Any thoughts on using war paint in your novels? Aside from culture, does it serve a purpose, like disguise or intimidation?
Apparently the origin of eyeliner among the Egyptians was to reduce sun glare on the sand. From what I remember, cheek stripes have a similar function, though I can’t remember the details.
Of course, grease paint can function as camouflage.
It can also be used for the reasons you suggested. Painting your face to resemble something unnerving (like a skull) could shake enemies who saw your face, giving the wearer an advantage. This isn’t strictly about intimidation, but to “fake out” enemies into believing the fighter is supernatural in nature, and giving them the impression they can’t win. This may sound juvenile, but the belief that an enemy cannot be defeated is incredibly effective.
The simpler and easier to recognize the image is, the more effective it will be, so the skull suggestion wasn’t random. Some kind of demon might be another option. Stuff more complicated than that would (probably) not have the desired effect. (This can also occur with masks. So a fighter might wear a skull bandana under their helmet to similar effect.
You can use makeup to effectively disguise yourself in a number of different ways (regardless of gender.) It’s technically distinct from war paint, but the possibility is there.
If you’re trying to impersonate another faction that had distinctive face markings, then, yes, war paint could probably replicate that.
So, yes, face paint in war is a practical consideration, not just an aesthetic or cultural choice.