Monday, March 26, 2012


Apply make up. Sweat, powder. Sweat, powder. Sweat, powder. Sweat Powder. Sweat, powder. Sweat, powder. Sweat, powder. Remove make up. Moisturize. Repeat.

For years, this has been a daily routine for me.

Dancers skin takes just as much of a beating as our bodies. We sweat our way through rehearsals, eat on the go, and don’t sleep enough or drink as much water as we should. Constant performance also requires constant stage make up…which leads to touch-ups done over sweaty skin…which leads to the perfect storm for:

Irritated, inflamed skin

Blemishes and outbreaks

Extreme dryness or oiliness

Water retention and puffiness

So, how do we combat this? Everyone’s skin is different, and we all have our own skin care rituals. But there are certain things every dancer can do to improve the health of your skin…and your body in general!

Take It Off!
Make sure to remove every trace of make up before going to bed; on performance days and on the days you’re not onstage. Leftover traces of make up on your skin can clog your pores. Leftover make up-not to mention glitter- around your eyes can cause irritation and infection! Plus, your skin really needs a chance to breathe; the more foundation, powder, colored shadows and blushes you use, you are literally suffocating your face…. so this stuff all needs to come off. How you get it off is your call- there are multitudes of make up removers on the market today, everything from pre-moistened pads and towelettes, creams, lotions and liquid removers that are either oil-based or non-oily. Some people like to use more natural make up removers, such as olive oil, and in the old days, performers basically used two things: Albolene cream or Crisco- yes, lard!

Make Up Removal Technique

No matter what kind of make up remover you use, never scrub it onto your face. This will cause irritation (especially if you use glitter on your face- which can actually make microscopic cuts in the surface of your skin) and will eventually encourage wrinkles to form.

The kindest way to remove your make up is to either spread the pad or towelette over your face, or apply your cream, lotion of liquid remover, and then let it sit for a few seconds- I usually count to thirty- before gently swabbing up the make up. This allows the remover to work on the pigments and products, and makes removal far easier.


I can’t tell you what works for cleansing your skin, since everybody is different, but I can tell you what works for me. After I remove my makeup, I cleanse my skin completely. My skin is combination, meaning it is dry in certain places, and oilier in others. It’s also sensitive- I tend to get red and flakey pretty easily. After a gig, I clean my skin with either Dove or Ivory Soap, and alternate these with a gentle cleanser. In the morning when I wake up, I don’t use soap or cleaner at all just lukewarm water, followed by very cold water. After that, I moisturize, let it seep in, apply my sun block, like a religious fanatic, and I’m good to go.

Your dermatologist may be able to recommend a cleansing product for you, or just test some out on your own. Plain old soap and water works fine for some people, for other’s, it’s too irritating and a mild cleanser might work better.

No matter what you use, keep your skin clean!

Keep Your Beauty Tools in Tip Top Shape

No matter how anal you are about taking off your make up, if you don’t keep your tools clean, you will basically be applying bacteria directly onto your skin. Cosmetic brushes and applicators are always full of old product, and because they are in direct contact with your skin, that means they’re always full of oils and dead skin flakes, which makes them a perfect breeding ground for germs! If it sounds gross, it is… so clean your tools regularly!

I wash all my brushes at least once a week thoroughly with soap and hot water. I use either baby shampoo or mild dish washing liquid. I swish the brushes around in the soapy water, and work them gently with my fingers, to get all the product-and soap- out of the bristles. I lay them flat to dry on a clean towel, and with my fingers, form the bristles into shape.

If you are traveling or doing multiple gigs in a row, you can do a quick-fix on-the-spot cleaning by spraying the bristles with alcohol and drying them with a tissue, or you can swipe the brush against a make up remover wipe.

I date my mascara tubes on the bottom with a Sharpie pen… once they’ve been around for three months, I toss them- because mascara is wet, and because it goes on the eyes, it’s a magnet for bacteria. You can never be too careful about this!

Replace your powder puffs or foundation sponges about once a week. Again, they’re full of germs and oil from your skin, so if you’re using an old puff or sponge, you’re just putting all that bacteria right onto your face!

Never lend your cosmetic tools to anyone- it’s the law.

