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My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

Isabella Boylston is a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. She is also warm, charming and knows her way around a beauty product. Here, she shares her secret beauty obsession and the best lipstick colors for different ballet characters…

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

When you’re not performing, do you wear makeup in your everyday life?
I don’t wear much makeup — I’ll sleep as late as I can, then run to class. But I am always a huge fan of lipstick. Even when I don’t have time for other makeup, I’ll use Bobbi Brown’s Rose, a great dusty rose color. We rehearse for up to nine hours a day under florescent lighting, and lipstick makes me feel less corpse-like.

What about days when you do have time for makeup?
On those days, I’ll put on NARS Luminous Foundation, but I apply it more like a concealer — under my eyes to cover the dark circles and around my nose. I want my skin to look like I’m not wearing makeup. Then I put Park Avenue Princess bronzer under my cheekbones and top it off with blush. I love Kjaer Weis in Blossoming, a light peachy pink. It’s creamy and blends well; plus, it’s natural and comes in reusable packaging.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

What about stage makeup?
My stage routine is regular makeup, but times one hundred! Eyebrows are one of the most important areas to define, because they contribute to your expression, so I use MAC eyeshadow in Twinks to make them bolder, then put eyebrow gel over that. I love a bit of definition around the eye, and I’ll use Charlotte Tilbury Color Chameleon pencils to smoke them out — I like the colors Amethyst Aphrodisiac or Bronzed Garnet.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

Dancing in Romeo and Juliet

Do you wear different makeup for different ballets?
Face Stockholm’s Evita is a perfect classic stage red. But for the Swan Queen or a more womanly heroine, I’ll use Dior Ultra Rouge in Ultra Crave, which is more of a brownish red. If I’m playing Juliet, or another sweet young character, then I’ll wear one of my pinks.

Since eyebrows are such a big part of your look, how do you groom them?
When I was in high school, I plucked my eyebrows within an inch of their life, so now I don’t let anyone touch them. Makeup artists will say, ‘Can I get rid of this one stray hair?’ and I’m like, ‘NO!’ To groom them, my favorite product is Anastasia Eyebrow Gel, which is incredible. It’s a tiny bit iridescent; it makes your brows look defined but not heavy. And it lasts much longer than anything else I’ve tried.

How do you help your makeup stay put even while you’re sweating?
I use waterproof liquid eyeliner. And I dab the sweat off with tissues whenever I go offstage in between entrances.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

What is your morning skincare routine?
I try to keep it natural. In the morning, I wash my face with just water, and I’ll apply Jordan Samuel Hydrate serum. I’m obsessed with moisture, so I’ll apply another layer, usually Kat Burki Vitamin C Intensive Face Cream. I use these products every day and my skin has never looked better. Then I’ll dab on Coola Matte Tinted BB Cream with SPF 30, which is velvety and almost makes my pores disappear.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

What’s your nighttime skincare routine?
I use Jordan Samuel’s The After Show cleanser to remove makeup, followed by the serum again. Once a week, I’ll use Goop’s Glycolic Acid Peel Pads, and my skin really does look more even and youthful the next day.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

Let’s talk about dancers’ feet. Do you get pedicures?
Honestly, they don’t look great. I used to get pedicures, but I’ve mostly stopped because I’m so embarrassed by how my feet look! Whenever I do, I don’t let the technician remove any callouses because I need them for dancing — the only thing they can touch are my nails.

How do you style and care for your hair?
I like the Giovanni line of shampoo and conditioner, which I buy at Whole Foods. The only other thing I do is get my hair colored darker for stage. A lot of the characters I play are 18th or 19th century heroines, and they didn’t have highlights back then, so I need my hair to look like the right time period. It’s hard to find a dye that isn’t full of chemicals — if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

Do you have any tricks to beat jitters leading up to a performance?
I still get really nervous! It’s nothing compared to what I would feel when I first started doing principal roles — back then I would freak out a week in advance, and I couldn’t sleep or eat. But it’s still a ton of pressure! We’re performing for almost 4,000 people at The Met at Lincoln Center, and it feels like running a marathon.

