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Cosmetic Counter: Airbrush With Greatness

By Ameann DeJohn
Posted: May 23, 2008, from the July 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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Now, armed with a better understanding of how the technique works, get a look into how airbrush makeup started and how celebrities are using this method to become camera-ready.

The first airbrush was invented in Iowa in 1879 by Abner Peeler for use in painting watercolors and for other artistic purposes. The earliest record of airbrushing being used for makeup application dates back to the 1925 film version of Ben Hur. And though airbrush makeup never really caught on in subsequent years, it has recently re-emerged in a big way.

Airbrush makeup has seen its popularity greatly enhanced with the advent of HDTV, high-definition television with 10 times more picture detail, which can be unforgiving to the person in front of the camera. For this reason, the airbrushing technique is wildly popular in film and TV. Thankfully, gone are the days of pancake makeup that was easily blurred by overhead lighting and lower picture quality.

The airbrush makeup technique is considered something of a godsend among celebrities for the natural appearance it provides while still cleverly washing away scars, discolorations, under-eye circles and other imperfections. Men especially love it because it doesn’t feel like there is anything foreign on the skin, and it has a natural, matte texture. Celebrities who have been known to use airbrush makeup include Jay Leno, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Ripa, former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and the casts of both Will & Grace and Friends.

Getting down the details

Now to fill in the details on airbrush makeup and cover all the specifics on how the technique works. The airbrush sprays minute dots, or pixels, of makeup at a low psi (pounds per square inch) from the pressurized air flow of the compressor. The airbrush makeup feels like a soft breeze of air going on and dries to a light, matte finish when it comes in contact with the skin. Once applied, it stays on; the makeup is water-resistant, and therefore does not require any touch-ups.