Four years ago, Lauren Rossmann had a vision. Halloween had always been her favorite holiday—she has “boxes and boxes and boxes” of costumes from years past occupying real estate in her L.A. home’s garage—but after she found the perfect skeleton catsuit, inspiration struck. She wanted to do something different. Something bigger. Something that would blow all her friends away. A white walker. And of course, what are Game of Thrones’s terrifying icy zombies without their makeup? So Rossmann, 42, started googling. “That’s how I found Glamsquad.”
The on-demand hair and makeup service app was still in its infancy then (the company, along with its special FX services, launched in 2013), but Rossmann loved the fact that it meant a makeup artist would come to her and take the daunting task of getting ready out of her hands. “You end up spending an arm and a leg piecemealing costumes together to make them perfect, and it takes so much time,” she says. “It’s just so easy to just have someone come and do your makeup.” The makeup artist, Rebecca, arrived at 8:15 a.m., before Rossmann’s daughter’s school Halloween parade, and ended up staying the whole day to do the entire family’s makeup for a party that night. “It knocked everyone’s socks off,” Rossmann says.
It’s now become a tradition for the Rossmanns. This year, she and her husband went as mummies, fully wrapped in bandages from the drugstore and masterfully contoured with hollowed cheeks, realistic bruises, and colored contacts. Her artist even went out to buy the contacts, something she just factored into the bill. This, of course, isn’t exactly cheap. Rossmann estimates the makeup for her and her husband costs around $350 for one night, while a full-family service including her daughter, 11, and son, 8, can add up to $800.
For anyone who’s ever stepped foot inside a Spirit Halloween store, or really, anywhere the week of October 31, it’ll come as no shocker that Halloween is big business. This year alone Americans are projected to spend half a billion dollars on Halloween costumes—and that’s just for our pets. In total, the National Retail Federation anticipates Americans will spend an average of $86 per person on Halloween, which comes out to a massive $8.8 billion on costumes, candy, decorations, and greeting cards. (The latter accounts for a projected $390 million alone, in case you thought the art of snail mail was dead.)
All signs point to one unsurprising source that’s influencing our Halloween shopping habits: social media. A new study found that 48% of millennials said they bought Halloween items strictly for the ’Gram. #SpookySzn.
Artists who work with service-booking apps like Glamsquad and Priv are now reaping the rewards from the proliferation of pro-level Halloween makeup featured on Instagram. ”Social media changed the beauty game,” says Jenny Connors, a freelance hair and makeup artist in Dallas. “Prior to social media, I don’t think it crossed people’s minds to hire a pro for glam on Halloween. Makeup was considered a luxury service.” The majority of women who have been booking services with her through Priv are first-timers, she says.
“There’s a lot of pressure around Halloween for some reason—I think Instagram has a lot to do with it,” says Caroline Silta, 25, in New York City. “I knew I wanted to be Pennywise from It, but I had no idea how long it would take me to do the makeup. I figured I’d have to keep wiping it off and doing it over.” She uses Glamsquad occasionally for work events, so when she saw the app was offering custom makeup, she baked the $125 (plus tax and tip) into her costume budget this year. (Glamsquad also offers $200 special FX makeup.) “I knew a makeup artist would be able to do it in an hour and a half, and I’d be able to plan out my schedule ahead. It was perfect,” she says. Instead of “scrambling around” to get ready as she had in years past, Silta says, she was able to book an artist two days before her Halloween party this weekend, and on the day of, she got to sit back, drink wine, and plan to take killer photos later that night. It was so worth it to her, she plans to book another artist tonight for her second costume of the week: Chucky from Child’s Play.
According to Glamsquad’s CEO, Amy Shecter, this past Saturday (October 26) was one of the company’s busiest days to date, surpassing the typical volume it usually gets on New Year’s Eve. So far for 2019, customers across its seven operating areas have booked more than $1 million in Halloween services through the app (which also offers Halloween hair and wig styling). “Most people seem to be attending or hosting parties, followed by family trick-or-treating or a night out on the town, but we also get many requests for office parties or intimate gatherings,” says Kelli J. Bartlett, artistic director of Glamsquad.
The same goes for Priv, which now operates in 32 cities. CEO Joseph Terzi says the company has seen a steady increase in Halloween services since 2015. This year, so far, it’s had 150 more appointments than last year. The average Priv client is spending between $100 to $150 per Halloween booking.
It’s not only the app-linked services. Brick-and-mortar salons are seeing a huge uptick in Halloween activity too. Since Blushington (a makeup and beauty lounge in NYC, Los Angeles, and Dallas) added professional Halloween makeup to its menu in 2015, the category has grown each year, says CEO Natasha Cornstein. She projects that after this coming Saturday, November 2, the company will be up 20% on Halloween services year over year—possibly more, since bookings are still rolling in. MAC Cosmetics, one of the original pro makeup destinations for special FX makeup, says its average number of 90-minute makeup services per salon in 2018 was 614% higher in October than the rest of the year.
Even retailers like Ulta Beauty and Sephora have expanded their Halloween makeup services in recent years. Sephora, for example, now offers 60-minute sessions in all stores, while select locations offer a 90-minute service for more complex looks.
The obvious benefit to getting pro Halloween makeup, as both Rossmann and Silta noted, is convenience—something that drew Reena Kluger, a 25-year-old dental school student in Hollywood, Florida, to Priv immediately. “It was worth it not just for the makeup, but also the experience, pictures, and memories,” she says. “I also knew after a long day in the dental school clinic, I wouldn’t have enough time to start doing my own makeup for a costume.” Plus, the skeleton makeup her artist, Milo Rojas, gave her meant she didn’t need much else in terms of a costume.
That’s another perk: In many ways, Halloween makeup is the costume, says June Kowalewski, 29, of Chicago who has her law degree and does makeup on the side. A cool half-skull or zombie makeup with a tee and jeans can save you from having to step foot in a crowded costume shop or sift through endless pages of sexy cat costumes online. ”I think people seeing makeup bloggers like Jaclyn Hill and major celebrities doing amazing special FX makeup has given us more encouragement and confidence to also do that,” she says.
It’s also far more sustainable than a polyester costume you’ll wear once and then toss. With new reports shedding light on the truly scary amount of waste Halloween produces every year (in the U.K. it’s expected that mass-market costumes will produce 2,000 tons of plastic waste this year), some say they see it as an opportunity to recycle or repurpose items already in their closet. “Halloween costumes from the costume store can look cheap and are expensive for the quality,” says Katie Sands, 26, a style expert in NYC. “The fabrics are not sourced sustainably to upcycle them. I strongly believe in doing a DIY costume.”
This year Sands has gone as Wonder Woman and as Jules from HBO’s Euphoria, and plans to DIY a Cleopatra look this weekend—all popular choices for 2019, by the way. Blushington’s Cornstein says that right behind Euphoria’s whimsical eye makeup, supervillains have been the second most requested look. Glamsquad too has gotten numerous requests for Euphoria eyes, in addition to Cleopatra makeup, vampires, princess, and of course, various versions of cat makeup.
At the end of the day, Rossmann says, the experience was well worth the money. “The whole family’s around and everyone’s in the room while you’re having your makeup done—it’s just so much more fun,” she says. ”As a mom, it’s really stressful when that onus is all on you to be doing your makeup, your costume, two little people’s costumes, a husband who wants everything to be perfect. Your hands are shaking, and nobody’s happy with the way it looks. It eliminates all that stress, and it makes everything from start to finish completely joyful and happy.” The only hard thing left? Deciding how to top their looks next year.