The incredible Courtney Lavine is a professional ballerina with American Ballet Theatre. We’ve long admired her beyond-gorgeous Instagram photos and were thrilled when she agreed to share her beauty routine. Here are her tricks for making eyes look bigger, soothing aching muscles, and the secret behind the perfect ballet bun…
What is your daily skincare routine?
My favorite cleanser right now is Neutrogena Naturals Fresh Cleansing + Makeup Remover, which makes my skin feel really clean. Afterward, I’ll apply Joanna Vargas Daily Serum and finish by patting on some Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer. I’ve used the Olay on and off for seven years, and whenever I’ve stopped to try something else, I immediately regret my decision. It’s light and hydrating and does a good job of fading the dark marks left over from the occasional pimple. I’d take it to the ends of the earth.
Do you wear makeup every day?
Yes! Being a ballet dancer means being surrounded by makeup. On stage, I wear a ton of it — foundation, contouring, eyeshadow, heavy eyeliner and false lashes — since stage lights wash you out. Even when we rehearse at our studios, I always wear makeup because the florescent lighting is not flattering on anyone. My staple foundation — both on stage and in everyday life — is Make Up For Ever’s Mat Velvet + Mattifying Foundation in Golden Beige. My skin tends to be oily, so I like the matte finish it creates.
So, what’s your makeup routine?
For the past year or so, MAC blushes have been the only thing to kiss my face besides my boyfriend. Right now I’m using Gingerly. MAC has many shades that work with my complexion, and I like that they offer shimmer vs. no shimmer. You can’t wear shimmery makeup when you dance, because it looks like sweat! Two lip colors that have stood the test of time are Bobbi Brown’s Tulle and Desert Plum. I like to dab a little on my lips and then blot with a tissue for a natural stain. I always finish with mascara, usually Diorshow or BADgal Lash.
Do you have a game-changing beauty product?
When I was in ABT’s junior company, I had a roommate from Korea who was well versed in everything beauty. I didn’t know anything about skincare, and she was like, “You need an eye cream! You need a toner! You need to start using anti-aging products now!” She recommended using SK-II Facial Treatment Essence. I do see a huge difference, and I get compliments on my skin whenever I’m using it. I’ll put a little bit in my hand and pat it on my face — my roommate also taught me to apply products by patting them, because it’s gentle on your skin and gets your circulation going.
What was it like to perform with the company for the first time?
My first performances were on tour in Chicago back in 2010. We were performing 11 shows of Swan Lake in seven days. Swan Lake is a killer to perform; it’s technically difficult and requires tons of stamina. A lot of women were getting injured on the tour, which meant I had to perform a part that I was just understudying. Halfway through our run, my mom came to Chicago to watch me perform. She took me to lunch after a matinée and, while we were eating, I started crying over my spaghetti because I felt so overwhelmed. That tour was a rude, rude awakening. Ballet is not easy.
Have you learned any backstage makeup tricks?
Never fill in your eyebrows with black pencil, no matter how dark your brows are. You should always use brow makeup that’s a shade lighter than your natural hair color; otherwise it’s too harsh. Another trick is to apply white eyeliner to your water line to make eyes appear bigger.
Do you have any tips for achieving that perfect ballet bun?
There are so many tricks people don’t know about! Many dancers actually have short hair, and they’ll slick it back and pin a fake bun on. For girls with shoulder-length hair, they’ll put it in a little ponytail and use bun stuffers, like those drugstore hair donuts. One of my favorite tricks is instead of using hair elastics — which break your hair because they’re tight — I cut off the top of a thigh high and pull my hair back with that.
When you’re not on stage, how do you style your hair?
My hair can get pretty dry and damaged from putting it up all the time, so I wash it with Deva Curl No-Poo cleanser and Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk conditioner. To avoid split ends, I like to put a little olive or coconut oil on the ends at night. I’m still on the search for a stylist who is an expert at styling textured, curly hair. But I like Drybar for quick blowouts.
Do you have any advice for soothing sore muscles?
For sore muscles and any stiffness, one natural solution I like is Arnica. It’s also great if you have a stubborn bruise that won’t go away. You can buy it in a tube, like toothpaste, and apply it the way you would Ben-Gay. It works very well. Another trick is to drink a lot of water, and I mean a lot! I try to drink around 10 glasses a day, and it really helps.
What’s your strategy for rest and recovery?
I didn’t take very good care of my body when I was younger, because I didn’t feel as much pain the next day! But now I use a foam roller after a workout, and find that it makes a HUGE difference. I get massages, but I tell them to go lighter, because deep tissue massages actually make me tighter. At night, my favorite thing is to use my Shiatsu foot massager. It’s big and bulky and embarrassing, but I use it all the time.
How do you feel about baths?
When I’m rehearsing or performing, I take a bath almost every day. Aire Ancient Baths is one of my favorite places in New York City; you can do a sauna, steam room, hot and cold plunge. I also love when a bath smells nice, so when I’m home I’ll add a LUSH bath bomb, usually a floral-scented one. My friend once teased me, “If you had a house, the whole first floor would be a bathroom!”
The million-dollar question: Have you found a deodorant that works?
Yes! I use Lavanila Healthy Deodorant and it’s the first natural one I’ve found that works. Word to the wise, you should reapply after you’ve been active, but I’m so happy with it. The vanilla scent is amazing!
Do you have any backstage traditions or superstitions?
I always put on my left set of eyelashes first, then the right ones. I don’t know why I do that, but now I have to. I also have a piece of candy, like a Lifesaver or a cough drop, before I go on stage. I used to get nervous and my mouth would get dry, but now it’s more of a tradition. When we’re performing, I keep pictures of my family and my dog Oopsie on my vanity, along with good luck notes from colleagues.
“Oopsie” is the cutest name for a dog.
I was going to call her bear, because she looks like a baby polar bear, but she kept jumping off my bed when she was a tiny puppy. I kept saying “Oopsie!” all the time, so that became her name.
Do you get nervous before a performance?
I just performed my first solo, and I wasn’t nervous at all. The funny thing is, I get more nervous about dancing with the group, because I don’t want to mess anyone else up! Deep breathing helps me calm down before a performance.
Do you ever splurge on any beauty treatments?
I love getting manicures and pedicures, but if I get a pedicure, I have to tell them not to remove my calluses because I need them for my pointe shoes! I usually wear red on my toes, like OPI Red Hot Rio or Amore at the Grand Canal, and a light color on my hands, like Essie Mademoiselle or Ballet Slippers.
What do you like most about your look?
Growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, I didn’t see many people on TV or in magazines who looked like me, so as a kid I thought I was strange-looking. But as I grew older, I realized it allows me to stand out, especially in the ballet world. Now, it’s something I’m proud of.
Thank you so much, Courtney! You’re inspiring.
(Interview by Caroline Donofrio. Brownstone photo at top and brick background photo by Karolina Kuras. Rehearsal tutu photo by Kenneth B. Edwards. Bun, zebra leggings, boardwalk, window, and Courtney’s back photos by Joanne Pio. Black background photo by Laredo Montoneri. Black and white jumping photo by James Whiteside.)