Do Kids Need Stage Makeup?

Mary Gray • January 2024Musical Theater • January 8, 2024


If you’ve ever wondered if young actors really need to wear makeup on stage, the short answer is yes.  The very bright lights on stage can give actors without makeup a very ghostly or sickly appearance. This is especially true for kids with light skin, but makeup can improve the look for any skin shade.

The most useful type of makeup for all actors is blush. It’s best to use a medium shade of rose pink. Don’t use a light pink or a bright red, but you may need a dark rose for darker skin shades. Apply the blush with an inexpensive disposable makeup sponge on to the ball of the cheeks and then blend the edges carefully. You will need to apply more than “street” makeup. Standing ten feet away, if it is hard to see that the actor has blush on, then they need more. If ten feet away it still looks obvious, they have on blush, then wipe some away. Use blush on both boys and girls.

Encourage the girls to purchase their own mascara and let their mom or friends help them put it on if they can’t do it themselves. Girls should also wear lipstick that is a natural dark rose shade. No bright reds or orange, unless their character calls for a “flashy” red, in which case, they might also need eyeshadow and more blush.

Generally speaking, kids don’t need to wear foundation, but if an actor has blemishes or scratches that require cover-up, try to use an oil-free product that is just slightly darker than their skin tone. Spread the cover-up foundation evenly over the whole face, blending carefully at the edges.

Some characters will need special makeup. For an evil character, you might darken the brows or use a dark eye shadow. Or if the character is a sick person, put dark shadows under the eyes and don’t use blush. There are special makeup kits available online for animal faces, clowns, and other characters.


If you need to make someone look old, use dark shadow to draw a thick line under the eyes. Also draw lines from the corners of the nose to the corners of the mouth, and also under the mouth across the top of the chin.  Instead of blush, use an eye shadow slightly darker than their skin tone to create a “hollow” in the cheeks.  Again, use the ten foot rule – if you can’t see the affect from ten feet, you need darker lines and shadows. 

The “old age” effect should look good from ten to twenty feet. Unless, of course, you are going to perform in a very large auditorium, in which case you’ll have to accentuate the lines and shadows even more. Warn the actor that they are going to look strange from close up, but from ten feet, the affect will look correct.

Your “old” character will probably need grey hair as well. The easiest way to solve that problem is to purchase a grey wig. For boys, however, it is fairly easy to use a grey hairspray or Ben Nye makes a liquid grey hair “paint” that you apply to the hair with a small paint brush. It’s messy, but it works well and washes out easily. For a boy with blonde or light hair, the spray works well, but if he has dark hair, you will probably need the liquid hair color. If you are using a wig, it helps to paint the edges of the actor’s hair in case the wig slips.

A good policy is to have the actors stand on the stage in makeup with full lights and a dark auditorium. Stand about two-thirds back from the stage and look to see if the actors’ makeup looks right from that distance. Even a school play will look more “professional” if you put a little bit of makeup on your actors, and it will make them feel more like a real actor if they have makeup as well as a costume.


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