Asking a beauty professional—whether it’s a celebrity hairstylist, makeup artist, or Instagram influencer (hi, 2019)—for advice is always a safe bet. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find there are plenty of other women out there who are legitimate authorities in their own right. In our column, Unlikely Experts, they’ll give real reviews and recommendations. Whether it’s surfers on the best conditioners, bikers on the best cleansers, or ballerinas on the best foot creams, it’s fair to say these women know best.
Every Halloween around 3 million Americans willingly pay money to be scared shitless at a haunted house. No longer just a Halloween hobby, haunted attractions have evolved into a million-dollar industry and full-on experiences, including covering guests in blood, strapping them to hospital beds, or promising $20,000 to those who survive. While I personally will never understand handing over your hard-earned cash in exchange for being traumatized, there’s certainly an art to creating a truly terrifying experience. The set and scenery play a crucial role in creating the environment, of course, but the real scare factor is courtesy of the actors doing the lurking, grabbing, and spooking, all with a face of makeup that’s the stuff nightmares are made of.
Creating a successful monster goes beyond simply creating a horrifying look (although that’s definitely a huge part of it), but the makeup also must last through several hours of sweating and screaming, and be easy enough to remove at the end of the night. While some scare actors (as they’re called in the biz) do their own makeup, most large haunts have a whole team dedicated to creating dripping wounds, rotting flesh, and terrifying teeth night after night.
While scrolling through Instagram is a great way to get inspired, if you want to know what products really get the job done, turn to haunted houses. We spoke to six scare actors and makeup artists from the best haunted attractions in the country on the products they rely on season after season.
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“This a classic exorcist meets ghoul face that is the base of a lot of our more human looks,” says Aryn Fox, makeup manager and actor at The Dent Schoolhouse in Cincinnati, OH. Fox is a self-taught makeup artist who got her start playing with special effect makeup as a goth kid, but has being doing makeup at the Schoolhouse for 10 years now. For the above look, she uses Mehron Celebre Cream Color in alabaster for a “ghoulish base,” and she loves that it stays on through heavy sweating. For the veins and texture she mixes the European Body Art SFX Alcohol Palette with 99% alcohol, and to create the black drip she mixes Ben Nye Character Powder in charcoal with the alcohol to “mimic black ooze and blood.” To finish off the look she adds colored contacts and tooth color, “nothing makes me more ready to scare than some added tooth rot!”