Whether you are thinking about using grease makeup for a theatrical event, a special Halloween party or some other occasion, you need to know what products are out there and how to apply them.
While grease makeup takes more time and preparation than regular water-soluble face paint, it also lasts much longer. Most importantly, grease makeup won’t smear or run under hot lights or conditions where you might perspire. With grease makeup you can create a more dramatic and even professional look.
In addition to your grease face-paints and pencils you will need:
- face-cleanser or cream cleanser and/or baby shampoo
- clean towels or paper towel
- clothing cover-up and hair-ties or shower cap
- possible shaver for men
- mirror if you aren’t working from home
- good quality painting brush, powder brush
- professional setting powder, talcum or baby powder and applicator (see below)
- Q-Tips or fine painting brush, tissue paper, paper towel are all handy
- Other items that you might also consider:
- light moisturizer
- baby oil (to fix mistakes after painting has ‘set’)
- charcoal pencil for eyes
- mister or water-spray
- glitter and other decoration
Before you start applying the makeup, you need to prepare your face so it goes on smoothly. Thoroughly clean your face, tying back hair where necessary, and for men, have a shave. (Bearded men can apply grease paint makeup but it can be tricky keeping it out of the hair.) Remember that grease makeup will stain clothes, so put on an old button-up shirt. After your skin dries, apply a very light moisturizer.
Working with the lightest color first – usually white – and a good quality brush or sponge, or your fingers, you can outline the area and then fill it in. Alternatively you can paint following the contours of your face. The grease makeup may not go on smoothly if it is too cold, which you can remedy by putting a little dab of the color of in the palm of your hand for a minute. After painting, use your fingers to ‘pat’ the makeup into your skin.
Unlike water-based makeup, grease makeup requires you to paint your face and then ‘set’ it with a professional setting powder, or baby or talcum powder. (If you go with talcum, be sure to confirm beforehand that you don’t have an allergic reaction to it.) You can ‘set’ the grease makeup either in stages following each color’s application, or at the end of all the painting. Some people prefer the latter, applying all the colors before setting with powder, because they can fix mistakes more easily. The downside however is that you risk mixing colors accidentally and smearing your work.
Whether you ‘set’ in stages or at the end, one reliable way to apply the powder is to partly fill a small, clean, cotton tube sock with the powder, tie it up, and then gently dab your face. Allow the powder sit for a half a minute or so before dusting the excess off with a powder brush. The painted areas should no longer feel moist or sticky – if this is not the case, you probably need more powder. Once the grease makeup has set, it should be fairly smudge-proof. If something needs correcting at this point, you can use Q-Tips soaked in baby oil, but remember that neighboring areas could now be smudged.
Be careful not to apply the grease face makeup thickly or in layers. If you do have too much in one spot, press down on it with your fingers to smooth it out. Continue to refine your face, using Q-Tips or a fine brush for the smaller areas. Grease pencils also can be used for the face, charcoal pencils for the eyes, and don’t forget color for your lips too!
Allow the grease makeup to thoroughly dry, and apply a last light coating of powder, dusting off any excess with a brush or tissue paper. A damp cloth at the end can help remove the excess powder, or spray with a very light mist of water. In warmer climates you can probably skip this step because the extra powder will absorb any perspiration.
If you are applying glitter, it should be done at the very end. Generally glitter is most effective when applied over the eyes or on the cheeks, A glitter gel is often used instead of dry glitter to minimize the chances of it flaking into the eye. With dry glitter, first slightly dampen your face and cheeks, then ‘poof’ on the polyester glitter. Remember to let the makeup settle for about half an hour before you go out. If you have stray paint on your eyelashes, cover it with mascara.
For just about any type of face design you will need at a minimum white greasepaint foundation and a black greasepaint pencil, but of course there are many colors in between and you will probably want to try at least a few of them. The leading producers of grease makeup are Mehron and Ben Nye. Mehron grease makeup is focused on the theatrical professionals who want ease of application with good coverage. Ben Nye also appeals to the same community, although Ben Nye grease makeup is actually a cream. Grease face makeup comes in a range of forms, from palettes (generally sold as a kit), to individual liners. Pencils, crayons and sticks are useful for smaller areas of the face. Both Mehron and Ben Nye also make eye-shadows, blushes, a range of glitter and setting powders and sealing mists. You may also want to consider sweat-blocker sprays for the face to help preserve the greasepaint under strong lights or in a hot environment.