How do you calm your nerves before stage?
I always drink coffee before the show and listen to music, which helps calm me. But honestly I accept the nerves. Tennis player Roger Federer says he still gets nervous, but it’s a good thing, because it means he still cares! And nerves also give you laser focus.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

What’s the hardest ballet to dance?
Swan Lake is probably the hardest for me, physically, to get through. Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote are also very, very hard. Often, it seems like whatever ballet I’m currently doing is the hardest! But Swan Lake takes the cake.

What makes Swan Lake so hard?
As the principal dancer, you dance both the white swan and black swan, and they’re different characters so you have to move completely differently in each role. (The white swan is more controlled and slow, whereas the black swan is wild and reckless.) The black swan also has a famous scene where she does 32 fouettes [difficult turns on one foot] and they’re scary because your calves are already spent by the time you get there and sheer willpower is the only thing getting you through. It’s a test of endurance.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

How do you take care of your body when you have such long, demanding days?
Sleep is huge, because that’s when your body recovers. You’re more likely to get injured when you’re sleep deprived, so I try to get eight or nine (or even 10!) hours a night. Baths are also helpful. I put oil into the bath — from Jordan Samuel and Leonore Greyl. And I’ll add a ton of Epsom salt, which I buy in bulk. Along with a glass of wine, at night.

Isabella Boylston ballerina book club

How do you wind down before bed?
I always read at night before I go to sleep. My husband wakes up super early, so I’ll get in bed at the same time as him, then read for an hour or two after he falls asleep. That’s my me-time. I post about whatever I’m reading using the hashtag #ballerinabookclub.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

What’s an unexpected thing about backstage life?
There’s a stereotype that ballerinas are always backstabbing each other. So, I think people would be surprised by what a family American Ballet Theatre is and how tight our bonds are. We support each other so much, watching from the wings and cheering. Also, dancers are hilarious! You have to have a sense of humor, because things go wrong with nearly every show, and you have to laugh it off.

What kind of things have gone wrong?
I’ve fallen onstage a couple of times, which I actually don’t view as a bad thing, because it means you were really going for it. On the funnier side, I had an episode where my partner and I got completely lost during a 10-minute duet in Jane Eyre and couldn’t remember any of the choreography. We somehow improvised for the entire time and thought we messed up so badly they would just bring in the curtain.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

What is your personal beauty philosophy?
The way people look changes when you get to know them, and kindness goes a long way in making someone appear beautiful. Despite going into a really aesthetic art form, I’ve never felt pressure to look a certain way. Yes, being a dancer does put pressure on you, and you can’t get around that, but I believe that kindness, confidence, and being comfortable in your own skin are the things that really matter.

My Beauty Uniform: Isabella Boylston

Thank you so much, Isabella! And if you’d like, you can see Isabella dancing with ABT at Lincoln Center this October 16th to 27th.

P.S. More amazing women share their beauty uniforms, including a neuroscientist and a polar explorer.

(Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet photos by Gene Schiavone. Photo on street by the Ballerina Project. All other photos courtesy of Isabella Boylston.)

  1. Anna-laura says...

    I went to Harid with Isabella for one year back in 2002-03. We were in a small class of freshman and sophomores. I didn’t talk to her a whole lot, but she was one of those people that everyone liked. She was super talented, but so humble. You could tell she was going to really make it one day, eve though she was only 16 at the time.

  2. Teresa says...

    Dying!!! Love her, love this.

  3. Cynthia says...

    Makes me want to go see a ballet!

  4. Jessi Lee says...

    Thank you so much for this! I love Isabella Boylston on Instagram and its so cool to see her beauty routine.

  5. abba says...

    pls tell isabella, j.f. lazartigue is a french company for hair colour which has no ammoniak or peroxids.

