Is there a single other night as fun as Halloween? On that one special night all of society’s normal rules are suspended. Fantasy becomes reality and everyone can become the hero of myth. Historically, Halloween has been seen by many religions to be the turning point between one year and the next, a night when the veils that mask this world from the next are thin. One of the few pre-history traditions that remain today, it is when we get to become the stuff of our own fears.
Halloween costumes go hand-in-hand with the occasion because they allow us to set up that whole feeling of I-can-believe … for a night. Even the world’s greatest costume can be made that much better with really good Halloween makeup. When you transform your features into a greusome mask that’s beyond recognition, it’s easy to pretend that you’re someone – or something – else for the night.
Halloween Makeup Safety
Let’s face it – Halloween will be no fun at all if you’re suffering a burning rash or swollen eyelids from the costume paint. Before we tackle the tips on how to make yourself look as much unlike you as possible, let’s look at a few basic safety precautions.
1. Read the Labels – Definitely follow the directions on the label, because some Halloween makeup isn’t as common-sense as you’d think. If the label says not to use near the eyes, believe it. Even if the packaging shows people wearing the makup near their eyes, it can cause huge problems.
2. Use as Intended – Never decorate your face with things that aren’t made for your skin. This is a common problem when people use face decals like crystals or bindis. Only use glues that are made for the skin – not acrylic nail glue, craft glue, or even Elmer’s.
3. Skin Test – If you’re using a costume paint you’ve never used before, perform a skin test a couple of days before Halloween. To do a skin test, just dab a bit of the paint on the inside of your arm and leave it alone. If you don’t have an allergic reaction within an hour or two, you’re probably safe.
4. No Flame – Never use Halloween makeup or any powders (baby powder is great for costume paint) around open flame. It will ignite.
5. Don’t mix – Never mix different types of makeup. If you need layers, do layers. Don’t try to blend the paints before placing them on your face.
6. Clean Up – Don’t wear your costume paint to bed. After the party’s over, carefully wash your skin with a mild soap and warm water until all traces of the makeup are gone. Leaving it on for an extended period of time can cause nasty side-effects.
If you follow all these steps and still have a reaction to the costume paint you chose, please report it to the FDA. They keep track of which makeup causes reactions so that if a number of people are suffering the same problems the product can be recalled. Call FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) Adverse Event Reporting System (CAERS) by phone at 301-436-2405 or by email at CAERS@cfsan.fda.gov.
Halloween Makeup Preparation
Did you read the safety tips? If not, please do! If yes, then you’ve already done a skin test. Any reaction to makeup will happen within an hour or two of performing a skin test – if you have one, clean the spot well and apply a hydrocortisone cream. If not, you’re good to continue on.
The first major thing to tackle is whether you need to put your makeup on before or after putting the costume on. This can be tricky – on the one hand, bulky clothing will streak your makeup if you put them on after the paint has been applied. On the other hand, makeup is messy and you might get costume paint on your wonderful outfit if you put it on before painting. Use your best judgement.
When it’s time to apply the makeup, you need to start with a clean canvas. Wash your face well with a mild soap and follow it up with an astringent. Using astringent will remove facial oils that can cause costume paint to smear or not set right. With your face all clean and fresh, you might want to use a very thin (very, very thin!) layer of vaseline on any area that makeup will be applied. This does two things: first, it helps prevent any reaction. Second, it will make washing the makeup off easier.
If you’re going to be adding things like scars, a nose, or warts … now is the time to do it. The gum that’s included with these things will stick to a clean face much better than it will stick to makeup.
The final preparation step is to apply a layer of foundation makeup. Use a color of costume paint for foundation that works for the look you want to end up with. If you’re going for a gothic or vampire look, start with white. Gray is for corpses, red for devils, green for witches and goblins, blue for a frozen look. Use a sponge wedge to dab the foundation layer over your face, and a clean side to lightly rub it in. This isn’t going to look smooth and flawless – you’ll still see bits of your skin tone showing through – but that’s not the point. The point is to get a coat that can be built on.
Picture-Perfect Halloween Makeup Finishing
Before you add layers of paint, make sure that the previous layer if completely dry. Use a hair dryer on air-only (no heat) setting to speed up the process if you want. This is the only way you’re going to get a really flawless finished effect. Each layer that you paint on, then, will help conceal your original skin tone and add to the Halloween transformation.
Which effects you employ will depend on the look you’re going for. Here are some tips to get you going:
- Texture – Using different tools will let you achieve different texture effects with your makeup. A sponge wedge loaded with paint will give a smooth, almost porcelain appearance. Using a brush in a stencil-like dappling motion will add an uneven texture that’s great for shadow and highlight. Experiment a bit – face paint can always be washed off if you don’t like what you’ve done.
- Shadowing – All of the best makeup will use shadows. Most of the popular Halloween makeup is ghoulish – witches, corpses, vampires … it emphasizes death in some form. Shine a flashlight at various angles on your face to find lines, shadow areas, and sunken spots that you can play up with a darker shade of your main color.
- Highlighting – If there’s shadow, there’s light. The places to highlight are the ones most likely to pick up shine when hit by a light. Cheekbones, the area between your eyelid and eyebrows, the tip of your nose, your lips, and your forehead are definites. Dark characters like corpses and witches will need wrinkles well-highlighted.
- Setting – Once you’ve finished your amazing look, you’re going to want to make sure it stays on until you wash it off. There are a lot of products that you can buy to set the makeup, but none of them work as well as simple baby powder. Use a large blush brush to dust baby powder over the entire area that you have costume paint on – you can reapeat this once or twice throughout the night, but you shouldn’t need to. The powder removes a lot of the excess moisture and as long as you’ve allowed the layers to dry between application, you’re good to go!