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Make-Up and Hair Artist - Film & TV

Make-up and Hair Artists work on feature films and in television on commercials, pop promos, corporate productions, light entertainment programmes, documentary dramas, etc. They are also employed on TV dramas, and feature films working to Make-up and Hair Designers. They must be proficient in both make-up and hair techniques. Make-up and Hair are key elements in the overall design of films or television productions, creating a look for the characters in relation to social class, and time periods, and any other elements required to create the desired illusion.

Make-up and Hair Artists must be experienced in using a wide variety of professional make-up and hair products. They must be able to create make-ups and hairstyles to meet production requirements. They also work with wigs, and facial and false hair and may be required to affix any required prosthetics. They oversee make-up and hair continuity during the shoot, and remove products as required.

Make-up and Hair Artists are employed throughout pre-production and production, and usually work on a freelance basis. Dailies work on a day to day basis normally on crowd scenes. Personals are personal Make-up and/or Hair Artists employed to look after a specific Principal Actor or Personality. On Films or TV Drama productions, personal Make-up and/or Hair Artists must work to the overall design of each production. Make-up and Hair Artists' hours are long and the job can involve long periods working away from home.

What is the job?
Increased multi-skilling in the UK film and television industries has meant that personnel are required to be proficient in both Make-up and Hair, and the departments are often merged. Make-up and Hair Artists are briefed by Make-up and Hair Designers, who provide them with detailed notes, character and scene breakdowns, and if necessary reference pictures about the characters they must create. Occasionally they may only receive a rough brief, and must produce their own script breakdown, and research and create their own design notes. They work on principal and supporting Actors, and depending on the schedule, usually look after several Actors throughout the shoot. They are responsible for maintaining the continuity of their Artists' "look". They must also carry out full risk assessments, and develop procedures to control risks.

On smaller productions Make-up and Hair Artists must be able to negotiate terms with appropriate suppliers and wig and prosthetic makers, provide them with design specifications, and ensure that they deliver to specific deadlines. They discuss colour palettes with Production and Costume Designers. They make appointments for, and if necessary, go with actors to wig fittings, facial hair fittings, prosthetic castings, optician and dental appointments. They ensure that actors are comfortable with their look, and check for any allergies.

Personal Make-up and Hair Artists are specifically requested by one of the principal Actors to work exclusively on their make-up and hair, and they have autonomy within the department. Although they receive a rough brief from the Make-up and Hair Designer, they prepare their own script breakdown, and research and create, and are ultimately responsible for, their own designs. Dailies work on productions on a day-to-day basis, usually on large crowd scenes.

In all cases, Make-up and Hair Artists check whether Actors have any skin and/or scalp conditions in advance, and make sure that any allergies or sensitivities are taken into consideration, and report them to the relevant Head of Department. They apply make-up, affix prosthetics, wash, cut, blow-dry, style and set hair, apply products and use specialised techniques to create specific designs. They set and dress wigs and hairpieces, and work with facial hair and false pieces, such as beards and moustaches. They may also apply special effects make-up, e.g., grazes, cuts and bruises, and bald caps.

Make-up and Hair Artists usually accompany their performers onto set, and stand by during their scenes, touching up make-up between takes, and ensuring that continuity notes are maintained using digital or polaroid photographs. When the scenes have been shot, Make-up and Hair Artists remove performers' make-up, and wash out products from, and condition their hair. They remove wigs and prosthetics, ensuring that they are cleaned and prepared for further use. Make-up and Hair Artists may be required to assist with any subsequent publicity shots.

Typical career routes
Make-up and Hair Artists are usually experienced personnel who have worked in the film and/or television industries for up to 10 years. They may have started their careers working as Trainees, progressing to Make-up and Hair Assistants, and to Make-up and Hair Artists working on larger and more complex productions. They may eventually become Make-up and Hair Designers. Progress through the department is usually based on skills and experience, which is acquired by on the job training, while assisting established Make-up and Hair Artists.

Essential knowledge and skills
Make-up and Hair Artists must be self-assured, without appearing over-confident. The ability to cope with stress, and a positive attitude are paramount, as they work long hours in pressurized, often cramped environments. The work can be physically demanding, as it involves many hours of standing or bending over Actors. Make-up and Hair Artists work very closely with Actors in a physical sense and must therefore be tactful, sensitive, patient, and able to put people at their ease. Creative problem solving and flexibility are essential, as is the keen eye for detail needed to oversee continuity.

Make-up and Hair Artists should be able to break down scripts in terms of make-up and hair plots, and need an understanding of story structure and character arcs. They must understand the research process, and be familiar with both period hair and make-up, and contemporary looks. They should be able to define the overall look of the production and re-create it. They need a good eye for colour, and an understanding of the anatomy of the human skull and facial muscle structure. They should have the artistic and technical skills, and manual dexterity, necessary for the creation of hair and make-up styles and effects. Language skills may be helpful for foreign shoots, where the team may include local Make-up and Hairdressing personnel. All members of the Make-up and Hair Department are expected to have their own kits.

Key Skills include:

  • hairdressing skills including: cutting, waving, straightening, non permanent colouring, setting, applying extensions, braiding, shaving; wig setting and dressing; and applying, dressing and applying facial hair;
  • make-up skills including: straight corrective; ageing face, hands and neck; contouring effects; and some specialised techniques such as creating tattoos and body-painting;
  • effective communication and diplomacy skills;
  • excellent organisational skills;
  • good presentation skills;
  • ability to work effectively as part of a team;
  • ability to work under pressure to external and departmental deadlines;
  • good IT skills;
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.

Training and qualifications
All Make-up and Hair Artists should have achieved at least a Level 2 vocational qualification or equivalent in Media Make-up, and a level 2-3 NVQ in Hairdressing or the equivalent of two years experience. As it is essential that all Make-up and Hair Artists keep up to date with new methods and materials further qualifications and additional skills may be acquired by attending specialist, industry approved short courses.  Experience of working in a salon, theatre, or wig makers is also advantageous.  At all levels, personality and the right attitude are extremely important.  A full EU driving licence is essential.

Individual course accreditation in certain subject areas is currently being piloted. As part of Creative Skillset's and the UK Film Council's Film Skills Strategy, A Bigger Future, a network of Screen Academies and a Film Business Academy have been approved as centres of excellence in education and training for film.

Where to go for more information
Creative Skillset is the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries. The first sources of information for all jobs in the industry are the National Occupational Standards. Browse Creative Skillset's website for links to our network of training partners, information about training and access to the comprehensive CreativeSkillset/BFI course database. Finally, Creative Skillset Careers is UK's only specialist media careers advice service; for detailed media careers information and advice, visit


  • BBC
  • BECTU - the trade union represents Make-up and Hair personnel


  • Broadcast - the weekly newspaper for the UK TV and Radio industry
  • Televisual - the business magazine for the broadcast and production industry
  • The Make-up Artist Magazine
  • Stage Screen and Radio
  • Screen International
  • The Technique of the Professional Make-up Artist - Vincent J.R. Kehoe ISBN: 0240802179
  • Special Make-up effects - Vincent Kehoe ISBN: 0240800990
  • The Complete Make-up Artist - Penny DelemarISBN: 1861528906
  • Fashions in Hair - Richard CorsonISBN: 0720610931
  • Fashions in Make-up - Richard Corson. ISBN: 0720611954
  • A Colour Atlas of Diagnosis after Recent Injury, P.D. London. ISBN: 0801662958
  • Make-up Continuity Sheets - Linda Morton

Download this job profile in pdf format:
Adobe Acrobat DocumentMake-Up & Hair Artist - Film & TV - Job Profile

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