Interested in Becoming a Mortuary Makeup Artist? Here’s What You Should Know

Interested in Becoming a Mortuary Makeup Artist? Here’s What You Should Know

It’s not unusual to think about morbid things with a bit of curiosity, especially when considering a career change. If hair and makeup artistry is your thing, but you’d prefer not to work on the living, fret not. A career in desairology means you can have your cake and eat it, too.

While there are lots of articles on becoming a funeral director, few touch upon funeral cosmetology. And, yes, it is often done by morticians, but that’s not always the case.

Morticians vs. Mortuary Cosmetologist (or Desairologist)

Often, funeral directors – aka morticians – do pretty much everything at a funeral home. Not only do they handle embalming, they also have to interact with grieving families. If all you want to do is makeup and hair, the job of a mortician is likely not for you. A mortuary cosmetologist is one who practices desairology. Their job is to make the deceased look natural and lifelike for open-casket viewing. There’s definitely more to it than traditional makeup artistry though.

What’s Involved

Unlike makeup artists who work on the living, mortuary cosmetologists use various special types of makeup. If the deceased subject has any bruising, wounds, or deformities, it’s up to the artist to cover these. That might even include reconstructive sculpting, depending on the severity. Many mortuary cosmetologists use clay, wax, and even plaster to correct disfigurements.

Additionally, the job often entails hair styling and manicuring as well.

Understanding the Industry

As we mentioned before, often this work is done by the mortician or embalmer. That’s why mortuary cosmetologists are typically hired on a freelance basis rather than as a full-time funeral home employee. They usually work regular hours, except for in cases where there’s a complicated or rush job required. Jobs are also usually more plentiful in major metropolitan areas. The average salary can fall anywhere between $24,000 a year and $55,000 a year.

Most mortuary cosmetologists are required to sign waivers that release the funeral home from any liabilities as well. That means you can’t sue them if you contract something from the deceased.

The terms of employment will vary from one funeral home to the next.


The educational requirements differ compared to that of a mortician or embalmer. While they require a bachelor’s degree in mortuary science and special licensing, mortuary cosmetologists require less credentials.

However, like a regular makeup artist, a cosmetology degree from a state-approved school is often required. Some schools may also offer desiarology courses. While a cosmetology license may not be required in all states, it certainly helps when applying. Additionally, you may be able to obtain an apprenticeship under a working mortician or mortuary cosmetologist. Of course, this will often be unpaid.