Stage vs. Street Makeup

Makeup is versatile and varied, and it’s not always just about looking beautiful. In addition to wearing makeup for work, school, dates and other personal reasons, it can also be worn for theatrical purposes.

What Is Stage Makeup?

Beautiful young woman with very long blonde hair

Stage makeup, or theater makeup, is a specialized type of makeup used to prepare actors, singers, dancers, etc. for some kind of performance. This includes everything from over-the-top character makeup for stage plays to subtle, camera-ready film looks.

Compared to street makeup (the kind of daily makeup an average person wears), stage makeup is usually heavier and is designed to overcome the challenges of things like lighting, cameras viewing distance and sweating.

Creating Different Looks in Stage and Street Styles

No matter what type of look you’re trying to create, it can be achieved with both casual and theatrical makeup techniques. Here are a few common examples and how to make them work on the street or on the stage.


The basic concept behind natural makeup is to enhance a person’s natural features and even out skin tone in a way that looks like they’re not wearing much (if any) makeup at all. For street makeup, it’s all about light, subtle application. Natural stage makeup first neutralizes issues, then enhances features enough to be visible to the camera or viewer.

For the street:

  • Keep coverage light, opting for a tinted BB cream and spot concealer
  • Choose natural, nude, earthy colors for lips, cheeks and eyes
  • Work in light layers for color that “blooms” from the skin

For the stage:

  • Combat washout and shine with a slightly warmer foundation, shaping contour and setting powder
  • Apply blush and pigments more heavily, but stick with with warm, natural tones
  • Check how it looks on screen or under stage lighting to make sure features stand out just enough

Artistic or Dramatic

Bold, glamorous, creative looks are about making a statement and garnering the right attention. Common dramatic looks in street makeup include sexy smokey eyes, red lips, bright colors and big, flirty lashes. Artistic and dramatic stage looks can be almost anything imaginable, from heavily stylized character designs to abstract creations—it all depends on the purpose of the performance.

For the street:

  • Use a heavier hand and richer pigments for more dramatic color and depth
  • For an artistic style that’s still wearable, push small boundaries like eyeliner shapes and lip colors

For the stage:

  • Draw out your concept(s) in advance and do practice runs and tests before performance day
  • Cream-based theater makeup offers good color coverage and staying power throughout activity under hot lights

Traditional or Cultural

Theater makeup

Makeup can also play a role in celebrating a person or community’s history. On the street, traditional makeup might mean a throwback style or a meaningful detail (like a bindi, for example). On the stage, it might be used for a traditional style of performance or as part of a historical piece.

For the street:

  • Pay homage to history with vintage styles (Old Hollywood, 60s mod, etc.)
  • Find simple ways to incorporate your (or your client’s) background through things like color choice, meaningful markings and traditional beauty trends

For the stage:

  • If you can’t use the authentic products or tools, try to choose ones that approximate what would have been used (like a translucent powder in place of handmade rice powder)
  • If you’re not very familiar with a particular culture’s theater makeup, consult with someone who is

Find What You Need, On or Off Stage

Whether you’re hitting the stage or hitting the town, having a properly stocked makeup kit for the job is key. Shop Scott Barnes’ collections today to find quality brush sets, makeup palettes and much more!