The energy backstage at a runway show is like no other; it’s one of my favorite environments to be in as a makeup artist. It’s an opportunity to be around a community of other artists, and it’s also bursting with creativity and inspiration. Watching how the makeup, hair, clothing, and even runway music come together is an exciting and intricate process that’s amazing to be a part of.
Having worked with over 30 designers during
my career as a makeup artist, I have picked up so many tips backstage. It’s
a fast-paced atmosphere where there’s limited time to finish multiple looks and
things can change at the drop of a hat, so you can’t second guess yourself.
It’s always best to be ready for anything.
But let’s be real: our morning routines can feel just as hectic as backstage at a runway show; we’re often multi-tasking, and unexpected challenges arise, all while you’re on a time crunch. The tips I’ve picked up throughout my years backstage are super useful in these busy times, so I’ve collected the best ones to help streamline your everyday routine.
Wake up your skin
Refreshed skin always starts with cleansing. OIL OBSESSED Total Cleansing Oil is an effective way to refresh skin and remove impurities. Next, apply SKINLONGEVITY Vital Power Infusion Serum all over your face in a circular motion to get the blood flowing in your skin. Finish things off with your favorite moisturizer to create a fresh, hydrated canvas that’s ready for makeup.
Prime like a pro
Priming formulas can be extremely helpful to keep shine at bay under the bright lights on the runway, or just to help you get the most out of your makeup each and every day. I love COMBO CONTROL Milky Face Primer for those “hot spots” that tend to attract shine like the forehead, chin and around the nose.
Get the glow
I love using a damp Beautyblender with a balm-like highlighting formula like GLOW BALM for Lips, Cheeks & Eyes to create fresh, healthy-looking skin in a pinch. Work the balm into the sponge and bounce it onto the high points of the face and body, such as the shoulders and collar bone. For that ultra-light reflective highlight, try layering textures. I like to use a little BAREPRO GLOW Highlighter first, then top the look with ENDLESS GLOW Highlighter. Use your fingers to apply the powder highlight to get the most pigment intensity.
Define the cheekbones
To define cheekbones, I always recommend applying highlight before any blush or bronzer to bring out your natural contours. If you opt for bronzer, use a little ENDLESS SUMMER Bronzer in the hollows of the cheekbones. For a more targeted application, use the Diffused Highlighter Brush, but keep the edges of the contour soft and diffused.
Try liquid liner as mascara
Haven’t had time to restock your favorite mascara? For a minimal take on mascara, turn to your favorite liquid eyeliner, like LASH DOMINATION Ink Liner. It may seem dauting to apply liquid liner onto the lower lashes, but it isn’t really. Simply hold the pen horizontal and gently “paint” along the lashes from root to tip, coating only the lashes rather than the actual lash line. You can also use your liquid liner to create subtle definition to those hard-to-reach roots of the lashes with a simple technique: use the tip of the pen, paint the roots of the top lashes and hard to reach areas.
Lip balm is key
Aquaphor Ointment is one of the best (and most affordable/versatile) products for lip hydration, and more. Another surprising way to use a balm is on the eyelids for a touch of eye gloss. I also love it as a hand, elbow and leg hydration if needed. (When models are styled in short sleeves or dresses you can’t forget to hydrate knees and elbows!)
Keep double brushes
We all have our favorite makeup brush, but did you ever think to keep more than one in your stash? This is handy backstage because there’s not always a lot of time in between models, so it’s best to always have clean brushes at the ready. In your daily routine, having multiples of your favorite brushes helps you avoid having to clean them as frequently. It’s also nice to be able to keep one brush at home and one in your to-go makeup bag.
Some of my personal favorites are the Seamless Shaping & Finish Brush for blush and finishing powder, Shade & Diffuse Eye Brush for blending concealer, and the Expert Shadow & Liner Brush for creating smoky cat eyes and defining shapes with liner and shadow.
Get the most out of your products
Think outside the box! Many products can be used multiple ways, even if they’re not marketed as such. For instance, a liquid lipstick (like STATEMENT Matte Liquid Lipcolor) can be used on the cheeks and lips to create monochromatic makeup — or any type of look.
Hairspray works wonders
Brow gels are one of my must-haves in my kit, but sometimes backstage, I run out of clear gel to hold the brows. In that case, I’ll borrow the hairstylists’ hairspray for a quick fix. Simply spray it on a mascara wand and comb through the brows for maximum hold (don’t spray at your eyes!).
Mix blush & highlighter
BAREPRO GLOW Highlighter mixed with any loose blush creates a beautiful liquid shimmer blush.
Foundation as concealer
COMPLEXION RESCUE Hydrating Foundation Stick SPF 25 is not only a great foundation, it can also be used as a concealer. It’s perfect for touching up backstage while models are lined up to walk the runway.
Get creative with makeup removal
A lot of times, models will go from show to show and arrive with elaborate makeup looks from their last gig. It’s helpful to have versatile, hard-working makeup removal products on hand to help clean things up.
Tape is your best friend. If there’s any hard-to-remove eyeshadow fallout and a makeup remover isn’t cutting it, try picking it up with Scotch tape, an industry essential (or this hypoallergenic alternative).
Makeup wipes + cleansing water
Load up a makeup wipe with a gentle cleanser like the Mineral Cleansing Water for double power removal.
Small, pointed cotton buds are never far from me, especially when graphic liner is in play. Because you’re working so quickly, it’s easier to create a rough shape with the liner first, then sharpen the lines with the cotton buds.
Carly Giglio (@carlygiglio) is a celebrated celebrity makeup artist and beauty educator with a passion for color, glowing skin and celebrating her client’s unique beauty. With almost a decade of industry experience, including red carpet and editorial photoshoots, brand creative campaigns and New York Fashion Week, Carly is all about the details when it comes to creating beauty looks.
“My makeup and artistry philosophy is about enhancing each individual’s natural features, not covering them up,” says Carly. “I love helping people to feel their best and most confident, while exploring the possibilities with makeup.”
A self-taught makeup artist, Carly first discovered her passion for color and artistry at a young age through her love of painting and a background in fine arts. One of her favorite aspects of working in the beauty space is connecting with people and making them feel good about themselves through the power of makeup – transforming a blank canvas into a work of art.
“I love creating beautiful, glowing skin with elements of color and luminosity throughout, and I’m all about seamless builds of color and structure,” Carly says. “But the best payoff is seeing how confident my clients become once they learn some simple makeup tips.”