Stage Artist Secrets: Things You Never Knew About That Will Revolutionize Your Personal Makeup Kit

In my years as a makeup artist working extensively with the performing arts, I have learned a few tricks that most people don’t know. Follow these ten pieces of advice to amp up your look for spring.

1. Eyeliner is an art. Most people who wear makeup everyday come to some mastery of using it, but never really understand what it truly does or how to maximize the effect. First, white liner. Apply this liner to the inner lash line of the lower lid (“the water line”), and take 10 years off of your age immediately, even if you don’t wear another shred of makeup. Second, shimmer stick in nude or white. Use this where the eye meets the nose and blend, right in that little divit, and on the very top edge of the cheek bone/orbital bone, right outside the eye. Blend well to avoid the shimmer effect being immediately noticeable. Draw a straight line down the middle of the bridge of the nose and blend. This also takes an amazing amount of age off of the face, even if you aren’t wearing any other makeup. Third, take a shimmer black liquid liner and draw as close to the lashes as possible. While it’s still wet, take a brush and use a back and forth motion to work it into the lash line until it’s not noticeable as a liner, but gives fullness to the lashes. This makes lashes appear longer and fuller without having to apply a bunch of coats of mascara to get the same effect.

And now, add these to the DO NOT file:

– Do not apply black liner to the bottom lid at all; dark liner on top opens up the eye, but rimming the whole thing (or really, any of the lower lid) with liner will close down the eye, making it look smaller.

– Blue liners look bad on almost everyone. Same with red-based purples. Avoid the kind of colors that accent under eye circles. And definitely keep both of these colors out of the “water line” – the inner bottom lid.

– Never line the water line of the eye in anything darker than the skintone. To do so is to age yourself unnecessarily.

How is this a theatrical makeup trick? We use the “younger” tricks to make people look as young as the character they are playing, up to 10 years younger; we use the “do not” list above to make someone look 10 or 20 years older than they actually are, or in the case of red-based like they were up all night, or crying. Lining the inner bottom lash line in light blue, using a little green and yellow shadow around the outer edge of the eye, and smudging a little red based violet in the lash line does wonders to make a character look like a battered wife. Now you know. So avoid these things as if your beauty depended on it. Also note that these are the exact reasons to avoid the “rainbow eye” look unless you can do it with absolute perfection.

2. How do drag queens get perfect foundation every time? Easy. It’s called anti-chafing creme, it’s sold at most drugstores, and it’s made for your no-no bits and inner thighs. Its a silicone emulsion that is normally used to create a gliding barrier against the kind of rubbing that one’s legs do in the extreme heat of summer, but that gliding barrier also creates the perfect primer for a foundation. Also: a very tiny amount goes a long way, as too much will have the opposite effect of making it so that the foundation won’t stay on your face.

3. Blue painters’ tape is the most awesome thing to ever happen to makeup. Sounds weird, totally true. Use it to create the perfect cat eye by simply applying a strip diagonally to the liner area, and this will keep you from drawing outside the perfect line. Comes right off the skin without sticking and wherever your brush or stylus strayed, the tape applied keeps the color from being on the skin. This is also good for creating brow looks. If peeled with the hair instead of against, it doesn’t yank out the hairs. Use an exacto knife and apply a length of tape to a piece of cardboard and cut into the desired shape to create a brow, apply, and pluck all the hairs around the tape. The other part of the tape can be used as a brow liner template; use the remainder of the tape from which you cut the brow shape, apply, shade in the brow line with a brow powder. This can be used to create any template effect. Really great for designs on the face at Halloween. Remember to peel *with* the hair or grain of the skin, not against.

4. Dry flakes ruining your makeup? Cure it in a pinch by taking a little bit of baking soda, sugar or salt and mixing about a packet’s worth or a small dime to quarter sized amount into some face lotion. Rub in a circular motion with fingers on the offending spot, taking care not to rub too vigorously, take the mixture off with a baby wipe. Every restaurant has these items on hand (and every theatre concession stand, thus the fact that it’s a theatrical makeup artist’s trick) and smart ladies carry baby wipes in their purse, because they come in more handy than anyone realizes until they start carrying them. In the absence of baby wipes, a wet paper towel should do the trick. This is also a great solution to the age-old chapped lip of winter. If you find that your lipstick looks gross because your lips are chapped, towel off the color, and just take a little bit of granulated sugar and lip balm, mix, rub on lips with a circular motion, wipe off with a damp cloth. Repeat if necessary, then reapply lipstick.

5. Hate the fact that your eyeshadow flakes under your eye and creates a mess? Here’s another use for painter’s tape. Apply just under the lower lashes and peel once done with the final look. Touch up with a little bit of liquid foundation. All of the flakes will fall on the painters’ tape, not on your lovely coat of foundation.

6. For those of you that wear wigs, note that the best way to keep your natural mane out of the way is to take your hair and cover it in Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask, and smooth down onto your head before applying the wig cap. Obviously you want to let this dry before placing a wig on top of it. It doesn’t budge, keeps hair from popping out of a wig at inopportune moments, is at least 100 times better at staying in place than hair gel, and washes out with shampoo.

