Acting Production

How to Make a Basic Hair & Makeup Kit for Student Actors

Written by Kerry Hishon

When it comes time to perform and students have their amazing new costumes on, they will need some extra tools to finish their “look” – and that means hairstyles and makeup! The right hairstyle and makeup really helps to complete a character, whether the character is prim and polished, dirty and disheveled, or downright monstrous. Their look might be simple and natural, or extra-complicated with lots of details, greasepaint, or even spirit glue and prosthetics.

It’s important for student actors to have their own hair and makeup kit equipped with the basics. Not only so they avoid sharing germs or bacteria, but also to save time during pre-show madness. Having to wait to use shared items just makes the backstage more crowded and stressful.

All personal items should be kept in a small bag with their costume (it could be as simple as a clear freezer bag). The bag should be labeled with the student’s name. You can easily purchase the following items at any drug store or department store, and create a nice basic kit.

Essential Hair Items:
  • A fine-toothed comb with a long handle (also known as a teasing comb). Besides the obvious benefits of being able to comb hair with it, it is helpful for achieving perfect parts and for teasing hair sky-high (especially useful if the show is set in the 1960s); or for more complicated curled styles (like those of the 1920s). It’s also helpful for styling hair around wireless microphones, if your school uses them.
  • Extra-hold hairspray, for keeping those hairstyles in place while students move and dance.
  • For students with long hair, bobby pins and elastics that match their hair colour. Get lots – bobby pins and elastics have a bad habit of mysteriously vanishing.
  • Bonus Items: Gel or pomade, a wig cap to protect the hair and help keep the wig on (if the student is wearing a wig), and a curling iron (for some reason, more shows seem to need curled styles rather than straight ones).
Essential Makeup Items:
  • Concealer that matches the skin tone, for evening out the skin and covering blemishes and dark under-eye circles. It can also be used in a pinch, as skin foundation.
  • Eyeliner and mascara in dark brown or black. Yes, even for the gentlemen! Stage lights have a tendency to wash out the skin and make eyes disappear onstage. Eyeliner and mascara can also be used to make impromptu scars, wrinkles, moustaches, and beards.
  • Setting powder or pressed powder, to keep faces looking fresh and shine-free under the lights.
  • Bonus Items: A lipstick that is a few shades darker than the natural lip colour (for an onstage “natural” look), Q-tips (for smudging eyeliner, doing detail work, or fixing makeup mistakes), and a small compact mirror (in case the mirrors are being hogged by other actors).
Miscellaneous:
  • Gentle makeup remover and cotton balls/cotton rounds; makeup remover wipes; or baby wipes, for removing makeup or fixing makeup mistakes. Also be sure to invest in a good facial cleanser for students to use when they wash up after each performance.
  • A travel toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, to make sure teeth are pearly white and to ensure fresh breath for up-close-and-personal scenes. Be sure actors brush their teeth before putting on their costumes, to avoid toothpaste emergencies.
  • Clear nail polish, to keep nails looking nice and shiny. Also can be used to keep a snag in a stocking from getting bigger.
  • Bonus Items: A wide headband (for keeping hair away from the face during makeup application and while washing up after the show), oil-free moisturizer (for skin that is tired and parched from makeup application and removal), bottled water (for staying hydrated throughout the show!), safety pins (for costume emergencies).
Click here for a free printable checklist of items that should be in every student’s hair and makeup kit!

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. Check out her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.

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About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.