  6. Andrea says...

    That bikini in the waterfall photo! Does anyone know where it’s from?
    x

    • Dina says...

      It’s Norma Kamali!

  7. Julie says...

    um i am SHOOK that you were able to get an interview with isabella. she is incredible and so is this interview!

  8. Ana says...

    I LOVE that picture of Isabella with a coffee and her cell phone kicking her leg up. So amazing!

  9. Claire says...

    I love the photo of her reading the book. Also I wish I was that strong!

  10. Mara says...

    I’ve been such a fan of Isabella’s ever since I saw her perform at the Kennedy Center in DC…and her Instagram account is so fun! I love seeing her with James Whiteside too, they look like great friends. I’m dying to know how they struck up a friendship with Jennifer Garner. Anyway, thank you so much for profiling Isabella!

    • Cait says...

      Jennifer Garner is a huge fan/supporter of ballet, she is also good friends with Tyler Peck :) (I’ve gleaned this from her Instagram, I, much to my dismay, am not friends with Jennifer Garner.)

  11. Megan says...

    What a great piece. I always love beauty uniforms, and what you wear in a week pieces. I would *love* to see one feature a trans woman. Thank you, as always, for the great reading, Cup of Jo.

  12. Cristin says...

    Okay I think I NEED that sweater in the last black and white photo. Anyone have any idea where it’s from?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask!

  13. Lauren E. says...

    I love this one!! I’m laughing over the pedicure question. I danced growing up and was so proud of my callouses.

  14. She’s such a gorgeous dancer! I did ballet for many years and it was fascinating to read about different makeup colors for different characters.

    Dee

  15. Sarah says...

    I recently tried Bigen Permanent Powder for coloring my hair. It’s all natural and has no ammonia or any other lighteners-it’s just a tiny! The only thing I will say is that next time I’m going for the lightest possible color, because even though my hair was unprocessed the dark brown turned my hair almost black.

  16. Sophie says...

    Hi, long time reader and lover of CoJ here but first-time poster *waves* and I have a question that springs to mind basically whenever I see literally any woman in this kind of teeny high-cut leotard (G.L.O.W. was a distracting watch for me) : H A I R R E M O V A L . Can we talk about this? How so neat 24/7?

    • Mariana says...

      Personaly, I did laser hair removal. I spent 3 years with no hair after my first round, then some showed up again after my pregnancies so I’m doing a second round and hope to be hair free for a long time. It’s the best!

    • Christina says...

      I was JUST going to post this same question!
      How do dancers and athletes–ballet, pole, swimmers, etc.–get such smooth bikini lines? Do they take it *all* off? But how? Do they get bumps and itchies? Do they delegate responsibility for this to experts, or go the home diy route? I really, really want to know so I can copy them and for once in my life not feel prickly, bumpy, and like I missed a big ol’ patch!

  17. Chloe says...

    Isabella Boylston is one of my favorite dancers!! Thank you for this interview.

  18. Mathilda says...

    I always like pictures of ballet moves! And I’m always curious about a ballet-dancers life. But I find the “beauty uniform” section incredibly boring. Such a waste – there would have been so much more intereserting things to talk about with a principal dancer! I totally don’t get why I should be interested in someone elses choice of lipstick oder soap.

    • Jessica says...

      the series is called “BEAUTY UNIFORM”

    • Cait says...

      I’m curious to hear if you read the whole article or not; yes, there is a focus on beauty products in this series, which others find interesting and are curious about (it’s ok if not everything appeals to you) but there are also several questions sprinkled throughout about ballet and what it’s like to have such a physically demanding career. I think CoJ actually does a great job balancing what some might see as more superficial questions with bigger ones.

  19. Amy says...

    Such a great post, thank you!

  20. CS says...

    Thank you for this wonderful post! She is beautiful and seems like such an awesome person. I love swan Lake! So fascinating to hear the dancer’s perspective! I am the same way about make up – rarely wear it for myself, but love lipstick! She looks so elegant in those poses and in the performance pictures!

