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What is a Makeup Mask?

By Pamela Pleasant
Updated May 17, 2024
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A makeup mask is a mask created by make up artists using theatrical makeup. The face is used as a canvas and a design can be painted onto it. These designs can be used for a Halloween mask, or masquerade party, or they can be used to enhance a certain area of the face. A makeup mask can also be made to conceal an identity. These types of masks have been used for thousands of years, for a variety of reasons.

One of the first times a makeup mask was ever used was in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians used kohl, burnt almonds, lead, and cooper to apply these masks. It was thought that wearing them would help to improve certain bodily functions. It was believed that makeup used on or around the eyes could sharpen vision and also ward off evil spirits. During this time period, many other countries also started using makeup.

In early Greece and Rome, a makeup mask could be used to enhance the natural beauty of a woman. in ancient Roman, slave women developed makeup called cosmetae, which is the origin for the word cosmetic. African women and men used henna and kohl to enhance looks and for spiritual rituals. In China and Japan, cosmetics were used to identify a person's social ranking. A Japanese geisha could be identified by wearing a thick, rice-based face powder and a safflower-based lip preparation.

Theater and movie productions can be enhanced when actors wear a makeup mask. For example, if the main characters are vampires, a makeup mask will be used to create a look of extremely white skin. Darkened veins may also be painted on the face to make it seem more transparent. If a character has just been in a fight or sustained injuries during an incident, bruising as well as black and blue areas can be created on the face, neck, or arms. When a bruise appears to be swollen or elevated, the look is actually created by a combination of plastic prosthetics and makeup.

Face painting or a makeup mask is considered an art form. The face can be altered to look like a particular animal’s face or to portray a certain culture or ethnic background. A face can be transformed to look extremely beautiful and youthful or it can be changed to look wrinkled or older. Makeup artists can even make a face appear to be either good or evil, using a makeup mask.

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Discussion Comments
By Saraq90 — On Nov 06, 2011

Makeup masks are a creative way to have fun and express your artsy side.

I think considering this country, America, has a certain amount of fakeness to it, so we should at least make fake more personalized and different by re-introducing the once popular trend of face painting for beautification purposes.

I think it would be fun to see people walking around with a makeup mask.

It would also be a lot more dangerous though, so I maybe it isn't a good idea. I am sure people would take advantage of wearing a makeup mask to do things that are mean and/or against the law.

This could be especially dangerous if people who committed very vicious crimes painted their entire face. If they were very calculated in what they did, and there was no evidence that they left behind, they could get away with their crimes.

By runner101 — On Nov 06, 2011

It is pretty cool to use your face as a blank canvas. It truly is a beautiful art form and art medium. People really can create something out-of-this-world with facial paint. You can make any performance so much better if you have the money to hire a great makeup artist.

Not only can facial makeup turn you into a certain character, it can also help make certain unbelievable situations look real, like how a person’s face would look after a car accident or being hit by a bullet. Even something like pregnancy can be portrayed better by having the face look more glowing and supple.

Facial makeup can be fun to put on for special occasions as well. I do not wear makeup on a regular basis, so I really have fun putting on at least mascara and eye shadow for special occasions and special nights out. I would probably have fun putting on other makeup too, like blush and bronzer, but I honestly do not know the proper way to apply such things.

By amysamp — On Nov 05, 2011

I painted a partial makeup mask for my Halloween costume this year. I decided to be an angel, but I didn't want to look like every other angel I see dressed up on Halloween. So I figured painting my face would be a good way to turn myself into an original angel.

I started my partial facial mask by using one of those cheap paint pencils in white to go around my eyes. Then I went over the white on my eye lids with a metallic blue color. This made me look serene. I then made a pretty design going from my eye to the bottom of my cheek. I painted the top part light metallic blue and left the bottom part white.

It seemed like I needed a little more pizazz, so I added a royal blue to my top lids in small dobs of color, making it look almost polka-dotted. Then I applied face glitter all over my face, so I truly would be sparkling. For an inexperienced person, I feel I did a good job making my original angel look complete with face paint and just a few other accessories.

By sunshined — On Nov 05, 2011

I have been involved in community theater for many years, and never ceased to be amazed at what a good cosmetic artist can do.

Someone who really knows what they are doing can create something that is as intricate or simple as you want it to be.

Some of the most dramatic masks involve the eyes and this seems to be the area of face that is used most creatively when creating a makeup mask.

You get used to having having makeup applied and taken off, but sometimes it seems like it takes them a long time to create a mask for just one show.

By Eviemae — On Nov 04, 2011

Makeup is nothing new, and the way that it is applied has changed many times over the course of centuries. However, nothing kills me more than when I see a girl with so much makeup on that she doesn’t even look like herself!

