Beauty, Fashion

The rise of Irish MUA’s

In today’s modern age, make-up can be found in almost every society and culture on Earth. When you flick back through history books it is hard not to notice the war paint on soldiers faces, the tattoos of tribes, the Khol eyes of the ancient Egyptians, the red bindi of South Asians, the white powdery faces of Elizabethans and the red petal lips of Japanese Geishas.



However, make-up in the 20th century boomed.  Hollywood gave us classic looks like Coco Chanel’s signature pale face, dark eyes, and daring red lips, the 70’s and 80’s brought us dramatic hair and eyes,  the 2000’s brought us more soft poised looks and now we are living in what some describe it as the ‘Kardashian Era’. This ‘boom’ of make-up is responsible for today’s rise of MUA’s.



  The last decade in particular seems to have brought make-up to a new age. Between  Kylie Cosmetics, Inglot, Bobbi Brown, Mac Cosmetics, Urban Decay and Fenty Beauty (and so much more!) the world has gone into a make-up frenzy! The world has seen a rise of MUA’s, Ireland in particular, and if you are wondering why, it seems to have stemmed from patriotic roots.
World War II and it’s chaos brought for many British and Irish women the movement “Beauty is a Duty”.

“At a time when utility-issue shoes had no higher than 2 inch heels, women needed something to keep them feeling confident, feminine and in control. Magazines implored women to keep making themselves up, with enticing photo shoots and patriotic slogans.” -The Telegraph, Beauty in WWII.



Something that Irish beauty salon owner Toni Kelly, 27, tells me about. She recalls her grandmother reminiscing of those days – It stems back to the 50s. I remember my granny saying when the men were away working or in the army, all the ladies got together and dolled themselves up! Comparing skin routines, going to the hairdressers weekly – it was more a social thing. There was a sense of community, and of course they had to look well for the men coming home at the weekend!”

Toni at her beauty salon “Enchanted” in Strabane, Northern Ireland.

@tonikelly.mua has an impressive 11k followers on Instagram in which she displays her highly talented works of art. As she applies make-up to my face, she passionately discusses her make-up journey-
“Obviously growing up I watched my mum and aunts doing their makeup, I loved watching how it brought them to life! Like I literally remember my mum putting on a bright pink lipstick and thinking to myself ‘wow that’s so much nicer she has colour to her face’! I would try copy them and I always stole my mum’s makeup bag to have a wee play about-“ She laughs. “-But it wasn’t until my university days that the light bulb switched on in my head. I studied Theatre at Queens University Belfast, I loved the practical side to drama, I loved the stage, especially when I could escape and become someone else for a brief moment! Makeup in theatre has an important role but when I think about it more, makeup can give you a new persona similarly to the way a character on stage does.

Makeup can build confidence, it can empower you to be more than just average, you can be who ever you want to be with makeup and I think that’s what attracted me the most!


I used to watch a lot of YouTube videos when I was at uni, I became obsessed with how girls all over the world could change themselves with makeup.  However, what sticks out most is the time I was going to my uni placement on the BBC set and a makeup artist had been called out to do makeup backstage; I was in total awe of her, she was so cool, she had a real relaxed aura about her! She seemed like she loved her job and I remember thinking to myself wow I can’t believe she has a career from ‘just’ doing makeup, I want that! I think this is when the seed was planted.”


“I still think I will change my mind some day randomly, and do something completely different to what I do now. I feel like when you love what you do everyday it’s not a job but a passion, sometimes I feel like I’m cheating!  I would maybe do something a little more rewarding in the sense of giving back, maybe within the caring profession.”


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“It’s just so funny that makeup turned out to be my calling as l I was such a tomboy when I was younger. I would have much rather be outside playing football than painting my face- not that I was ever any good at football.” She laughs.
“It was only when I started into my 4th year of secondary school that I became more of a girly girl. I think I loved that my friends asked me to do their makeups and they’d ask me for advice on what to wear what to do with their hair. It worked out in my favour because when I started doing makeup, I made all my mistakes on my friends! They were my biggest critics and very honest ones at that, so it was good for confidence building!” 


Toni at her make-up demo at the Mellon Country Inn. Image via @gemmagphoto

She begins to do my eyes now, a bright pink from ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Fuchsia pink’. She describes her first salon job at ‘Harkin Hairdressing’ Strabane where she worked right after she graduated.

