Stage Makeup – How To Apply It

9th March 2022

Stage Makeup – How To Apply It
Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

Have you ever wondered what is the best theatre stage make-up to use or how to apply it? We will divulge how to do stage makeup, what makeup you need for both dance makeup and ballet stage makeup, what should be in a stage makeup kit, what are the good brands and how to apply it!

For starters, the basic stage makeup you need for any production and the must-haves for any stage makeup kit are as follows;

  • Foundation sponge or brush
  • Foundation 
  • Facial cleanser
  • Primer 
  • Moisturizer
  • Powder and powder puff – you would use this to prevent smudging and an oily look on stage.
  • Makeup pencils and a sharpener
  • Mascara and fake eyelashes if needed
  • Blush/Rouge – this is a dry powder used to “redden” an area of the face.
  • Cake Make-Up – a particular type of make-up that needs water to be applied.
  • Cream Make-Up – it is the most commonly used make-up for the stage. This make-up is very easy to blend.
  • Eyeshadow and eyeliner
applying stage makeup

How To Put Stage Makeup On 

First, wash your face and apply a moisturiser to your face as this will help absorb the stage makeup. 

Secondly, apply a full coverage foundation which is a stage base makeup and then add concealer for dark circles. It may be best to go for a darker shade than your skin tone and if you can primer will help the makeup last longer.  

Thirdly, set the stage makeup with translucent powder and then add blush and bronzer to contour the face if needed. 

The next step depends on your character, but feel free to add eyeshadow and eyebrow powder to define your eyes. If the character requires it, then add coloured eyeshadow and eyeliner in either dark brown or black. 

Mascara can then be applied – waterproof to prevent it from running on stage and furthermore lipstick. You may use a lip liner before the lipstick, but then this does depend on your role. 

Setting sprays and translucent powders should be used at the last stage of your makeup. 

And most importantly, remember to remove the makeup after the show, unless maybe you are heading out and want to keep that fantastic look on. Use a micellar water-based makeup remover and then add a gentle cleanser and then moisturise! Your skin will only thank you if you have a long run!

makeup brushes

The History Of Makeup For Stage And Theater

Stage makeup has a long history and has been used ever since a Greek actor known as Thespis wanted to take on a more bold effect than that of the chorus so he painted a toxic covering of white lead and mercury sulphide resulting in a white and red face paint. It’s all about enhancing your natural look on stage unless of course you are in something like The Lion King, Wicked or Cirque du Soleil and then well yes you will need to paint your face a little differently! 

As a species, we have always loved expressing ourselves and stage makeup is no different. The stage makeup is an expression of the character and it has evolved over time. It was prevalent in the 1500s and 1600s  and performers in the Elizabethan era used both soot and chalk to paint their faces when on stage. Do you think they were better at applying stage makeup than we are now? Remember that in that time, white, pale skin was a sign of nobility, wealth and delicacy. It was sought after by everyone, so perhaps the stage makeup was a mirroring of that style and fashion. 

During this time, the Japanese Kabuki theatre emerged and the elaborate face paint food performers was a trend to take off. Over the years, as the technical equipment in theatres advanced, the stage makeup of the day was a more polished look and before the mid 1800s, white powder or chalk, burnt cork and paper, and pigment powders were all the rage. 

You may have heard of pancake makeup, which emerged in 1914 created by Max Factor – a water-based makeup that provides thick, matte coverage. This is still used today and is a massive hit with the stage makeup crowd. 

What Are The Best Stage Makeup Brands To Use? 

If you are looking for theatre or ballet stage makeup, something that will work for dance stage makeup in general but is also safe for the skin, then the following brands are the best to use;

  • Kryolan
  • Mehron
  • Bloch
  • Capezio
  • Zuca
  • Grimas
  • Nars 
  • Mac 
  • Ben Nye

As a performer, you need something that really stays put, so I would suggest using any of these brands and a setting spray from one of the following and you will be a pro at knowing how to do good stage makeup. 

  • Kryolan ultra setting spray 
  • Blue marble setting spray 
  • Urban Decay All Nighter Long-Lasting Makeup Setting Spray
  • Maybelline – Lasting Fix Makeup Setting Spray

It is worth remembering that you can also buy vegan theatre stage makeup. Brands such as Gabriel, Fantasy Allure, Zuzu Luxe and Urban Decay are firm favourites if you want to go all green for the stage. 

actor in stage makeup

How To Apply Stage Makeup For Men

It is very important that we talk about how to apply stage makeup for men in this article. Of course, there will be less application involved, unless you maybe are playing the role of the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret which takes a little more effort. 

Similarly to the women, make sure you clean your face and cleanse it as this will prevent breakouts. Make sure your face is clean shaved as this will help the application of the stage face makeup.  Use an oil-free foundation, which also hydrates your face as your skin will love you down the line. A golden/yellow undertone will make your complexion look more natural on stage. Add concealer only if you really feel it necessary.  

Add the translucent powder and then contour those cheekbones if needed. 

Tweeze out any unruly brow hairs and then fill in and shape where needed with a brow brush & pencil. 

Using a lip balm will help hydrate the lips. The last step is mascara, but for men, it depends on the role and you will more than likely just require a reliable foundation and do a little contouring. 

stage makeup artist


So that’s all about the basics on how to apply makeup for stage and how to use stage makeup and what exactly is in a stage makeup kit. I hope you can now nail that makeup on your first night and shine on stage.

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