How to Apply Stage Makeup

If you’re a performer, stage makeup is essential. The bright stage lights will wash out your skin tone and obscure your facial features, and stage makeup is applied to prevent that from happening. The way you put on makeup for the stage is a lot different than your everyday makeup, though. The results may seem pretty dramatic in the mirror, but onstage it looks flattering and makes you easily recognizable from a distance.


EditApplying Foundation and Blush

  1. Wash your face thoroughly and apply a good moisturizer. Clean and moisturized skin provides a smooth base for your makeup and helps it last longer during a performance. Wash your face thoroughly, then pat your skin dry with a soft towel. Apply a good moisturizer all over your face and neck, followed by a light, colorless balm on your lips.
    • For dry skin, try an exfoliating cleanser to smooth out flaky areas.
    • If you have oily skin, use a an alcohol-free toner after you wash, then apply moisturizer.[1]
  2. Apply an oil-free foundation. Use a sponge or brush to apply foundation to your entire face. Choose a shade that matches your skin tone or, if you’re very pale, you may want to go one shade darker. Use makeup with a warm, yellowish undertone, since stage lights tend to be cool in tone. Blend well around your hairline, temples and jaw so that everything looks even.[2]
    • Oil-free foundation will keep your skin looking matte onstage.
    • Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to slather on the foundation. Apply just enough to even out your skin tone.[3]
    • Opt for waterproof cream foundations, which do well under stage lights.[4]
    • You can also use cake makeup, which is formulated for the stage.[5]
  3. Emphasize your cheekbones with blush. Apply blush from the middle of your cheeks (just outside the center of your eyes) to your ears with a fluffy brush. Aim for the area just below your cheekbone, which is the “hollow” of your cheek. This contours your cheekbones and makes them stand out onstage. Blend the blush in well.[6]
    • In general, women should go with a rosy shade. For men, go with a shade or two lighter than that.
    • If you’re concerned about your blush running under the stage lights, use a cream formula.[7]

EditAccentuating Your Eyes

  1. Apply a light eyeshadow color on your lids and under your brows. Select a neutral eyeshadow that is 1-2 shades paler than your skin tone. Use an eyeshadow brush to apply the palest color just beneath your eyebrows. You can use the same color on your lids, or you can use an eyeshadow that is one shade darker. Blend both areas well.[8]
    • Cream formulas work well for eye makeup, especially under hot stage lights.[9]
  2. Apply a dark neutral color into the crease of your eye. Use an eyeshadow brush to apply a dark neutral color, like brown, to the area between the brow and lid, where the skin creases. Be sure to blend the eyeshadow well so there are no hard lines.[10]
    • Depending on the performance, you may be asked to use a brighter color in the crease. If nothing is specified, a neutral brown shade works well.
  3. Use brown or black waterproof eyeliner on the upper lash line. Pencil and liquid liners both work, as long as they’re waterproof. Start at the inner corner and draw a firm, thin line along your upper lash line to the outer edge of your eye. Don’t make the line too thick, unless your role calls for a dramatic look. Make sure the lines are even and both eyes match.[11]
    • Brown and black both work, but black liner will give you more definition. For a more natural look, men may want to go with brown.[12]
    • Optionally, you can apply a white eyeliner pencil to your lower waterline, which makes the eyes look brighter and whiter.
  4. Apply waterproof mascara to your upper and lower lashes. Aim for 1-2 coats of mascara on the upper lashes and a single light coat on the bottom lashes.[13] Put the wand at the base of your lashes, press lightly, then move it along the lashes to the tips.
    • You can use brown or black mascara, but black provides more definition. Brown works best for men, since it defines the eyes without being too drastic.[14]
    • Make sure you use waterproof mascara, or it could run once you start to sweat beneath the bright stage lights.
  5. Fill in your brows with a brown pencil. For more dramatic roles, you may want to opt for black, but dark brown is a good neutral choice for everyone. Fill in any patchy areas so that your eyebrows appear firm and full. Use the pencil to enhance the natural arch of your brow, which will help to frame your face.[15]

EditHighlighting Your Mouth and Setting the Look

  1. Line your lips with a red or rosy color. Lip liner helps your lipstick stay in place and can prevent it from bleeding outside the lip line. It also gives your mouth a lot more definition than lipstick alone. Draw a firm, dark line that follows the natural shape of your lips – you don’t need to go outside the lip line unless your role calls for an emphasized mouth.[16]
    • Avoid doing a nude lip onstage, or your mouth will look non-existent.
    • Lip color requirements usually vary, depending on your role. Most men use a more natural shade. Check with your director if you’re unsure.
  2. Fill in your lips with a matching lipstick. Follow the natural shape of your lips and fill them in with a lipstick that matches your lip liner. Choose a long-lasting formula, such as a liquid lipstick or a lip stain, since you probably won’t get an opportunity to reapply during your performance.
    • Try to avoid creamy formulas, since they don’t have a lot of staying power. These can fade fast, leaving you with dark lip liner and pale lips.[17]
  3. Set your makeup with a dusting of translucent powder. Use a fluffy kabuki brush for this, which will give you an even dusting. Dip the brush into the container of powder, then tap it on the edge of the sink or counter to get rid of the excess. Apply one layer of the powder all over your face and neck. This will “set” your makeup, and help it stay in place during your performance.[18]
    • If you’re involved in a vigorous performance and worried about keeping your makeup in place, try misting your face with a setting spray before you apply the powder.[19]
  4. Step back from the mirror and look at yourself. Your makeup should have an exaggerated look to combat the bright stage lighting. The audience will see you from different distances and angles. The people in the front will see you very clearly, so you want to look natural to them. The people who are in the nosebleeds must be able to see your expressions, so stage makeup will help you to accomplish this.

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