Prev Next
Mother putting lipstick on her daughter before a dance performance

Hockey Mom Turned Dance Mom

By Amalah

Oh Mighty Amalah!

I have a situation that involves two of your loves, “telling other people what to do with their kids” and “makeup,” so I am hoping that between you and your wonderful readers I can give off the appearance of a mom that knows what they are doing. I am the mother of a 4.5 year old who is in her first year of dance. I am more of a “hockey and marching band” kind of person, but have tried to embrace tap shoes and tutus, and even signed up for the “parent-child dance class” where I am apparently going to be in a poodle skirt for the dance recital this spring.

This has all been fine until this last week, when we got word that dance pictures are coming up and we were sent the “makeup and hair instructions.” I need to do my 4 year old’s makeup! And hair! How did I not realize this? While I technically know how to put on makeup, I haven’t worn any regularly for close to 15 years and in the last 5 or so, I don’t think I’ve used more than a chapstick, so I am at a bit of a loss as to what brands and products would be the best. We were given nothing more than some general color guidelines so I feel rather overwhelmed. Black mascara, pink/rose blush, neutral eye color, red lip. I also need a hairspray that will hold for the dances, but allow me to brush, restyle and respray between dances.

I am currently unemployed so I am watching our budget and she will only have to wear this stuff a few times a year so I would like to avoid anything super expensive but it needs to last through a recital and apply easy enough that I can get it on a 4-year-old without causing tears. We all have “combination skin” and so far our kids haven’t shown any sensitivities to soaps etc so there is nothing I am specifically avoiding. Do you think liquid lipsticks and eyeliners would be better? Are there any dance moms out there with tips on how not to blind your kid putting mascara on them?

I had to run out an purchase a few things just to make sure I had something for pictures, but I have until the end of April to get stuff for the recital. I got her her own set of brushes and some makeup wipes along with the makeup but is there anything else I should get? Gah! I am way out of my element here. HELP!!!

Thanks in advance!
-Trying to be a Dance Mom

As it has been quite a few decades since my childhood dance recitals, and none of my boy children are involved in any activities that require makeup, I am relying on what I THINK are some good basic makeup tips and also a lot of Google.

Find great video tutorials from other Dance Moms

Once you have your products, I highly recommend you also hit Google, and particularly YouTube, where you’ll find a LOT of dance/gymnastics/recital/stage makeup how-tos for kids your daughter’s age. (And no, they aren’t all outtakes from Toddlers & Tiaras or recommending you pile on 10 pounds of slap on a 4-year-old’s face.) With a little clicking, you’ll find videos that include everything from how to apply the makeup, how to preserve the makeup throughout multiple dances, to tips for keeping a wiggly preschooler still in the process. (Which: I have no idea. Good luck!)

Stage makeup shouldn’t look like makeup on stage

The important thing to remember is that stage makeup shouldn’t actually LOOK all that much like makeup on-stage. It’s just to keep facial features from getting completely washed out under the stage lights and/or photography flashes. Off-stage, yes, it can look a little jarring, but ultimately the goal is to look at the natural skin/lip/cheek coloring and just…do that, but MORE OF IT. The same color family and warmth levels, but a couple of shades darker.

Choose hypoallergenic products

As a general rule for makeup and small children, if you see a hypoallergenic option on the shelf, try to opt for that one. Even though you mention no existing allergy or sensitivity concerns, the last place you want to be testing that theory out is on her eyelids. Note that “hypoallergenic” doesn’t mean “allergy proof;” it just means the manufacturer stays away from ingredients known to cause allergies or it made it through the test groups without a lot of documented reactions. It can be difficult to parse the truth from cosmetic labels — words like natural and organic and vegan can get thrown around a lot but not actually really reflect how truly gentle the product will be for your particular skin.

Recommendations for makeup and hair for kids on stage

1. Mascara
A full-sized product’s wand will be too big for your daughter’s small lashes and a pain in the butt to apply without smudging. Look for a small travel- or sample-sized version instead. (If you know any dedicated Sephora shoppers, just ask them to look in the impulse-buy area for you, or redeem their Insider points for any mascara sample they’re offered.) You can also find packs of mini disposable wands on Amazon or at a beauty supply store. The proper wand size is probably the only thing to worry about when it comes to mascara. Just get a simple black version without a lot of marketing bells and whistles (ultra-vultra-volume! xxxxxtense thickening!!), so long as you have the proper tool to apply it to a tiny little lash line.