There are times when makeup enhancement is a great idea – heck, I like to use it to cover up blemishes and the like myself. It’s just that some people really don’t know how to use it, and apparently can’t see what they really look like in the mirror.

I’m not talking about people out to make a statement, like a Goth chick. I’m talking about people who want to look gorgeous when they’re finished with their makeup, but come off looking fake.

It’s really easy to do – I used to do it myself. Applying makeup, even for everyday wear, is truly an art. A person needs to know what colors they need and how to apply all of the different makeup necessities.

Those who don’t know how to put it on can almost definitely find help at their local beauticians!

By dimpley — On Nov 04, 2011

@whiteplane – I feel your pain, honey! Last year, my daughter wanted to be a witch. She elaborated, however, that she wanted to be the, “…really mean, scary kind, momma!” Fortunately for her, I’ve had years of experience working with theatrical makeup!

I had an old makeup kit with tons of professional products, but I also had some other tricks up my sleeve! (One good thing about stage makeup is that it lasts for about a million years if kept in a cool place.)

I got out my liquid latex, flour, coffee grounds, wax putty, fake hair and spirit gum. I made some pieces to make a hairy wart on her nose with the latex, hair and wax then applied it with the gum.

I also made her face look incredibly wrinkled and withered by applying the liquid latex and toilet tissue.

Over this, I applied the flour, which I had made into a lumpy concoction mixed with water. The coffee grounds gave it a darker, aged tent so that it wasn’t glaringly white.

Once I was finished with this child, she could barely move her face, but she loved it! No one, and I mean absolutely no one, recognized my beautiful baby girl unless they saw me with her. Then they had to make her speak to be convinced!

By Mae82 — On Nov 03, 2011

@animegal - If you really want to make a professional looking makeup mask you are going to have to buy decent supplies. You should look for a professional costume store, one that supplies the local theater in your area and I guarantee you'll be able to get some good quality stuff.

This year I did some fantastic eye mask makeup and a scarecrow mask for my friends with supplies I picked up at the local costume store. They actually sell things that you would only expect to see on the supply table of a famous makeup artist. Just be warned you are probably going to spend at least a hundred dollars to get a really good look going. Also, if you ask nicely they may even show you how to use the goods.

By summing — On Nov 03, 2011

I would like to have someone who is awesome with makeup make me a really sweet alien mask. I have been an alien several times for Halloween. It is a costume that I am really drawn to for some reason.

Some of the costumes have been big successes but I always have the same problem. When you are an alien you usually have to wear a mask and this present two problems. First, you can't use any of the expressiveness of your face. Eyes, lips, noses and eyebrows all get covered up so the costume wearer essentially has an unmoving blank face the whole night. I want to get animated. Second, a mask makes it a lot harder to drink and dance and maybe have a cigarette if I feel inclined. Masks are just harder to party in.

Unfortunately the only people I know that use makeup at all are a few girls but they have never used it creatively in the way that I need. Maybe next Halloween I will put up a Craigslist ad or something.

By whiteplane — On Nov 03, 2011

This year I did a makeup mask for my son for Halloween. We do not have a lot of money and can definitely not afford the horror masks that they sell in the stores. I knew that we would have to come up with a costume or he would have no costume at all.

He really wanted to be a teenage mutant ninja turtle. At first I was stumped at how to pull the costume off but then I remembered that my son has green pajamas. That was the first step. Then we made a shell out of cardboard and another piece that made his torso look really strong. Finally I used some cheap theater makeup I had to paint his face green and we made the little eye mask out of a bandana. Not an exact copy of the TMNT but everyone knew what he was and he was thrilled. He was jump kicking all night.

By animegal — On Nov 02, 2011

Does anyone know the easiest way to make a quality costume makeup mask at home?

My friends and I have been looking at Halloween makeup supplies and find a lot of them look like they will give really cheap results. I want a painted on alien mask and am willing to pay to get one. What's most important to me as that the makeup mask looks as real as possible.

I won't wear a traditional prosthetic mask though, as I find them really uncomfortable and I hate that my skin isn't able to breath as well as it should be able to.

By letshearit — On Nov 02, 2011

My friend is a professional makeup artist and he does amazing costume makeup. I'm really lucky to know him as he does my makeup for free whenever a costume party rolls around. He's also a godsend at Halloween.

My friend usually works on special effects makeup for various films, and he's made up some pretty crazy makeup masks for my friends and I. Last year he did the cutest cat mask for my friend and managed to give me a really scary mask. I wanted a good quality Leatherface mask and he delivered completely. I really wish I knew how to do what he does because it always looks amazing.

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