Makeup Across the Globe: Travelling as a Makeup Artist


My job as a makeup artist isn’t a stationary one. I don’t think I could stay in the same place for years. I love to go to a new space or location as my “office”, then pack up and have different scenery the next day. Thankfully, I learned this early on in my career and always had my sights on traveling for my work. I’m usually out of the country at least 2-4 consecutive months a year, gratefully and graciously accepting assignments in places like Cambodia, Maldives, Africa, Aruba, Sri Lanka, Thailand and recently, Oman in the Middle East. I love the array of unique faces I get to work on depending where I am in the world. It’s made me a better artist I think, always adapting to different features and skin tones.

For instance, I never knew that Germany once occupied the African country of Namibia before landing there for a quick shoot in the capital, Windhoek. Bavarian bakeries? cobble stone streets? And the people whose skin was dark, but their eyes piercing blue, hair colour naturally caramel. Fascinating!!! (And beautifully inspiring!)

Working in exotic places also allows me to research, purchase and try different beauty lines that don’t reach North America. It is a creative playground for an artist like myself to be up close and personal with such textures and colours of different landscapes, people and places.

It definitely didn’t come without hard work, nor did it happen overnight. Often volunteering my time and dollars, making a 100% commitment to be successful in this industry. Back when I started, brands were very generic, and not geared towards artists. There were no YouTube tutorials or blogs to reference if you needed to trouble shoot. Biggest of all, NO PHOTOSHOP! References and inspiration came from magazines (started with me ripping out Calvin Klein ads) some months spending up to $200 on the now almost forgotten format (which I still LOVE), watching fashion television (thank you Jeanne Beker), and most valuable of all assisting more senior artists than myself to see first-hand what their experiences could show me and how it opened my own creative mind.

As an artist, I love my home base Toronto. It’s a great, dynamic, city. It’s changed a lot for artists of all kinds and having been doing professional makeup and hair for 19 years now I’ve definitely grown with both the city and the industry.

Even though I have strong roots and a sense of home here I also always knew I wanted to travel as an artist.

Getting booked on my first couple of makeup jobs out of town was exciting and it felt like my dreams were coming true, however, the travel aspect definitely added new problems to solve as an artist. Its already a guessing game trying to plan and pack all you may need for a shoot, but to guess what you’ll need abroad is a whole other set of considerations. I quickly learned traveling with your kit is very different.

Keeping liquids from spilling, narrowing down shadows and lipsticks (impossible!!!). There’s different weight restrictions on luggage depending on which airline you fly, so it’s about balance. Bring enough so you don’t run out. There’s no Sephora on that island, honey, and not too much that you’re lugging excess around and paying for it $$$.

There’s also some packaging deemed “inappropriate” – in some countries, a simple label you look at all the time, can be illegal content somewhere else. For example, budda as a commercial image is illegal in Thailand, and nudity on packaging is illegal in the Middle East. Products to help hair in humidity are different from products you need in dry heat or cold crisp weather. Not to mention, melting faces in the heat and chapped lips in the cold.

But, the payoff is enhancing beauty on a face and then having that captured in front of an incredible, exotic landscape really makes a connection between you, this earth, and all the beauty in it. Seeing your work in a studio setting is like having a blank canvas to paint on. Fun, cool and you can go anywhere with your ideas. But getting to see your work on someone’s face sitting on the edge of a perfectly still infinity pool, with water so still it seems to be one with the ocean, and reflecting the burst of coral hues in the sunrise is other worldly. Definitely a moment worthy of being captured.

“Don’t you miss your spouse? friends? family?” I get these questions a lot. Yes, I miss them, but to come home again enriched with new experiences, stories, images and inspiration provides me and them with confirmation that it’s all worth it. Travel helps form who you are as a human being. It is important to feel connected to others when the ones you love and care about are so far away for long periods of time.

I have to say the bonding with my team when I travel is incredible and one of the best parts of the job. They become your family away from home. Literally I’ve met people from all around the world that I know I’ll be friends with the rest of my life.

I love what I do and where I do it. It is already a gift to spend your days expressing your creativity through your artistic medium, but having it turn into a career you love truly feels that I’m living my bliss. For this I’m truly grateful.


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About the Author

Elena Pacienza

Elena Pacienza

Elena Pacienza is an expert in the beauty industry with over 15 years experience. Her artistry can be seen on celebrity faces and in fashion, editorial, and advertising. She has travelled extensively with her makeup career and has worked with clients in London, Milan, Dubai, Mumbai, New York and Bangkok to name a few. Travel […]

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