College Cheerleading: Getting “The Look”

Being a cheerleader requires athleticism and looking good at the same time. To be a cheerleader means you are put on a platform to be the epitome of sportsmanship. With everyone looking at you, it’s only natural to want to look good while doing it.


I walked in to my college cheerleading tryout at the end of my senior year of high school with my hair pulled back in a pony tail and a braid in the front with what I considered normal makeup. I walked in treating it like a practice. I was actually surprised when the coach told everyone to come to the next day of tryouts “game-day ready!” This was an entirely new concept for me. Sure, I got ready for games in high school and put on makeup, but not much more than my everyday look.

FullSizeRenderSo what is this game-day look? It took me a while to master it. I still went through my first football season a little lost as far as dark eyeshadow and lipstick go. The picture to the right shows me before my first college football game. I was ecstatic! It was one of my favorite games I’ve ever cheered at. Everything was great and all, but I wasn’t as happy with the pictures I saw the next day. I just wasn’t wearing my makeup the right way.

No, this makeup certainly isn’t bad! For a college cheerleader though, it just isn’t enough. You have fans looking at you from the top of the bleachers. It’s the same concept as being on a stage, if you don’t accentuate your features, you’re going to look washed out. No cheerleader should just blend in!

285727_4321094779166_113560445_n There were so many pictures from games my freshman  year of college, where I would actually be shocked how my face turned out in them. I thought I was wearing a  lot of makeup, yet it looked like I had on none.

Eventually, a good friend of mine offered to do my makeup for a basketball game. That first look in the mirror was a big surprise when I saw how much dark eye makeup she put on me. I went with it for the day, feeling slightly self-conscious. My mom was at the game and she was taken aback by it too.

She said, “It’s a lot of makeup, but it looks really good!!” There was also picture evidence from the stands, and you could actually make out my features. I wasn’t a big washed out mess!

From that point on, I haven’t gone a game day without dark eye shadow. Yes, it is daunting. No, you shouldn’t be afraid to try it!


Here are my tips for getting your game-day and tryout look ready:

1. Practice makes perfect.

Come to tryouts with your hair and makeup game-day ready! Show the coaches and judges you’re ready to be on the sideline. You’ll probably find yourself up at the crack of dawn getting ready. You’re nervous, probably afraid to eat anything for fear of puking it up and don’t need any added stress to your morning. So don’t let this be the first time you put your makeup on “game-day-ready.” You practice your cheerleading skills, now practice those hair and makeup skills too!

2. Dark eyeshadow is your friend.

It is, really! It doesn’t have to be the blackest black in your palette, Dark browns work better for some skin tones.

For my examples, I’m using the Urban Decay palette, Naked.

For my everyday eye makeup I use Sin (1) on the inner lid. Next I use Naked (2) for the mid-lid. After that, depending on if I want a darker look, I may use Darkhorse (3) for the outter lid. If you don’t want the darker look continue with Naked (2) to the outer lid. The finishing touch is Buck (4) for my crease and to blend the colors together. You can’t forget to use a highlighting color like Virgin (5) to blend everything above your brow bone.

Naked eye look 1

For my game-day look, I begin with Sidecar (1) in the inner lid. Next, I’ll take Gunmetal (2) for the mid-lid and lightly in the crease. For the outer lid, I use Creep (3) and also blend it in with the crease. It’s important not to start off super dark with Creep because it is such a pigmented color. Instead, start off light and build up from there. Finish it off with Sin (4) to highlight your brow bone and blend. Finish off the look with eyeliner on top and bottom and mascara.

Naked eye look 2

You can see examples of this game-day look in tip #5!

3. Find a lipstick that compliments you!

Fire engine red is not for everyone. In fact, it’s not even for me. It’s important to find a shade that you feel confident in! Most young women tend to stay with a very light, nude colored lip, which is okay sometimes, but not here! If you really don’t want to go the red route, I suggest a berry color or darker natural nude. Lips are necessary! Find a makeup counter at your local department store and ask for help finding just the right shade to work with your skintone. I used to hate lipstick and felt weird wearing it. Now, I love it. It’s all about confidence.


4. Wear your hair appropriate for the team you’re trying out for.

IMG_2513Some schools wear giant, competition-style cheerleading bows on top of their heads. Other teams wear smaller bows with a pony tail. Some teams just wear ribbons tied in a bow. For my team at App State, we wear our hair pulled back, half-up/half-down and with the bow in the middle of the back of our heads (pictured to the right).

Going to the tryout wearing a different bow than what the team normally wears won’t make or break your chances, but if you want to look like you belong on their team, do your research! Most cheerleading teams are on social media. Check them out and see how their cheerleaders wear their hair. Is it all pulled up? Half-up/half-down? Big or small bow? Where is the bow placed and what way is it facing? Make yourself out to be the best candidate for their team!

5. Use a setting spray for your makeup!

My Urban Decay Makeup Setting Spray has been a life saver! I never knew what I had been missing. It’s helped me through many long days of tailgating, pre-game, warm-ups and three hour long football games. It’s like hairspray for your face (without using actual hairspray. We’ve all tried it, right?).

I’ve got the picture evidence right  here. This was an away game in early  September in Mississippi, before on the left and after the game on the  right. It was 91 degrees during our warm-ups and we were hot! My  makeup lasted through that and the whole game, even on the plane ride  home.

IMG_0187 2IMG_0183

6. Go in to your tryout with confidence and a positive attitude!

Nothing will hurt you more than your own attitude. Be ready to learn and critiqued! Take in as much information as you can. You will stunt with a lot of people, be moved around from group to group or partner to partner. Keep an open mind and trust your skills! All you can do at this point is show them how you’re the best cheerleader for their program!


I still get butterflies in my stomach thinking about my first college tryout. Nothing had ever been so exciting as seeing my number on that list posted on the door. It’s a moment I’ll never forget because it has led me to the most incredible college experience that very few get to have!

Here are examples of good game-day makeup from over the years from me and my friends.


Best of luck to you at your college cheerleading tryout!

7 thoughts on “College Cheerleading: Getting “The Look”

  1. I love my naked eye pallet but I use it the same way everyday! It was nice to see how you use yours multiple ways, I need to work on that! Loved reading about how your makeup techniques have evolved with cheerleading and knowing what works and what doesn’t. I think that is so important!


  2. I love the examples of how to use the naked eye palette. Like Caroline, I have one, but I use it the same way everyday. I used to be a dancer, and the stage always had really harsh light, so we had to wear darker makeup. Once I stopped dancing, I barely wore any makeup because I was so tired of having to put it on and then the time it took to take it off at night. I like the suggestions of the darker eye shadow because that is a simple way to change up a look.


  3. Wow, that is a lot of work! But worth it, you look great. I love my Naked 2 palette and have considered getting a regular Naked Palette – do you think it’s worth it??


    • I love my Naked palette! I think it’s the perfect mix of colors for almost any skin type. I don’t have Naked 2, but my mom does. I know it has darker colors than the original Naked, so if you’re up for playing around with colors a little lighter than what you have with Naked 2, I say absolutely it is worth it! I’ve gotten two years of use out of it and definitely plan to repurchase it on the sad day that it runs out.


  4. I cheered my whole life up until college because I decided i wanted to try other things but i do remember game day makeup as well as makeup for competitions (very different) and i always kind of hated how much i had to wear and how long it took to put it all on but i love urban decay and i definitely agree that your look has evolved really well for game days.


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