Stage Makeup and Hair 101

For those performing in the Caltech Dance Show, here are a couple of helpful tips regarding stage makeup and hair.


It's very important to remember that stage makeup is NOT the same as street makeup. The bright lighting on stage completely fades out everyone's faces--this means that without any stage makeup, your face will appear featureless to the audience. Not only would this creep out the audience, it will also prevent your facial expressions from being seen. Properly applied stage makeup should bring out and highlight the features on your face (such as your eyes, nose, lips, etc). In order to achieve this, stage makeup must be very exaggerated and dark. Up close, you will feel like you have way too much makeup on--but that's how dark your makeup should be. If you look like you can still go out in public and go to a fancy restaurant, you most likely don't have enough makeup on.

As for colors, neutral colors always work best (brown, beige, taupe, etc). Bright colors can also be applied depending on the look you want to go for (for group pieces, everyone should have matching makeup) but this is very important: do NOT wear glitter makeup -- though sparkly, shiny things are fun, glitter looks like sweat under stage lights from far away... and that's not so pretty.

I have made a comprehensive list of cosmetics you will need for stage makeup (you can get most of this stuff from stores like Sephora, Ulta, and even drug stores. If you think you will be performing on stage more in the future, it might be worth investing in good quality makeup. Most cheap makeup will not stay on very well or for very long, especially if you start sweating (stage lights are very hot). Feel free to share with your peers if you don't want to buy your own makeup, but the few things you should NOT share are marked with an asterisk (*) either because a) you can get a nasty infection by sharing those products with other people or b) you need to get something that matches your skin tone.


  • (*) Liquid/Cream/Mineral Foundation (Make sure to get one that matches your skin color)
  • (*) Pressed Powder
  • Blush



  • (*) Black Eyeliner (Liquid/Pencil)
  • (*) White Eyeliner
  • (*) Mascara (Waterproof recommended)
  • False Eyelashes - False eyelashes may seem like overkill for some people but they really do make a difference and help bring out your eyes. Unless you have exceptionally long eyelashes (in which case you could probably get away with just wearing mascara), I highly recommend wearing false eyelashes.
  • Glue for False Eyelashes
  • Brown/Taupe Eyeshadow
  • White Eyeshadow



  • Lip liner
  • Dark/bright RED Lipstick

Makeup Tools

  • Eyelash curler
  • Blush brush
  • Foundation brush/sponge (depending on what type of foundation you use)
  • Eyeshadow brush/applicator
Here are some makeup tutorial videos that you can follow:

Makeup Brands

It really varies person to person what brands work best because everyone’s skin is different — some types might work better for you while it might not stay as well or cause skin irritation for other people.

Here are some suggested makeup brands for stage makeup (this list is not extensive! I’m sure there are many others that are also good. Also, if you do not have much experience with makeup, it might be a good idea to test a couple of brands and products on your skin to make sure that you don't get any allergic reactions):

  • M.A.C. cosmetics — this is pricey, but they make very good quality makeup. Most professionals use this for photo shoots and performances.
  • Ben Nye
  • Jam Cosmetics
  • BareMinerals
  • Bobbi Brown
  • Mary Kay
  • Urban Decay
  • Smashbox



Unless you are specifically going for the grunge look, always make sure your hair is free from stray strands and frizz, to prevent looking untidy and messy, which can be distracting. It's a good idea to use plenty of bobby pins, hair spray, hair gel, and/or hair mousse to keep any stray strands of hair from your face. One tip for making your hair behave is to not wash your hair the day of or the day before the show. Clean hair is much harder to keep stray strands from messing up your hairdo. It might be gross for a few days but trust me, getting ready for the show will be so much easier with dirty hair.

Always wear a hair net if you are to wear your hair in a bun. This will keep your bun neat and in place. Make sure you use a hair net that matches your hair color (you can usually buy hair nets at drug stores).

Things to include in your hair kit:

  • Hair ties (make sure they match your hair color)
  • Bobby pins (make sure they match your hair color)
  • Hair net (a couple of extras too, because they tear and break very easily)
  • Comb
  • Hair spray/gel/mousse


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