BEAUTY: Dia de los Muertos Skull Makeup

For many years, I've loved the festive celebration Dia de los Muertos(translation: Day of the Dead). It's a celebration of the dead,  our ancestors and culture. It has roots in Mexico, but is celebrated in many different countries. November 1st is All Saints' Day or Dia de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents), and is a day to honor deceased children and infants. November 2nd is All Souls Day, when the deceased adults and elders are honored. There are many parts of this celebration is to paint your face and dress like a Catrina or Catrin. A Catrina is an ornately dressed woman with a skull face and skeletal body. A Catrin is a formally dressed man with a skull face and skeletal body.  However, since Dia de los Muertos celebrates everyone who has passes, it's not uncommon for the outfit to be less fancy.

There are many versions of Catrina and Catrin makeup, from sugar skull inspired to anatomically correct. Everyone has their own preference and style, which is what makes this style of painted makeup so intriguing to me. For this beauty post, I'm going to share some of my favorite skull makeups. I came across most of these on Pinterest and sadly the source credit has been lost along the way of resharing the images. As always, if you know who the model, makeup artist, and photographer are, feel free to email me with that information and the link to this post. I'll happily update this post with the proper credit. We'll start with some inspiration, and then a few tutorials. Once you have the basics, the rest is up to you. If you do create a skull makeup, please submit it to us at Skull-A-Day, and we'll happily share it on our blog.


Recently I came across this Dia de los Muertos makeup by Denali B. I love the soft glow, intense contouring, and decorative details. You can see other views of this makeup here

I'm not sure what I like better, the striking sugar skull makeup or the beautiful door knocker chest tattoo. I love the stylized flowers, vines, and leaves with the simplified skull eyes, nose, and teeth. Sometimes, when it comes to face paint, the simpler the details, the better.

This sugar skull makeup is even more stylized. There is a huge emphasis on the eyes, which really makes them pop. The eyes are windows into the soul. The jaw line had great swirls into the playful teeth lines across the lips. What really adds to this is the styling with the large roses and leaves in the hair combined with a long shawl like veil. It really helps with the Catrina look of this costume.

When it comes to skull makeup, I don't normally like the cheerful ones, or actually there aren't many soft beautiful ones like this one. The lovely pastels actually bring life to the skulls, which is unexpected. It makes me want to do another skull makeup tutorial.

This skull and skeleton makeup is very intense and beautiful. If you look closely at the arms, you will notice intentional white marks on the top arm, indicating the bones of the arm behind it. Obviously, this body paint only works for this photograph, vs. wear for a celebration. Still, it's an awesome concept. The attention to the skeletal anatomy is amazingly realistic.

This makeup is somewhere in between dead and alive I love the separation of the anatomical skeleton. The shading makes the skull look gaunt and well defined. The live makeup, is classic and pin-upesque. The skeleton has a painterly quality, which works since body painting is an artform.

This skull makeup goes even more anatomical, though still stylized. I love how the eyes appear soulful, and the jaw line is unusual. The collar bones and ribcage of her decolletage look realistic and deeply sunken. 

What if you're not a lady, don't have feminine features, or want something simplified? Then, something like this guy's skull makeup would be a great fit for you. The simple cartoon like details are much easier to paint than the above one.

For something even more simple, try this skull makeup worn by Baron Samedi from James Bond "Live and Let Die". This is a great quick makeup and a nice starting point for a beginner.  

This darling couple exemplify the look of a Catrin and Catrina. Of course, all couples are not male and female. To me, any paring works. I just reminds me of the one night that my husband let me paint his face like a simple skull and I wore highly detailed sugar skull makeup. It was a great night.


Now that you've been inspired, how about learning how to do a few skull makeups. To start, I've done three different ones. These probably won't be my last ones. The 1st is an Anatomical Skull Makeup that I did for a zombie themed wedding. The next is a Sugar Skull Makeup that I did for a Halloween party. This is the one I wore when my husband wore a simple skull makeup. The last is actually the 1st skull makeup I ever did. I kept it very simple, since it was my 1st one.

I find this Catrin Makeup by Venus Ocean to be unisex, depending on if you want to paint the mustache or not.

This Class Sugar Skull Makeup by arielS408j is just that classic. It's a great classic sugar skull paired with classic normal makeup.

One of the best anatomical skull makeups is the one from Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" video. In the video, her makeup replicates the tattoos of Rick Genest aka Zombie Boy. This tutorial by eRaness does a great job at replicating her makeup. I used this tutorial as a guide for my last skull makeup.

How ever you celebrate Dia de los Muertos, as long as you remember those who came before you, that is all that matters. Give thanks for what you have now, your ancestors, and heritage, perhaps more than just during Dia de los Muertos.


  1. This is awesome! I featured it on my blog post about Halloween makeup here: Enjoy!!

    1. Thanks for featuring my post. I really appreciate that. I suggest checking out my three recent posts about Dia de los Muertos makeup, for more ideas!

  2. Wow, this is so amazing! What a great collection of Halloween makeup ideas and tutorials! I love this post, will surely bookmark.


  3. Wow plenty of lovely ideas, think i'm gonna try the first one today, i think it looks fab with the gems! Following you now! :)

    1. That recreation will look fabulous. Follow the link to Denali's work, so you can see more photos of how she did that skull look. She explains lighting for the photo too.


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