My Beauty Philosophy: Part 1

Wedding makeup in Newport

“Do you ever look at a woman walking down the street and see things about her makeup you want to fix?” I have been asked variations of this question for as long as I have been doing makeup. And the answer is “no.”  Every makeup artist has their own views on makeup and beauty, and I’d like to tell you mine. This is going to be a two part blog post. Part 1 is about my beauty philosophy in regards to others, and Part 2 will be about my personal beauty philosophy.

This is how I see it.

Focus on the good. At the core of my beauty philosophy is my opinion (which I actually consider to be more of a fact) that everyone has something beautiful about their face. When I look at someone, I don’t zone in on a blemish, thin lips or uneven eyebrows. I see gorgeous bone structure, glowing skin, pretty green eyes, crazy thick eyelashes, etc. What stands out to me is what is naturally beautiful about their face. And what I like about makeup is that it can enhance any of those features. When a client is in my chair, I apply their makeup in a way that brings out that feature or features. I’m not huge on corrective makeup. You won’t find me contouring the hell out of people’s faces or packing on foundation to get a “flawless” finish. (I have used the word “flawless” before but I don’t like it, hence the passive aggressive quotes). I cover what I think needs to be covered to make the person feel comfortable (they often start by saying “I have such dark circles!” or “I hate that I woke up with this zit today,” so I often know what they dislike from the get-go). I look at covering or correcting areas that bother a client as the technical part of my job and bringing out the beauty as the artistic part.

Do you. You don’t want to wear makeup? That’s cool! I am a big believer in doing what works for you. I have lots of clients who are nurses or teachers (props to you ladies, by the way–your jobs are so important) and they have told me it doesn’t make sense for them to put on a full face of makeup for their jobs. And there are some people who are just not into makeup. I think that’s great! Whatever makes sense for your lifestyle and whatever you feel comfortable doing is what you should be doing. I’m not the type of makeup artist who thinks everyone should wear makeup. I say wear as much or little as you want, and rock it with confidence. Yes, I write how-to blog posts and give makeup tips, but those are for people who want to learn or experiment. I don’t think anyone has to wear makeup or has to do it my way, or Bobbi Brown’s way, or some YouTube artist’s way.

Bringing out inner beauty. Sounds super cheesy, right? But let me explain what I mean. Overall, I feel good. I am generally pretty optimistic and consider myself to be a happy person. I try to be a great friend and daughter/sister/niece/cousin. I’m no saint, but I would like to think I’m at least kind of a good person 🙂 I’m feel lucky to have so many awesome people in my life and I feel grateful that I have been able to create a lifestyle that I love. All positive things, right? But on the days when I wake up with dull looking skin or darker-than-usual-undereye circles, I feel like my exterior does not match how I feel. So my current favorite foundation and some concealer, and maybe a bright lip color or pretty cream blush perks me up so when I look in the mirror, I think “Now this all makes sense.” And that is what I try to do for my clients. I meet so many wonderful people who have inner beauty in spades (along with some naturally beautiful features, of course) so I think it’s also part of my job to help show that inner beauty on the outside.

Self expression, man. Imagine if we all had to walk around with the same hairstyle, same outfit and no makeup. Of course there would be other ways of expressing ourselves, like with, I don’t know, interpretive dance and poetry. But isn’t it nice that that scenario is not real and we have makeup we can play with? (And you can dance and write poems while wearing makeup!) Maybe you wear a bright pink lipstick on the first nice day of spring, because you’re excited for warm weather and the anticipation of your favorite time of year. Or you’re feeling badass, so you line your eyes with kohl liner and dare someone to mess with you. Or you’ve been into watching old movies, so you take some inspiration from Audrey Hepburn or Sophia Loren and do a retro makeup look. All of those things allow you to express yourself in different ways via the magic of makeup.

So that’s where I stand. I don’t judge anyone for the makeup they wear or don’t wear. My job (and my passion) is to give people a little confidence boost by bringing out their natural and inner beauty and to encourage self expression. Makeup may literally be on the surface, but it’s not a superficial thing.

Have a beautiful day 🙂


Photo Credit: Rebecca Arthurs Photography, Makeup by Allison Barbera.

