Scary Halloween Makeup

The ancient Celts didn’t have scary Halloween makeup like we do, but they did use disguises to avoid detection by the Lord of the Dead during Samhain. Today, you will scare more people and win more friends, admiration, and costume contests if your Halloween costume looks realistic.

The more convincing you are, the better. There’s nothing worse having an excellent zombie costume, then blowing it because your hair is neat and you look too clean cut. That’s a dead giveaway, no pun intended. If you’re going to be a zombie, look like a zombie from head to toe. The more detail you go into, the better.

It is understandable in many cases that comfort wins out over realism. Some costumes can be hot, itchy or heavy. It makes perfect sense that you’d want to be able to sit down and mingle with the crowd at a party, or meet up with a beautiful young witch or seductive genie in a bar. That’s perfectly okay, but you may not win any awards. The best costumes are those that strike the perfect balance between being so real you actually believe it and being lame for comfort’s sake.

Soon, we’ll be posting some scary Halloween makeup pics and how to’s on different costumes, so stay tuned for that. But below are some helpful scary Halloween makeup tips that can help look authentic without having to spend a lot of time or money.

Greasepaint and Water-Based Makeup

Greasepaint is the age old standard used to create all kinds of special effects with your face and body. Water-based makeup is also available. There are upsides and downsides to each.

Greasepaint excels in the blendability department, which is very helpful for the amateur makeup artists. It also won’t wash away if you spill liquid on yourself, your eyes tear up or you sweat. The downside to greasepaint is that, as the name implies, it’s oil-based. It can feel heavy on your skin and a bit uncomfortable, so there are distinct tradeoffs. I think greasepaint is easiest to work with and creates the most realistic effects.

Application: For either type of scary Halloween makeup, it’s best to apply makeup with brushes and sponges which come in triangle wedges and rounds. Both of these items can be found just about anywhere, including drug stores, grocery stores, dollar stores and Walmart!  Use cotton balls and press powder into your work to finish it off and make it set. (Always dab, don’t rub.) When it comes to blending, use your brushes, sponges or even fingertips to achieve the effect you’re after.

Removal: Water-based makeup is easiest to remove (but that also means it doesn’t last as long) by using good old soap and water or your favorite facial cleanser.  Greasepaint is a little different. You’ll need cold cream or some other oil-based medium to remove it. Petroleum jelly can also work. Simply apply the cream or gel to your skin, then using tissue, gently wipe it away. Along with the cream comes the makeup and debris. Follow up with a thorough cleansing with your favorite facial cleanser. Your skin will feel soft and smooth afterwards.

A simple tip for makeup realism – remember this rule:

For every shadow, there must be a highlight. This is how to create wrinkles and other realistic effects with makeup. If you simply use black lines and draw them on your face, you will wind up looking like you have drawn lines on your face and little else. It is always necessary to draw a contrasting line along the darker line, then blend the two to soften. If you apply the lighter shade in a place where light would naturally reflect (usually on top, because lights are above), you will create very realistic looking wrinkles.

Ladies, you might already be familiar with this rule because you may use it when you apply blusher to the hollows of your cheeks and highlighter to eye shadow. The key to realism is blending. Practice blending using short dabs and strokes, rather than wiping or rubbing. Just dab along with your finger tip, sponge or brush. Before long, you will see how it works. Stand back from your work frequently to see it from afar. As you do this, you will begin to see the transformation take place. It is shocking the scary Halloween makeup effects you can create, even as an amateur!

Facial Hair, Bald Caps and Other Embellishments

Let’s say you want to be an old man. If you don’t have the right facial hair you may need to apply some. If you want to be bald and you have too much hair on your head, you’ll need to conceal it. The tip for applying both is to use spirit gum which can be applied with a brush or cotton swap (like a Q-tip). Be sure to get apply it properly so your prosthetic doesn’t pop off, as that certainly wouldn’t look real. Use spirit gum remover to take it off.  The same goes for those latex effects you can purchase, like burns, warts, gashes and massively hideous wounds! Use spirit gum to apply, make sure you get all the edges. There’s nothing more fake looking than seeing the square corner of a wound that is popping off your skin!

Wigs, Hats, Capes and Scarves

If you’re going to play the part of a pirate or have to change hair color or style for your costume, it’s important to hide your natural hair to make yourself look more authentic. Be sure to get yourself some hair pins to pull your real hair up and back. Those with long locks can tie them back in ponytails first, then use hair pins (also known as bobby pins) to manage the stray strands that tend to fall down. Once done, you can then put on your wig or hat and finish donning your costume.

There will be more coming to this scary Halloween makeup page, so bookmark it or subscribe to this site to catch all the latest arrivals!


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