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The Top 10 Performance Makeup Mistakes and How to FIX Them

In my years as a professional dancer I saw many beautiful young women go terribly astray with their stage makeup. Here are the most common mistakes I saw and my I advice as a makeup artist on how to fix them!

In the 10 years I was a dancer in NYC, I saw attractive young women load their faces with makeup wildly before performances. Again and again, I bore witness to how bad makeup skills backstage can go terribly wrong! I learned, as a makeup artist, IF used properly how makeup can draw attention to our positive features and aid us in creating our best possible version of ourselves.

In no specific order these are my Top 10 Performance Makeup Mistakes.

1)      MISTAKEYour Eyebrows are goneWHY? Eyebrows show the emotional expression of the face. Lose your eyebrows, lose expression.

FIX IT:  Use an angled eyeliner makeup brush to fill in the natural brow shape with a pressed mineral eye shadow powder. Chose  a color powder that matches or is a little darker than your hair color.  Doing this enhances and frames the eyes in a more natural way than with an eyebrow pencil. 

2)      MISTAKE:  Using Black pencil eyeliner inside of the lower lash line.  WHY?  It makes the eyes look smaller on stage.  Even though this can be a great use of makeup for TV, fashion shows, print ads, and in person it is not effective for stage performances.

FIX IT:  In order to brighten the eyes  and make them look bigger use a WHITE Highlighter Pencil on the inside lower lash line and on the outside corner of the eyes.

3)      MISTAKE:  Using a black pencil liner under the eye and too far in to the inner corner.  WHY? You want your eye to have more of an almond shape this technique gives your eye a very rounded shape and it can lead to the dancer appearing "cross-eyed".

FIX IT:  Use a dark brown eye shadow color used with an eyeliner makeup brush as a liner under the eye starting under the pupil and brushing out.  Follow the natural curve of the eye with the brush.  In order to give the appearance that the whites of your eyes are large and open do NOT connect the upper lash liner and the lower lash liner. 

4)      MISTAKEApplying the darkest level of eye shadow color that goes up to the eyebrow from the crease of the eye and too close to the nose. WHY?  The eyes look like black holes, they are big and convey no emotion.  The "Smokey-eyed look" does NOT work on stage for the same reasons.

FIX IT:  Avoid going so high with the contour color that it hits the eyebrow. Use an eye shadow brush that is small and angled. Add the darker color to crease area focusing on the outer half of the eye and avoid bringing dark contour color too far in towards the nose. 

5)      MISTAKE:  Not wearing foundation for stage performances.  WHY?  Wearing makeup without a foundation looks spotty and blotchy when you get sweaty also when doing a quick touch-up.   

FIX IT:  Use foundation to create a clean, smooth surface for the makeup to go on.  Use a mineral oil free/non-comedogenic, lightweight, water resistant foundation. This will keep your makeup looking professional and smooth all day long!    

6)      MISTAKEUsing false lashes that are too thick and/or too big.  WHY? Big lashes can create a shadow under the eyes when stage lights are directed from the top this can make them look sleepy, heavy, and closed. 

FIX IT:  Lashes need to be trimmed to fit your eye unless lashes are a demi/half lash. (When doing this always trim from the outside edge.)  Shop for lashes that are longer on the outside edge and get shorter as they go move toward the inner eye.  Don’t wear very large lashes, instead chose false lashes that focus on the outer third of the eye. 

7)      MISTAKEImproper makeup colors used for performance makeup.  WHY?  On stage we want makeup to accent facial features and make the dancer look beautiful under powerful lights. Using a look we see on TV may not translate to the stage.  When makeup is done for TV it is more subtle and fashionable, colors can match costumes.

FIX IT:  Choose neutral, earth tones to show the natural beauty in the dancers face.  There are suitable neutral red and rose-toned lipsticks that look wonderful.  Brighter lip color isn’t better!  If people are preoccupied by bright, glaring red lipstick from the dancer’s performance, then it has defeated its purpose.

8)      MISTAKEGoing overboard with the blush/sharp line for blush.  WHY?  Doing this makes the dancers face look older. 

FIX IT:  As with lipsticks use neutral rose toned or neutral pink/peach toned blush colors.  These colors work on all skin tones. To apply start your blush brush at the hair line and in a forward motion sweep blend up around the apples of the cheeks. Make sure the blush color does not go below the lip line.   

9)      MISTAKEGoing glitter overboardWHY?  Glitter can be very distracting to the audience and/or judges when it is on the lips, the eyes, the cheeks, the hair, the body, and a costume.

FIX IT:  Choose one part of the face to use glitter on.  You could choose a red glitter lip or a striking iridescent white to accent your cheekbones or eyelids.  Pick ONE part of the body not all of them!

10)   MISTAKENot using enough makeup.  WHY?   The brightness of the lights and the distance between the dancer and the audience cause the facial features lose their dimension.   

FIX IT:  This is another example of how something you saw on a dancer on TVFree Reprint Articles, does not mean it will work on stage.  Stage lighting requires makeup to achieve a “natural look” on stage.  As a rule your makeup should be dark enough that the audience can see your facial features easily to 8th-10th row of the theatre.    

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Jessica Dupont is a former Professional NYC Dancer and Makeup Artist.  She owns JAM cosmetics, which is a line of ULTIMATE makeup for dance  and cheer.  Find out 4 secrets the pro’s use AND 3 things you NEED TO KNOW to look gorgeous and stand out from the crowd, by getting Jessica’s free Dance Makeup e-Guide at

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