You Need Us

When is the last time you looked at the website of a company you wanted to buy from or book some kind of service with? Probably the last time you wanted to buy something or book a service, right? And if you are looking for a particular person to work with–like a real estate agent, dentist, accountant, etc.–chances are you probably looked at the About Us page to check them out. Then, you most likely formed an impression before even reading about the person, based on their photo. You might not be conscious that you are doing this, but you probably are. (It’s okay, that doesn’t make you a bad person!) Not in the “Are they attractive?” way, but in the “Do they look the part?” way. What we think of as professional varies by industry–someone in a creative field, like an interior decorator, may have a more casual picture than an attorney. But there is still a professional standard we expect from people we may hire, even just appearance-wise.

Regardless of the industry, when you see a business picture of someone that was probably taken with an iPhone, it stands out–and not in a good way. Is that mortgage lender wearing a baseball cap? What’s that, a Fireball shot on the table next to them? And who the hell is cropped out of the photo? Half their face is still in it! I have seen several photos like these on professional websites, which makes me cringe. Your professional photo is the first impression many potential customers/clients may get, so it seems crazy to use a picture that’s more appropriate for Facebook. You could be the best banker/massage therapist/marketing manager in the world, but if you look like you are on Spring Break or at home in your kitchen, you may be giving potential clients reason to look for someone else.

It’s not superficial, it’s professional image. You can get angry about it and blame society for paying too much attention to appearance, but it is part of the whole package of Professional You. Whether you run a company and want to show who your employees are, or you are an independent contractor/sole proprietor with your own website, having a professional photo is essential. In some cases, an “action shot” of you doing your work–training a client at the gym, styling someone’s hair, creating a flower arrangement–may work fine (even then, I definitely recommend using a photo shot by a pro). But a lot of people in the business world need headshots for online presence, marketing materials, business cards, etc. Putting effort into your appearance shows that you take yourself and your job seriously–which makes you more credible to potential clients/customers. I’m not suggesting that you drop $1,000 on an outfit and get Botox for one photo. But also don’t expect your industry reputation and two paragraph blurb to speak louder than a blurry photo of you from your neighbor’s Fourth of July cookout. If a potential client/customer doesn’t know anything about you and that’s the first thing they see, they may not take you seriously.

Hiring a professional photographer and a hair and makeup artist for your photos (and your employees, if applicable) makes a huge difference. A professional photographer knows the optimal lighting, angles, posing and backgrounds for the kind of photo that makes sense for your business. A professional hair and makeup artist knows how to make someone look their best for their professional photo. This applies to both males and females.

Don’t write this off, guys–there is a reason every man on ESPN and in every film, tv show and magazine ad is wearing makeup. For male hair and makeup, it’s all about evening out the skintone, eliminating shine and redness, concealing blemishes and undereye darkness and grooming hair. If you look at a picture of someone who has red, shiny skin and a blemish in the middle of their forehead, those things stand out. And a bald head reflects some serious shine on camera if a makeup artist isn’t there to prevent that. Those things are distracting and look unprofessional, but are easily fixed by a good hair and makeup artist. It’s a quick process–I typically spend about 5-8 minutes on business photo male hair and makeup–but it makes a big difference. And don’t worry, I always have makeup remover wipes with me, so no one ever needs to know what went on…

Ladies, I’m sure most of you already know the difference between being photographed wearing makeup and without it. Having an even skintone, some color on the lips and cheeks, no darkness under the eyes and hair that isn’t frizzed out or greasy looking goes a long way on camera. A good hair and makeup artist can create a look for you (or adjust the look you are already wearing) that is what we call “camera ready.” Because even if your everyday makeup looks great in person–and I’m sure it does!–a good makeup artist will know how to adjust colors and intensity so your makeup shows up beautifully on camera. And while your hair may look like a L’Oreal ad in person, there are some things a pro can do to make it more flattering in photos.

Need more convincing? Man, you are tough. I do a lot of  corporate/business/headshots work with talented photographer, Shawn Read, and we wanted to show you why you need us. Between the two of us, we have done shoots for large and small businesses–from real estate agencies to pharmaceutical companies to financial firms–as well as Ivy League universities and nationally known hospitals. Because of confidentiality, we typically can not post photos from these shoots. So we did our own shoot to show you what this Dream Team can do.

