How to Paint Mexican Sugar Skull Makeup

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Día de los Muertos

It’s the time of the year when pumpkins grace the entrances to homes and ghoulish figures hang in the windows. Halloween and Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) share the same season, but they are not the same holiday. Día de los Muertos, a Latin American custom, honors the lives of the dead through food and festivals. Calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls) are iconic decorations and costumes during Día de los Muertos. This can be seen in Disney’s Coco, where a boy explores the Land of the Dead. The colorful scenes in the movie display the humor and beauty of sugar skull makeup. It is important to respect the Mexican tradition by not making the makeup spooky or scary, like many Halloween costumes.



Face Painting

If you want to avoid the one-size fits all costumes this Halloween then try Mexican sugar skull makeup. There are two main types of body paints: water activated and alcohol activated. I recommend using water activated paints because they are opaque, have maximum coverage, and dry quickly. Beware, water activated paints will smear and run when they come in contact with water. Also start with light colors first and then add darker colors on top.

8 Steps to Sugar Skull Makeup

ONE: Start with a clean face free of any oil, dirt, or makeup.

TWO: Cover your face, mouth, and ears with a thin layer of white paint to give the chalky appearance of a skull. Use a makeup sponge for a smooth application. Do not apply white paint around the eyes, including the eyebrows.

THREE: Fill in the area around your eyes with black paint, including your eyebrows.

Tip: For better eyebrow coverage, first cover them using an Elmer’s glue stick and then reapply the black paint. If you vaguely resemble Harry Potter‘s Voldemort then you’ve done it right.

FOUR: Cover the tip of your nose and nostrils with black paint to create a pear shape.

Tip: Clean your brushes and sponges between each paint application or your skull makeup could turn into an unusual gray face mask. 

FIVE: For your mouth, use a thin brush to paint black lines from the middle of your cheeks to the corners of your mouth. 

SIX: To imitate teeth, paint thin black lines vertically across the lips and space the lines an inch apart.

SEVEN: Choose your favorite color or colors to paint half circles along the perimeter of the black circles that surround your eyes. The half circles will imitate a simple floral design.

EIGHT: Personalize your sugar skull makeup with added color, lines, rhinestones, or designs on the chin, forehead, and cheeks.

Quote Source: George Eliot, Adam Bede, 1859.

Aaron Pierce

Aaron Pierce calls New Jersey home. But he is currently a Southern California based artist and ballroom dance instructor. Aaron has a Bachelors of Arts in Art History from Utah Valley University. He focused on Nineteenth Century European painting. Currently, he is finishing a masters degree in Museum Studies from the Harvard Extension School.

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