My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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!”

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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!

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.


My Beauty Uniform: Courtney Lavine

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.

P.S. More lovely women share their beauty uniforms, and a handy guide to essential oils.

(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.)

  1. Hannah says...

    Courtney Lavine is stupefyingly awesome. I just can’t get over her. Wow.

  2. Thank you Joanna, Courtney & Caroline and all the talented photographers for this lovely read. Such beauty and talent!! I always look forward to the My Beauty Uniform interviews. Now, if only I could get my hair into a perfect ballet bun.

  3. Courtney is LOVELY! I loved this post.

  4. I love this series, Joanna! Can we keep it going forever? I have a post about beauty on my blog today. Wishing you a lovely weekend with your dad!

  5. Loved every single second of this. What a woman!

  6. Kat says...

    I think this is my favorite beauty uniform to date!

  7. Stunning,

  8. jennifer says...

    I loved this! Stunning pics and woman.

  9. Misha says...

    Thank you once again for featuring another ballerina of color. Yes black girls do ballet. I am a former ballerina of Dance theatre of Harlem and soloist of Ballet Theatre. It can become frustrating to see only Misty Copeland and the public think that she is the only one. It’s alway refreshing to show my students that we are out there!

  10. the photo in the sweater and the tutu midair … breathtaking! I literally gasped

  11. Nina says...

    wow. simply beautiful. the pictures take my breath away. I really love the one with the skirt swinging wide under an overpass (maybe?)

    so…what is a good tip for moisturizing your legs. seriously, mine are like two shades lighter than they really are due to dry skin. hideous!

    the chocolate chip cookies in your one picture made me laugh.

  12. f says...

    so gorgeous and seemingly down to earth!

  13. Leah says...

    I love this beauty uniform so much! And agree about alternatives to elastic hair ties :)

  14. Loved this! I am just amazed by ballet dancers. The hard work, the BLISTERS, all for us to have something beautiful to marvel at. Thank you for all your hard work at perfecting your craft!
    And Oopsie is seriously the cutest.

  15. Cheryl says...

    I danced professionally as well (although not for the likes of ABT!) and struggled to find a great deodorant. Lavanilla didn’t work for me so I started making my own and it changed everything.
    Here’s the recipe if you’re interested:
    1/4 c. baking soda
    1/4 c. cornstarch or arrowroot powder
    5 Tbsp. coconut oil
    Essential oils (5 drops of lavender, 4 drops of tea tree) I have tried other essential oils but none give me the odor protection of lavender and tea tree since they both have major anti microbial benefits.
    You can also add Shea butter for a firmer texture and load the mixture into an old twist up containter. Otherwise I keep it in a jar and apply with my fingers. The best part is once you make one batch, you can just whip up another whenever you need it or for friends. I have yet to meet the person this doesn’t work on.
    Kudos to Crunchy Betty for posting the original recipe on her site. I don’t know her but she changed my pits’ lives.

    • Twyla says...

      I make the same recipe, Cheryl! Except I add a tbsp. of bentonite clay to it.

    • Cheryl says...

      That’s so cool! I’ll have to try that next batch. Thanks!

    • Nina says...

      I tried this and bought pit paste and neither worked. I got a horrible rash for months every time I sweated and the doctors couldn’t do anything. and this was before trying the pit paste which some people say causes a rash. So I stopped all and now just put tea tree oil in a carrier oil (I use almond oil but I don’t think it matters) on and it works GREAT. I mean I can go a few days without odor now. no rash either.

    • I use the same recipe but with different oils! Re: the rash that Nina mentioned…I noticed I got a major uptick in ingrown hairs at first, but once I started removing the deodorant at night or before reapplying (just by swiping my underarms with a cotton pad soaked in witch hazel) it went away.

  16. carmen says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this post! As an avid reader of the blog and a woman of color, I couldn’t be prouder!

  17. Fabulous lady

  18. Jenn J. says...

    I love these features. And holy cow – what a talented woman! Thank you for sharing with us :)

  19. My favorite Beauty Uniform so far!

  20. I am so thrilled you featured Courtney for my favorite Cup of Jo series! I follow her on instagram, and loved getting to know her here better. She makes flying through the air look as easy as breathing!

  21. Leah says...

    Gorgeous photographs!

  22. Dottie Louise says...

    This was such a lovely interview, what a wonderful down-to-earth person! All the best to Courtney and Oopsie! (I loved the story behind Oopsie’s name)

  23. The pictures in this profile are absolutely gorgeous, especially that first one! Courtney is fabulous but seems so down to earth and I love that she uses Neutrogena cleanser ;)
    I’m going to buy that deodorant ASAP, I’ve never had good luck with natural deodorants so I’m hoping she’s right!

