Airbrush Makeup v's Traditional Makeup
The vast majority of people use traditional makeup for their everyday looks as it is readily available. The first time many women come across airbrush makeup is when they are planning their wedding makeup and seeking the advice of a makeup artist (mua) as airbrush makeup is becoming very popular as bridal makeup. But anyone can use airbrush makeup and more and more consumer products are entering the market making it more easily available to everyone.
We are all familiar with traditional makeup whether it be high end or drugstore. It can be purchased in many different formulas including pressed powder, cream, stick or the most popular liquid. Coverage can vary from tinted moisturisers to full coverage foundation and can include properties such as mattifying, anti-ageing or sunscreen. Application can be with the fingertips, a sponge or a brush and if applied correctly can look great, but if applied poorly can be pretty disastrous.
Traditional makeup tends to fade during the day and can also rub off if touched too much and also rub off on clothing. However, on the plus side it can also be touched-up quickly and easily should the need arise. These days there are also setting powders and sprays that can be used to help keep your foundation in place longer.
Please see my post on different types of foundation for skin types.
Airbrush foundation is makeup that is applied using an airbrush machine that is usually connected to a compressor. The makeup used is very different to traditional makeup as it is much thinner to allow it to pass through the airbrush. You cannot use traditional makeup with an airgun as it is much too thick. The makeup is added to a small cup that sits on top of the airgun and using a trigger to vary the amount of product that passes through, it is airbrushed onto the skin.
Because the makeup is much thinner and finer you get a much more delicate application which can be applied lightly to allow your natural skin to show through but even out flaws or can be built up to give a full coverage finish. Only a small amount of product is needed to complete a whole face.
Types of Airbrush Makeup
Like traditional makeup there are different formulas of airbrush makeup. The three main types are water based, silicone based and alcohol based.
Water Based (w/b):
This is the most common formula of airbrush makeup and consists of basically colour pigment suspended in water. It dries as soon as it makes contact with the skin and sets to a matte finish. When applied w/b makeup changes the texture of the skin and you therefore will need to apply it to the whole face, or you will see where it ends. Some brands of makeup will also darken a couple of shades after application, so this will need to be taken into account when choosing a shade.
As its name suggests it is basically a water makeup and therefore is not waterproof. Tears and sweating will smudge and move the makeup, although setting sprays can be used to minimise this. Also, because it is thinner than other types of airbrush makeup it will take more to cover blemishes. Often the use of correctors and concealers will need to be used in addition to get a flawless finish.
From a technical point of view, the w/b makeup is easier to clean from the airbrush as it can be washed in water. Also, because it is thinner it works at a lower pressure with the airbrush, so a lower psi can be used which can feel better on the face during application. It also means that most compressors and airbrushes will cope with w/b makeup.
Brands that produce water based airbrush makeup include Temptu, Dinair, Beletto, Kett Cosmetics, Graftobian and Luminess,
Silicone Makeup (s/b):
This type of makeup is getting more and more popular after Temptu became the first system to include a silicone version. S/b is thicker than water-based, but still much thinner than traditional makeup. This formula also perfectly matches the texture of the skin and when applied correctly with the right colour match is undetectable on the face and can be used to spot correct and need not be used over the whole face if not required, unlike w/b makeup.
S/b is very water-resistant and will resist tears and sweat and so will last longer. Although very resistant to smudging with touch etc, it can also benefit from a setting spray to keep in place all day. S/b gives a more dewy finish than w/b and looks more natural on the skin.
Technically s/b needs a specific cleaner to clean it from the airbrush therefore, most companies who produce s/b makeup have their own cleaning solutions. As the product is thicker than w/b it needs a larger nozzle on the airbrush and will need a higher psi to push it through the gun. This means that not all compressors and airbrush guns will be suitable for s/b makeup.
Brands that produce s/b makeup include Temptu and Mistair
Alcohol Based (a/b):
Alcohol based makeup is not for everyday wear as you don’t want to be applying alcohol to your skin on a regular basis. A/b makeup is used mainly for theatrical makeup and special effects as it is extremely durable and long lasting. It is completely waterproof and can last for days if taken care of properly.
