So, I have previously posted a tutorial on how I apply make-up for conventions, which is something I eventually intend to re-do, and I thought it might be worthwhile to go through my process and favorites when choosing what to buy for convention cosmetics.
When I think about buying for conventions, I have a number of criteria which are essential, and it really varies from what I’d usually think of as important for any other day of the year. What is really important to remember is that conventions for most people are a maximum of 10 days of a year, and the environment of a convention hall or exhibition centre is completely different from the everyday situations, so there are a couple of key elements that are vital when buying for this occasion:
- PRICE: For just a few days of the year, it is not worth spending a fortune on cosmetics. I wear make-up day in day out all year around but when it comes to cosplay I use completely different products to meet the demands of the event and the look I want to create (don’t know about you guys but I generally don’t want or need to look like an animated character every day). Of course there has to be a balance between low price and good quality, but there are a number of companies which do not over price and offer really good cosmetics without a massive designer price tag.
- SKIN CARE: Although you do not want to spend a fortune on products, you have to be very careful with what you’re actually putting onto your skin. Many low-price products will contain harmful chemicals and will not allow your skin to breathe, so keep an eye out for powders containing talc, oil-based foundations and dodgy applicators that could mess up your skin – after all, what use is aiming for a flawless look with make-up and ending up with skin which is in an even worse state than when you started. Conventions are generally 2 or 3 day events, so give your skin a break. A useful tip if you’d rather save money on foundation would be to use a primer before applying, to give a barrier between your skin and the make-up; Also, take your face off as soon as you get out of your costume, and moisturize and cleanse as much as possible. I have no end of nags and rants about the do’s and don’t’s of skin care with make-up, but perhaps that is best suited for another post.
- SHELF LIFE vs PRODUCT QUANTITY: Is it worth buying a new pot of foundation every year when you only use it for 3 days at a time? That’s a personal decision, but it is definitely worth asking around and checking reviews to see whether the product will last, or perhaps looking for cosmetics which don’t package a lot of product in the first place if you’re unlikely to use it. Natural or handmade products will not last as long as those packed with chemicals and mass-produced by larger companies which is just as important to consider. Personally I would rather opt for something natural, not tested on animals, and better quality even if it doesn’t last long, but then I end up spending a fortune on cosmetics.
- STAY POWER: for some costumes, colour pay-off is just as important as anything else, but that’s useless if it doesn’t stay put all day. Convention halls are hot, badly lit, unforgiving places, and if you can’t keep your make-up on, there’s not much use wearing it in the first place. My advice is to test products in stores onto your arm or the back of your hand, and see just how long they stay on for. If a product lasts throughout your walking around and doing daily tasks, it generally has a better chance of staying on at a convention, and there’s no rule that says you have to look and buy on the same day. If this is something you battle with, then look into buying a setting spray, which will keep your make-up/face paint in place all day (try to avoid using hairspray, as you will kill your skin).
- EASE OF APPLICATION: Let’s face it, there is nothing worse than getting up before daylight to spend forever applying and reapplying for a character, and then having to lose your entire lunch break to do it all again half way through the day if you have been particularly active. A simple routine for applying make-up should be effortless, not surrounded by screaming and tears because you are too tired from the post-con party the previous night; I am one of those who believes that it is not worth swearing to the entire hotel because a contact lens won’t go in at 5 in the morning when I can just edit eye-colour afterwards in Photoshop, but if it can be done easily, this will often be the deciding factor in my decision to buy a product. If I can’t use a product with my eyes half-shut at some stupid time in the morning, then I won’t buy it.
These suggestions are my best tips for those who do not wear make-up like this all year around, as many cosplayers I’ve met never touch the stuff the rest of the time. For each section I will try to give a high-end and low-end suggestion for each:
FOUNDATION: Best low-end is without a doubt Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse; I have suggested this product to every new to make-up cosplayer who has ever asked for a reason, and that reason is that without a primer or any other correctors, this does the best job of creating an even surface. It is super easy to blend out so you don’t get those unsightly jaw line transitions even if the colour is not perfect for your skin tone (never is), and has really good coverage so for an all in one it leaves nothing much to worry about. Downside to this is the heavy packaging (makes it impossible to carry around while out and about) and the fact that after a year the product can go on a bit cakey – this doesn’t mean it’s no good, just that you need to take more care. For a high-end option, you are best searching around the top brands for what suits your skin tone and condition; it’s best to stick to a few products rather than one all-in-one foundation, so moisturize, prime, conceal, cover and set. For either, a powder (HD or compact) will be what saves you in a convention environment.
