The Scarier the Better: Retrograde Makeup Tips

Let’s talk about makeup. We don’t mean the kind that enhances your features—no. We mean the kind that makes it look as if your skin is peeling and boils are emerging on your arms. We mean the kind that makes it look as if your muscles are exposed and your flesh is rotting. We’re talking about Retrograde makeup.

In the world of Dystopia Rising, there are a few Strains of humanity that have some pretty extensive makeup requirements. The newly introduced Reclaimers have exposed muscles and the Unborn of Teixiptla have skin that looks mottled and green. But the most common Strain that needs a bit of makeup are the Retrogrades with their rotten features—more similar in appearance to the walking dead than to other Strains.

That’s where Veronica Lacquement comes in. A player at Dystopia Rising LARP: Pacific Northwest, she’s a big proponent of going all out when it comes to Retrograde costuming (like what she does here). The more rotten she can make herself look, the better.

“The thing that drew me to the Retrograde first was the makeup,” said Lacquement. “I absolutely love playing with makeup and trying to top myself every time. The more disgusting I can make it, the better. The more my friends cringe and look away, the better I am doing and the better I feel.”

Lacquement uses prosthetics (you can check out a picture of it here), but also has useful tips for just regular makeup use. She even has methods for keeping makeup on despite sweat. And her results are pretty impressive.

“If you are a heavy sweater, and I don’t mean the knit kind, you are going to want to pick up Ben Nye Final Seal Matte Sealer,” said Lacquement. “You spray this on before application of makeup to reduce perspiration on the face (Please make sure you keep a water bottle, filled, on you at all times when using products that prevent perspiration) and then again after to set the makeup. Mehron has a similar product called No Sweat. I also will apply face setting powder afterwards, though this can cull the colors, to help it stay that much longer.”

But the real key to any effective “rotten” look when it comes to Retrogrades is good makeup (Ben Nye is a safe bet). Lacquement points out that it may be more expensive, but it will last longer, look better and will be easier to apply. There are also several tutorial videos online for tricks and tips. And people shouldn’t feel limited about using makeup if they have a beard or other facial hair.

“I have numerous people with beards or goatees who are Rotties in my group that I do up,” said Lacquement. “If it is really bushy you don’t have to worry about applying your foundation color under the beard, just in the thin places where the skin shows through. You want to get yourself a good sponge for applying your foundation. While the latex makeup wedges are okay, I prefer to use this sponge. You use a stippling effect, which is basically patting the makeup on, as opposed to smearing, to get good and even coverage. Smearing on you gets streaks, stippling you don’t.”

When playing a Retrograde, don’t limit yourself. Instead, go all out. Try to disgust your friends and the others around you. Practice with your makeup at home before an event, as well; knowing what works for your skin can cut down the time it takes for you to apply makeup at a Dystopia Rising LARP event.  In this case, having someone turn away from you in horror isn’t an insult—it’s a compliment.


Step-by-Step Retrograde Makeup Tutorial, Courtesy of Veronica Lacquement:

What you’ll need:

Ben Nye Final Seal

Ben Nye crème foundation

Ben Nye Cadaver Grey

Ben Nye’s color Cake Foundation Porcelain

Ben Nye Master Bruise wheel

Ben Nye Powder Eye Shadows Black-Brown (or other dark-colored eye shadow)

Colorless Liquid Latex

Color Setting Powder

Latex Makeup Wedge


How to Apply:

Step 1: The first thing you need to do is make sure you wash and dry your face. The less oils and sweat on your face, the better your makeup will stay on.

Step 2: Apply Ben Nye Final Seal to face.

Step 3: Stipple your base color down. Go back and forth between Ben Nye’s crème foundation and Cadaver Gray, and Ben Nye’s Color Cake Foundation Porcelain. Do this by loading your sponge and then rapidly bouncing it on your face. Doing it this way doesn’t leave streaks.

Step 4: Apply dark colored eye shadow for the “sunken features” effect (Try Ben Nye Powder Eye Shadows Black-Brown). Using eye shadow brushes, not just a sponge or the cheap eye shadow brushes, will fill in the eyes, temples and cheek hollows really well and give you more control.

Step 5: Take your latex makeup wedge and your colorless liquid latex (colorless is important). Apply a small amount of the liquid latex to your sponge and stipple/dab over your chosen areas of rot. I mix it up from game to game; it all depends on what you want.

Step 6: Do Step 5 three more times, making sure each latex layer has had a chance to dry.

Step 7: Rub your finger on or gently pinch the area where your liquid latex is. You should be able to get hold of it and pull it, gently and slowly, away from the skin. It will tent up and cause a blister-like appearance. I tend to rip this piece so it appears as an open wound. You can also draw your fingers a bit harder across the latex to create a more realistic and random ripping of the latex on top of the skin. Repeat this until you like how many open sores and “blisters” you have on your rot.

Step 8: Take your brush and get your Dark Red Ben Nye color on it. Poke the brush into the largest of the open wounds you’ve created on your skin. Sometimes, you can even get the brush in under the rest of the latex, brushing the red around underneath and filling in more red.

Step 9: Rinse your brush with 90 percent alcohol and then get the bright red on it. Do bits and pieces of the bright red around the wounds with darker red. This gives them an angry and inflamed look.

Step 10: Load your brush with the green from your Ben Nye wheel and stipple it randomly along your latex rot, blending it in with your fingertips.

Step 11: Load your brush with yellow and put this around the edges of the green.

Step 12: Clean and load your brush with the dark purple and lightly apply it around the edges of wounds for a necrosis look. Apply in the wounds to make them look even worse.

Step 13: Tap out your Color Setting Powder (Colorless!) and use a blush brush, tapping to get rid of excess, to apply all over the face. You will notice that this will get rid of some of the “shine” of your makeup. This is okay because we will go back over it once we’ve sealed it with glycerin and fake blood.

Step 14: Spray your face with Ben Nye Final Seal. Do three coats.

Step 15: Use a Q-tip or your brush to apply fake blood and glycerin for the final pieces. These things will come off and can stain clothing—so be careful.

Step 16: Scare the closest person with your rotted features!