Ah, stage makeup: where would we dancers be without it?
By using careful camouflage and strategically placed contouring, we can make our features look larger, smaller or way more dramatic. We become wide-eyed, pillow-lipped seductresses with chiseled cheekbones and jaw-lines. We morph into Pirate Wenches, Dying Swans, Roaring Twenties Flappers and mid-century Pin Up Girls. With the addition of metallic powders, glitter and crystals, we turn into Fairy Queens and Every Goddess From Every Pantheon Ever.
Stage makeup looks gorgeous when you’re under the lights… and totally damn scary when you’re on your way to or from a gig, making a pit stop at a convenience store or fast food joint! And once you’re home, taking it off seems like such an incredible chore.
Seriously, there’s almost nothing worse than waking up with some of last night’s Stage Face still on, is there? The pearly, highly pigmented turquoise eye shadow has turned into bright blue eye-boogers and you’ve got adhesive marks on your cheeks where brilliant rhinestones once twinkled. The fire engine red glitter you applied so carefully to your crimson lips migrated while you were in The Land Of Nod… and now the lower half of your face looks like it’s broken out in a case of sparkly smallpox.
Applying stage makeup is fun and gratifying, but sadly, most of us don’t know the best ways to get it off. Learning to take it off properly isn’t nearly as much fun…but your skin (and sometimes, your costumes and/or street clothes) will thank you for it!
Here’s a quick ‘n’dirty guide to cleaning up and taking off anything related to stage makeup:
Adhesives: Almost any type of adhesive can usually be removed from the skin without scrubbing if you use oil. Most oils will dissolve the adhesives (or tape marks from fashion or toupee tape) very gently from the face or body, including coconut, olive, jojoba, or almond oil. Saturate a cotton ball or pad with the oil, apply to your skin and let it sit for 30-45 seconds, and the adhesive usually comes off with one sweep. Use a second saturated pad if you don’t get all of it removed with the first swipe.
For larger area of skin-on the body, not the face- baby oil works super well, too. It’s best to avoid using on the face, because it can make the delicate skin there prone to break outs…and that, nobody needs!
If the adhesive you were using were Spirit Gum (Mineral Spirits) regular oil might not cut it, so it’d be a prudent idea to invest in some adhesive remover from a beauty supply or theatrical store.
Fake Blood: Though it looks gory on stage, fake blood is usually easy to get off skin. Just give it a few swipes with a make up wipe or even a baby wipe. If this doesn’t work, a few squirts of shaving cream usually lift the discoloration immediately. Just be careful if you’re using menthol shaving cream around your eyes!
False Eyelash Glue Buildup: All the gunk from the lash glue builds up on your faux lashes, and it not only makes them difficult to apply, it’s a germ magnet, too! Cleaning off your falsies is pretty easy, though. Hold the last in one hand, from the edge, and pick the excess, dried up gunk off the band of the lash with a tweezers. It often comes off in a strip! If it only lifts off part way, just repeat the process til the lash band is clean and visible. Dip a Q-tip into alcohol, and swipe it across the band a couple of times to sterilize it…but make sure you let the lash dry for a minute or so before applying it to your eye!
Glitter: The best way to remove glitter that has migrated is to use tape. This is especially great if you’re doing a couple of numbers in a show, and need to do a quick clean up, cause using lotion or a makeup wipe usually just spreads the glitter around- I always keep a roll of tape in my gig bag!
Any kind of tape works, from plain old Scotch tape to packing tape…. I’ve even used duck tape, though it gives new meaning to the term exfoliation! All you do is roll a piece of tape into a loop, and press it gently against the area you want to clean. The glitter comes right up off your skin. This trick even works for areas where the sparkles are concentrated, like glitter lips, though you’ll have to go over the area a few times.
Hair Dye Stains On The Skin: This is gonna sound gross, but it works like a charm! Mix up a paste of cigarette ashes and water, the thicker the better. Apply to the hairline, (wherever the dye dripped) with a Q-tip, rub it in and leave it on a minute or two. Rinse it off by wiping with a warm, soapy paper towel or washcloth, finish by splashing water on the area. Remember, in the olden days, they made soap with tallow and ashes- they’re a potent stain remover. If you don’t smoke or the ashes are yucky to you, do the shaving cream trick mentioned above. You can also try using rubbing alcohol, but it’s very drying to the skin, and there’ll be scrubbing involved, so be sure to moisturize right after.
Makeup Stains On Fabric: Try as we might, even if we’re very careful, our stage make up sometimes transfers to our costumes or accessories. If you get foundation or lipstick on a “fancy” fabric, like brocade, raw silk, velvet or satin, you’re best bet is to take it to a dry cleaner- believe me, they deal with these types of stains all the time! However, if your make up rubs off on anything washable- such as a lycra blend, a cotton or cotton poly blend, or synthetic chiffon ( hellooo? Skirts, veils and scarves) you can get it out yourself. I’ve even lifted foundation and lipstick stains from 100% silk veils and skirts- but you must be sure to do a spot-test first, to make sure the fabric dye itself is stable.
All you need to remove make up is any or all of the following: Dawn Dishwashing Liquid, or baby shampoo, rubbing alcohol, and a commercial stain remover. My favorite is Shout Advanced Action Gel, but seriously, almost all of them work.
After you’ve done your test on an inside seam or the tiniest corner of a hem and discerned that the material you’re cleaning won’t lose it’s color, get started.
Treat the stain by spraying the Shout or whatever product you’re using directly onto it. Apply a generous amount, and let it sit anywhere from the recommended five minutes to fifteen or twenty. Usually, even with the product still wet on the fabric, if the stain looks like it isn’t there, then the stain remover has done its job. If you can still see a bit of the stain, apply a little more of the stain remover. Or, you can pour a few capfuls of the rubbing alcohol directly on to the area. Either way works. Next, fill up the sink or your tub with lukewarm water- and err on the cooler side, because hot water actually sets stains! Add a few squirts of Dawn or the baby shampoo while the water is running. Place the garment in the water and swish it around gently for a couple of minutes. Drain the water, lightly squeeze the excess soapy water of the garment you’re washing, and refill the basin or tub again. Repeat this step a couple of more times til all the soap and cleaning products are gone, and gently squeeze the clean water from your costume. Hang to dry or lay it flat- your choice, but do not let it dry in direct sunlight- it’s the heat thing again. If any of the stain is still visible after your costume dries, repeat the process again, and the second time should eradicate all of the stain.
Liquid Latex: Sounds crazy, but most liquid latex comes off the skin easily and with hardly any scrubbing by using plain old soap and water. If you get a few patches where the latex went on heavily, dab with a bit of oil, then wash with soap and water once more.
One last word to the wise: I always have a small Backstage Emergency Kit in my gig bag that has a needle and thread, safety pins, bobby pins and much of the afore -mentioned materials: a roll of scotch tape (or even a lint roller) a travel sized pack of make up wipes and/or baby wipes, a box of Q-tips, a stain stick and a tiny spray bottle/mister with rubbing alcohol.
If ya want to learn how to get stage makeup ON before you take it off, purchase my “Bombshell: Dramatic MakeUp For The Stage, Photos & Glamorous Occasions” here:
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