Brands that produce a/b makeup include Temptu and Graftobian
Why use airbrush makeup?
It is well known that airbrush makeup is used a lot in TV and film to get a flawless finish. These days most of the newsreaders on TV have airbrushed makeup as they are now appearing in HD which shows up all the flaws. Airbrushed makeup reduces the look of flaws considerably when applied correctly. We often hear the term “airbrushed look” when referring to traditional makeup, so there’s obviously a reason for this.
The makeup is applied to the skin via an airbrush which mixes the makeup with air to produce a fine mist controlled via a pressure trigger on the gun. It is very hygienic as at no point does anything other than the makeup touch the skin. Coverage can be controlled by the number of passes over the skin the mist makes and the trigger pressure. This means you can create a very light cover or build it up to full coverage. There is no rubbing or blending involved so the makeup sits lightly on the skin for a flawless look. Also, because it sits on top of the skin it is much less likely to cause allergic reactions.
You should also be aware that airbrush makeup is not just about foundation. These days all the major brands produce a whole range of colours than can be used on cheeks, eyes, lips etc. This means you can easily do full face makeup completely using airbrush makeup. It just takes more practice.
What do I need to airbrush?
Basically, there are three parts to airbrushing: the compressor, the airbrush gun and the makeup. Most airbrush makeup companies offer sets which include the different components but you can also mix and match to get the best of each component.
Compressor: This is the machine that controls the pressure or psi going to your airbrush gun. Water based makeup operates at a lower psi than s/b and for that you will usually operate between 2-12 psi. Silicone based will need more pressure so one that can go up to around 20psi but will still work a lower psi to allow delicate work, such as around the eyes is ideal. Many compressors go much higher and that is fine as long as it can also be reduced to single figures for delicate work. If you are purchasing the compressor from a w/b company, it is unlikely that it will be suitable for s/b products whereas most s/b compressors will work fine with w/b products.
Iwata is the top name in compressors and if you want the best then this is the way to go, but they can be very expensive compared to those that come with makeup kits. Iwata make compressors for industrial use too, so make sure you are buying one suitable for makeup. The Smart Jet Pro is a great compressor for mua’s but will be too heavy and expensive for the casual user. I personally use the Iwata Silver Jet which is much lighter allowing me to take it to clients homes but is also powerful enough for s/b makeup but can also be used for w/b makeup. Some compressors do not have psi indicators, but I would recommend getting one that does so you know exactly at what pressure you are working at.
Airbrush Gun: There are two types of airbrush: single action trigger and double action trigger. For makeup you should go for a double action as it gives much greater control over the flow and intensity of the makeup application. Again Iwata is the king of airbrushes and for makeup the High Performance range is best. I personally use the HP-C plus as it has a large cup for holding the makeup and the nozzle copes with all types of work from fine precision lines to larger areas of the face. It also works very well throughout all the psi ranges.
Makeup: The makeup as previously discussed depends on whether you want to use water or silicone based. Both have their pros and cons and you should do your research to decide which will work best for you. I use the Temptu s/b range of makeup as I think it looks much better and more natural on the face and covers blemishes etc better than w/b. Also, the fact that it is pretty much waterproof and stays on all day is a huge plus for me for both personal and professional use.
Complete Packages: Most of the airbrush makeup companies produce complete packages that include a compressor, airbrush gun and makeup. This takes the guesswork out of choosing equipment as you get everything you need to get started.
Temptu released their innovative Airpod system a few years ago which is basically a hand-held airbrush device that does not need a compressor to work as it is battery operated. You simply buy the pods which contain the colour and attach them to the Airpod. As the pods are closed, you cannot mix and match colours as you can with the professional products, but as long as you can match one to your skintone this should not be a problem. At the time of writing Temptu have launched the Airpod Pro which is the professional version and does allow colour mixing.
If you decide to use airbrush makeup, do plenty of research to find which type and system is best for you. There is nothing wrong with traditional makeup and each has its own pluses and minuses. It’s just a case of finding the products that suite you.