Guest Post: Sugar Skull Makeup For Día de los Muertos

By Kristina Uriegas-Reyes

Día de los Muertos, celebrated November 1st & 2nd, is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the lives of the dearly departed. My grandmother, raised in Mexico, handed down the cultural knowledge that comes with this important holiday. She explained that the day is meant to honor, commemorate and celebrate the lives of the dead by creating altars and traditional pan de muerto (yum!). Although skulls are a part of the traditional imagery, she emphasized the lack of association with Halloween.

This brings me to the idea of cultural appropriation. Time and time again, you see celebrities costumed in sugar skull makeup, the latest being Sandra Bullock and Kate Upton. The beautiful sugar skulls, often decorated pastries, are obviously inspiring, yet the meaning behind them can be lost in translation.

I spoke to my grandma after creating this tutorial and the most surprising thing she said was that it’s actually very rare for Mexican people to create this kind of makeup. It’s mostly utilized in parades or high-scale events. Although Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico and in other parts of the world, the sugar skulls makeup has become a rare, yet special occurrence. The imagery became more prominent in America as Halloween rolled around.

When Latino USA asked me to create this tutorial, I jumped at the chance to explore my roots and create a spectacular look for our Day of the Dead celebration.

I drew out a sketch beforehand so I knew exactly what I’d be doing. I ended up changing my mind a few times, but it never hurts to have a plan. I’m not going to lie, this makeup can be long process, depending how detailed you get, but you can work faster by figuring out which products work best for what you’re trying to do. I shopped around and ended up getting almost all my products at Ricky’s NYC.

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Step 1: The Basics

I cleaned my face as usual and started with toner, moisturizer and primer. If you’re starting at night, you might want to use a makeup wipe and cleanser beforehand. The primer is great because it helps everything wipe off super easily once you’re all done. Everything is going to be covered in makeup so make sure to spread the primer evenly all over your face.

I used an eyebrow brush on my brows down, but don’t worry about it too much since they’re going to be painted down anyway. Some suggest gluing them down, but I don’t think that’s necessary. I also used a eye lash curler on my lashes. You can heat yours up with a a hair dryer for a stronger curl, but make sure it’s not too hot or you’ll burn yourself.

In terms of hair, I started with rag rolls since I’m going for a vintage feel and that’s normally how I wear my hair anyway. It’s super simple, but you can find a tutorial for this hairstyle on xoJane. I also think victory rolls would look wonderful with this look!

Sugar Skulls 3

Step 2: The Base

Starting with a stark white from a clown makeup palette, I dabbed paint all over my face, including my ears. Don’t worry if you get a bit of makeup in your hair, it goes with the overall look. You can use your fingers to spread the paint (with clean hands), but I recommend using a makeup tool of some sort. I used a Beauty Blender to start and a makeup brush to fill in the hidden spots, such as my hairline, lips, jaw and outside of my nostrils.


You’re going to want to avoid the areas around your eyes since that will be black, but it’s ok if you get some in the area since you can easily go over it with black paint. Once there’s a a bit of makeup on your face, use the white eye liner to create circles around your eyes, which you will later be outlining in black. I only put white paint up to the edge of my neck, which makes this look like a mask. You can cover your neck if you’re into that though.

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I decided that I wanted to do a 1920’s cupid lip so I used a Q-tip to wipe the white paint off my lips. Then I used the white eyeliner to create the outline I wanted. You can always go back and use a Q-tip if you feel the shape is not quite right. I wanted a really strong lip so I use a good amount of paint all around the covered section of my lips and spread it evenly with a brush. There’s now room to add lipstick later!


Before you move on, make sure everything is blended evenly and in the right spots.


If you want this look to last, you can use a hair dryer (set on cool) to dry your makeup and add setting power all over your face using a powder puff.


Step 3: Shadow Eyes

Next, I started my eyes by adding sparkly black eye shadow all over my eye lids. Don’t worry if your eyes are kind of uneven, just layer it on thick, especially near the inner corners of your eye. You’ll be blending with paint later. Next, line the inner corner of your eye with black eye liner since you wont be able to get paint there. You should have a smokey eye going on. Feel free to add multiple coats of mascara.



Next I used a black eye pencil to draw circles around my eyes. You can draw symmetrical circles or follow the outline of your skull bones, creating more of a sunken look. It’s all up to you! After I draw the circles in pencil, I traced them with a liquid black pencil.