  24. It is straight up silly how happy it made me to read that someone featured in the Beauty Uniform series uses the same cheapo drugstore facial cleanser as me! Haha. (Seriously, I stopped reading and told my husband.) After years of trying harsh cleansers/treatments, I realized simple and gentle is best and most healing for skin. Anyway, just tickled to know I share part of my beauty routine with a gorgeous, talented (and down-to-earth) ballerina.

  25. She’s so gorgeous!!! So lovely.

  26. Foree says...

    Stunning !!!!

  27. Sarah says...

    Any chance we can find out where the dress is from in the top photo? It’s gorgeous, and so is Courtney – thanks for sharing!

  28. Talia says...

    Absolutely beautiful. Her elegance and grace are inspiring!

  29. Sarah says...

    Any chance we can find out where the dress is from in the top photo? Gorgeous!

  30. thank you for this really great piece. i’m so impressed by her elegance and strength. for someone who constantly (and literally) in the spotlight, she is so relatable

  31. Becky says...

    I am not fluent in ballet, but she is just lovely. What a great read!

  32. These photos are unbelievably stunning! I have heard so much lately about Makeup Forever and their foundation – makes me feel that I need to see what the fuss is all about! Wonderful series!


  33. i am nowhere near your level of dancer by ANY means, but I did dance when I was a kid, and now that I am older I swear by the foam roller. The days that I don’t use it, I can feel it the next morning. For sure. *NOTE to anyone it is SO important to take care of your body NOW, you only get ONE and it’s got to last!!*

  34. I love this series! Have you ever thought of asking a woman who is in a job that isn’t as creative or artistic as your usual interviews? I would love if you found a woman who is a doctor or a pilot or a financial analyst. :)

    • Jen says...

      I’d love that too!

    • Theresa says...

      I agree! Or a teacher or a social worker! :)

    • Marie says...

      This would be great!

    • Yes, yes, yes! Or a researcher/scientist at a university! :)

      Vis à Vis

    • Michelle says...

      I never thought of this until now, but YES! and I love the OP’s set of examples. Add scientist or teacher/professor to the list.

    • Sarah says...

      I agree!! Or a corporate something (like me) :-)

    • Michelle says...

      …but then, an afterthought. If you asked a scientist or professor to share their beauty routine, they’d almost certainly be like, “UM, excuse me??” Featuring a female professional from this type of field in a beauty column raises all kinds of stereotype tensions. (Think of the outcry when Lego produced their famous research scientists kit and all the women were wearing lipstick.) I’m a professor and discussing my “beauty routine” in a public forum would feel seriously undermining. Yet it’s a little messed up if we can only feature creative types in a beauty column.

    • Laura says...

      That’s such a frustrating catch-22…. Feminism isn’t supposed to be limiting, just the opposite! However I do see your point.

    • heather says...

      woah, I am a female engineer working in a very male-dominated field, and I don’t agree at all that it would be offensive to be asked to participate in a “beauty series” routine! (Being asked in a work context would of course very offensive, but being asked on a personal life basis is no different from asking a woman who works in any other field!)

      Actually I feel like this perception that engineers have to be these frumpy, no-nonsense women who can’t also appreciate fun stuff like fashion & makeup is a part of what drives high school/college-age girls away from science, engineering, etc. – there’s a sense that “real” scientists don’t care about such frivolous things.

      That being said, I can certainly appreciate that some would have (legitimate!) concerns about how an online “beauty routine” article could affect their colleagues’ perceptions if they came across it (which could of course have a broader impact on their career).

    • Katherine says...

      I agree! But as someone said, some women in these professions may not be as invested in beauty routines- great! All the more reason to feature them and acknowledge other ways of being. There are many kinds of beauty, the best of all simply being comfortable in your own skin and happy with who you are. Outside of the beauty tips, that’s what makes this interview appealing too.

    • S says...

      Agree. Would love to see someone beyond the writing/art world – assume it is because these are people you know or someone knows from your personal circle. Finance, politics, health care etc. for example. First, great to see more women of colour (as a woman of colour) – but diversity is more inclusive to that as well. Also as someone who has worked in women’s rights – it is not “unfeminist” to enjoy a beauty routine as well. I hate the stereotype that you can’t wear heels and a pencil skirt and not work on equity issues etc. Also it’s interesting to see beauty routines that may have to accommodate certain professions. My doctor friends can’t have long nails/polish. Also, some have a conservative day look due to their job but have fun with make-up on the weekends. Skincare is pretty universal though – everyone is finding a regime that works for them – regardless of your profession. We all bond on skincare. (shoutout to Jurlique and Nude cleansing oil and Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleansers).

      Love this profile though. I did ballet when I was young but it was too expensive for my mom to continue to pay for it. I would never have been good enough but appreciation for the rigour, discipline and beauty of the dance.

    • Dee says...

      Yes to this! Someone from Wall Street pls :)

    • Michelle says...

