The Aesthete

About Face

New York City Ballet principal dancer Rebecca Krohn keeps it clean

by Vanessa Manko photography Abbey Drucker

While ballet dancers may be the epitome of grace and elegance, the makeup they wear to perform onstage is anything but: “It’s thick, heavy-duty layers of concealer and pancake,” says New York City Ballet principal dancer Rebecca Krohn, who has a naturally peach-toned complexion. To prepare for her nightly performances, Krohn carries a small arsenal of purple, brown and pink MAC eye shadow pots, an assortment of blushes, squat tubs of powder and pancake base makeup, seven different brushes, and various lipsticks, sponges and puffs. The application process for Krohn’s stage makeup requires 21 different steps and takes about 45 minutes to apply.

The application process for Krohn’s stage makeup requires 21 different steps and takes about 45 minutes to apply.

But what happens when it’s time to remove the makeup? And how does Krohn keep her skin healthy and luminous during the day after bearing the stress and weight of all that concealer, pancake and powder at night? “It’s important to get every last bit of makeup off,” says Krohn, who notes that the fake eyelashes are the first to go. “We peel them off immediately,” she says. The downside: The eyelash glue that adheres the falsies in place is so strong that every removal sees her lose a few of her own lashes. “After a season, I don’t have any of my own lashes left,” she says. “It’s just inevitable.” The next step: Makeup removal, which she begins by wetting her face to loosen up the thick pancake. The 31-year-old dancer opts for the glycerin-based soap Purpose, best at removing the many layers of base, the eye shadows, blushes, eye and lip liners, and any stubborn makeup build-up. “The creamier soaps don’t get all the makeup off, and you never want to go to bed with a trace of this makeup on. It’s thick and drying,” she explains.

Toward the end of a season, Krohn says the skin around her eyes can become irritated and inflamed, so she applies cortisone cream and an extra dollop of moisturizer – a basic L’Oreal Revitalift. Krohn uses blotting tissues to keep the oil under control and, for the occasional blemish, Burt’s Bees acne solution. Neutrogena Naturals is her preferred daily face wash and her moisturizer includes an SPF 18.

Recalling her student days when she performed in the School of American Ballet’s (SAB) workshop (an annual spring performance for graduates of SAB, which, for the lead dancers, can secure an apprenticeship or corps position in the school’s parent company, NYCB), Krohn remembers putting on the ballet stage makeup for the first time. “I was so nervous,” she says. “I had never put on fake eyelashes before, so my friend had to help me.” Dancers do not receive specific tutorials on how to apply stage makeup. Instead, they learn the process much the same way they learn new choreography – by watching and emulating the older dancers, seeking out a style of eyeliner, for example, they might admire.

“Just this past season, a new apprentice asked to see how I did my makeup,” says Krohn. “The older dancers tend to have more subtle, extended lines. Over years of experience you begin to learn what works for you and the shape of your face. It’s very individualized,” she says.

Offstage, a dancer’s diet of fruits, vegetables, Greek yogurt and plenty of water also help Krohn maintain a great complexion. Which is lucky, since the Vestal, New York, native doesn’t believe in high maintenance beauty treatments. “I’ve never had a facial,” she says, laughing. Her concern is that specialized regimens will further irritate skin that is already stressed. “I try to keep it as simple as possible.”