Below are Before and Afters of two models (doubleclick to enlarge). The Before pictures show them prior to hair and makeup services. The first After photos show them with hair and makeup that I did, no retouching from Shawn. The second After photos show them with minimal retouching from Shawn. That is the level of retouching he typically does for business photos. Shawn doesn’t retouch the photos to the point that a person is unrecognizable, which is part of the reason he is so in demand in this industry.

So you might be wondering why you should even hire me for hair and makeup when Shawn can just retouch everything. First of all, Mr./Ms. Trying-to-Cut-Corners, it is very hard and time consuming for a photographer to create a full hair and makeup look with Photoshop or similar retouching programs. It would take Shawn several hours more per image to do that (and honestly, those programs don’t allow you to create looks the way real hair and makeup can). So your photos would take longer to get back to you, and the cost would be considerably higher. Higher, in fact, than if you just hired me for hair and makeup in the first place. Photographers are not hair stylists and makeup artists, so even if they could easily Photoshop in hair and makeup for you, there is no guarantee they would know where to start.

Another reason professional hair and makeup is beneficial for business photos/headshots is the confidence factor. Most people don’t love having their photo taken, but knowing they look their best definitely makes them feel more comfortable in front of the camera. Shawn shows people a few of the photos as he shoots, and people always like those unedited photos more if they have hair and makeup done. (I also help with some wardrobe/accessory stuff, like making sure ties are straight, necklace clasps are hidden, pants aren’t tucked into shoes, etc.) It’s a definite team effort. While Shawn is focused on the shot, the lighting, making people feel comfortable, etc., I am able to be a second set of eyes, noticing a piece of paper sticking out of a pocket or hair tucked into a collar. Lastly, when people make their selections after Shawn has completed the shoot (the photos are accessed via his private website galleries) they are more likely to be happy with the unedited images if they have had professional hair and makeup.

Ready to book us? Whether it’s an individual session or a group session, we will work with you and/or your employees to provide you with polished, professional photos.  We’ll go to your workplace and will create an efficient schedule so we take up as little of your time as possible. Feel free to check out Shawn’s website, LB Read Photography,!/index  and mine, Allison Barbera Beauty, We can be contacted directly at and

Have a beautiful day 🙂


Makeup FAQs

There are a few things I always love to talk about–soft serve, Biggie Smalls, owning a business and makeup. Being that I am a makeup artist, I get asked a lot of beauty questions. And I am happy to answer them! I’ve noticed that I get many of the same questions, so I thought I would compile them into one neat little blog post. These are my personal opinions from my experience in the field, but in makeup, there are a lot of different “right” answers. These are just the the ones that make sense to me.

What is the best mascara?

For volumizing, I don’t think Dior Diorshow (the original) can be beat. For length, I love Clinique High Lengths, Make Up For Ever Smoky Lash and Diorshow Extase. When using regular mascara, I always layer one of those over the Diorshow. For waterproof, Maybelline The Falsies Volum’ Express is my jam. And if watery eyes are a problem, but you don’t want to wear waterproof every day (which I wouldn’t recommend anyway), Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara is amazing. When you are just talking watery eyes (not tears), typically the smudging is coming from the bottom lashes only. That smudging doesn’t happen with Clinique Bottom Lash because it is a beauty tubes mascara, so it encapsulates the lashes and does not come off until you remove it.

What do you think of airbrush makeup?

For an event or a long day, I think airbrush is great if you are someone who has very oily skin, acne, acne scarring, or wrinkles. Otherwise, I think there is a good traditional (non-airbrush) foundation out there for everyone. I think airbrush gets hyped up, and although I have seen and experienced beautiful results with it, at this time, I am still partial to traditional foundation.

What are your thoughts on mineral makeup?

I think it’s okay for everyday use, but for photography, I have yet to find one that doesn’t flash back. I think it can get too easily caked up, so I wouldn’t use it for anything being filmed either. There are some mineral makeups that look gorgeous on normal to oily skin, but I would stay away from them in general if your skin is very oily, very dry, or mature. On very oily skin, I have seen mineral makeup get discolored or streaky once the natural oils come through. On dry skin, I have seen it catch on patchy areas, making them more obvious. It also seems to sit on top of the skin even if there are not patchy areas. On mature skin, it has a tendency to settle into fine lines, making them more obvious. Some makeup artists swear by mineral makeup, but I’m just not one of them!