  21. Meggles says...

    She is incredible. So other-worldly.

  22. alexis says...

    Natural hair color: I’m a fan of arco salon in boerum hill/Brooklyn – they use organic, vegan, fair trade ingredients that were very effective at coloring my dark, dark hair and all the staff are super friendly and great. Web site here: https://www.arconewyork.com/ (not an ad, just a super satisfied customer)

  23. Robin McWaters says...

    “The way people look changes when you get to know them, and kindness goes a long way in making someone appear beautiful. ”

    This is so true and beautiful.

    • Yes, this really resonated with me as well!

  24. Caitlin says...

    I love her so much <3

  25. I liked this beauty uniform, thank you for sharing. Although I do find all (not just Isabella, it’s def. a trend!) those ballerinas posting ballet moves on the street, at the beach etc quite puzzling. I guess it’s supposed to be inspirational? I love ballet and i think ballet dancers are incredible, but come on, not a single picture where she is not doing a ballet move of some sort…

    • Eliza says...

      I think it’s an interesting juxtaposition! I don’t have anything I’ve dedicated that much time to, but I imagine for someone who has done dance for as long as most professional dancers have, it feels quite natural to be in one of those ballet poses, too.

    • Emma says...

      Ohhh, interesting! I loved the contrast of the strong, graceful ballet poses against the everyday backdrops. Honestly, I think if I could dance like a ballerina I would strike poses like that all the time!

    • Tina says...

      If I had worked hard enough to be able to do those moves, I would do them all. the. time. I thought the pictures were amazing!

    • Molly says...

      I love it in all the photos… do a move anywhere I say if you can do it. What an art form!

    • Samara says...

      If I had those hard-honed muscles and talent, and spent nine hours a day rehearsing, then I’d probably do those moves/poses as a reflex action. Such a gorgeous display and celebration of dedication.

    • Anna says...

      Ha, I thought this too. I wonder if she gets fed up being asked to pose like this?

  26. Erica says...

    What timing! I just watched a video yesterday that made me think of you, Jo and your love of ballet:

    “Soloist Lauren King and Solo Pianist Susan Walters compare notes on how George Balanchine’s romantic feat Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 is notably difficult, both choreographically and musically, in the same moments, but also extremely rewarding to perform.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYYJl-pZidc
    It is fascinating!

    Love these beauty uniforms- Isabella is an inspiration. I am always so in awe of ballerinas’ muscles!

  27. Her own photos are gorgeous, I wish I could get them as prints! I’ve loved the Ballerina Project for a long time but those prints are unfortunately out of my price range :/

    • Elizabeth R says...

      There is a coffee table book now, Kwu! Not the exact same, but you could still frame them!

    • Leah says...

      Love seeing a beautiful woman with muscles and confidence.

  28. I just LOVE ballet dancers so much, so this glimpse behind the curtain was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing. :)

  29. Ana D says...

    The photography is breathtaking. She’s an incredible subject, but dear god. These images are astonishing.

  30. Anonygirl says...

    This is so good. I’ve been lightly obsessed with ballet since I saw Center Stage (that film is obviously not the best example of ballet. I suspect they took a lot of creative license in that film).

    • alexis says...

      Loooooove that movie! It was my comfort food in college. I was so excited when I ran into the dancer who plays Charlie in an elevator one day!

  31. Nigerian Girl says...

    What a phenomenal woman. And that last quote on beauty and kindness is everything. So powerful and so true. Ballerinas are amazing though. How do you guys just stand on your toes like it’s nothing? This is undoubtedly one of my favourites in this series so far. Ballet, beauty and swans. What’s not to love?

  32. Kari says...

    I love that her muscles are on full display. People generally think of ballerinas as thin and wispy, when in reality, they are JACKED. Dancers are such powerful athletes.