      It’s not that engineers / professors / scientists / whatever are frumpy and or don’t like pencil skirts and makeup. Many do. It’s that they (we) have fought hard to be respected for our minds, not our looks. “On Cup of Jo today: a nuclear scientist, being profiled … for her makeup tips.” It shouldn’t be a problem and hopefully one day it won’t, but for now and until these professions change a LOT more, it is.

    • Laura C says...

      I agree. Plus, it would be nice if you feature one of your readers for a beauty uniform. Randomly :) what do you think?

    • Nina says...

      I laugh reading this discussion. I have a small beauty product/make-up obsession that developed in law school in the computer lab. All the men (whose wives were home watching their kids) were in there playing computer games (where they all joined together and fought each other, early 90s, no idea what) and I had read a magazine blurb about – went on – that led to another beauty board, where I became a panelist and started doing makeup reviews and the rest is history. How sad that we can’t be multi-dimensional and enjoy various things without still being smart, and successful, in traditionally male fields.

    • Michelle says...

      It is sad. But anyone who doubts that talking about makeup/beauty as part of a scientist’s identity will run into stereotyping problems pretty quick should check out the notoriously disastrous “girls in STEM” PR campaign “Science: It’s a Girl Thing” (, and other controversial misfires like #prettycurious and “hack a hair dryer”

    • Unfortunately it seems like such a catch-22 right now…women are criticized for trying look pretty in traditionally “male” fields, and are criticized for being portrayed as unfashionable in traditionally “male” fields. It’s such a minefield!

    • heather says...

      I can see where you’re coming from on the argument against, but I guess we will just have to agree to disagree. (Although I like that nuclear scientist was the example – that’s actually the type of engineering that I do! Haha no good makeup tips though, I’m pretty strictly a drugstore-brand girl.)

      Honestly I think in my field at least, the dynamic is already so fucked up that stuff like this doesn’t really make a difference one way or the other. It’s already typical that when I go to a new meeting, it’s going to be 30 or 40 men aged 25-70, with two other women there, and over half the room is going to assume I don’t know what I’m doing until I prove otherwise. Some of them won’t come around regardless of what I do technically. On the other end of the spectrum, the people I work closely with know that I know my shit, and don’t care one way or the other about my personal life / other interests. I am all for fighting stereotypes in engineering, but at the same time I don’t think female engineers should totally arrange their personal life to accomplish this – if a woman in the scientists wants to share her beauty tips, she should just go for it!

    • Michelle says...

      That IS a fucked up dynamic. But it sounds like you handle it with skill and confidence. Hats off to you — from a fellow drugstore-brand girl :)

  35. This girl has such amazing grace… The first photo is so inspiring!

    Also it’s fun to hear she also loves using a foam-roller ;)

  36. Her legs go for miles and miles. And miles.

  37. Enjoyed reading this very much – what a lovely person she is.

  38. Melody says...

    Wow! What a beautiful, elegant and down-to-earth lady! Thank you for sharing Courtney’s story and beauty routine! I feel so inspired to not just go get all of the products she mentioned, but also to go dancing :)

  39. The third photo (in white) is stunning!

  40. Lauren E. says...

    I know ballet is grueling and not always kind to the body, but oh god… is there anything more beautiful than a ballerina? Some of those photos made me tear up!

    • Me too. So stunning!

  41. Laura says...

    I didn’t know Courtney was from Virginia! I recognize the one picture of her and her boyfriend as being at Carter Mountain Orchard here in my hometown of Charlottesville, VA! What a small world.

    I will second the Arnica recommendation. It is a great natural remedy for a variety of things, including muscle soreness, bruises, and even bug bites. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that a professional ballerina uses it, too!

  42. Maggie says...

    Joanna! This is awesome – thanks for sharing :)

  43. Sarah says...

    Courtney is the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen. WOW.

  44. Summer says...

    LOVED this! Beautiful and confident!

  45. Elise says...

    Best Beauty Uniform yet! As a professional dancer I loved her tips on soothing sore muscles and deodorant! The superstitions and not getting calluses removed during a pedi, I can completely relate!

  46. Jackie says...

    I love this one. Such a beautiful person and wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing!

  47. Woohoo! A natural deodorant that works. I’m intrigued.

  48. Ana says...

    I loved everything about this. Specially the beauty and strength Courtney exudes. Amazing lady. (And YES for arnica. I use it on my son all the time)

  49. WOW so elegant! She seems like the type of girl you could talk all night to over a glass of red wine

  50. Loved reading this!

  51. Giselle says...

    love her answer to “what do you like most about your look?” i hope she knows that young girls who looked like her growing up will not think they look strange because they have role models like her to look up to, understanding they are beautiful and capable too.

  52. Kathryn says...

    I loved reading this. She looks so ethereal yet strong. Nice reminder that your skin care routine doesn’t have to cost a fortune!

    • Lynn says...

      Yes! I was hooked when she said “Neutrogena” and not some $$$ brand I hadn’t heard of.