Posted by: boromax | April 29, 2020

New Wrinkles Journal #21



You may already know that there are different types, styles, purposes, and intensities for wearing makeup on stage.

Well, if you did NOT know that, I have a surprise for you.  I am not going to go into all of that in this quaint little blog post.  I am just going to focus on the basics.



Many people, when first learning about wearing makeup on stage are prone to some common mistakes.  Let’s take a look at some of those to start.

Mistake #1: “I don’t need to wear makeup.”   Yes, you do.  See why below.

Mistake #2: “I’ll just put a little something around my eyes and my lips.”  No. Not enough.  See why below.

Mistake #3: “It’ll be a mess, look terrible, and stain my costume.”  Maybe, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Mistake #4: “I’ll just apply it like everyday street makeup.”  Seriously? No. I’ve seen your everyday street makeup.

Mistake #5: “I’ll REALLY exaggerate it so the audience can see it.”  Speechlessly shaking my head.


Applying makeup can seem to be an unnecessary nuisance.  Until you get used to it, it honestly IS a nuisance.  Some may say it never ceases to be a nuisance.  Either way, it is definitely necessary when you are performing on stage.

Why is wearing makeup on stage necessary?


There are three primary reasons:

One – Distance from the audience.  The audience, from front to back, needs to be able to see your face.  You will be doing various things with the rest of your body; but the noises the audience paid good money to hear should be coming from your face, and seeing your face well helps the audience understand you better.  Without makeup, your face will lack definition and contours, which will muddy the audience’s reception of your performance.

Two – Lights.  Stage lighting is just the tiniest bit more intense than average ambient lighting. Just… a little bit.  Bright (hot) lights will wash out your skin tone and practically obliterate your facial features.  Not actually obliterate, but from a visual perspective, your face will be flat, with barely discernible details.  Properly applied makeup will bring out the details of your face, even in the harsh glare of the lights.

Three – Makeup is, simply, part of your ‘costume.’  Regardless of what character you are playing; no matter how simple or elaborate your costume; the audience is there to see you, your face.  You cannot let your costume overpower your face.  So, use makeup to get your face up to speed.


[NOT your goal… usually]

Leaving aside all of the amazing effects that can be created for customized, specialty, fantasy makeup (like the “Cats” photo at the beginning of this article or what looks like Ursula above), let’s just take a few moments to explain basic makeup application.

Wash your face first, then moisturize.  This will provide a smooth starting point for the next steps.

Be sure you are in front of a large, well-lighted mirror!


Apply foundation (also called base).  This is the clean canvas that will receive the further details.  Use a tone that is a shade or two darker than your natural skin tone.  Under the lights, the color will be leeched out.

Add blush on your cheekbones.  Not bright red clown circles, please.

Accentuate your eyes by using eyeshadow, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, and mascara.  Seek help if you have never done this before!

Use some lipstick.  Again, not Dragon Girl Red.  The idea is to let the audience know you have lips.  We don’t want them staring at your mouth wondering if you are bleeding. If you want to go the extra quarter-mile, use lip liner to define the boundaries of your lips.

Over all of that, apply powder.  This will set the makeup, cause it to look more natural, and help control sweating.  You will probably need to reapply powder from time to time during the show.

Look at yourself in the mirror.  Your makeup should be more exaggerated than “street” makeup.  It has to be darker than normal to make any difference to the audience.


[Don’t touch your face!]

Try not to fall in love with yourself too deeply.

Gracefully accept (and apply) constructive criticism from experienced performers.

And your Director.  Your director may have something to say about your makeup.

Listen and obey.


Oh, and at some point you will want to remove the makeup.

Find a YouTube instructional video.  I’m exhausted.


[Exit Up Right]


  1. B!

    This is awesome!! It’s great information!! I am wondering at the stories you could tell! You have seen and done a lot!!

    This made me laugh and smile!! Thank you!!

    Take a nap! You earned it!


    • LOL! Thank you! I need all the nap I can get…

  2. thank you; as a non-actor —-except when I ‘perform’ my poems on a stage to an audience of less than forty — I have never understood fully the necessity of make-up; well explained 🙂

    • You are welcome, John! Would certainly enjoy hearing you perform your poems someday.

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