Top 10 Performance Makeup Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Time and time again, as a former professional dancer from New York, I witnessed attractive young girls putting on poor makeup before performances. In my 10 years of dancing, I’ve seen how, well, backstage makeup skills can be ugly and bad! Makeup can help create the best possible version of ourselves. As a makeup artist I learned to emphasize our best aspects with makeup.

This is my list of the top 10 performance makeup mistakes in no particular order.

1) MISTAKE: Missing eyebrows! WHY? When there are no eyebrows, we lose the emotional expression of the face.

FIX IT: To create a more natural look than a brow pencil, use a compact mineral eyeshadow powder. Use a color that matches or is a little darker than your own hair color. To accentuate and frame the eyes, use an angled eyeliner makeup brush to fill in the natural shape of the brows.

2) MISTAKE: Inside the lower lash line with a black eyeliner pencil. WHY? This is a great makeup method for fashion shows, print ads, television, and in person, but not for stage performances. During a theatrical performance, the eyes look smaller.

FIX IT: A WHITE highlighter pencil on the outer corner of the eyes and on the lower inner lash line will make the eyes look bigger and brighter.

3) MISTAKE: Apply black eyeliner under the eye and in the inner corner furthest from the eye. WHY? It gives the eye a very round look, you want more almond shape. It can sometimes give the dancer the appearance of “cross-eyed”.

SOLUTION: To achieve the most desirable shape, use a darker brown eyeshadow with an eyeliner brush as the under eye liner. Start below the pupil and brush following the natural curve of the eye.
DO NOT join the upper lash liner and the lower lash liner. Not connecting these lines will give you the illusion that the whites of the eyes are very large.

4) ERROR: The darker eyeshadow contour color that is too close to the nose and too high in the crease of the eye (up to the eyebrows). WHY? Take all the emotion out of your eyes. It gives the appearance of large black holes. For the same reason, the “smokey eye look” does NOT work in stage performances.

FIX IT – Make sure the dark contour color stops before it gets close to the eyebrows. Apply the shadow with a small, angled eyeshadow brush. When adding a darker contour color for the crease area, focus on the outer half of the eye and don’t push the dark color too far towards the nose.

5) ERROR: No basis is applied for theatrical performances. WHY? Wearing foundationless makeup won’t hold up when you sweat. It will look stained and will not touch up well.

SOLUTION: Creating a clean, matte surface for makeup requires foundation. When choosing a foundation, use a lightweight, mineral oil-free / non-comedogenic, and water-resistant foundation. This will keep your makeup looking smooth and clean all day long!

6) MISTAKE: Using false eyelashes that are too big or too thick. WHY? Since the stage lighting descends from the top, the large lashes form a shadow under the eyes. This can make your eyes look closed, sleepy, or heavy.

SOLUTION: If the lashes are half lashes, it will not be necessary to trim them to fit the eye; otherwise, trim them to fit. Always trim from the outer edge. False eyelashes that are longer on the outer edge and shorten as they move towards the inside of the eye are the best option. Avoid oversized lashes and choose those that focus on the outer third of the eye.

7) BUG: Poor makeup color options used for stage makeup. WHY? Just because we see a makeup color on TV doesn’t mean it will work for a stage performance. On television, when makeup is done, colors can match outfits, be more discreet, and have a more “on-trend” look. Our main goal on stage is to make sure facial expressions and features can be seen and the dancer looks stunning under harsh stage lighting.

ARRANGEMENT: Use neutral tones to highlight the innate beauty in the dancer’s face. There are also neutral lipsticks in shades of pink that look lovely. Bright red is no better! If the bright red lipstick is causing the audience to be distracted from the performance, then it is not serving its purpose.

8) ERROR: A line marked by blush or too much blush. WHY? Too much blush or a sharp line can make artists look tough or old.

FIX IT: Neutral colors in pink or rose / peach tones. The other benefit is that these colors will work on all skin tones, from lightest to darkest. To create a smooth line, place your brush on the hairline and brush forward, blend upward around the cheeks. It is important not to allow the blush to sink below the lip line.

9) ERROR: Using too much glitter. WHY? When you use glitter on every part of your face, body and costume, it is very distracting to the audience and the judges.

FIX IT: Pick a part where you’ll use glitter. Wear glitter on your hair, or wear a bright white to highlight your cheekbones, or try a bright red lip. The important part is to choose ONE body part, not all parts for your “glitter-fitti”.

10) MISTAKE: Needs more makeup. WHY? Due to the strength of the stage lights and the distance between the artist and the audience, facial features tend to lose their dimension. Facial features “flatten” when you don’t have enough makeup.

FIX IT: Apply makeup so that it is dark enough to see your features effortlessly from the 8th to 10th row. Stage lighting makes it necessary to wear makeup if you look natural on stage. Again, just because you’ve seen a ballerina’s look on TV doesn’t mean it will work on stage.

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