POWDER: Low end, you’ll be lucky to find something without talc as a main ingredient, but you’re probably best off with a loose mineral powder (Maybelline again offer a decent talc-free option that actually comes with a decent kabuki brush). You will need a brush worthy of getting a decent finish, preferably a kabuki to use with any powder, but they aren’t too hard to come across. High end, you’re looking at the really good HD finishing powders. I personally love love love the Urban Decay Razor Sharp Ultra Definition Finishing Powder as it is silky soft, lightweight and deflects light in a really nice way in photos. A lot of reviews trash the packaging but there are ways around it if you find it too hard to work. Apparently ELF offer a cheaper alternative HD powder, but I haven’t tried it out so it’s up to you.
EYESHADOW: If you only plan on the basics, it may seem like a waste of money to buy more than one eyeshadow but really I can’t suggest anything other than trying out a decent quality set. Put it this way, even a low-end talc-packed eyeshadow will generally cost between £4 and £6 (you can get natural collection eyeshadows for £2 but they don’t stay put without primers), whereas you can get a kit like this for £16 which has everything you’ll ever need (the number of eyeshadows alone in this kit are worth double the price of the full kit if the same colours were bought in a low-end brand) and the quality of the shadows is really good. They are well pigmented, they won’t crease, and being Too Faced they smell really nice too. Of course the bonus of this kit is also that you get a lip gloss, blusher and bronzer aswell, which are really useful should you want to contour your face for the character. There are other kits like this aswell, like the natural eye palettes that the top-end brands have been releasing a lot of recently (Too Faced’s natural eye kit even has guide cards to teach you where to apply the different shadows). There’s just no need for a high-end suggestion… it’s a no brainer.
EYELINER: Low end, if you know me, shouldn’t be a surprise. Eyeko Graffiti Eyeliner Pens are an absolute must for any cosplayer worth their salt, whether using as an eyeliner, or as a way to draw on that nose scar or tattoo (i was actually using these for ANBU tattoos long before they went near my eyes) and they are super value for money, like everything Eyeko make. They enable you to draw features onto your face with a felt tip, the same way you would use a copic marker to draw that character on paper, which means that they are so easy to use accurately you won’t need to practise for months before using them. The only downside to them I’ve found is that the colour range isn’t as great as it could be (they need to make a red), and they don’t blend so they can have a tendency to crack without a base. My high-end suggestion is not so much an alternative as it is a supplement to these pens. Urban Decay 24/7 Glide on Eye Pencil, are great for dramatic looks and bright colours, and can work really well blended as eyeshadow or when worked with a liner brush to create a nice painted line; these can smudge easy which can be a good or a bad thing depending on the effect you create, so it’s a good idea to set them afterwards.
MASCARA: When it comes to cosplay, I don’t tend to worry about lashes unless they’re a specific feature of a character (Nana for example) and since i naturally have dark, long lashes i have been known to use a tiny bit of vaseline to lightly define them rather than Mascara. If you feel you need to do something more with yours, I’m probably not the best person to ask for advise, but at a push I’d say best product I’ve used is Rimmel 3 in 1 looks Mascara, as it allows you to apply only a small amount while only defining the lashes, but then also allows thicker application (I tend to use this on outer lashes). Also in my opinion, if you do use fake lashes, only use partial lashes, or else your eyes become lash and nothing else, but that’s up to you.
LIPS: This really does depend on character, but for a general look a primer will work wonders, and a balm rather than a gloss will usually look better in convention lighting. I love Eyeko Fat Balms for a simple, natural look, and for anything more extravagant you are best off working with a lip liner that is used all over than a lip stick. If you need an unusual colour (for full face paint etc.) use eyeliner instead of lip liner… it works just as well with a light balm or gloss over the top. This is touched on much more in my other tutorial.
PRIMER: Ok, so these are nearly always high-end products, but they are so worth it. I live on Urban Decay’s Primer Potion, and I swear without it my eyeliner would be half way down my face by the time I’ve stood in a cramped queue for over an hour. Whether you choose UD, Too Faced or even (if you are made of money) Benefit, you will not regret buying an eye primer as an essential. I also use Studio Secrets face primer to keep my foundation in place, but that’s mostly due to the fact my skin is not smooth on its own, so for most people using a decent moisturizer before applying foundation will do the trick just fine.
SETTING SPRAYS: Again, this is a bit of a luxury and only really for those who take their cosplay seriously, but if you are willing to try it out, it’s completely worth it. Especially useful if you are doing something really over the top (see my Alexa cosplay on CosplayIsland for an example), or if you are using a lot of face paint, this will keep things in place, but unlike hairspray will not stop your skin from breathing. Low end options are setting sprays from stage make-up brands like ben nye or kryolan, though these do tend to feel like using a plant spray, whereas anything made by skindinavia tends to be a mist that barely feels like anything while on the face, and still does the same job. Skindinavia do not sell products in the uk, but they are responsible for Urban Decay’s All Nighter setting spray, so if you buy that it is the same thing, though tragically only sold in large bottles.
I will at some point run through my most useful tools and tips to fit in with this and a re-make of the tutorial I made a while ago.
Hopefully this was useful to you. x