Life is a stage: greasy makeup tips and tricks

Whether you are thinking of wearing oily 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 oily makeup takes more time and preparation than regular water-soluble face paint, it also lasts much longer. Most importantly, oily makeup will not smudge or run under hot lights or in conditions where it can perspire. With oily makeup you can create a more dramatic and even professional look.

In addition to your greasy face paints and pencils, you will need:

  • facial cleanser or cream cleanser and / or baby shampoo
  • clean towels or paper towel
  • clothing to cover and hair ties or shower cap
  • possible razor for men
  • mirror if you are not working from home
  • good quality paint brush, powder brush
  • Professional setting powder, talcum or baby powder and applicator (see below)
  • Q-Tips or fine paint brush, tissue paper, paper towel are helpful
  • Other items you might also consider:
  • light moisturizer
  • baby oil (to correct mistakes after the paint has “ set ”)
  • charcoal pencil for eyes
  • mask
  • sponge
  • sir or water sprinkler
  • glitter and other wall art

Before you start applying makeup, you need to prepare your face to continue smoothly. Clean your face well, gathering hair back when necessary and, in the case of men, shave. (Bearded men can use greasy paint, but it can be tricky to keep it away from their hair.) Remember that oily makeup stains clothes, so put on an old button-down shirt. After your skin dries, apply a very light moisturizer.

By 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 by following the contours of your face. Oily makeup may not apply smoothly if it’s too cold, which can be remedied by putting a little of the color in the palm of your hand for a minute. After painting, use your fingers to “pat” the makeup on your skin.

Unlike water-based makeup, oily makeup requires you to paint your face and then “ set ” it with a professional setting powder, or talcum powder. (If you opt for talcum powder, be sure to confirm beforehand that you don’t have an allergic reaction.) You can “set” oily makeup in stages after each color is applied or at the end of the entire paint. Some people prefer the latter, applying all the colors before setting with powder, because they can correct mistakes more easily. However, the downside is that you risk accidentally mixing colors and smearing your work.

Whether it is ‘set’ in stages or at the end, a reliable way to apply the powder is to partially fill a small, clean cotton sock with the powder, tie it up, and then gently rub your face. Let the powder sit for half a minute or so before removing the excess with a powder brush. Painted areas should no longer feel wet or sticky; if this is not the case, you probably need more powder. Once the grease has set, it should be fairly stain resistant. If something needs to be corrected at this point, you can use baby oil-soaked swabs, but remember that neighboring areas could now get stained.

Be careful not to apply oily face makeup thickly or in layers. If you have too much in one spot, press down with your fingers to smooth it out. Continue refining your face, using cotton swabs or a fine brush for smaller areas. Grease pencils can also be used for the face, charcoal pencils for the eyes, and don’t forget the color for your lips too!

Allow oily makeup to dry completely and apply a last light coat of powder, brushing off excess with a brush or tissue. A damp cloth at the end can help remove excess dust or spray with a light mist of water. In warmer climates, you can probably skip this step because the extra powder will absorb perspiration.

If you are applying glitter, you should do it last. Shimmer is generally most effective when applied to the eyes or cheeks. A glitter gel is often used instead of dry glitter to minimize the chances of it getting into the eyes. With dry glitter, first lightly moisten your face and cheeks, then ‘poof’ in the polyester glitter. Remember to let your makeup sit for half an hour before going out. If you have loose paint on your lashes, cover it with mascara.

Products available

For almost any type of facial design, you will need at a minimum a white grease paint base and a black grease paint pencil, but of course there are many colors in between and you will probably want to try at least some of them. The main producers of oily makeup are Mehron and Ben Nye. Mehron’s oily makeup is aimed at theater professionals who want ease of application with good coverage. Ben Nye also attracts the same community, although Ben Nye’s oily makeup is actually a cream. Oily face makeup comes in a variety of forms, from palettes (usually sold as a kit), to individual eyeliners. Pencils, crayons, and sticks are useful for smaller areas of the face. Both Mehron and Ben Nye also make eyeshadows, blushes, a range of glitter and setting powders and sealing mists. You may also consider using sweat-blocking facial sprays to help preserve oily paint under bright lights or in a hot environment.