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How to Do Makeup For Headshots

Doing Your Own Headshot Makeup? Here's What to Avoid

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Headshots are Hollywood's business cards, and if you're looking to land a part, your photo better be near perfect. (For the role you're submitting for, at least.) Headshots have transitioned out of their black and white roots, and getting the perfect makeup look for them isn't black and white, either.

MAC Senior Artist Caitlin Callahan breaks down the difference between "natural" and "light" makeup, the mistakes most actors (and even business professionals) make, and what makes your portrait look human — not like a painting. Whether you're trying to make it in Hollywood or just looking to spruce up your online dating profile, these tips will help you look better before you pose in front of the lens.

This isn't a magazine cover.

Caitlin stresses that the photo needs to be an accurate depiction of what you look like. "The mistake I see is that (actors) are too glam or too sexy. They're trying to create looks on their face that change their face, and when they're cast, they look different." That means staying true to yourself: if you have fair skin, don't bronze up; if your hair is curly, don't straighten it.

What about contouring? "When you contour, highlight, shade, and bronze, it's not modern. Intense contouring looks very unnatural. Ease back."

Look effortless, not made up.

"In fashion, natural makeup takes a lot of makeup. (The professionals) know how many products it takes. There is definitely a difference between light and natural makeup." But don't pile on the makeup, either. "If you're blessed with certain things already, don't cover them up! If you have flawless skin, don't wear foundation. It depends on the person."

That means keeping your makeup in natural shades. Don't use burgundies to accentuate green eyes or other similar techniques. Instead, Caitlin suggests using shades like ivories, peaches, browns, apricots, and pinks on the cheeks and eyes, which match everyone's natural undertone. And avoid hard lines, too: no sculpted brows, overly defined lips, or graphic eyeliner. You makeup should have a blurred, soft-focus effect.

Avoid powder at all costs.

Caitlin's clients include Linda Evangelista, Dakota Johnson, and Naomi Watts — she knows what goes into a gorgeous glow. So what's the trick to looking dewy, not oily? "I see that, a lot of the time, young skin is dewy skin. As soon as you start to powder, it looks makeup-y. You want reflectiveness — not in the T-zone. As an artist, we're looking at quadrants (of the face). An interesting photo has texture. Dewiness of the cheek and brow bone and bridge of the nose, a creamy lip; a matte chin, nostrils, and forehead. That looks human. You don't want to look flat and boring."

If you do experience shine, try to avoid powder at all costs, which can look cakey after several applications. Caitlin recommends using a tissue, paper towel, or blotting sheets. And when she does use powder, you know it's going to be MAC. "My favorite touch-up product is Mineralize Foundation ($32). It looks like skin. And Fix+ ($22). It's bouncy and has glycerin in it. I give the powder a spray with it." The spray helps set makeup and keeps your skin looking bright and glowing, not too matte or dry.

Prep your skin a week in advance.

Your face will be the primary focus of your headshots, so it's essential that it looks its best. (It will make you feel your best, too!) "Don't rely on Photoshop," reminds Caitlin. "A week ahead of time, get a facial. Exfoliate the night before, groom a few days before." Give yourself four to five days before your shoot to get your skin prepped, to wax, etc. to avoid any mishaps.

At the end of the day, it's about showing an accurate depiction of who you are. "Whatever these headshots are for, keep it modern," says Caitlin. "Modern is effortless. Sometimes it takes a bit of work, but it's not about the trends in fashion. It's about you. Keep it about you."

Photographs by Kyle Hartman

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