Then I took the black paint from the clown palette and, using the brush, I filled in the circles with black paint. I painted upward and over, using my eyebrows as a directional guide. I blended the eye shadow and paint slightly where they intersect.


To give some interesting dimensional to the black paint, I added blue and purple eye shadow with a hint of purple eye liner. This created a subtle matteness and overall shimmer to the eyes.


Step 4: Flower Petals

The next step is also the most tedious depending how you go about it. I wanted really precise flower petals to surround my eyes so I used red liquid makeup. It worked like a charm!


I created scallop shapes, one by one using the tip of the red paint.


So far, so good!



Step 5: Lips

Next, I lined my lips with a red lip liner, using the outline I created earlier, and filled my lips with lipstick. Because of the heart-shape of my lips, the color started bleeding into the white paint. I had to do a few touch ups as I went along.


Step 6: Details


This detail was definitely the easiest. I used a Q-tip to outline the heart and filled it in black paint and a brush.




I used liquid eye liner for the mouth because it felt more precise when it comes to creating an end point. It’s probably that I’m more used to working with it since I have an obsession with cat-eye makeup.


I filled in the stitches one by one, careful not to mark the rest of my face.



I did this nearly last, but it actually makes sense to do this first in case your hand hits the designs on the bottom half of your face.

I used a white eye pencil to create the web, went over it with black liquid eyeliner and then went over that in black paint since i didn’t think the liquid paint was thick enough. I have a widow’s peak, which helped work as my guide.


Step 7: Cheeks

At this point, you can just play with your look. I didn’t get too intricate, but I did add additional red swirls to the side of my cheeks using liquid red paint. At one point, the red smudged, but I was kind of into it so I blended some more. I liked that it looked like creepy sunken cheek blush. That’s the thing with this makeup. Since there’s no right or wrong way to do it, you find new techniques and details as you go.


Step 8: Skull Nose

I almost forgot about the nose! There are a few ways you can do it. The side of your nose can be shadowed in for a sunken-skull look, but you can also darken the nostrils or create a heart-shape at the tip of your nose. I went with a sort of ace shape with shadows underneath my nose. I outlined the shape liquid eyeliner and filled it in with black paint and a brush.



Step 9: Accessories

For the finishing touch, I added a flower crown which I created last fall using aRookie tutorial. It’s pretty simple if you’re planning to create your own. All you need is a glue gun, fake flowers and a hair band. All of which you can probably find at your nearest dollar store.


Voila, you’re done!


I hope you enjoyed my tutorial. I certainly enjoyed making it!

For more beauty and style, follow Kristina at or on twitter at @tweevalleyhigh

What Hurricane Sandy Left Behind

One year after Hurricane Sandy, many residents are still struggling to get back on their feet, particularly low-income and immigrant New Yorkers. Latino USA producer Diana Montaño goes to Staten Island, one of the hardest hit parts of the city, to check in with residents one year after Sandy.

Special thanks to Make the Road New York. To help or donate, visit their donation page.

Jonathan Wolfe contributed reporting to this story.



Diana HeadshotDiana Montaño is a Mexico City-born, East Coast-raised radio producer. She has worked as an editor at the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia and as an associate producer with Radio Bilingüe in California. Diana has also taught video production to immigrant and refugee youth in Oakland, and to young indigenous women in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. She is a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

In addition to her work as a journalist, Lesley also has extensive experience in documentary filmmaking and writing. A seven-time Emmy Award nominee, she won an Emmy Award in 2009 for the documentary, “Green Prison Reform.” Lesley holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Louisiana State University


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Echoing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, floods in Colorado have caused suffering and painful losses for Colorado’s immigrant population. Maria Hinojosa talks with Colorado Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


McClurgLesley McClurg is a reporter and producer for Colorado Public Radio’s daily interview program, “Colorado Matters.” She came to CPR after getting her start in public radio as a freelance reporter and producer for KUOW in Seattle, Washington. Prior to that, Lesley spent more than three years working in public television in Seattle, reporting on a variety of stories and producing long-form segments for KCTS 9 Public Television.

In addition to her work as a journalist, Lesley also has extensive experience in documentary filmmaking and writing. A seven-time Emmy Award nominee, she won an Emmy Award in 2009 for the documentary, “Green Prison Reform.” Lesley holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Louisiana State University


Los Otros Dreamers

We meet some young, undocumented adults who’ve been deported back to Mexico. They call themselves “Los Otros Dreamers.” Brooke Binkowski reports.

