinion.