With the pandemic still under way, a lot of things look different right now, and you can add Halloween to that list. The CDC is advising against traditional trick-or-treating, crowded costume parties, and basically anything that you’d associate with Halloween, calling these activities “higher risk” for contracting and spreading COVID-19. But you don’t have to let that spoil all of your fun. You can still dress up — for a virtual party, or one with your roommates, or for Instagram. And since most Zoom calls happen from the waist up, doing a full face of Halloween makeup — like a vampire, or a dog, or even Bert and Ernie — saves you the trouble of putting on a whole costume.
But you shouldn’t just put anything on your face. Using the wrong products, like lower-priced makeup or even literal paint, can cause irritation and dryness that, depending on your skin type, could take a while to clear up. So, to find the best skin-friendly options, we asked four special-effects makeup artists — including a kids’ specialist and a full-body statue-style painter — for their top picks. And if you’re worried about taking it off at the end of the night, check out our roundup of the best makeup remover.
Nearly every makeup artist we spoke with mentioned Mehron Liquid Makeup, a professional-quality product that is “user friendly and performs very well,” as special-effects makeup artist Elly Supalo puts it. “With water-based makeup, once it’s dry, it’s set,” says Morgan Wells, founder of Jane Doe Makeup. She likes that Mehron’s paints, unlike some cheaper alternatives, are free of any alcohol-based ingredients, which, she says, “will dry out your skin more than any other makeup.” The colors are also buildable, so you can add as many layers as you need to get the perfect shade.
If you don’t want to mess with liquid makeup, you can try this palette, which also comes from Mehron. Supalo particularly likes this because it’s “very vibrant” when you apply it. Wells likes it too because it works for everyone, “from body painters to clowns and pro makeup artists.” And because the paints easily wash off with water, Wells likes that “you walk away from the night with your face intact and not left with 50,000 colors when you ‘remove’ it.”
Ben Nye Sr. worked as a stage makeup artist for 20th Century Fox, so when he founded his brand, he created it with stage and special-effects makeup artists in mind — so that means the makeup is particularly good for Halloween. His products are a touch more expensive than Mehron, but Supalo likes his Creme Palette because it’s “buildable upon application, which is great for blending into other colors.” To apply, she recommends using any makeup brushes — “or regular paintbrushes even” — and sponges. Then, once you’re done, apply some powder to make sure the paint won’t move.
If you’re going for gold (or silver, copper, or even metallic lavender) photographer and body painter Michael E. Allen likes Mehron’s powders for both detailing and bold, full-body looks. “It goes on dry [or] wet, and it stays,” he says. “I’ve never had any complaints from clients I’ve used it on.”
When it comes to children’s sensitive skin, Stacy Chen, artist and co-founder of kids’ face-painting company Silly Cheeks, cautions that “parents should avoid using markers or arts-and-craft paint that they already have at home. These are not meant to be used on the skin and have harsh chemicals.” Instead, she recommends choosing organic makeup, like these paints from Go Green, which are hypoallergenic, vegan, and free of fragrances and parabens.