“Life is the dancer and you are the dance.” - Eckhart Tolle

The cosmetics industry is worth around 70 billion dollars according to Statista. In a small way, dancers have contributed to this worth. Firstly, you should know that stage makeup is less subtle than the makeup you might wear around town.

Dancers are usually far from their audience and if you don’t highlight your complexion, eyes, or mouth, you’ll look sickly under the bright lights focusing on you. Before you put any makeup on, make sure that you remove any other makeup and clean your skin.

Ready? Here’s our guide to stage makeup for dancers?

Dancers’ Makeup: The Products You Should Have

Before you get started, make sure that you have a few basic products to hand:

  • Foundation: a tone closest to your skin colour or one shade darker (you often appear paler on stage).
  • Matte foundation powder: to matte your complexion.
  • Blush: pink for paler skin tones and brown blush for darker tones.
  • Several shades of eye shadow: 3 shades should be enough. White, beige, and brown tend to the most common.
  • Mascara: Waterproof might be a good call (you’ll sweat).
  • Black eyeliner: Also waterproof.
  • Matte lipstick: opt for a red or dark pink. Shiny colours don’t work well on stage and tend to look too pale.
  • Eyebrow pencil: the shade closest to your natural colour.
  • Cotton buds and makeup remover in the event you make a mistake.
  • A brush for your eyes and a foundation brush for the powder.
How should dancers put on makeup?
Since you'll be seen from afar, your makeup needs to be heavier than what you'd usually wear. (Source: skeeze)

You can also add glitter, fake lashes, highlighter, corrector and concealer, and a lip pencil. Now you should have everything you need to get started. Of course, you’re free to add and change things.

So how can you choose your leotard?

Find out more about leotards.

Ballet Makeup: Start with the Eyes

You’ll often get told to start with your complexion. Not this time! Start by doing your eyes as your eyeshadow can leave pigment below your eyes. You’d then have to clean this off and redo your foundation so it’s better to start with your eyes.

How much mascara should dancers wear?
As for eye makeup, you want it to be bold and solid. You don't want it to run during your performance, either. (Source: Bru-nO)

Start by applying a white eye shadow across your whole eyelid from the lashes to your brow. This will catch the light nicely. This layer will also act as the foundation for the subsequent layers. If you have a foundation layer for your eyelids, don’t hesitate to use it before adding this layer.

Next, add a darker layer of shadow onto the moving part of your eyelid starting from the outside and working inwards. The idea is to have a gradient that’s darker on the outside than on the inside. Finally, add the darkest layer to the outside of your eyelids to add depth.

With the remaining pigment on your brush, add it to the base of your eyelashes. Apply your eyeliner along your lashes and extend the line beyond them, drawing an accentuated “comma” at the end. Your eyeliner needs to be thicker than what you’d usually wear as your audience needs to see it.

Don’t let the eyeliner collect at the edge of your eyes as this will make your gaze look smaller. You’ll want to use a white eye pencil to make your gaze look bigger. We’re not looking for a natural look here as it won’t show up on stage. Add a generous helping of mascara.

Don’t hesitate to ask your teacher if they have a particular look in mind for your show. You might want intense smoky eyes or something lighter.

Find out more about clothing for dancing.

Foundation for Ballet Dancers

Now let’s apply some foundation. If you tend to have dry skin, you might want to add some moisturiser or a BB cream. Move your hair out of the way and wear a deep neckline so that you can apply the foundation to your neck, too.

Which foundation should dancers use?
With a lot of stage lights shining on you, you'll want to opt for a matte foundation. (Source: fotostrobi)

You can also add a corrector and concealer to any blemishes or spots. Add a liquid foundation starting at the centre of your face and working your way outwards. Don’t forget to also apply this to your neck so that you don’t have a discoloured oval for a face. Some prefer to add foundation by hand but if you want to use a brush, make sure you use a foundation brush with a liquid foundation in mind.

You might also want to use a foundation for dark circles. If you don’t have one, you can apply your foundation from under your eyes outwards. You then need to matte your foundation to stop it shining under the stage lights. Opt for a foundation that’s a little darker than the previous one so that you can contour a bit. Avoid foundation with sun protection as they tend to appear white when filmed or photographed.

Find out how much dance outfits cost.

Makeup for Ballet Dancers’ Mouths

For the mouth, you might want to follow the contours with a clear pencil. This will stop your lipstick from running into the corners of your mouth.

Which lipstick should dancers use?
Since your mouth is an important facial feature, you'll need a bold colour so that the audience can see it. (Source: annca)

Using the tip of your lipstick isn’t very practical and requires some skill. It’s much easier to use a special brush to apply your lipstick. Blot the lipstick against a tissue to remove the excess before you add a second layer.

You can also add a bit of gloss to the centre of your lips but this isn’t necessary and it does tend to stick. You might want to keep your gloss on hand backstage so you can retouch. Similarly, you’ll be thirsty and your lipstick will fade when you drink.

The Finishing Touches for Makeup for Ballet Dancers

Now that you’ve got a perfect complexion and your eyes and lips done, you can add the finishing touches.


This can help add relief to your face and accentuate parts of the face. To apply it, smile and apply it diagonally across your cheeks.


You can highlight your expression by using an eyebrow pencil. Blondes can define their eyebrows. However, brunettes can also use it. After all, even the most obvious features may be hard to see on stage.

Eyebrow pencils are useful if you have thin or fair eyebrows. Apply the pencil from the beginning of your eyebrow to the end working from the inside.

Tip: Line up your eyebrow pencil with the bridge of your nose and the edge of your eye. Your eyebrow should come up to the pencil. If your eyebrow doesn’t reach the pencil, then you should apply the makeup to this point.

Place your eyebrow pencil on the bridge of your nose and line it up with the outside edge of your eye, your eyebrow shouldn’t go below the pencil at any point.

Learn more about ballet footwear.

Setting or Fixer

A setting or fixer spray works a lot like hairspray and you can put it on once you’re done. It works similarly as a hairspray in that it holds everything in place.

Don’t forget to put your costume on before your makeup as you don’t want to have to pull anything on over your head. You can always wear something over the top that you can unbutton and take off so that your costume doesn’t get stained.

Don’t hesitate to look for tutorials on YouTube to help you with applying your makeup or for inspiration.

If you need more help with ballet, think about getting in touch with the talented and experienced tutors on Superprof. You can get either face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials and since each comes with its pros and cons, make sure you carefully consider which one will work best for you, your preferred learning style, and your budget.

Face-to-face tutorials tend to be more costly than the other types of tutorials but they're also the most cost-effective since you're getting a bespoke service with a personal tutor.

Online tutorials are usually cheaper but aren't as effective when it comes to hands-on subjects like dancing. However, if you're on a budget or are struggling to find tutors in your local area, online tutors could save the day.

Group tutorials are cheaper per person per hour since you're all sharing the cost of the tutor's time. If you and a few friends would like to learn how to dance, group tutorials could be the way to go. Furthermore, you won't always have to dance with the same person.

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.