Should I apply my liquid foundation with my hands or a brush?

It depends on the foundation you are using and the coverage you want. A flat foundation brush will give you more of a full coverage finish, and a buffing brush will give you something closer to an airbrush finish. I like using my hands for a lighter coverage foundation or tinted moisturizer and for when I want a more natural look.

How can I make my lipstick stay on longer?

A lip primer, like MAC Prep & Prime Lip, is a good start. Once that has absorbed, line your lips and–this is the key–completely fill them in with a lip liner that matches your natural lip color, or the color of the lipstick you will be using. Aqua Lip Liners by Make Up For Ever are great for this because they are waterproof.

Where do I apply bronzer?

Bronzer, as opposed to contour products, should be applied where the sun naturally hits (sometimes referred to as the “high planes of the face”). So temples, hairline, tops of cheekbones, bridge of nose and a dot on the chin. Don’t apply it on your entire face, unless you are going for the Jersey Shore look.

How do I make my eyes look bigger?

This is going to have a lot to do with your eye shape, but in general, an off-white eyeliner on the lower waterline will make eyes look larger. Any liner at the lower lashline should be thin, soft (I prefer a shadow to a pencil) and not too dark. Mascara will open up the eyes, but don’t be too heavy-handed, as that can just draw attention to the size of your eyes. Unless eyes are wide-set, a shimmery light color at the inner corners will help too. I also suggest having well-groomed eyebrows. If your brows are too thick, they may overpower small eyes, but brows that are too thin may look disproportionate in relation to the rest of the face. If you are not sure about your brows, get them shaped professionally.

What’s the trick to making my eyeliner the same on both eyes?

Oh darling, don’t stress yourself out too much here.  No one’s eyes are exactly the same, so eyeliner is never going to be 100% the same on both eyes. Just have some patience (and maybe a cocktail, if that will make you care less). It’s a lot about practice, so cut yourself some slack. My fellow makeup artist friend, Jennie Kay, once suggested to me that when I was struggling with my own eyeliner even-ness (I find it easier to get it almost perfect on others), start with the “tough” eye first. You know, the one that makes you swear and want to start over completely. Starting with the tough eye definitely takes some of the frustration out of it.

How do I conceal dark undereye circles?

First off, stop staying up until midnight to watch the Millionaire Matchmaker marathons. Sleep, as anyone with dark circles knows, does help the circles diminish. As far as makeup goes, if the circles are very dark, you will need to correct them with a color corrector first (peach, salmon, or orange, depending on how light or dark your skin is). Follow that with a concealer in a shade lighter than your skintone. You can use one with brightening qualities, like Clinique Airbrush Concealer, but if you are going to be photographed, take a test picture first. Some brightening concealers will flashback in photography, making the undereye area look super light and obvious.

Those are the most common makeup questions I get asked, but I will add to this post if more new ones start cropping up. If you have makeup questions for me, please feel free to comment on this post or on my Allison Barbera Makeup Artistry Facebook page.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

Pinch Me, I Must Be Dreaming

I grew up with a lot of dream jobs.  Interior decorator, personal organizer, teacher, event planner…I could go on.  But it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized I could take doing makeup–one of my passions–and turn it into a career.  Yes, it took me a while to come to that realization, but I’m so glad I did.

If I’m not doing a makeup job, I’m watching a makeup tutorial, blogging, researching new trends and products, or experimenting on myself.  I literally dream about lipsticks and new color combinations and I can’t look around a room or at nature without getting inspired by colors or textures.  My life is covered in makeup and I love it.

It’s a great feeling when a bill is less than I expected it to be, or I find a the perfect dress to wear to a wedding. I enjoy going to see a funny movie, or getting in a good run.  But nothing compares to the feeling I get when I’ve done someone’s makeup and they look in the mirror and say “Oh my God! I love it!”

When I’m doing makeup, I don’t think of anything else.  I’ve done makeup with viral bronchitis, a broken heart and during other times of personal stress.  During one wedding job, I damn near knocked a toenail off by stubbing my toe on a claw foot bedframe.  I get into the zone, where I’m so focused on making someone look their best or look the part that I literally cannot think of anything else.