  33. Lisa says...

    Thank you for the wonderful article! You asked about dyes without chemicals – I just discovered Sweep Balayage Bar here in Boulder, CO. They carry Oway products and use them. From my understanding, the hair dyes are natural. I purchased a shampoo, conditioner, and styling products and really love them (no synthetic fragrances!). I have an upcoming appointment and look forward to learning more about the hair coloring process.
    https://www.simplyorganicbeauty.com/organic-salon-products/oway/
    https://www.sweepbalayagebar.com/about-1

  34. Elle says...

    The question of safe hair color is so important! As someone who colors at home, every six weeks or so, I’m torn between risking my health and covering my gray roots. I don’t think there’s a safe, or even “safer” “healthy” hair color option for sale at Whole Foods, etc. The “natural, organic” ones still contain the same chemicals that are considered unsafe. That leaves henna, which is often a very artificial look. I’m just not ready to go gray yet, especially since my gray is dark salt-and-pepper and not silvery or pretty. A story on safe ways to color gray hair would be much appreciated!

    • Elliesee says...

      I’m happy with a colouring shampoo, control GX Just for men (why is it easy for them?). I don’t know what is in it, but I shower with gloves and don’t have to go to the hairdresser anymore except for a cut.

    • I use henna (100% pure henna made for skin, not just any “henna” hair product because some of those include other very unhealthy things) since it’s safe, but it’s only one color (and looks different on each person, depending on the starting natural color).

    • mado says...

      Mehandi.com has kits that mix pure henna and indigo to get different brown shades of you don’t like the red look of henna. They also have lots of reading material so you can really understand the process and pick a mix that’s right for you!

  35. ashley says...

    thanks for this. i never comment but this was just so nice to read. my daughter (8), has dreamt of becoming a ballerina since she was 2 and I immediately wanted to share this post and the beautiful pictures with her when I started reading it…but then the last question and her response about beauty and kindness…wow. exactly!! thank you!

  36. Cynthia says...

    I really enjoyed this post. She is beautiful inside and out.

  37. Megan from Canada says...

    Hi!! Lovely post! I just wanted to say that I have a friend who uses henna hair dyes from Lush. She naturally has blondish-brownish hair and her hair is a beautiful vibrant red with the dye (I thought she was a red head when I first met her!). I think they come in different shades. Have a great day!

    • I thought of this too-the henna is mixed with coconut it oil and coffee and other good things and they have dark brown 😊

  38. Ro says...

    Wow, she’s an inspiration! As someone who’s getting pretty toned these days due to a new demanding job, as well as trips to the gym, it’s nice to see her muscles on full display. I hate when women are discouraged from becoming “too toned.” What does that even mean? And why would that be a bad thing? Her lifestyle makes me want to own it and show it off.

  39. ooo i’m going to try that anastasia brow gel, as soon as my benefit one is gone. also AHHH that whole outfit with the striped legwarmers (✿ ♥‿♥)

  40. Meredith says...

    “They way people look changes when you get to know them, and kindness goes a long way in making someone appear beautiful.” So much this!!! What a great outlook. Perfect encouragement to invest more in my heart and attitude than in expensive makeup and other external “fixes.”

  41. Kaitlyn says...

    I absolutely second this idea! I know my partner would absolutely love to see some men’s fashion inspiration. He’s on a quest to be a “funkier” dresser and it’d be fun to read the same thing!

  42. Jessica says...

    That photo in the locker room with the white leotard, wowzer! So beautiful and strong.

  43. Laura says...

    I really liked that this one combined insight into a very cool and rare profession, personal philosophy/ wisdom and actual beauty talk with product mentions. Thank you!!

  44. Lana says...

    Love this beauty uniform and am a big fan of Isabella! I DO have a recommendation for a great, less-chemically hair color…Surya Brasil Henna Cream! It comes in a wide range of colors and acts like a deep conditioning and shining treatment as well as a hair color. My hair is so soft and healthy after using it! It’s a 3 on EWG as opposed to a 6 or 7 for some other boxed hair colors. Getting the color right can be a little tricky, since the color is only printed on the box, and I don’t think it’s always super accurate. I’ve learned over the years that for me, I get the best results by mixing two of the colors (dark brown and cool blonde), and having two bottles mixed together works better for my long, thick hair. Truly a great product that I have kept coming back to for many years.