Hydrate Your Skin
There us no way you can be too obsessive about drinking a lot of water. Water is one of the best- and least expensive- things you can do to improve your skin, and your health in general. Dehydrated skin looks dull, dry, flakey, and often appears bloated! Water retention is one of the things that cause facial bloating; the reason your skin appears puffy is because it is retaining water- because it doesn’t have enough! Everyone has heard the recommendation for drinking eight glasses of water a day…and it’s not an urban legend. Drinking this amount- which is equal to about a liter and a half of water- will help your kidneys clear urea, sodium and other toxins from your body. Water keeps you alert and functional during classes and rehearsals. It will also keep your skin looking dewy and glowing. As dancers who sweat profusely, we need even more. Carry water with you at all times, and make sure you have an adequate amount at a show. Even though most venues provide water in the dressing room, there usually isn’t ever enough…so keep a small bottle in your gig bag, just in case.

If you are really working out, you may also want to try water that has electrolytes added; this will not only keep your skin pretty, it will help prevent your muscles from cramping during a tough class or rehearsal. I avoid sugary sports drinks with electrolytes- aside from the fact that it adds empty calories; sugar is terrible for your skin.

Feed Your Skin From The Outside In

After cleansing your skin, pat it dry and replenish it with moisturizer. The type you use is up to you, I myself favor Neutrogena and Oil Of Olay products, they seem to work well for me, but they may not for you.

If you are older, you may be experimenting with anti-wrinkle formulas and retinols. If you have never used these products before, my advice is to go slowly. Some of these products can be very irritating to your skin before the benefits start showing. Ease into your retinoid use. If I am using a retinoid product, and the directions are to apply it every evening, at first I’ll go for every other night, to see how my skin reacts. If I don’t get too red or blotchy, then I’ll move up to every night, but I keep monitoring the situation, and I do skip nights, too.

Always use sun block; an SPF of 30 or above is best. This is essential if you are using retinoids, which make your skin photosensitive, but even if you don’t use retinoids, the sun can damage your skin. You can’t be too careful about the sun!

Feed Your Skin From The Inside Out

You probably already know this, but whatever you eat is reflected in your skin, so making sure to eat a well-balanced diet is imperative.

Inflammation is one of the prime causes of acne, by triggering cells to clog your pores, so eating foods rich in EFAs (the essential fatty acids Omega 3 and Omega 6) will combat inflammation, and also actually prevent wrinkles…and help heal your dance injuries, too! Some foods that are rich in EFAs are flaxseed, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, soybeans, and in salmon, mackerel and tuna. I am not a fan of fish, so I add flaxseed to my oatmeal, yogurt and salads, and eat nuts as a pick-me-up during class or rehearsal.

Your body in general- but especially your skin- needs fats to look good and function well. I’m talking about healthy fats, like you’d find in avocados or in olive oil. Don’t negate them from your diet or your skin will show it.

Many foods are rich in antioxidants (Vitamins A, some of the B vitamins, C and E plus the minerals magnesium, zinc and selenium) that destroy the free radicals in our system.

The collagen in our skin, which keeps our complexions looking young, plump, and elastic, is extremely affected by free radical damage. The older you get, the less collagen you have in general…so eat to keep your collagen healthy and functional, matter what age you are! Highly colored, un-cooked fruits and veggies are loaded with antioxidants. Just some of them are all types of berries, carrots, broccoli, leafy greens like spinach and kale, raisins, peppers, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. You can never have too much of any of these. Eat raw fruit and veggies daily, and throw them into whatever else you are eating, too. I like to include berries in with my yoghurt and cereals, but I also eat them aloe as snack or put them into my salads. I am a kale junkie- I eat it all the time. It’s amazing raw in a salad or lightly steamed, and every morning I also throw in a few leaves or a couple of handfuls of the raw, pre-packaged variety into my fruit smoothies. It will turn the smoothie a sickly shade of avocado green, but you won’t even taste it!

Quick Fixes
Here are some “emergency tactics” that you can use on days you have gigs.

If you notice a pimple developing the evening before a show and don’t have any commercial spot treatments on hand to use, try a dab of toothpaste on the blemish and leave it on overnight. It seems to dry out the pimple, and reduce it in size. I’m not sure why it works, but it does!

If that blemish is still angry and red on the day of your show, apply a little Visine or some other kind of eye drop that reduces redness directly onto the pimple. This really reduces the redness and inflammation, if only temporarily.

I have hay fever and allergies and my eyes are constantly puffy in spring and early fall. My friend Maharet taught me to thinly slice potatoes and put a couple of them over my eyes, then relax for about ten minutes. This old folk remedy is almost as good as a facelift- it reduces the puffiness immediately! For those of you who are allergic to nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants and yes, potatoes) try a couple of tea bags dipped into water as hot as you can stand, and then applied to your eyes. The tannic acid in the tea will help calm down the puffiness in your skin.

Take great care of your skin, and you’ll look radiant- both onstage and off!

Photo: Vintage Ad for Pond's cold cream