When I leave a wedding, photoshoot, or film knowing that the clients/photographer/director are 100% happy with my work, I’m on a high.  It makes me feel good not just professionally but personally. I find it hard not to take people’s reactions personally. When you create something, it’s personal. When I can successfully take someone’s vision, get it into my head and achieve the results they’re looking for, there’s no better feeling.

I haven’t done this alone though.  I’m extremely grateful for all that referrals that I receive from clients, friends and family. I’m also thankful for people in my industry like Joe Rossi and Jennie Kay Plumb who have helped me along the way. I’m working my dream job and a combination of talent, skills, luck, and great business contacts got me there.

I can’t imagine not doing makeup, so I’m looking forward to many more makeup-covered years in this business.

Have a beautiful day 🙂

I Don’t See It As a Problem

I’ll admit it—I’m addicted. I know it’s not always good for me and I spend way too much money on it, but I can’t help it. I love the look of it, in all its different varieties, I love the smell, and I love what it does for me. I can’t live without it.


The beauty gene was not passed down to me from my mother. She rarely buys makeup, and usually only wears a little foundation, a little lipstick and one coat of mascara. Growing up, I would jump at the chance to play with her ancient makeup or gasp! be allowed to purchase a Bonne Bell lip gloss or Wet n’ Wild nail polish of my own.

The only logical reason I can come up for how this addiction started is the fact that I was reading teen magazines at a young age. I somehow finagled myself a subscription to Seventeen Magazine at age 10. I read it for a good year before my babysitter showed it to my mom and suggested finding me a magazine that was more age appropriate. True, there were a lot of articles about sex and relationships, but I wasn’t paying attention to those (I didn’t know a condom from a condo at that point). What I did read was all the beauty articles and reviews. I think I was the only fourth grader who was exfoliating on a weekly basis. So this reading and understanding of “older girls” stuff is the only catalyst I can identify for my makeup addiction.

I’ve created a beauty timeline to try to understand where my addiction started, and exactly when I got hooked.

Age 3—My best friend Danielle’s mother makes us up as clowns. She does it for Danielle to help her get over her fear of clowns and for me because I love the feeling of makeup on my face. The pictures she took show a nervous Danielle, and an ecstatic Allison.

Age 8—My Aunt Terry, a nurse, is painting my nails for me and tells me she’s not allowed to wear nail polish to work. I’m horrified at the thought and say, “Can you at least paint your toenails?”

Age 11—My friend Amanda and I are playing when we find my mom’s Mary Kay eyeshadow palette. I cover Amanda’s eyes with a turquoise shadow and paint her lips with a pale pink. Amanda’s mother flips when she sees it, and we’re not allowed to play together anymore.

Age 18—I go to CVS every few weeks to pick up new makeup. Lavender lipstick, kelly green eyeliner, shimmery liquid bronzer—I try everything.  Sometimes all at once.

Age 24—I go to school for Esthetics, where I routinely interrupt my instructor to ask her which lipstick or blush she is wearing. Her answer is considered part of a lesson, and I know I’ve enrolled in the right kind of school for me.

The addiction has only become worse as I’ve gotten older and started my career as a makeup artist. In the last few years, I’ve discovered a more expensive, more potent brand of the stuff—high end beauty products. My L’Oreal mascara has been replaced with Diorshow, my CoverGirl blush was thrown away when I discovered NARS Orgasm, and my Maybelline lip gloss got the ax the day I tried a Lancome Beauty Tube.

As a makeup artist, I can validate my addiction. It’s probably scary to some. I see the fear in the eyes of makeup virgins when I first approach them with my Shu Uemura eyelash curler. But I know that once I’m finished transforming them into an enhanced version of themselves, they too will feel the rush and may become a beauty junkie like me.

My hands shake as I open my boxes from Sephora, but the calm hits when I see my samples. I rip open a Stila box to uncover the tinted moisturizer that’s on my face before you can say “natural looking glow.” My friends get excited over engagements and babies, but I feel true joy when a winged eyeliner comes out perfectly.

I’m not interested in kicking this addiction, and I don’t think I could if I wanted to. I see the world as a giant inspirational makeup palette, and I want to share what I’ve learned as a makeup artist. This blog will be home to product reviews, tips and techniques, makeup pictures, stories from various makeup jobs, and hopefully suggestions from others.

Hope you enjoy it!

Have a beautiful day 🙂