Airbrush Makeup Vs Traditional Makeup

Airbrush Makeup Vs Traditional Makeup

In this blog post we’ll compare two forms of makeup application: airbrush makeup vs. traditional makeup.

Cosmetologists-in-training like myself learn a lot about the many forms of makeup and how to use them. There’s a massive market of unique products available. But one question I get asked about frequently is the differences between airbrushed and traditionally applied makeup.

Airbrush makeup is nothing new, but it’s only recently become accessible to the masses. Meanwhile, the rise of influencers has made it easier than ever to master traditional makeup techniques. But which one is better?

At A Glance

Most consider airbrush makeup the better choice, thanks to its ability to produce nearly flawless finishes. But like all things in the world of cosmetics, the argument isn’t as cut and dry as it might seem! Improved formulas and innovations in traditional makeup blur the lines and make the distinct techniques nearly indistinguishable!

For this reason, both application techniques are worth trying. Airbrush is suitable for a more natural look or to appear that you’re not wearing anything at all. If you want a bold and vibrant aesthetic, traditional makeup is usually the way to go.

Want to learn more about the nuanced differences between airbrush makeup and traditional makeup? Keep reading!

Application Process

The most obvious difference between these two types of makeup is the application process.

Traditional makeup has a history dating back several thousand years ago. Modern makeup is a bit newer.

The first commercial foundation debuted in 1935. Believe it or not, airbrush makeup first hit the scene around the same time. But, it was reserved for Hollywood. Monte Westmoreland, the makeup artist for the film “Gone with the Wind,” typically receives credit for bringing the technique to the limelight. However, it was likely used a few years before that, too.

Today, airbrush tools are readily available, and some manufacturers even make home versions that are easy for anyone to use. But back then, it required equipment that most people couldn’t get their hands on.

You likely know how traditional makeup is applied. Whether it’s with affordable sponges or fancy brushes, it’s relatively straightforward. But what about airbrush? How does that work?

The application is similar to spray paint. A steady stream of air from a small air compressor disperses the makeup product as a fine mist. The mist sticks to your skin on contact. As a result, there’s no need for additional tools or pressure. It travels from airbrush gun to skin, providing relatively even coverage.

While it does require specialized tools, many consider airbrush applications to be the better choice. Why? It all comes down to how the makeup goes on the skin. The lack of additional contact makes it a sanitary process.

Plus, it goes on evenly without having to worry about cakiness.

Winner: Airbrush


Next, let’s talk about coverage. In makeup, coverage refers to how much of your natural skin the product masks.

When you look through the makeup aisle at your favorite cosmetics shop, you’ll notice various coverage levels. Some are full coverage and completely block any of your natural skin from showing through the makeup. Others are sheer, making them a good choice for improving skin tone without covering your entire complexion.

There are also buildable coverage foundations and a few levels in-between full and sheer. The right choice for you depends entirely on your needs.

Full coverage foundation can be thicker, leading to a caky finish if you’re not careful. However, those with acne or combination skin might want to use it to create a more even tone.

So how does traditional makeup compare to airbrush?

Airbrush makeup is naturally thinner. Even if you use normal foundation products with an airbrush gun, you must thin it out first. A thinner consistency results in sheer coverage.

But make no mistake: That doesn’t mean that you don’t get enough coverage. You see, airbrush makeup is buildable. You can continue to add layers until you achieve the coverage you need.

Because it’s lightweight, you can typically achieve the coverage level you desire without adding tons of weight and discomfort. For this reason, airbrush makeup wins again!

Winner: Airbrush

Formula Options

There are some subtle differences in core formula ingredients. Pigmentation, shimmer, and other components are similar between airbrush makeup and traditional makeup.

However, airbrush formulas have more limitations in the base. 

If you buy a traditional, brush-applied formula, you can pick up pressed pigment, thick creams, and loose powders. None of that is possible with airbrush makeup. The product has to go through the machine and evenly disperse into the air. Thicker consistencies aren’t capable of doing that.

Generally, airbrush makeup is either silicone-based, alcohol-based, or water-based.

Silicone makeup is the go-to these days. Silicone is slightly more viscous and requires a higher air pressure rating to atomize. But, it’s very long-lasting—more on that in a bit.

Water-based makeup is a fine choice for those with oily skin. It’s super buildable and usually dries matte.

Alcohol-based makeup has the best staying-power of them all, but it’s best for special effects. It tends to dry the skin out too much in any other application.

The clear winner for this category is traditional makeup. The sheer number of formulas you can get provide you with greater flexibility. 

Winner: Traditional makeup


Here’s the million-dollar question: Which application lasts longer?

Traditional makeup has come a long way. Nowadays, you can expect at least 12 to 16 hours of wear. However, some formulas promise much more. But even still, airbrush usually takes the cake!

Airbrushed makeup can last six to ten hours longer than traditionally applied alternatives. That is why so many women spring for airbrush applications for special occasions like weddings. The last thing you want to worry about is your face melting off, right?

Airbrush keeps your look solid all day long.

The only downside is that you can’t touch up by conventional means. That’s where regular makeup beats airbrush. If you’re wearing silicone-based makeup and want to fix anything, you have to apply it with the airbrush gun.

Fortunately, that’s a small tradeoff compared to the longevity you get.

Winner: Airbrush

Airbrush Makeup vs. Traditional Makeup: The Winner

When you put airbrush and traditional makeup side by side, the winner is clear. Airbrush makeup is long-lasting, provides buildable coverage, and is lightweight. What’s not to like?

Sure, the application process is a little more involved, and there’s a bit of a learning curve involved. But the air-powered technique delivers an even layer of makeup that doesn’t weigh you down. It’s like painting a masterpiece. Airbrush simply provides more finesse, making it easy to achieve that flawless finish everyone wants!

Of course, traditional makeup isn’t going anywhere! While airbrush is more accessible than ever, it’s still most often used for weddings and memorable occasions. Meanwhile, traditional makeup has you covered for everyday wear and bolder aesthetics.

There’s no shortage of fantastic airbrush makeup products on the market today. Check out some of our favorites and see what kind of flawless finish you can get.

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