When it comes to your wedding, you want the best of the best — no matter how big or small the celebration. Caterers with food your guests will rave about for months, a DJ who keeps the dance floor buzzing all night, and the big one: a perfect dress.
But let's not forget about the makeup, because you don't just want it to look flawless in photos. You also need it to last from those emotional first tears at the ceremony through your grand, confetti-strewn exit. One of the most popular choices for brides? Airbrush makeup, which is a red carpet technique that includes spraying foundation directly onto the skin with an airbrush gun versus blending it with fingers, a sponge, or a brush.
But with many artists charging a premium for the service, is it actually worth it and does it have any cons? We turned to the pros for answers to all our burning airbrush questions. Check out their unfiltered opinions, ahead.
How does airbrushing work?
Similar to spray tanning, the process starts with your makeup artist selecting your shade, popping it into an airbrush gun (TEMPTU and Luminess tend to be the most popular), and misting it over your entire face. An experienced artist will know that a little goes a long way. "It won't be ideal if a makeup artist has a heavy hand and applies too much product," says makeup artist Holly Gowers. Most applicators on the market have different speeds and coverage settings that are specific to each area, including a targeted spray for around the eyes and a broader one for body makeup.
What makes airbrushing most appealing for brides is the lightweight finish, which is why Bachelorette star Hannah Brown uses it on the show. "When I use airbrushing on her, she loves how it looks and feels and how lightly and easily you're able to apply it," says Gina Modica, Brown's makeup artist. Makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes adds that it's an especially great option for those with oily skin. "It can be good if you find it hard to keep makeup on throughout the day, because it's almost lacquered on and waterproof," she says.
Is airbrushing worth it?
According to many experts, yes. "Airbrush is beautiful for weddings because it’s buildable," says Gowers. "It can be a sheer wash of color to full coverage. If done properly, it should look super natural and flawless." Modica agrees, adding, "The foundation easily lays down over problem areas if there are any; it just gives a beautiful, finished look."
But that comes with one major caveat: "I would do it with someone who has a lot of experience and try it prior to the wedding date," Hughes warns. "Airbrush makeup can look heavier, which is more about the lack of control. It can hinder how life-like the foundation looks and look like a mask."
Some makeup artists, like Tim MacKay, prefer typical foundation techniques over airbrush because of all the coverage options that are on the market. "Foundation can be just as good if not prettier on the skin," he says. "There are so many amazing foundations, like Dior and Armani, which you wouldn't be able to put into an airbrush pod." MacKay likes to use a fluffy foundation brush instead, and always follows up by pressing in the formula with a damp makeup sponge. "This ensures that same natural coverage," he says.
How does airbrush makeup look on?
When done right, airbrush makeup should have a flawless, semi-matte finish. On wedding forums, you might find brides complaining about flakes or patches from airbrush formulas. Just like selecting the right shade, you should also be mindful of choosing the proper formula for your skin type. "There are many bases for airbrush, including water, silicone, and oil," Gowers says. "If someone is on the dry side, I recommend silicone or oil formulas." If the artist only has a water-based airbrush formula, she recommends spraying the Caudalie Beauty Elixir mist over the makeup for a boost of moisture.
Will I need to touch up airbrush makeup?
If you're wondering whether you'll need to pack a setting spray or powder, both Modica and Gowers says airbrush makeup typically lasts without the help of additional products. Gowers says that if she does choose to set it, she'll dust on setting powder — like Clé de Peau Beauté Translucent Loose Powder — and the bride is good to go for the entire day.
As for the inevitable waterworks that come with the ceremony, there are a few things to keep in mind when touching up. If there's fallen mascara, Gowers suggests using a cotton swab with makeup remover or micellar water to clean with precision. If your airbrush coverage has worn off in any areas, you can dab on regular foundation with a slightly damp beauty sponge and set it with loose powder. If you're able to get touched up by the airbrush system again, Modica says that spraying on the lightest setting should blend any patches seamlessly.
What are airbrush makeup shades ranges like?
Airbrush formulas haven't been exempt from lacking proper shade ranges. But both artists assure us that the selection has gotten better over the last few years. If the brand doesn't have a match for a client, they'll pour two shades into an empty airbrush pod, which blends as the spray disperses. "Many lines offer undertones to adjust the color, so you can achieve the perfect base," says Gowers, who says she has actually never used a color straight out of the bottle since she wants each unique shade to match flawlessly. Modica agrees saying, "It’s so easy to get whatever you need."
Does Airbrush Cost More?
While the service is more costly than having the makeup artist use a regular foundation formula, the additional charge is understandable. "It takes training and tools to learn how to do airbrushing," says Gowers, who recommends TEMPTU and Dinair airbrush makeup systems. Prices will vary from city to city, but generally can cost up to $25 to $150+ more, depending on the makeup artist.
Overall, if the service is within your budget, airbrush makeup might be worth testing out when you do a trial with your artist — which is key, according to the pros. The only risks you should be taking on your wedding day are on the dance floor, not on your face.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.