Halloween makeup can be a nightmare.
As much as I wish I could say I’ve thrilled and dazzled fellow party guests with life-like artistry, I’ve never gotten anywhere close to that point.
When I was growing up, my family had a “Halloween bag,” comprised of old costumes we reused every year. Some of the pieces had been in trick-or-treat rotation for decades.
With a lack of variety in garments, we experimented with makeup to put a fresh twist on our costumes. The results ranged from passable to comical fails. We once attempted to cover my face with pancake batter to simulate a bumpy witch complexion. It cracked and peeled off through the night. The real horror was it looked like I simply suffered from extremely dry skin.
But creating a realistic Halloween face with common household items is not as hard as it seems, proven by the work local amateur makeup artist Brittany Rowles showcases on her instagram, @letsget_sp00ky.
Rowles has experimented with off-beat, gory makeup for seven years. She’s helped create terrifying faces at North Coast haunted houses and agreed to share a tutorial for Coast Weekend readers.
Building a base
The tools Rowles uses are inexpensive, easily accessible and nonconventional.
“Sometimes I’ll see something at the thrift store or around the house and think, ‘That would look cool in my face, or that would look great with blood on it,’” Rowles laughed.
I offered up my own face for a demonstration, and Rowles decided to create a deep head gash, a process that took about 35 minutes to complete.
She began with the one ingredient she said is essential for any realistic horror effect, liquid latex. It can be found in large retail stores on the North Coast, and there are DIY recipes you can make at home with a few ingredients from the kitchen.
“I use latex in everything I do, every project,” said Rowles.
While painting a thin coat of liquid latex on my face with a sponge, she instructed me that the key is to build up several layers to build dimension. However, this process takes time. Each layer must be dry before the next is applied.
“You don’t want it wet underneath, you won’t be able to pull it back,” said Rowles. “It will just fall apart in the end.”
She applied four to five thin layers across my forehead where she planned to create the gash, creating a base wider and taller than the intended gash to ensure stability. Once the layers on my forehead were dry, Rowles covered the latex with a skin-tone liquid foundation.
Then, it was time to create the gore. She used a pair of sharp tweezers to carefully puncture a hole in the latex, then grabbed a miniature pair of scissors, similar to what you might find in a manicure kit, to cut a gash. Careful to preserve the flaps of “skin,” she flipped them open and anchored them in place with a touch of liquid latex. The next step was adding color and dimension with a cream makeup palette and powder eyeshadow or blush.
Making it look real
“I’m going underneath the edge of the wound to give it more depth,” she said. “I’ll start with the black and the red makes it pop more, makes it look deep.”
Rowles used only three colors to create a lifelike gash on my head. She finished it off with a touch of petroleum jelly, and gel synthetic blood. To see exactly how she created the life-like effect, visit the Coast Weekend Facebook page for a full video tutorial.
For more intricate designs, Rowles enjoys incorporating household items into her costumes.
She’ll use glycerin or gelatin to create a texture that will stick to her face for an entire night. Pantyhose builds a base for designs that cover one eye for a sunken, missing eyeball effect. Acrylic nails become teeth when she uses a dark color to conceal her real mouth and create an exaggerated smile. Masking tape or twine can add texture to create an exposed tendon effect.
She swears on using inexpensive pigments for any design, no matter how terrifying.
“I can get eye shadow, eyeliners, and blushes at Dollar Tree and little stores,” said Rowles. “I go for cheap and accessible. I get gelatin all year long at grocery stores, and glycerin I get at pharmacies. I like to use things that anybody that can get access to.”
Create a look that will last
Her strongest piece of advice is to plan ahead. She says the easiest way to ruin a design is by not giving yourself enough time to let the latex dry. She’ll budget up to two hours for more complicated Halloween looks.
Rowles also warns to make make sure whatever you create is comfortable enough to be worn for an extended period of time.
“I try to do pieces that are convenient and I can wear out for the day,” said Rowles. “I want to make sure if I do big pieces I can still make sure it’s still flexible or livable.”
Once the job is finished, you’re free to explore the North Coast with a gruesome new look. Rowles said she’s had all kinds of reactions to her work.
“Sometimes I’ll do a project and I’m like ‘I think I want to pick up McDonald’s,” she laughed. “It spooks people out.”