Photo by Brooke Binkowski


brookeBrooke Binkowski is an award-winning roving reporter currently based in San Diego. Her career has taken her from KFQD in Anchorage, Alaska, to CNN in Atlanta, to various radio stations in Los Angeles, and back home to San Diego (where she’s a graduate student at UCSD studying the U.S.-Mexico border.) Her curiosity has taken her all over the world. She is a voracious reader, writer, and traveler. Tweet @brooklynmarie.

Zapotec Language Postcard

An indigenous language in Mexico called Zapotec is in danger of dying out. Its best chance of survival is, ironically, in Los Angeles.


ruxandraRuxandra Guidi has a decade of experience working in public radio, print, and multimedia and has reported throughout California, the Caribbean, South and Central America, as well as Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Ruxandra is a recipient of Johns Hopkins University’s International Reporting Project (IRP) Fellowship, which took her to Haiti for a series of stories about development aid and human rights in 2008. That year, she was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for International Reporting, given to U.S. journalists under 35 years of age.

After earning a Master’s degree in journalism from U.C. Berkeley in 2002, she got her break in public radio by assisting independent radio producers The Kitchen Sisters. A couple of years later, she did field reporting and production work for the BBC public radio news program, The World. Her stories focused on Latin America, human rights, rural communities, immigration, popular culture and music.
Most recently, Guidi was a border reporter for the Fronteras Desk, a collaboration between public radio stations throughout the Southwest and U.S.-Mexico border.

Throughout her journalism career, Guidi has also produced magazine features and radio documentaries for the BBC World Service in Spanish, National Public Radio, The Walrus, Guernica, Virginia Quarterly Review, World Vision Report, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Dispatches and Marketplace radio programs.

She’s a native of Caracas, Venezuela.

News Or Noise: We Heart Radio

For this month’s News or Noise we talk to teens who make their own media about the role of radio in their lives and during an emergency. Special thanks to Sanda Htyte and the rest of the team at WNYC’s Radio Rookies, as well as all the organizers of the Digital Waves Youth Media Festival.

C1_AlexEstevezAlejandro Estevez resides in Washington Heights. He is 17 years old and attends Facing History High School. He is an aspiring Rapper & Actor and goes by the name of Alex E. Styles.




C1_BreePersonBree Person was born and raised in the south Bronx and went to Washington Irving High School. She loves writing. The only thing she loves more than that is radio journalism.



C1_DanielleMotindabakaDanielle Motindabeka is from Congo Brazzaville. She has been living in USA for over five years. She is a senior at Washington Irving High School. She wants to become a Radio or TV journalist. She also loves sport and photography.




C1_KahaliaParfaitKahalia Parfait is 17 years old and attends LaGuardia High School as a senior. She grew up mostly in Brooklyn, NY but resided in Florida in her younger years. She is interested in acting as well as exploring other majors such as ASL, Communications, and Marriage and Family Therapy in college.

C1_RobertSmith Robert Smith enjoys skateboarding, martial arts and working out. He shoots and edits videos. He came in third place at the Digital Waves Media Festival.

Brazilian Choro Music Makes A Comeback

An improvisational style of Brazilian music called choro makes a comeback in Washington, DC. Meet the band “DC Choro.” David Schulman reports.


David Schulman at Storm King 2David Schulman‘s work as an audio producer includes serving as senior producer of BBC Americana 2009-2011, and creating and producing Musicians in their Own Words, a series of radio portraits that has twice been awarded national CPB grants. Featured performers include Poncho Sanchez, Yo-Yo Ma, and the late Bo Diddley. Close to 70 of David’s features have aired nationally on NPR, PRI and APM (Morning Edition, All Things Considered, The Story, Hearing Voices, and other programs). He was awarded the Best Documentary: Silver Award at the 2004 Third Coast International Audio Festival, and has been a guest artist at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Also an electric violinist and composer, David’s solo performances have been described as “spontaneous and completely unique” by Washington City Paper. He loves to create and perform music for modern dance, and also makes soundbeds for radio, podcasts, theater, and video. His debut album can be heard at More info at

Jarana Beat Will Make You Dance

Reporter Willis Ryder Arnold introduces us to Jarana Beat, a New York fusion band that plays everything from a Spanish gypsy guitar to a donkey jawbone.

Photo courtesy of Jarana Beat




Willis Ryder Arnold is a multimedia journalist specializing in radio reporting and photojournalism. He currently lives in Brooklyn. More of his work can be found at