Goth Makeup

Photo by Amy Clarke.

Photo by Amy Clarke.

Goth makeup can best be described as "variations on a theme." Since the late 1970s, when this subculture started, goths have favored dramatic eye makeup and dark lipstick, combined with a pale or white face.

This look has many antecedents, from Elizabeth Taylor to Morticia Addams. It's calculated to be theatrical and a little scary, though the fear factor has worn off by now.

You don't have to be a goth to pull off this look, but it helps. You also don't have to be white, or even pale. There are enough variations on this theme that people of every skin color, hair color and temperament can find one that works for them.

The gothic lolita subculture has created another archetype for goth makeup. Paleness is still emphasized, but gothic lolitas often prefer light, glossy lipsticks and light eyeshadow, making them look more like a doll than a corpse.

Buying Goth Makeup

Photo by Sirio.

Photo by Sirio.

Unless you're dressing up for Halloween as a tragic teenager, here are a few bare essentials for goth makeup that you can save up for:

  1. Foundation. Should be at your natural skin color, or (at most) two shades lighter.
  2. Powder. One or two shades lighter than your face. Remember to dust your neck and d├ęcolettage if you wear this; color (or lack thereof) does not stop at the jawbone!
  3. Dramatic lipstick. Note that this is not black lipstick, or even dark lipstick. If you're going for a more lolita look, white or even pink lipstick would work better.
  4. Dramatic eyeliner and eyeshadow. Not necessarily black; dark purple, green, even red, works better for people with light hair.

Avoid These Common Mistakes!

Also see Gothic Makeup Ideas for more information.

  1. Don't just apply makeup to your face. There is no magical line at your jawbone, below which you cannot put powder, a little base/foundation, et cetera. If you're going for a theatrical look make sure you don't neglect your neck and d├ęcolletage.
  2. You don't want to look as if you just fell face-first into an open bag of flour. Aim for too little powder, not too much.
  3. Emphasize either your lips or your eyes, not both. Even Morticia has the good sense to overplay her eyes and underemphasize her lips. If you emphasize both, you will look like a clown. A sad clown.
  4. Practice. Even if you're only going to wear this makeup once, a little practice will help you look better than you otherwise would.
Related Reading:

The Best Black Lipsticks and Lipglosses

Goth Makeup Ideas

Gothic Eye Makeup Tips

Gothic Fashion Influences

All Goth Articles on Enjoy Your Style

Goth Hairstyles

Debbie Harry

Ever had a nightmarish makeup experience? What about a fantastic one? What do you put on to look your best, or your gothiest? We want to know! How? Simply visit our Makeup Reviews page and fill out the form. We'll e-mail you when it's published.


I owe a debt of gratitude to Lord Damien Star for his article "Makeup Tips for the Bleak," as well as to vamp.org for hosting it.

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