Día de los Muertos: Traditional Catrina Makeup Tutorial

Día de los Muertos: Traditional Catrina Makeup Tutorial

As every October draws to a close, millions of people in costume celebrate a very special day. I’m referring of course to Día de los Muertos (or as it’s known en inglés, The Day of The Dead). The most famous ritual associated with Día de los Muertos is the adornment of skeleton makeup. Traditionally known as Catrina makeupit symbolizes the bonds we maintain with our departed loved ones.  

Professional makeup artists Laura Villalpando and Veronica Hidalgo of the Beauty & Elegance Salon in San Leandro, CA are masters of creating authentic Catrina looks. Enjoy learning how to create your own Catrina makeup looks in the true spirit of the holiday: Amor para siempre.

Laura Villalpando and Veronica Hidalgo help you celebrate your loved ones in the afterlife with this incredible Catrina makeup techniques. If you’re in the Bay Area, you can book them on Booksy. (Para ver este video en Español, haga clic aqui.)

Whether you’re a professional makeup artist searching for inspiration or just someone looking for Halloween Catrina makeup tips, we hope you enjoy this tutorial. And check out our other Día de los Muertos/Catrina makeup tutorials: Men’s Catrina Makeup and Halloween Catrina Makeup. 

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The Roots of Día de los Muertos 

Día de los Muertos has been celebrated in some form for thousands of years. The version of Día de los Muertos that we recognize today dates back to the golden age of the Aztec empire. Back then, the Aztecs celebrated their dead with a festival dedicated to the goddess Mictēcacihuātl, the Queen of the Underworld.  

The Roots of Día de los Muertos
Ancient Aztec traditions continue to live on today through the celebration of Día de los Muertos.

Everything changed when Spanish colonizers began their conquest of Mexico in 1591. They realized that if they were to keep their captured territory, they couldn’t do it by destroying the indigenous culture. They needed to co-opt it. So, instead of banning the festival of Mictēcacihuātl, they changed the date to coincide with All Saints Day, a holiday celebrated in the Spanish Catholic tradition. Over time, this combination of celebrations became the tradition that we know today as Día de los Muertos.

Laura Villalpando of Beauty & Elegance shares the history of Día de los Muertos 

Día de los Muertos & Halloween

There are clear parallels between Día de los Muertos and Halloween, but they’re not the same holiday. They both feature macabre costumes and they’re both celebrated at around the same time. (Día de los Muertos actually takes place on November 2nd, though many Mexicans begin celebrating at midnight on October 31st.) They also share a historically meaningful connection. 

Halloween traces its roots back to the ancient Celts who celebrated a version of it for over 2000 years. When early Christians came to Ireland in the 5th century, they blended the Celt’s Halloween traditions with their own holiday. You guessed it: All Saints Day. 

By the time the Spaniards began imposing their influence on the Aztecs, their own All Saints Day traditions had taken on elements of the Celt’s Halloween rituals. Pumpkins, costumes, and themes of celebrating the dead all originated from the ancient Celtic celebration. 

So while Día de los Muertos is definitely not Halloween, it does share a common history. It also reflects the influence of people from places as vastly distant from each other as Mesoamerica to prehistoric Ireland. 

Día de los Muertos is definitely not Halloween
Día de los Muertos makeup isn’t just for women. Click here to check out our Men’s Catrin makeup tutorial.

The Meaning of Día de los Muertos 

Unlike Halloween, Día de los Muertos isn’t meant to be scary. It’s about celebrating the lives and the afterlives, of friends and family who have passed. It’s an expression of belief in a world that exists after this one. A world where our departed continue to exist and thrive. The skeletons and Catrina makeup serve to embrace the idea that death is a natural part of life. They also remind us that wherever our departed live now, it’s nowhere to be feared. 

The Meaning of Día de los Muertos
Ofrendas, like the one pictured here, offer gifts to the dead and help to keep their memory alive.

Catrina Makeup & Día de los Muertos

The most famous Día de los Muertos tradition is the use of Catrina makeup. Catrina makeup is recognizable by its application of skull imagery on the face, often done in ornate styles. The modern version of Catrina makeup we see today comes from the famous etching La Calavera Catrina (‘Elegant Skull’) created by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada in 1913.

Catrina Makeup & Día de los Muertos
La Calavera Catrina, by José Guadalupe Posada

In 1947, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera featured an image of La Calavera in one of his most famous murals, immortalizing it forever. Since then, the image of Catrina makeup has become synonymous with Día de los Muertos, and with Mexican culture in general. 

Detail: Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park, by Diego Rivera
Detail: Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Park, by Diego Rivera

Catrina Makeup: Go Pro or Do it Yourself?

For non-professionals, if you found this tutorial a little challenging, you can book a professional makeup artist in time for the holidays on Booksy. Click one of the links below to find a local makeup professional to do your Halloween Catrina makeup

Oakland & Bay Area Makeup Artists

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All USA Makeup Artists

If you’re a professional makeup artist, we invite you to check out Booksy. Our scheduling and marketing tools make it easy to run your business and connect with more than 2 million active users looking for beauty services. 

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