  45. I always look forward to beauty uniforms and this one was no exception!! Just one quick typo, it says they instead of the in this line – “They way people look changes when you get to know them”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, cherry!

  46. f says...

    “They way people look changes when you get to know them, and kindness goes a long way in making someone appear beautiful.” This is so true!

  47. Alec says...

    Super duper important question – what jeans is she wearing in the first photo that let her do that move? They look SUPER flexible and comfy and I need them!

    • Fiona says...

      I came to ask the same thing! they look the ideal pant!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask her!

    • kristina says...

      They look like Skulptek from Athleta. If they aren’t those, that would be an option. They look like normal jeans, but have that stretch/flexibility, and are very comfortable. I have 2 pairs and love them.

    • I was wondering if they might be Yoga Jeans… I know they are flexible enough to dance in, based on a video I saw of a dancer dancing in them…

  48. Susan says...

    I LOVE HER! (Sorry if that came across as crazy..)

    • Elizabeth says...

      SAMES!

      minorly stalked her for years. nearly squealed in the office when i saw her name pop up.

  49. Jessie says...

    Hi CoJ, as a long-time reader I really enjoy your blog & the increased diversity in these beauty & style uniform posts. I’m hoping that in the future, you can spotlight a disabled person (or person with disabilities, depending if one prefers person-first language).
    Perhaps I haven’t looked far back enough in the archives, but I don’t recall a disabled person being spotlighted? Of course, maybe they were & either had an invisible disability or chose not to disclose it. Anyway, I just think it would be great to include those who are not able bodied. Thank you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! we have one coming up shortly and i’m excited to share. it’s long overdue. thank you so much for your thoughtful note, jessie.

  50. Cecily says...

    I love her so much! As someone with no dancing abilities I find so much joy following her and other members of ABT on Instagram!

  51. Kate says...

    “They way people look changes when you get to know them, and kindness goes a long way in making someone appear beautiful.” This is so true!

    • Holly says...

      Totally agree!

      Love this post! Thanks for sharing Isabella!

  52. Raquel says...

    So happy to see her here! I am an amateur ballerina and a huge fan of Isabella.

  53. Amy says...

    A cool lady with a very sound outlook!

  54. Helen says...

    Love this one!! Such a fan. Wondering if Cup of Jo could do some beauty uniforms by men? My husband and I would love some ideas on what guys are wearing and how to translate that to everyday life. He recently became a school librarian and we were like, what DO male school librarians wear?! (Also hoping for some gift inspiration!)

    • Heather says...

      Helen,
      This is SUCH a great idea! Thank you for putting that out there. I would very much love to read that series too! (I think Joanna’s husband, Alex, was Featured on one.) It could give wonderful insight for us into men and how they think of beauty/self-care/self-esteem/what they consider to be there “flair”.

      Have a great day, on purpose,
      Heather

    • Erin says...

      Oh my gosh, yes, this is the best idea!!!

    • Sophia F. says...

      I’d also love some gender-diverse beauty uniforms. What does personal beauty look like for a man, trans woman/man, non binary person? How do you find your own sense of beauty in a world with proscribed norms? CoJ makes big efforts toward racial and body diversity, and I’d be really interested to see this expanded to gender :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you, helen! we’d love to do some men and will start scouting some great guys with strong opinions on beauty/style :) we did alex’s last year, in case you’re interested!
      https://cupofjo.com/2018/04/alex-williams-beauty-uniform/

    • Taylor says...

      Probably anyone else, but her husband.

  55. Louise says...

    Love hearing that she uses Jordan Samuels. His After Show Sensitive cleanser has transformed my dry skin.