1409068029"Marvel's Thor: The Dark World". Behind The Scenes with Christopher Eccleston (Malekith). Ph: Jay Maidment. © 2013 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2013 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Hair and Make-up Artist

Film | High End TV | TV
Personality type:
Make-Up and Hair

The lowdown

  • Creating make-ups and hairstyles to meet production requirements
  • Overseeing make-up and hair continuity during filming
  • Working to the Make-up and Hair Designer’s brief

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • possess 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
  • possess make-up skills including: straight corrective; ageing face, hands and neck; contouring effects; and some specialised techniques such as creating tattoos and body painting
  • have a good eye for colour 
  • have manual dexterity, necessary for the creation of hair and make-up styles and effects
  • have an understanding of the anatomy of the human skull and facial muscle structure
  • be able to break down scripts in terms of make-up and hair plots
  • be able to define the overall look of the production and re-create it
  • have excellent communication skills, including diplomacy and sensitivity in working with actors 
  • be able to problem-solve creatively
  • pay close attention to detail in overseeing continuity
  • be highly organised
  • have good presentation skills
  • be able to work effectively as part of a team
  • be able to work calmly and efficiently under pressure to meet deadlines
  • have good IT skills
  • have stamina to cope with the physical demands of the role
  • have language skills, ideally, for foreign shoots
  • understand the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures
  • a full EU driving licence

What does a Hair and Make-up Artist do?

Make-up and Hair Artists must be able to create make-ups and hairstyles to meet production requirements. They oversee make-up and hair continuity during filming and remove products as required. Make-up and Hair Artists are employed throughout pre-production and production, and usually work on a freelance basis.

Make-up and hair are key elements in the overall design of films and 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.

On film and TV dramas, their work is directed by Hair and Make-up Designers who provide them with detailed notes, character and scene breakdowns and, if necessary, reference pictures about the characters they must create. Sometimes, 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, usually looking after several actors throughout the shoot. They must maintain the continuity of the actors' ‘look’.

On smaller productions, they negotiate terms with suppliers and wig and prosthetic makers, providing them with design specifications and ensuring that they deliver on time. They discuss colour palettes with Production Designers 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.

Personal Make-up and Hair Artists are specifically requested by one of the principal Actors to work on their make-up and hair. Although they receive a rough brief from the Make-up and Hair Designer, they prepare their own script breakdown, and research and create their own designs.

Dailies work on productions on a day-to-day basis, usually on large crowd scenes.

In all cases, Hair and Make-up 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. They must also carry out full risk assessments and develop procedures to control risks. 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.

They usually accompany their performers onto set, standing by to touch up make-up between takes, and ensuring that continuity notes are maintained using photographs. When the scenes have been shot, they remove performers' make-up, washing out products from their hair and conditioning it. They remove wigs and prosthetics, ensuring that they are cleaned and prepared for further use.

Will I need a qualification?

You will need to achieve 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.

You will need to keep up to date with new methods and materials, so further qualifications and additional skills may be acquired by attending specialist short courses.

If you have any experience of working in a salon, theatre or wig makers, this would be to your advantage.

What’s the best route in?

To progress to this role, you will usually need to have worked in the film and/or television industries for up to 10 years. You will probably have started out as a Hair and Make-up Trainee, progressing to be a Make-up and Hair Assistant, before becoming a Make-up and Hair Artist working on larger and more complex productions.

Where might the role take me?

You could progress to become a Make-up and Hair Designer. Your progress will be determined by your skills and experience, which you’ll develop through on-the-job training, assisting established Hair and Make-up Artists. You should maintain a portfolio of your work, and keep all letters and testimonies as evidence of your work and experience.

You could also apply to be a Film or TV Trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all-important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Interested? Find out more...


  • BECTU - the UK's media and entertainment trade union, covering broadcasting, film, independent production, theatre and the arts, leisure and digital media
  • BBC College of Production - practical advice on all aspects of working in television, radio and online broadcast


  • Broadcast - the weekly newspaper for the UK TV and radio industries
  • Televisual - the business magazine for the broadcast and production industry
  • The Make-up Artist Magazine - features articles on the entertainment industry’s top make-up artists, the most innovative make-up techniques, current product news
  • Screen Daily - the leading film industry resource covering the international film markets


  • 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 Delemar ISBN: 1861528906
  • Fashions in Hair - Richard Corson ISBN: 0720610931
  • Fashions in Make-up - Richard Corson. ISBN: 0720611954
  • A Colour Atlas of Diagnosis after Recent Injury, P.D. London. ISBN: 0801662958


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