Last Updated on September 15, 2021
If you’re choosing to do a home funeral, you will want to make the deceased look as natural as possible. Here, we detail the basics on how to apply makeup to a dead person, then provide a range of tips doing the deceased’s makeup for a home funeral.
Home funerals are not the norm in the United States. However, home-based death care and family-directed funerals are still standard in much of the world, and have been the standard practice throughout much of history. Birth and death are the normal, natural bookends of this journey we call life.
There is something of a resurgence in home based funerals and deathcare in recent years, and part of the draw is that it allows the family to experience the death of a loved one in a more intimate way. This in turn leads to more natural death practices (no embalming, simpler burial, etc), and it also allows the family to work through their grief, processing as they take care of their loved one, saying goodbye with a sense of nearness that you just can’t get when limited to a twenty minute visitation in some funeral parlour’s back room.
These are just a few of the considerations for having a home or family-directed funeral. In choosing this option, you will want to make sure the decedent looks as natural as possible for the memorial service. In addition to providing formal clothing, you will need to apply some cosmetics. Applying makeup and cosmetics to a dead person is somewhat different from your usual makeup routine, so here are some instructions and tips.
Let’s get started.
How to apply makeup to the deceased
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1. GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES
Here are some things you’ll need:
- The deceased’s own makeup
- Foundation base – airbrush is probably best
- Strong concealer
- Blot powder
- Eye shadow
- Eyebrow pencil
- Nuetral lip liner and/or lipstick
- Makeup brushes
- Fingernail clippers
2. PROVIDE BASIC CARE TO NAILS & HAIR
Check the fingernails, and clip if needed. Use tweezers to pluck unwanted hair and perhaps to touch up the eyebrows. Go for a clean, natural look. Also, unless the decedent is a man who always wore a beard, shave their face. This applie to both men and women. A shaved face gives a very smooth, clean appearance. Always ask the family first – some men maintain a light stubble or a 5-o’clock-shadow that the family will prefer to retain.
3. USE CONCEALER TO MASK BLEMISHES
Start with a strong concealer and cover any blemishes on the face, neck, or hands.
4. APPLY THE FOUNDATION
Choose a thick foundation base if using a brush. Airbrush foundation can be easier to work with. For the face, begin at the forehead and work your way down, evenly sweeping through the cheecks and to the nose. As you work down towards the neck, lighten up the application and try not to get to close to the collar or clothing line. This will ensure that the makeup does not stain the clothing.
5. APPLY THE BLUSH
Use a natural color and try not to overdo it. A light application is all you need to add some color.
6. TOUCH UP LIPS
If using a lip liner, apply that first and then the lipstick. For women, use their everyday lipstick shade. For men, use a neutral color that compliments their natural coloration. To seal in the color, first use a napkin to cover the lips and then apply blot powder using a brush over the napkin. This will help the lip coloration to last longer.
7. TOUCH UP EYES
The eyebrow pencil can help fill in the brows with a light application. Shade in some natural color onto the eyelids using a brush.
8. APPLY BLOT POWDER
Finally, apply the blotting powder evenly across the face, neck, and hands. Also, any area that will be visible during the funeral should be touched up.
Tips on doing the deceased’s makeup for a home funeral
GO FOR A NATURAL LOOK
Now is not the time to create a unique look, or the make the deceased look like they are heading to a party. Aim for an everyday look, use their makeup and own choice of colors if possible, and show restraint.
PLAN TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS
The deceased’s skin tone will be different after death. Count on the need to darken, lighten, or apply more color in order to achieve the desired appearance.
START WITH THE HANDS
Begin each step with the hands, or on a “test area” that will be covered up by clothing. This will allow you to see what works and how to do it best. Then move on to the more prominent and visible areas.
WATCH THE COLLAR
You don’t want cosmetics to rub off onto the deceased’s clothing. Find out what they will wearin
g first, and shape your makeup application to avoid stains while retaining a natural look.
PLUCK NOSE HAIRS
Since the person is laying down, the inside of the nose will be much more prominently visible. Pluck a few nose hairs in order to keep this from being a distraction.
The deceased person’s skin will be much more firm, and this will make foundation application much more difficult. Use a heavy foundation. Also consider using airbrush products, as they will apply more evenly.
Most cosmetics will blend well on the living because of the inherent body heat. However, with a deceased person, there is no heat so you will find that blening makeup doesn’t work particularly well. One tip is to hold the makeup in the palm of your hand prior to application to warm it a bit. Additional options include setting the cosmetics in direct sunlight on a warm summer day, keeping it near a heat source such as a vent or space heater, or setting it on a heated bean bag prior to use. Also be sure to use your common sense and be careful not to melt the makeup.
We’ll let reddit user sarahornejewett take this one. As a funeral director, this user is commenting on makeup done at a funeral home after the embalming. But there are still some good tips:
Mascara on the deceased is usually a Bad Series of Events. Mascara is great for length on living lashes, but once the body has died, there are a lot of things that an embalmer has to do in order to make sure that the lashes don’t get tucked into the eye (this happens during a process called minimal preparation, where we set the eyes/mouth/features).
Depending on how they close her eyes, you are going to want to be careful with how you to the eye makeup. Most places will use an eye cap (it looks like a contact lens) which holds the eyelid down and in place. Cosmetics over the eye cap don’t look bad, but be careful with any eyeshadows (they tend to crease up). If your funeral home is one that still glues the eyes together to shut them, you will have to be incredibly careful if you’re applying anything to the eyes, or you could pull and damage the lid’s skin.
SHADOWS & CONTOUR
A person laying down with have shadow effects that are different from how they look standing upright. You may need to add some shadows to create a more natural look.
A Mortician’s Beauty Secrets – NYMag
Mortuary Cosmetics – Derma-Pro