I was 21 –  and was getting my hair done by one of the staff and I mentioned I did make-up from home and I got a call that night from one of the owners asking if I could work the next morning. So I did and they literally dumped a whole list of clients on me on my first day! But it was great because I picked up things faster when I was under pressure. I honestly didn’t know back then that I would open my own salon, I was kind of stuck as most people feel at that age. I hadn’t really ‘found myself’ as people say! I then worked from home again for 2 years at the age of 22-24, and at 25 I opened my own salon Enchanted Beauty in September 2016.”

Toni’s stunning bright summer look on myself products listed here.

 Advice for young MUAs from @tonikelly.mua 

“Practice practice practice! If you want to be good at something you need to put in the work. Perfecting a skill takes time and a lot of effort, invest in yourself you can never stop learning. I treat my client how I would like to be treated, I don’t see getting my makeup done as just a makeup application but an therapeutic experience. Always document your work I was always so hard on myself but it’s nice to see progress keep a portfolio of your work! Get experience, may it be cleaning brushes at a makeup salon or doing your cousins, cousins granny… get the experience in! I used to travel mobile house to house with a small case of makeup when I first started. I don’t think the money I made even covered my Diesel money, but it was a learning experience, and it helped build my clientele.”

@tonikelly.mua’s Top 3 MUA’s

@desiperkins – She’s a goddess. So stunning, her makeup looks are always so glowy and she’s very honest and down to earth.
@mmmitchel I trained with him recently and he is a gem, his talent is out of this world. He will forever make me want to be a better makeup artist. His work is literally art and I feel like I’ve witnessed a star first hand I was so inspired.

@keilidhmua because she’s Irish ha jk her skill is incredible, she’s a very good teacher. Her YouTube content is fab something for everyone she is very funny/ wacky again always inspired!


@tonikelly.mua’s Must Have Products

– Nars Long wear radiant foundation shade Barcelona – full coverage, olive tone, matte full coverage finish
– Loose translucent setting powder to control my oily skin (Airspun buy @amazon)
– Mac mineralise skin finish bronzer ‘dark tan’ (this is probably my favourite makeup product )
– makeup atelier illuminating primer flv3 on my skin and shoulders to make it more dewy
– Plouise eyeshadow palette, the best formula I’ve ever used to blend out with
– Tatti lashes tl4 fluffy and full but not too false
– Illamasqua highlighters both OMG + EPIC they make your skin so glossy without sitting separate from your skin some highlighters can look too sparkly these still look like your skin
– Mac lip liner whirl, (brown nude lip liner perfect to overline if you need to) lipstick peachstock (perfect peachy nude) Mac myth lipglass (the most pigmented lip gloss ever)
– Couldn’t live without Mac fix plus – just love this mist I couldn’t do a makeup with out it, keeps everything hydrated I’d use about 3 – 5 sprays over the skin and eyes when doing a client – key 👌🏻


See more of Toni’s work on her FB and Insta! 💄


The determined 21year old MUA @amar_guram is another great example of the rise in talented Irish MUAs. Amar is currently studying Business Information Technology at Queens University Belfast, working an internship, and juggling doing make-up and hair in her salon at the weekends! She keeps herself busy and is highly driven that’s for sure! Growing up with her I have witnessed her hard work and dedication first hand.


Amar Guram in her stunning make up

“Makeup sort of just creeped up on me! I was always obsessed with hair from a young age as I was part of a family full of hairdressers, but in my teenage years the makeup industry became more mainstream. You started to pay more attention to details of what celebrities were doing with their make up. What brand it was, where could I get it, that sort of thing. It became more classy I think as opposed to just throwing on whatever you had.”

Amar’s work reposted on the Illamasqua Facebook page 2014

Make up companies knew exactly how to get everyone’s attention, through media. The rise of social media brought along with it adverts, paid sponsorships and the lot. Pushing certain brands and looks onto celebrities helped pave the way for my generation’s outlook on make-up. Another version of propaganda, but this time there was no war!

