Dia de Muertos is a most special holiday in that it honors those who’ve passed—and the importance of death in the life cycle—with gorgeous, time-honored celebratory rituals. Per the Mexican holiday, the dead are awakened from their states to join their loved ones in revelry.
Calaveras, or skulls, are the primary symbol of the holiday and appear in a slew of Dia de Muertos traditions—from sugar skulls to paintings on wood panels and delicate wire-and-glitter sculptures, to face painting.
It’s not very hard to apply Calavera-inspired makeup—and we’ve broken it down into four steps that you can find below. The makeup is an approximation of sugar skull, so imperfections are okay. Life and death are imperfect, and Calavera makeup is a reminder of this— so it’s even more beautiful when the paint is slightly messy and unique.
Face: Use a large, flat paintbrush to apply white face paint or matte white face powder mixed with a bit of water onto the entirety of your face, including your lips. If you use makeup, you’ll need to set it with a translucent finishing powder. To create the illusion of skull-like depth, use a contouring brush or a powder brush to apply a shadow to the area under your cheekbones and on the side of your eyes. For an extra-spooky touch, also apply touches of eye shadow under your nose and eyes. Next, use a black eyeliner or face paint to fill in the tip of your nose. Skulls look as though they have upside-down, hollow hearts for noses, so finish your new nose with an upwards facing point.
Eyes: Using a nude pencil, outline the area that will represent your eye sockets. Calavera eyes should begin above your eyebrows and drop down to about 3/4 of an inch below your eye. Next, use a flatbrush and black (or dark purple, navy, or maroon) pigment to fill in the entire area—eyelids included. You can use a powder eyeshadow mixed with a bit of water, a creamy liner or shadow, or face paint for this step. If you want to enhance your real eyes, apply fake eyelashes. We prefer a subtle lash line because it accentuates the effect of the painted eye.
Mouth: Using a thin paintbrush or liquid eyeliner, apply a thin black line that drags across the center of both your lips. Extend the line outwards from the corners of your mouth, so that your mouth looks extremely long and thin. To add teeth, draw small dividing lines that extend from the thin center line to the bottom and top of your lips.
Embellishment: This part is the most fun. Use small paint brushes and face paint (or any colorful makeup: eyeshadow, bronzer, blush, etc.) to draw designs. Traditional designs include flower petals around the black of the eye, small dots, spiderwebs, and swirls. You can also apply gemstones using eyelash glue, tweezers, and a steady hand.
Easy enough, right? Watch this video by makeup artist Shonagh Scott for re-enforcement.