A Horror Makeup How-To From the Set of MTV’s “Scream”

"You'd be surprised how well being drenched in blood brings out the eyes."

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When you’re making a new horror show for MTV, you can’t quite cover your soon-to-be heartthrobs in blood — or can you? We spoke to Ashley Walsh, Department Head of Makeup for the network’s reboot of “Scream,” about how the show doesn’t always choose between gore and beauty (thank you, MTV). Shooting on location in Baton Rouge, Walsh had to learn how to get makeup to last on her stars for 12-hour days in actual swamp climate. If you have trouble getting your makeup to stick during summer, these tips are for you. More importantly, Walsh knows how to give stars that “I’m young, beautiful and on MTV” glow – and she’s not afraid of product recommendations.

Do you have an overall makeup concept for the show? I’m envisioning darker looks for horror, or do you keep it light and just transition to horror for those key scary moments?

Ashley: As MTV/Weinsteins wanted to take the show a much darker route, I immediately set out to create a visual juxtaposition with the characters. My inspiration were the heroines of the Cold War era horror genre. Amidst all of the building suspense, dark characters surrounding them and visually dark sets/lighting, these women always looked flawless and angelic. I loved the idea of the “anti contour”- instead of sharp lines and features, I instead wanted the focus to be of smooth, flawless skin and a glowing visage. This was achieved not with strobe creams and shimmers, but literally by using good quality “bourgeois” products and sticking to a strict prep and takedown routine.

The only transitions that you will catch throughout the season is that the features get a little more crisp as we make our way through the season- eyebrows become more precise and darker, cheekbones become sharper. Also, you’ll notice a change in the nail polish colors that will reflect their changing emotional states throughout the season.

MTV tends to take young stars and turn them into heartthrobs. What are your hero products for glowing skin and the other qualities that make someone a star?

Honestly, it’s all about the skin. I can’t stress that enough! Think of it as a momentous Anti-Kardashian Kontour movement. Between the prep (more on that later) and the takedown, if you really respect and pamper your skin, your skin will glow like a puppy receiving positive affirmations from its owner. To give the girls the added appearance of glowing skin I also used Youngblood Luminous Cream Blush in Tropical Glow and Smashbox L.A. Lights Blendable Lip and Cheek color in Silverlake Sunset. The boys wore Marc Jacobs Bronzer. The fresh natural lips were all achieved using Fresh cosmetics lip treatment in Sugar Rosé.

The takedown consists of rubbing a cleansing oil into the skin (I prefer Christian Dior) in order to break down the makeup and bind it to the oil, and then using a hot, wet towel to take it off. I then MASSAGE, not apply, but massage a good reparative night cream into the face in order to help repair any damage that might have occurred during the day due to stress, environment, or sun exposure.

Will we be seeing a lot of blood this season? Do you have a strategy for keeping characters looking swoon-worthy while in a horror scene, potentially covered in blood?

There’s going to be a lot of “feast/famine” motifs this season, and the blood is no exception. If you go for a while without seeing blood, just know that we will be making up for it when you finally do, and in creative way!

We definitely have to adopt a different approach to gore on this show — it needs to be shocking and accurate, but still maintain the gorgeous faces of our stars. By working with the executives, directors and producers as one cohesive unit we were able to accurately style each wound to complement the actor receiving it. On a side note, you’d be surprised how well being drenched in blood really brings out the eyes!

What’s your favorite to prep – more everyday makeup or horror makeup? What are your favorite products for each?

I’m such a lucky girl with this show because I don’t have to choose — I get to do both! As prepping the skin is possibly more important than the actual makeup itself, I take my time with the application of the quality products (especially when jumping back and forth from the muggy, humid swamps to the cold, dry studio air). Everyday makeup and horror makeup are essentially prepped the same way- the only difference being if I have to put fake blood on. In that scenario I put a dermashield on to prevent the blood from staining the skin. Otherwise the prep is as such:

  1. I wipe down the skin with the Glacial Cleansing Cloths from skyn ICELAND. Even if the talent has literally just washed their face before going to set, between the pollution and the body oil produced from just existing in the summertime, the skin is already covered in a thin layer of muck. The proof is in the wipe, post use.
  2. Because rubbing the skin tends to be an aggressive action, I need to calm down the skin and close the pores. (I use Skyn Iceland’s Arctic Face Mist.) The cooling qualities help close the pores and prep the face to receive the moisturizer. Added bonus: on set, a couple spritzes also cooled down the actors and revived their melting makeup! The guest directors even kept the spray nearby to stay cool!
  3. Before applying the moisturizer, I would use the Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels on both boys and girls’ undereyes.
  4. The final step before makeup application was the moisturizer. In this environment and with the conditions, a moisturizer with anti-inflammatory qualities was crucial. The constant exposure to polluted, hot air and cool, dry air conditioning can really distress the skin. On both the boys AND the girls, I used The ANTIDOTE Daily Cooling Lotion. Not only does it absorb instantly and flawlessly into the skin, but you can immediately feel the cooling properties. This allowed my foundations to melt into the skin, as opposed to sitting on top of it, and really kept the skin regulated throughout the day. Miraculously, we had very few if any breakouts the entire season!

Any favorite tips/tricks or fun makeup moments from set?

We all become so close on set, it’s like summer camp over here! Even though it’s only been three months, it’s felt like we’ve been in New Zealand for years filming The Hobbit! Filming in the swamp with horrendous conditions forced us to discover new ways to reinvent the wheel, as well as discover our Beauty 911 Kit. Two essential tips out of our emergency kit:

1. Put the Skyn Iceland Arctic Spray in the fridge. If you get overheated or you start sweating profusely, a quick spritz will stop the floods and cool down the face. It also keeps you looking dewy instead of sweaty if you are out dancing!

2. When you put on your undereye concealer, use a domed blending brush to “tap and roll” the powder on to set it. It’s the only way to keep your face looking airbrushed indefinitely! Although putting powder under your eyes seems counterintuitive, it’s an absolute must in the humid south if you have any chance of your makeup staying on.

Check out Ashley’s work on Tuesdays at 10/9c on MTV!

READ MORE: An Investigative Look Into the Fast & Furious Makeup Department

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