13 Tips for Surviving Makeup Trade Shows

Kristen Bousquet
lip gloss in basket

Larry Washburn / Getty Images

For those of us who surround our lives around beauty, there’s nothing better than meeting someone who understands and shares your obsession with everything from foundations to skin care. There’s also nothing better than scoring HUGE discounts on some of your favorite cosmetics, skin care, and hair care brands.

The common factor between all of this? Makeup trade shows. Whether you’re a professional makeup artist, just getting started out, or just love to be surrounded by the latest and greatest in beauty, attending a makeup trade show is something you need to add to your bucket list ASAP.

As a makeup artist, beauty freelance writer, and lover of all things in the industry, I made it a must-do to visit a makeup trade show, and this weekend, I crossed that off my to-do list. I headed to New York City and attended The Makeup Show. Luckily (for you), I made some mistakes and learned a few tips and tricks about navigating, understanding, and making the most out of attending a makeup trade show. Naturally, I’m here to share.

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1. Get there super early.
This may sound like a very obvious statement, but for some reason I thought arriving at 10:15 AM to a trade show that started at 9 AM would be fine. Boy, was I seriously mistaken. I walked up to the venue to see a few people in line outside and thought, “Oh, this isn’t so bad!” When I turned the corner, I realized the line stretched for two blocks—easily about a two hour wait.

2. Always buy the two-day ticket when available.
any multiple-day trade shows make you buy a ticket for a specific day, which doesn’t give you much wiggle room if you have to end up canceling or switching days. I’d suggest getting the two-day ticket when offered. This will give you more time to wait in line and not have to worry whether or not you’ll get to visit all the booths and education events you wanted to.

3. Make sure to check ahead of time whether or not the show requires credentials.
I was super blind going into this trade show since I totally forgot to bring my credentials. The thought that they would ask me for verification didn’t even cross my mind! That’s something to definitely check into before you get there. Luckily, a friend printed them out for me right before the show!

4. If traveling from far away, book a hotel close to the venue.
Since my train left right after the show ended and I wasn’t staying right next to the venue, I had to carry all my luggage with me throughout the entire trade show. That seriously put a damper on my day—especially since I was buying so much. I was carrying a good thirty pounds the entire day.

5. Wear something comfortable and don’t necessarily focus on dressing to impress.
To be honest, I was planning my outfits for a good month before the show. I was so tired from the days I spent exploring the city before the event, and I ended up in a tank top, jeans, and my Birkenstocks. I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I was so comfortable and didn’t have to worry about fixing my straps or adjusting my skirt—I got to focus solely on elbowing girls for lipstick.

6. Make a list and try your hardest to follow it strictly. 
Being surrounded by all your favorite brands up to 50% off is a straight disaster waiting to happen for someone beauty-obsessed. The best thing to do is to make a list and try your absolute hardest not to say you’ll take one of everything. Since most brands bring a majority of their products, check out their websites and make a list of what you want to get from each brand in order of preference. Since there wasn’t a list of what all the discounts would be for each brand, you’ll definitely want to do your research and try to find out the discounts ahead of time.

7. Make a plan and map out your path of which booths your visiting when.
After you’ve made your list, go through and put the brands in order of popularity. I found that was the most useful because as soon as you got into the building, most girls flocked to the NARS and MAKE UP FOR EVER booths and those were a hot mess in terms of lines throughout the day. Since we got there super early the second day, we walked in and I went straight to NARS and then to MAKE UP FOR EVER and didn’t wait in line for either booth.

8. Bring different forms of payment.
Since we’re all humans who can’t hold back when there’s piles of 30% off NARS products in front of us, bringing a spare credit card or some extra cash is not a bad idea—especially since some brands bring things that may be limited edition for the trade show that you can’t find anywhere else. You’ll also want to bring a card and cash since some booths take only one of the two.

9. Call your bank beforehand and let them know you’ll be at a trade show.
This was a huge issue for me! After spending a few too many hundreds at NARS and MAKE UP FOR EVER, I headed to the Stila booth only to hear the worst sentence ever: “Your card got declined.” The woman told me that a lot of times your bank will put a hold on your card when they see a few transactions taking place quickly from different states (since most of the companies at the trade shows are from all over the country). I called the bank and they said that next time I should call ahead of time and let them know what I’m getting into so they don’t put the hold on it.

10. If offered, take advantage of the classes.
When I first got my ticket for The Makeup Show, all I could focus on was the discount and the products offered. But after taking a look into the education that would be taking place, my focus shifted from concealer palettes and beauty blenders to how much of a once in a while chance it would be to learn from the industry pros. I ended up getting to see Rebecca Restrepo (Elizabeth Arden’s Global Makeup Artist), Dany Sanz (the creator of MAKE UP FOR EVER) and Jenny Atwood Smith (Lead Makeup Stylist for NARS Cosmetics) which was probably my favorite part of the entire weekend. 

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11. Do not forget to bring business cards!
I’m still kicking myself in the butt for forgetting my business cards. Remember, you’ll be surrounded by industry professionals from makeup artists, photographers, models, hair stylists, and much, much more. Don’t be afraid to hand out business cards when you make connections with people, whether it’s while you’re standing in lines or waiting for a seminar to start.

12. Pack a small bag with a snack, a drink, a makeup refresher, and your wallet.
I’d say if you’re going to pack anything in your purse, make sure you have a snack and a drink, a makeup refreshing spray because it’s hot and pushy, and your wallet full of different forms of payment.

13. Stay for the entire event.
Even if you’re just sitting watching seminars all day, stay for the entire event! I was so tired that after watching the seminars I had on my list and visiting all of the booths, so I left to grab dinner only to find out that 30 minutes after I left, Kat Von D went and took photos with everyone at her booth!

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