Sofia Johnson uses her makeup brushes to paint a story


For junior Sofia Johnson, there’s a special form of expression in the art of makeup.

Sofia began special effects makeup in September; she saw other people her age doing this makeup on apps like TikTok and Instagram and took an instant liking to it. Although it took her some time to get fully into it, it was obvious that it was something she wanted to do.

“I saw [special effects makeup] online,” Sofia explained. “I was like, ‘this is super cool, I guess I want to try it.’ It was something that didn’t require too much expertise; since I can do makeup, it wasn’t hard to catch onto.”

After watching as many special effects makeup videos that she could, Sofia decided it was time to go out and buy the supplies to try it out for herself. She went to Spirit Halloween for the necessary things that she needed such as scar wax and fake blood. But it all started from just watching a few videos online.

Unlike regular makeup, special effects makeup isn’t to enhance beauty but to completely alter a life story to show a tragic, near-death experience. There’s a lot of opportunity for this form of art; in the movie business there are scars, cuts, and slivers—it’s all special effects makeup. None of these wounds are real, but with enough practice, it can definitely seem that way.

I was like, ‘this is super cool, I guess I want to try it.’ And it was something that didn’t require too much expertise.

— Sofia Johnson

“I like that if you do [the special effects makeup] well enough that it looks pretty real,” Sofia said. “It’s just really cool. For one of my looks, I put staples into the scar wax and made it look like an open wound. I [also] did one where I had open wounds under my cheekbones to look like a smile.”

While it can take a lot of skill, Sofia is working with what she has: prior knowledge and YouTube tutorials. But it can take a lot of patience to get better, and a lot of practice for her looks to appear real.

While time-consuming, it is extremely fun for Sofia because she gets to let loose and try something new; every look is different. There is enough room for improvement for Sofia that she could go to college for something in the makeup department if she chose to.

“I think I’m kind of doing it for fun,” Sofia said. “I’m not an expert on it, but if I wanted to, I probably could get into it more, especially with all this time we have been in quarantine.”

As of right now, Sofia isn’t sure which career path she wants to go down, but she is considering going to cosmetology school for a fun route after high school.

Looking through apps like Youtube for inspiration can be frustrating when she can’t find a look that she knows she can do, but when she finds the perfect one, it’s obvious she wants to replicate it. But unlike regular makeup, special effects makeup is difficult to put a creative spin on since the looks are based on real-life cuts and wounds; where as makeup, in general, is easy to have a unique style. While Sofia enjoys both forms of makeup, there are some differences that make them unique from each other. 

“Special effects makeup takes a longer amount of time,” Sofia explained. “But for normal makeup—I do that all the time for fun—I can do a full face of makeup in only an hour. And for special effects, I don’t do it as often as I do regular makeup because I don’t go out in it; I have to make sure I have time in my day to do it.”

Regular makeup for Sofia is the best way to put her own spin on her look as opposed to special effects. She likes to try out the new alternative style trends in makeup such as heavy eyeliner, black lipstick, and dark makeup looks. But all of these trends change on a daily basis “since there is always something going on in the makeup community.”

Sofia has been doing makeup since seventh grade—starting out with simple cheap brands of mascara or concealer—but as she has grown and matured, so has her makeup. 

“I didn’t start off with anything crazy,” Sofia said, “but I’ve been doing it for a while, and it really started becoming more interesting to me in eighth grade or high school, so I would do more advanced eye looks.”

We all have to start somewhere, and, for Sofia, that starting point was all she needed to figure out how she would express herself through high school. Makeup has so many opportunities, not just in careers, but in the form of expressions and telling stories. 

“Makeup is one thing that I am free to choose to do what I want,” Sofia said. “I get to choose what eyeshadow color I’m doing that day, or if I’m going to wear eyeliner or not. When I wear makeup, I feel free.”