“Whilst I was at school, I worked at my mum’s salon, Harkin Hairdressing, on Saturdays washing hair. I was 15 when the salon opened a makeup bar and it was from then that I discovered my passion for the makeup industry. I think it was my love for art that helped me discover this passion for makeup. I would watch the girls in the salon do clients makeup and be so inspired, I would then go home use my mum’s makeup and experiment on myself. I was thrown in at the deep end in a busy salon and told to pick up a makeup brush and start doing makeup on clients. I would watch makeup tutorials on YouTube – which by the way was nothing like it is now! This is pre-Instagram times – before coming into work that weekend and try to recreate what I had watched on clients.”


Amar modelling for Harkin Hairdressing Autumn season 2014. Image via Local Woman Magazine

Toni and Amar worked together for a few years at Harkin Hairdressing.


Amar and Toni at Harkins Hairdressing, behind the scenes photoshoot 2012


“When I turned 18, I decided to get more serious about beauty, but I still wanted to go to university. So I opened my own salon at home in 2014, Amar Guram Make-up Artistry, and because my mother and father both owned their own businesses, it inspired me to pursue business at university. This worked out perfectly for me as I could still commute home to do my clients for the weekends and still get my education! It did mean I worked all week and then at the weekends as well but I didn’t mind so much because hair and make-up is my passion. 

As time went on I took various beauty courses and can now say I have a few skills under my belt!” She smiles. “I hope to use my beauty skills and business knowledge together again in the future but this time maybe for a management role for a multinational beauty company!”

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Advice for young MUAs @amar_guram


“You need to be smart in this industry, nowadays with make up becoming so popular there will be a less demand for them. You need to set yourself aside from everyone else. Make sure you have something to fall back on, but always always pursue your passion no matter what! Even if it means working 6/7 days a week!”

@amar_guram’s Top 3 MUAs

@staceymariemua – Everyone’s fav she’s the Insta makeup Queen! Her makeup skills are next level and so inspiring.

@tominamakeup Her colour combinations are everything. I love her signature blown-out feline look.

@makeupbyariel – Kylie Jenner’s MUA of course. I love Ariel’s style of makeup. He completely transforms and accentuates people’s features but does so using soft neutral tones. I find myself using his images for inspiration when doing my own makeup.



@amar_guram’s Must Have Products

Every day I prefer wearing minimal makeup – I have very oily skin and so prefer to use a powder foundation. For my everyday makeup I use:

Powder – Mac pressed powder in shade NC35,B
bronzer – Mac Mineralize Skinfinish in shade Dark,
Mascara – Maybelline
Brow gel – NYX.

Evening look:

Eyes – I switch between bronze, warm or neutral tones.
I love minimal makeup underneath the eye with a smokey flicked liner on the upper lash line.
Skin – Bronzed, translucent, golden glowing skin – Mac Mineralize skin finish in Dark & Deep Dark.
I like to mix my foundations with a luminizing moisturiser like Mac Strobe cream to create a dewy translucent finish
Lips – Glossy nude and neutrals – NYX Buttergloss.






See more of  Amar’s work follow her on her FB and Insta! 💄


As mentioned earlier, in today’s technological world, social media and online platforms have a big part to play in the rise of MUA’s. Like Toni and Amar both mentioned, YouTube played a big part in their success as MUAs. A perfect example of this is the exceptionally talented 21 year old @beth_callaghan. 

Beth is a self-taught make-up artist who is also from Strabane. She is a student of Business Studies at the Ulster University, Magee.

 “As some may know I am also a self-taught make-up artist and do makeup every Friday and Saturday. Now in the summer months I am so happy to be able to do make-up all week and now offer make-up lessons! I absolutely love makeup and anything girly and love being creative!”


Beth in her mesmerizing sugar skull Halloween make up


“From doing Irish dancing when I was younger, I always remember having to do feis makeup from a very young age. I would say I was 9/10 when I had to start wearing feis makeup which was my first time ever wearing makeup. And it’s crazy looking back being so young having to wear a wig and makeup, but I absolutely loved it! I actually remember my mum letting me use her makeup and I thought I was amazing!” She laughs. “I actually remember putting a Rimmel roll on shadow in the colour gold all over my lid and I thought this was amazing…bless my wee heart! But from then that’s when I grew my passions and love for makeup and creativity!”

Beth being creative via her Instagram @beth_callaghan


“Due to Irish dancing I began doing makeup from the age of 14/15 at feis’. This was what really made me want to do makeup as I loved glamming’ people and seeing them happy and more confident in themselves. But aside from doing makeup at feis’ I have been doing makeup for clients in my own salon at home for nearly 4 years and I absolutely love it.”



