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Makeup Health and Safety
By Ginger Shew

People somehow get the idea that makeup is a hazard-free area, until they wake up with this awful rash. Please do not make this assumption. It will come back to "bite" you. Some problem areas to consider in the makeup room are: allergenic reactions, spread of disease, and injury.

Let's suppose you need to have white hair for your character. You probably think that all you need to do is spray this stuff on and go onstage. Then the second time you put it on, your head itches a little because you really didn't get it all washed out the night before. The next night is opening night, and you have to spray your head again. You wash it out very well, but you still notice a little redness, probably because you scrubbed so hard.

The next morning you notice tiny bumps around your hairline that you attribute to stress (and maybe the hair stuff), but you have only two performances to go.

But by closing night you've made a doctor's appointment for his raging rash all over your scalp. Then you boldly pat yourself on the back, saying "I am an actor and I have suffered for my art."

I didn't create this little story. My husband spent a year with a low-grade scalp infection that would heal in one area about the time it broke out somewhere else.

I've heard a number of stories from other misguided folks who thought they "could handle the pain"; they didn't want to thoroughly wash their faces before going to bed. The first thing they know, they have trouble breathing; "just a cold coming on is their rationalization," until they discover they're allergic to theatrical makeup. Frankly, I can't tell you how important safety precautions are, but let me try.

If anything in this article implants itself in your brain, it should be this:

If it hurts, stop!

This seems a little simplistic, but I've noticed a lot of simple-minded people out there. Don't ignore warning signs such as: any swelling in the eyes or face, rashes, redness, or difficulty in breathing. If any of this is occurring, stop what you're doing.

There are some fundamental things you can do to "save face," even if you are using communal makeup. Good general rules of hygiene include:

  1. Always wash your face before putting on theatre makeup. This keeps dirt, skin oil, and old makeup from imbedding into your pores, or transferring into your theatre base. I always make sure my hands are clean too.
  2. Before applying makeup, splash on a little cool water to help tighten pores. This helps keep fresh makeup from imbedding in your skin.
  3. Keep your tools clean and dry. Be sure to wash sponges and brushes in cool soapy water. Frankly, it'll serve your purpose to have new sponges for every performance.
  4. Wipe off and dry pancake base before putting lids on and storing.
  5. Wipe off such items as lipsticks and cream colors before the next person uses them.
  6. Always completely wash off your makeup; never sleep on it. Follow your face-wash with a mild astringent and a lotion suitable for your skin type.
  7. If you suspect that you have sensitive skin, a chronic skin condition or a tendency for acne, you will be wise to invest in your own makeup. Don't share it! You will protect yourself and others.
A few other health-related tips: sleep is important. Even a little nap before a rehearsal helps. A little extra vitamin C helps take the edge off the stress factor.

Most important (or so said mother), drink eight glasses of water each and every day! Water helps keep your skin clear and lubricates the throat. If you're very active onstage or doing a musical (more voice stress), drink even more water. It's one of the best things you can do for your body, period. Ask your doctor, or my mom.

Adapted from Theatrical Makeup: A Practical Approach for Christian Drama, by Ginger Shew. ? 1995. All rights reserved. Lillenas Publishing Co.

For more information on stage makeup, check out Ginger's book Theatrical Makeup from Lillenas Drama Resources.
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