2. Eyeliner
I would recommend something with a soft applicator, like a liquid or gel. Pencils (particularly the more inexpensive ones) can be really hard and require a good amount of pressure to apply evenly, so I can picture a little kid not enjoying the feeling and involuntarily jerking her head away. (If you’ve already bought a pencil, you can warm/soften it up before applying by drawing a few lines on the palm of your hand or hold it in the flame of a lighter or candle for just a few seconds beforehand and then cool.) The only downside to liquid/gel eyeliners is that they can be tougher to clean up application mistakes, so I’d recommend bringing a small bottle of eye makeup remover and some Q-tips to fix up any squiggles or over-lining that happens.

(Also note that for mascara and liquid eyeliners, the expiration clock starts ticking as soon as you open them and expose the product to the air. So even if she’s not using them regularly, be prepared to buy new products every six months or so anyway to avoid clumpy, dry eye makeup. Another reason to ask for freebies from any Sephora/Ulta shoppers you know!)

3. Eyeshadow
Any cheap little palette will do here! Since you’re (thankfully) not being asked to apply crazy bold or glitter colors, you can pick up a decent neutral color at the neighborhood drugstore from whatever line you like — Maybelline, Elf, Cover Girl, etc. Note that “neutral” can mean a LOT of different colors — anything from pale pink to beige, tans, browns or greys. It really depends on your daughter’s coloring. Very pale skin will do well with a pink or soft grey, darker skin looks lovely with earth tones, olive complexions can go with creams or grey-greens, etc. Watch what the other moms are doing when it comes to applying the shadow just to her lid vs. taking it all the way up to her brow bone.

4. Blush
Think of what your daughter’s skin looks like when she actually blushes or gets flushed from the heat or physical activity. Buy that color. Since little kids don’t have super-defined cheekbones, ask your daughter to suck in and make a “fish face.” The part of her cheeks that don’t get suck in and pop out slightly are your application guide. Apply the blush most heavily to the apples of her cheeks and lightly brush it out and upwards towards her temples.

5. Lips
I’d personally go with a matching red lipliner pencil and traditional lipstick over a liquid version, just for the staying power and a less sticky/goopy texture. To make it last, you can “prime” her lips with a few dabs of liquid foundation or an actual lip primer product — whatever you find that’s cheaper. Lip liner will also preserve the color and keep it from bleeding over the edges of her lips, so put that on first, then apply the lipstick, have her blot. (And check her teeth!!) For quick reapplications, use a small makeup brush to dab lipstick on where it rubbed off, or touch up with the lip pencil.

6. Hair
I’ll make a specific product recommendation: Big Sexy Hair Spray and Play hairspray. (Note that there’s Spray and PLAY and also Spray and STAY, both in the same red and black can so make sure you’re grabbing the right one. [I’ve made this mistake, whomp whomp.] I’m recommending the PLAY version since you mentioned the need to brush out and re-style, which is where PLAY is the champion product.) It’s a bit pricier than other hairsprays, but my lands, it’s magic stuff and a single can will probably last you YEARS of her dance career. I have very fine, child-like hair and this is my go-to spray that manages to offer a solid hold while ALSO remaining flexible. And volume! And you can do multiple applications of it without your hair EVER getting crazy stiff and straw-like or looking like your hair has been shellacked to your skull. Just gently brush it out, re-style and re-spray.

7. Other products and ideas
As for anything else? Well, I already mentioned some proper eye makeup remover and Q-tips for mascara/eyeliner oopsies. You can try wrapping the makeup wipe around the Q-tip and cleaning small smudges that way, but depending on the wipes and how waterproof the actual makeup is, you might find it’s stubborn and won’t wipe away cleanly enough. Practice at home while watching YouTube demos to see!

If your daughter is really exerting herself and you find her hair and scalp are getting sweaty and thus more difficult to cleanly restyle after a few dances, a can of dry shampoo might come in handy to freshen up her roots. (Batiste makes great dry shampoos at reasonable prices.) A small travel-sized blow dryer with a cool setting can help too, but then you’re at the mercy of available outlet plugs AND you’re potentially making a ton of noise backstage. So I’d opt for an inexpensive dry shampoo.

There are also setting sprays for face makeup that can help keep her blush and shadows in place, but I’m not 100% sure they’re worth the investment for you, given that we’re not talking full foundation/brows/contouring here. But maybe an experienced Dance Mom will disagree with that and recommend a budget-friendly option.

And finally, the most important thing is to make sure your daughter WASHES HER FACE afterwards and gets all this crap OFF. A makeup removing wipe is step one, but is by no means enough to get her delicate skin as clean as it needs to be. Use an actual facial soap or cleanser after wiping the makeup off — I like Cetaphil since it’s inexpensive, super gentle for all skin types, and easy to use.

Photo source: Depositphotos/Veresovich

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon