The Major Differences Between Red Carpet and Regular Makeup

The Major Differences Between Red Carpet and Regular Makeup
Photo: Getty Images

This Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards mark the beginning of another awards season. And with it, will come a gang of red carpet beauty moments that leave us pining for the makeup tricks and skin care treatments celebrities use to get camera-ready. It’s no secret that well-equipped glam squads are behind it all, but inquiring minds need to know just how long and how much it takes to look airbrushed IRL.

So, we went straight to the woman behind some of your favorite red carpet regulars for the undisputed facts. Hrush Achemyan, a celebrity makeup artist and beauty influencer in her own right, has worked her makeup magic on a who’s who of Hollywood, including Christina Aguilera, Shay Mitchell and the Kardashian-Jenners. In short: she knows her stuff. Ahead, she breaks down everything a beauty junkie would want to know about the extra work that goes into a red carpet look.

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It Takes a Long Time

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with displaying yourself in front of a camera pit, so it comes as no surprise that celebrities are willing to sit through hours of makeup prep beforehand. Achemyan typically allots for at least two hours with her clients, although three is more ideal.

“Sometimes a client and glam just has to get it done in 30 minutes, but I always recommend giving yourself 3 hours,” she says. And although makeup for an in-person event or low-key day doesn’t take nearly as long–about 45 minutes, to be exact–she also understands that “hair is being done at the same time, so it’s a tango between makeup and hair during that time period.”

In other words, no matter the occasion, makeup prep is rarely ever a quick process, especially with so many people in one room.

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Coordination is Everything

Like the tango between makeup and hair, fashion is another aspect of the red carpet experience that must be considered.

Achemyan swears by using complimentary colors, once she’s gotten to see what her client will be wearing. “If the client is wearing green, for example, bronze is a beautiful color choice,” she says. The camera lighting also dictates what type of products a makeup artist will use.

Cooler lights require playing up warm tones on the face, while sticking to cooler tones is recommended for warm lights, since it’s very easy to look orange.

“Daytime red carpet makeup needs to be less.,” she says.” For a nighttime red carpet with heavy lighting, it’s easy to get a blank face.  You have to play up the highlight and contour to add dimension.”

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Product Selection is Critical

And since camera lighting is so unforgiving, the products chosen by a makeup artist must be carefully curated. For instance, while SPF is an everyday must, it tends to leave a white film and ghost-like flashback on the red carpet. Instead, Achemyan creates a blur effect on the skin by adding quite a few layers of coverage and not using as much powders, since they don’t lend themselves to a healthy-looking glow. The overall goal of any red carpet look is to make it look as natural as possible, albeit the amount of products being used is extensive, to say the least.

As for her other faux natural tricks, Achemyan says, “With lashes, stick to individuals because they look a lot more natural than strips. For lips, never over draw for the carpet.  Also, something a lot of people don’t consider is your arms, ears, legs, and hands all have to be one shade.  If you are bronzing the skin, make sure that any skin showing looks the same shade.  It’s the biggest giveaway in our craft.”

“Another no no is HD powder.  Have you seen all the horrific pictures of our favorite celebs looking like they forgot to wipe off that bake?  Yup, that’s what HD powder does if not used correctly.”

It’s also important to remember that a lot of celebrities, including Achemyan’s clients, are upping their water intake and going through a few rounds of facials so the makeup sits better on the skin; an extensive process usually reserved for red carpet season.

With all that being said, ahead are the go-tos Achemyan counts on while getting clients ready for the flashing lights:

STYLECASTER | The Difference Between Red Carpet and Real Life Makeup | Tom Ford Foundation Stick

Tom Ford

Tom Ford Traceless Foundation Stick

“The colors are extremely vibrant and they photograph beautifully.”

Available on Amazon

STYLECASTER | The Differences Between Red Carpet and Real Life Makeup | Laura Mercier Contour Palette

Laura Mercier

Laura Mercier Flawless Contouring Kit

“It’s the right tone of cool and warm that gives a chisel, shadow-like effect without making your face look gray.”

$50, at Neiman Marcus

STYLECASTER | The Differences Between Red Carpet and Real Life Makeup | Koh Gen Aqua Illuminator

Koh Gen

Koh Gen Aqua Illuminator

“…my favorite for illumination because it gives the perfect amount of glisten without making you look oily.”

Available on Amazon

STYLECASTER | Differences Between Red Carpet and Real Life Makeup | Kylie Cosmetics Silver Series Lipsticks

Kylie Cosmetics

Kylie Cosmetics Silver Series Lipsticks

“You have to try one of these babies out if you can get your hands on them.  The colors are super beautiful and they also give your lip a hydrated appeal (versus dry or cracked).”

$17, at Kylie Cosmetics

STYLECASTER | Differences Between Red Carpet and Real Life Makeup | Morphe Setting Mist


Morphe Continuous Setting Mist

“You will be in front of lighting, so it’s more likely your makeup will move around. A finishing spray is a must for the red carpet.”

Available on Amazon