“From studying Art at GCSE, A-Level and then going on to do a foundation degree in Art, creativity has always been something I loved and experimenting also! I have never had any make-up lessons aside from going to a few make-up events. I am completely self-taught. I find make-up just like painting, and from YouTube tutorials I have taught myself! I feel I have always been creative from art and from doing makeup at such a young age I learnt very young! I am proud to say I’ve taught myself.”

Untitled Beth has taken the role of social media as her marketing technique. She uses a theme to entice her audiences and is very clever about it!

“It’s all down to my best friend Tristan McGavigan @TGavy! His Instagram is amazing! And as you can see from my theme I love pink, what girl doesn’t?! Tristan has been my real inspiration for this and he taught me how to organise and start up my theme – so it’s a big shout out to T Gavy! From having a theme I think it makes my Instagram look so much more professional and also lets me be organised when posting images!”

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“Makeup is such a fun industry to be in, so I can say for sure that in 5 Years I still want to be doing it! However in the future I hope to be more successful in my career and hopefully have a few surprises on the way to share with everyone!  My main motivation is my followers and people I look up to such as Keildh Cashell and Stacey Marie. Their work really inspires me to be creative and think outside the box!”
Advice from @beth_callaghan for Young MUAs
Just be yourself! As Karl Maeser says ‘Be yourself, but always your better self.’ This motivates me to be a better person than what I was the day before. I also purchased a book from ASOS that I read every morning/night called ‘the little book of positivity’ by Lucy Lane. This book inspires me to be a better person and always look at a positive outcome. Positivity and motivation is what keeps me going in life. And I always think of something positive rather than negative as I don’t want negativity or people bringing me down in life – we don’t need that?!
@beth_callaghan’s Top 3 MUAs

 @staceymariemua – I am so obsessed with her creativity and her work!

@amrezy – her theme is literally LIFE.

@mmmmitchel – I am just simply obsessed with him and his work!

There is soooo many more I love as well such as
Nikki Tutorials, Keildh Cashell, CiaCia, Brookelle, James Charles, Vanessa Davis, Gabrielle Alexis, Patrick Starrr, Nikita Dragon, Louise Lavern, PLouise, Lipstick nick – the list is literally endless I LOVE THEM ALL!
@beth_callaghan’s Must Have Products
Shockingly as a make-up artist I try not to wear make-up everyday! I love letting my skin breathe.
My everyday ‘uni’ look would simply be NYX pore filler primer, ABH tinted brow gel in ‘Chocolate’ a NARS radiant tinted moisturiser, and mascara!
I feel not wearing a lot of makeup everyday makes you feel better when you put on more makeup when you’re going out as it looks so different in comparison to your everyday makeup!
To see more of Beth’s work follow her on her FB and Insta! 💄
We discussed the differences in make-up in N.Ireland and Ireland in comparison to England, and why it is much more of a big deal here. Here is what each of them had to say.



“Ireland, especially smaller towns like ours, make more effort because we are a tight knit community. We all like to discuss what we will wear and what we will do with our hair and makeup on the lead up to big events. I feel we take pride in how we look and we like look our best or maybe we a like to outdo each other! Cities and towns in England seem to be a lot more relaxed, they have a more casual social scene. Where they go out after work in their work clothes, it’s more fast paced and career driven over in England, I find the makeups are stripped back maybe because they like to utilise their time differently but maybe it’s because they don’t get judged as harshly as you would in a smaller town like ours.”



“I think certain places in England, like small towns still have the same outlook on make-up as ours! But anywhere you go in the world you will get places that are more casual and places that enjoy dressing up… it depends where you go.”



“I am really not sure… I wasn’t aware of this until quite recently when I did a few ladies make up from Manchester, and they said that they never get their makeup done and even rarely for their prom which I couldn’t believe! I think as there are so many inspiration makeup artists in England people from there might not necessarily feel they live up to their standards. I feel there are so many amazing makeup artists here in Ireland such as Ellie Kelly who is doing amazing, and I’m not sure why it’s so much more popular here rather than in England. You would assume as England’s bigger that makeup would be more popular over there!”

                                                                         💋 🌸 💕

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