Why Sugar Skull Makeup is Used to Celebrate the Day of the Dead


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One of the most popular types of face painting we are asked for is sugar skull makeup. Traditionally used to celebrate
Día de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, sugar skull makeup is painted upon the faces of the living in memory of relatives passed.

The Day of the Dead occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November each year and is believed to be the time when spirits visit their families on earth. It is often confused with Halloween and Cinco De Mayo, which is the remembrance of the Mexican army’s victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla.

While the theme of this two-day event is death, it’s not meant to be a sad or scary time. In fact, it’s a time of celebrating those who have died through dressing up, wearing sugar skull makeup and making offerings of your loved one’s favourite things. But why exactly are sugar skulls used to celebrate the Day of the Dead? Let’s find out!

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Why is Sugar Skull Makeup Used for Día de los Muertos?

For several thousand years, relatives have met at the graves of their loved ones at midnight on 31st October. They would bring skulls shaped out of clay and white sugar to these graves. The skulls were decorated with shells, feathers, beads and icing. Each skull would be placed on an altar by the grave, along with the deceased’s favourite things. This would help guide them back to earth for this two-day celebration with their families. We’ve even found a recipe if you’d like to make your own sugar skulls.

Like most celebrations, the Day of the Dead has evolved through generations. Sugar skulls are now seen as images in paintings, on clothing, as ornaments and as a makeup style. This is why you will often see people wearing sugar skull makeup during these two days.

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Key Characteristics of Makeup Designs Featuring Sugar Skulls

When we design sugar skulls on our client’s faces, there are several characteristics we try to incorporate. They are:

  • White base over the face
  • Highlighting around the eyes, with details such as flowers or foliage
  • Sunken cheekbones
  • No nose, as skulls don’t have one
  • Lots of teeth!

Of course, we’re open to your interpretations too! To book our services at your Day of the Dead event, contact us today!

2018-04-27T17:29:38+00:00 1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Jackie April 27, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Wow! I never knew the history behind the use of sugar skull makeup! Thanks for sharing.

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