How Stage Makeup Works

Types of Stage Makeup
An actor's makeup kit should contain foundation, rouge, eyeshadow and other basics.
An actor's makeup kit should contain foundation, rouge, eyeshadow and other basics.

Every actor or makeup artist needs certain tools to create the perfect face for a production. The first thing to consider is the makeup itself. There are two main categories of stage makeup: cream-based makeup and cake makeup.

Cream-based makeup contains oil and can come in cream or stick formats. It's also known as greasepaint. In general, it's easier to apply cream-based makeup evenly than cake makeup. It's a heavy makeup and can cause people with sensitive skin to develop acne after wearing it for a few hours. It's also harder to remove than cake makeup.

Cake makeup comes in powder form, which you must mix with a little water before applying to your skin. While cake makeup tends to be gentler on the skin, it's also challenging to apply without streaking. Cake makeup is easier to remove than cream-based makeup.

Either type of makeup should have a high-pigment content. The pigment is important in stage productions, because actors often perform under bright lights. These lights will reveal imperfections. Makeup with a high-pigment content can conceal blemishes or other skin conditions.

In addition to a foundation, actors will need rouge, shadow and highlight makeup, a pencil liner, mascara, eye shadow, lip color and powder. Most actors and makeup artists will use a translucent powder, though some will choose a powder that matches the color of their foundation. That covers the basics. For special effects, actors may need additional makeup including an adhesive called spirit gum, blood makeup, crepe hair (for false beards) or gelatin.

Other items that should be in every actor's makeup kit are various makeup removers. Many actors use cold cream to remove makeup. But a full makeup kit could also include spirit gum remover, an astringent, moisturizer and eye cream.