7. One of our mainstays in the theatre is setting or barrier spray. However, there’s an easy barrier spray that you can use that won’t hurt your skin, will cost less than the retial versions, and will keep the makeup on for as long as the party keeps going: alcohol free hairspray. Note that regular hairspray is just not a good option because of the fact that it contains formaldehyde and ingredients that break down into formaldehyde once in contact with the skin. The solution to this is to buy an alcohol free and formaldehyde free formulation at your nearest organic grocery. It should run you about 10 dollars for upwards of 8 ounces, which is a lot better than the retail alternative, and works every bit as well. You can also make your own setting spray by combining two parts distilled water to one part glycerine with about a half teaspoon of acacia gum in a spray bottle. All of these things are available from your local gourmet cake supply, and they work like magic to keep makeup looking fresh.

8. Need a makeshift lipgloss? Take a little bit of pure pigment powder, usually sold as eyeshadow, and mix it into some vaseline or a little bit of vegetable oil. Apply with a brush. NOTE: make sure that the pigment is lip safe. Blues and greens are rarely considered safe by the FDA, some purples are also in this category. Anything that lists “ultramarine” or “chromium oxide” in the colorants should not be used on the lips.

9. Got a blemish that’s too red to cover? Undereye area red from crying or rubbing? Brows red from having just been waxed? The solution is visine. Use any “red-out” eye drops on a flushed area to immediately return the offending spot back to your original skintone. To take down the natural puffiness of a blemish or rub spot, use hydrocortisone creme. Note that it’s not safe to put around your eyes, but is approved for everywhere else on your face.

10. Need to keep that eyeshadow on all day, but it just keeps fading? Take a tube of chapstick and apply to the lids lightly, then apply shadow with a pressing motion of the brush or applicator. This will stick the pigment to your lids (a little bit smeared on your finger and applied with fingers to the lid will do it).

Now that you know a couple of the secrets I’ve found indispensable in my career in the theatre, come on over to and visit our shop page. There, you will find beautiful and rare pure pigments and other cosmetic items that cater to the beauty fanatic everywhere, on stage and off. Prophetics offers a custom array of pigments for your every beauty need, from foundations to eyecolor and all things in between. We can match any color found on the pantone palette and beyond. At Prophetics, we see the future… of cosmetics.

How to Apply Liquid Foundation

Seeing as foundation is really the foundation of your base makeup (pardon the cheese), I cannot stress enough how important it is to get it done right. This is how we’ll achieve a flawless base.

The worst thing I see, and I unfortunately see it often, is women wearing a foundation color that does not match their skin. The obvious mistakes are too light or too dark, but some women don’t balance their undertones correctly which makes the foundation visible and noticeable. Generally undertones are pink or violet for lighter skin; yellow, golden, or olive for medium skin; and orange or red for darker skin; and I understand it can be quite difficult to determine them, especially if you have multiple undertones which is common. So if you do have difficulty, I would recommend going to one of the department stores or any of the stores that allow you to try before you buy, and play around with different shades and undertones. And we all know how bad the lighting in those stores can be (and how distorted they can be in the cosmetics section), so borrow a mirror from one of the counters and take it outside in the natural sunlight. That is the best test for seeing if your foundation matches your skin. Once you found a match for your skin, either you can get a good sense of your shade and tone from the name of the foundation (depending on the line you’re trying), or you can simply ask one of the counter reps to tell you about your shade. And of course, once you’re equipped with that knowledge, you can look for your color at any department store or drugstore, for Beauties on a Budget.

Now we need play around with applicators and find our perfect weapon. Personally, I refuse to use any tools besides my brush and my best tools (my hands)- foundation brushes are generally synthetic and the head looks very similar to an artist paintbrush, the bristles are flat and tapered at the top. But, I’ve seen plenty of women apply their foundation with disposable sponges or even entirely with their fingertips. Sponges will absorb a lot of the product, too much if you ask me, so that’s why I stay away from them. There are also sanitary issues if you use them multiple times, as bacteria can grow in the sponge between uses. Using your fingertips alone has its dis- and advantages. Ad: the heat of your fingertips assists in warming up the product, allowing you to blend much easier. Dis: it makes a mess if you’re not careful, and it doesn’t quite give you the almost airbrushed type look that applying with a brush does.

Now let’s begin. And again, we have choices. Most foundations come with a screw top, so how to get it from the bottle to your face? You can either tip the bottle slightly and rub your brush against the product as it slowly comes out, you can pour a bit onto a mini palette and work off of there, or you can pour a bit on the back of your hand and use your hand as your palette (again, receiving the benefits of the warmth of your body making the product easier to blend). My personal choice is tipping the bottle, only because when I’m doing my face I’m usually switching back and forth between my face and my hair and therefore like to keep things clean. Whichever you choose, remember that it is a liquid, and to tip with control and caution.

As with all things being applied to our face, we start with a thin layer and build if necessary. It is always easier to add than it is to take off, and applying a small amount of foundation at a time will allow us to achieve a much more natural and luminous look, rather than it being cakey or too heavy. Start on one side in the middle of the face, where the side of your nose meets your cheek, and work your way out towards your ear (you’ll use less foundation this way). Do the same on the other side, using light handed and quick strokes, blending the product into the skin until it disappears. When you do your chin, a lot of people don’t know when to stop and either bring it too low (which can lead to horrible things in the wrong climate) or too high (which allows the world to see the work you have done very clearly). Continue below the jawline to ensure a smooth transition. And when doing your forehead, start in between the eyes and brush in the direction of your hairline.

Ensure there aren’t any spots that are heavier than other areas, and if there are, don’t panic. Either you can blend with your fingers, removing some of the product as it moves, or you can remove it with a tissue or clean sponge. Just don’t try blending it or removing it with the foundation brush you were using to apply the product because that will simply make matters worse. When we’re all nice and even, we’re ready for the next step!