PAINFULLY PRETTY. IS BEING A BEAUTY PRO MAKING YOU SICK?
Recently I got the sweetest email from a young aspiring makeup artist. A 16 year old sophomore in high school who dreams of being a successful makeup artist. My young email friend spends hours watching the latest Youtube videos of her favorite v-loggers and beauty influencers. She also has more makeup in her kit than I do-and I'm a pro! HA! :)
In her email, this lovely creature writes to me and asks my advice on how to get started on how to become a real professional makeup artist.... and IF she should become one.
I answered her email and replied..."Consider a different career”.
THE PAINS OF BEING A MAKEUP ARTSIT
I have been in the makeup industry in some capacity since 1985. I started as she did, a young sophomore in high school. I enjoyed makeup not because I liked all the attention of "being" a makeup artist or my love of beauty products. I loved makeup because I truly enjoyed “transforming” people and the confidence it gave them when they looked in the mirror. I wasn't a fan of beauty products, I was a fan of the art of transformation.
Fast forward years later and my 45 year old self wishes I could have told my 16 year old self the same thing.
In the late 90s, I was freelancing part time and trying to decide where I wanted to take my makeup career. When I finally moved to Chicago, makeup did became my full time career. And while I am thankful for every job, client and opportunity, one thing is very clear since becoming a full time makeup artist... I have never been so sick in all of my life.
MY PERSONAL STORY
When I started freelancing full time, I started suffering all kinds of health issues. I thought many times, if I was ok in my head. (How many of you have had that same thought "Am I crazy?") I had PLENTY of medical doctors tell me nothing was wrong with my health...yet why was I in so much pain and so sick? Blood work, everything comes back fine. Everything looked good on paper. So what gives?
I was very happy in my life. Happy where my career was going...but why did I feel so beat down? Some days couldn't get out of bed.
A few years passed and my body physically hurts constantly. I was forced to take endless amounts of drugs that would have cost me nearly $900 a month had I not had health insurance. (This is disturbing in it's own right for most pros who don't have health insurance).
By 2004, I was taking 2400 mg of Advil per day just to get through the days of doing my job. In 2006, tests showed I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. I almost went on medication for the RA until I decided it was best to get a second opinion. Turns out I didn't have RA. (Fucking doctors!) I was on about 9 medications from my doctors which all had horrible side effects of their own. My body was toxic (and to this day still is).
That same year they also discovered I had smoldering multiple myeloma a rare but fatal blood plasma cancer that so far has been “asleep” for nearly 9 years. (And let’s hope it stays that way). Vitamin D deficiency, gluten intolerances, dairy allergies, etc. The list goes on. Oh did I mention I had a total hysterectomy that year too?
“Fuck.Me.” I was done.
WHAT I AM HEARING FROM OTHER PROS
Over the years, my pro friends and I complained about the same things at cocktail parties and facebook...some have pain so bad that I consider myself lucky with the what seemingly felt like minor health issues in comparison. My heart bleeds for them.
Is it the stress and the physical demands of the beauty industry causing our pain? Or is it the beauty products we use? Or is it our right brained personalities?
WHAT I HAVE DISCOVERED
I use to do spray tans when I first opened my studio. LORD have MERCY on my soul my asthma was never so bad. I performed airbrush tan services for about 3 months and I then I took it off our service menu. Hacking my lungs wasn't worth the $55 spray tan even with all the protective gear.
So my question is, why is airbrush makeup any different? And for the record, I never had ASTHMA until I became an airbrush makeup artist? WTF?
I am not saying beauty products is the cause of all of these health issues....but it sure is ironic that I was healthy until age 30 when I became a full time makeup artist....with no issues in the world.
I know a lot is our modern diet, not matter how much we try to eat clean. It really makes me wonder as much as we are exposed to all these chemicals if there isn't some sort of correlation? I know it's a shit ton but damn, is living healthy going to be a full time job? It shouldn't be this way...should it? Why don't we demand better as pros?
WHERE IS OUR COMMON SENSE?
When I worked for Aveda, Horst used to put “Common Sense Caution” on the bottles as in saying “Listen you dumb asses, use your fucking common sense God gave you..don’t get this shit in your eyes and don't use it where it's not intended”. HA! I don't know why I love that and to this day I still do. What has happened to our common sense? Especially when it comes to our beauty products?
As professional beauty insiders, we are around beauty products more than the everyday woman and exposed for more hours in a day. Why do we not demand better, healthier products from companies? Is it a David vs. Goliath mentality? Is this what Horst was up against everyday of his career? And ironically, passes away from cancer? :( It really makes you wonder, doesn't it?
WHY THIS POST. WHY NOW?
Today on Facebook I started a thread to reach out to my makeup peeps to see if they had any health issues because of their job in being a makeup artist or beauty professional. And as I write this, I have 235 responses and all are eerily similar stories.
Here are the symptoms I see that makeup artists and beauty professionals complain about: (Sadly most of the replies are from people under 40)
Back and disc problems
Cancer (in some form or another)
Unmanageable diabetes (long days when you can't eat)
Between the makeup and the physical demands of our jobs, it’s no wonder I told this young baby kitten to consider another career. Why? Because this industry is not only UNHEALTHY, it’s also now one of the most pathetic paying jobs there is. You can make money in this biz, but you really have to hustle a lot more than you used to. And there are way better ways to make a living and have fun than all of this.
So now you may be asking, why don't I get out? Well, turns out I do love this industry. Could I make beauty products better that actually perform? Free of guilt? Not be worried that whatever I'm using isn't gonna fry my ovary? Or worse give my unborn kid autism? Or is the hair shampoo I use on clients the reason I may get Alzheimers? Combined with the shitty food we have to choose from, it’s a toxic wasteland. Poor mother earth.
As an artist I need my products to perform. I need the perfect combination of science and performance to get the results I want or need. Organic shit doesn’t work the way I want it. In this day and age science should be (and is) fantastic, but at what cost?
Is there a way, to make beauty products safe, non toxic and superior formulas that will give pro's the pay off they need? Things we can use in movies, print, fashion or brides that we know not only performs but doesn't affect our health too?
ARE YOU IN PAIN?
One of my makeup peeps in crime Rachael Kraaz Perrin and I have had long discussions on the subject. To hear her personal story would make your heart sad. She tells me “
“ Pain itself is a disease. It's undertreated and we're already creative maniacs, so why would a doctor believe a 30 yr old in tears, without visible scars? Undertreated pain and self-esteem issues when you can't keep up lead to depression. Fun! And all it takes is a few bad doctor's appointments or a surgery gone slightly wrong and PTSD is on the way. Even worse is that 2/3 of ALL suicide are pain related, and there is very little funding for research into chronic pain illnesses.”
Rachel runs a Facebook group called "Painfully Pretty" a group geared to supporting each other in the beauty industry that deals with physical pain of doing their job. It is a brand new group and one I think may be great to have a dialogue about this issue. If nothing else maybe we can support each other.
As I end this I also feel the need to state that I am really not a “tree hugger” paranoid type that believes in conspiracy theories. But after years of talking to friends in the beauty industry, it really is ironic. And in the day of sponsored content and pay to play advertorials, who can we listen to? Who can we trust for the most honest advice?
And to the young 16 year old who wrote me. If this is something you dream of doing, then follow your heart. If money is not the ultimate goal then follow your dream. But go to college and get a proper education. Just in case you get sick and need something to fall back on.
If you are a pro beauty professional and have a similar story, I would love to hear from you.