Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Mixing Airbrush Makeup brands: is it possible? Should you try?

Since airbrush makeup represents niche of the beauty industry, in the public's perception the product often becomes one with the application method. So if you have taken a course with a certain brand, you might be inclined to believe that the experience of airbrushing is strictly defined by what that brand offers and how they taught you to use their makeup. While I fully support each brand in their sacred effort to teach people how to get the most out of their product, I also believe that thinking that airbrushing begins and ends only with one name ends up limiting a makeup artist's view of the technique, and in some cases can lead them to abandoning it altogether. 

In short, airbrushing is a way to apply makeup. That said, makeup for airbrush differs greatly depending on what type and brand you are using, just like painting with brushes is a method, but the colors you can use differ greatly for formulation and finish, and the resulting artwork changes accordingly. 

What you need to know is this: you can create your makeup with whatever product you feel may respond better to your vision, your needs and your client's skin type and expectation. I will not be going into the specific characteristics and advantages of one type of makeup versus another, but you can find a lot of resources on the different types of bases (water based, silicone based and alcohol based makeup) in the many posts on this website, or by visiting our Airbrush 101 Page. You can even mix airbrushing with traditional makeup, and while this wouldn't be my choice, airbrush extremist that I am, I have to admit that it works just fine for others. Just as it happens with traditional makeup, the world won't implode if you layer a water based blush on a silicone based foundation, nor will lightening strike if you airbrush your base and then use a traditional highlighter on top. Of course there are some practical (chemical) facts to keep in mind if you want your get the most out of your creativity without compromising the makeup stability or your tools functionality, so please read on after viewing the video here below, which is my latest look airbrushed with two different brands.  

So here are a few useful tips if you are thinking of using different makeup brands in your airbrush. First of all, make sure that your tools are up to the job. Many brands sell airbrush kits that are exclusively designed to work with their own product, and will stop performing well if you try and us another, and you may also void the brand's warranty by doing so. The main divide is between silicone and water based makeup. The latter is usually thinner and needs less pressure to be sprayed correctly, so many brands that sell it offer smaller compressors that have a maximum output of 18-20 PSI, and airbrushes with a more specific build, airflow and nozzle. Silicone based makeup is usually thicker, so it requires a compressor that is able to go up to 25-30 PSI and an airbrush with a nozzle size of .35 up to .5 mm width. To airbrush both types of makeup, you therefore need a compressor that lets you regulate the pressure output between 2 and 30 PSI, and ideally an airbrush with a .35 nozzle. Before you ask, the "single action" vs "double action" argument is moot, as this does not make any practical difference on the end result. I personally much prefer continuous airflow airbrushes (often wrongly called "single action"), and most double action airbrushes such as those from the ubiquitous Sparmax brand (used by brands such as Temptu, GraFtobian, Kett, Airbase and many other) can be converted to continuous flow by a simple modification of the air valve that you can do at home (see this link for more info). As far as tools maintenance goes, most airbrush flow problems are created by conflicting formulas that form clogs in the airbrush body or nozzle if they haven't been cleaned appropriately when changing products. To avoid the problem altogether it would be ideal to own an airbrush for each makeup type you intend to use (one for water base, one for silicone, and one for alcohol). If you can't -or don't wish to- do that yet, you can use this very simple cleaning procedure: 

-Step 1: clean the visible residue of the formula you just used with its specific cleaner or with a multi purpose cleaner.

-Step 2:  before introducing the second formula, use a few drop of cleaner for the formula you are about to use to prime your airbrush.

So now that you are clear about the appropriate tools and cleaning procedures, how should you go about using different brands for a makeup look?
Well, here you have much more freedom than you think. You've been made to think that silicone and water don't mix, which chemically speaking of course is true, however silicone based products in most cases are actually water/silicone hybrids, the first ingredient on their INCI (i.e. ingredient list) being water. The only thing that might happen is that the end result might be less durable in the long run, but it should still be perfectly viable. I often like to do eyes with water based products and foundation, blush and contouring with silicone based. This doesn't present any issues as I am not layering one type of makeup directly on top of another. When you do want to do that, for example you want to use a water based blush and a silicone based foundation, I would put the water based product on first, and the silicone after, but that is not written in stone, and also depends on the brands you use. If you wish to do part of your makeup with traditional methods, I would of course use whatever product you airbrush after any other traditionally applied, in order to maintain the perfect airbrushed finish on top, and that, together with the old "less is more" adagio, is pretty much the only iron clad rule regarding makeup, at least in my opinion. Finally, some students at my classes always ask me if they can mix products of a different base in the airbrush cup. This is something I would avoid for the consideration expressed above, and the fact that you might create an unsprayable goop that will be quite hard to clean from your equipment. Having said that, if you feel the need to experiment that way you can of course try. Just don't forget to let me know how it went...