Sugar skull makeup tutorial – best full and half face beauty tips, and how candy skull makeup is related to the Day of the Dead

DAY Of The Dead is a colourful Mexican holiday, during which people honour family and friends who’ve passed away.

You may have seen photographs of those celebrating sporting stunning sugar skull makeup looks. This is how they do it…

How do you create a full and half face sugar skull with makeup?

Each skull is slightly different, but WikiHow has outlined a few general tips:

  • Apply a white base to the whole face. Mexican-American makeup artist Judith Bautista (AKA Kahlovera) recommends water-based theatrical makeup, as it sets better than face paint.
  • Use a standing setting powder to set the base.
  • Draw circles around the eyes with an eyeliner pencil, liquid eyeliner or cream eyeshadow. Each circle should encompass the entire eye socket. Don’t worry if it’s messy – you can blend it later.
  • Apply mascara and black eyeliner to both eyes.
  • Blend eyeshadow up from the liner, filling in the circle from eyelashes to eyebrow. Then extend the shading around the bottom of the eye socket, filling the rest of the circle.
  • Add small dots around the outer edge of the circle, so that they slightly overlap.
  • Apply lipstick, then use black lip liner or eyeliner to draw a horizontal line across the middle of the lips. Draw small vertical lines through the horizontal line to complete the stitching of the mouth.
  • Use black paint or liquid eyeliner to emphasise the nose.
  • If you want extra features, draw on spiderwebs, crosses, hearts or flowers.
  • Worried you won’t be able to get an even finish? Follow the same steps on just one side of your face.

How is candy skull makeup related to the Day of the Dead?

Day of the Dead – or Dia de los Muertos – is a Mexican holiday that allows people to remember friends and family members who’ve died.

Taking place on the first two days of November, it falls at a similar time to Halloween – but has nothing to do with scares.

As Bautista tells Allure: “You’re celebrating that person like you would a birthday, with all the things they loved most.”

A calavera is a representation of a human skull, and Calavera de azucar – skull-shaped treats made from sugar paste and decorated with colourful patterns – are often used to adorn Day of the Dead altars.

The most famous calavera is La Calavera Catrina, a character invented by printmaker and engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada.


It’s important to stress that Day of the Dead isn’t the same as Halloween.

Bautista says she isn’t offended by other cultures wearing skull makeup, continuing: “Most people just want to look like cool skulls for the night, and I take the opportunity to share a bit of my culture with them.

“I explain that it’s a symbol of Dia de los Muertos, a completely different holiday.”

However, others have linked it to cultural appropriation.


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