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The author in a black turtleneck and blond wig, pulling a brown jacket over her shoulders to complete the Leon Kennedy look

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How to be as hot as Leon Kennedy in RE4, using makeup

What’s his secret to flawless skin? We have some recommendations

Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

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“Over here, strange-ah! Got somethin’ that might interest ya. Hee hee heh heh ha ha huh.”

What’s up, mirror-friend! Not sure how you got in there this time, but I’m glad you’re here! Settle down, I hope you’re comfortable — I’ve been looking for a conversation buddy to discuss the aesthetic of the dreamiest video game protagonist of all time.

That’s right! We’re talking about Leon Scott Kennedy, specifically as he is depicted in Resident Evil 4.

The author, shrugging at the camera, makeup-free and ready to commence a cosplay transformation into Leon S. Kennedy from RE4 Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

What is it that renders this guy so attractive? When I first fell for Leon in 2005, he cut an unimposing figure in drab neutrals that blend with the surrounding environments of the game. He loses his swaggy leather bomber jacket around an hour into play, then traverses the remaining village, castle, and secret biochemical research island facility in a nondescript utilitarian action-guy fit. He’s a laconic character, often verbally unreactive to outlandish occurrences, and when he does speak, well… You’ve all played the game, you know about the dialogue. Leon’s hair, perpetually Teen Beat perfect in defiance of persistent enemy attempts to remove his entire head, is an obvious mark of allure, but there’s more to his appeal than that. You don’t get ported and rereleased and remade into 18 years worth of continuance if you’re not seriously compelling from the start. With an eye to style, let’s break down the enduring attraction of RE4’s Leon Scott Kennedy!

First of all, Leon has great skin. If we’re going to rip off his steeze, we’ll have to up our own epidermis game with a hydrating sheet mask. Wash and dry your face, but forgo your usual moisturizer before applying.

The author wearing a moisturing face mask and doing her best impression of a Ganado from RE4 Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Don’t hassle me about the pose; I was trying for some sort of Ganado moment here. What’s the fun of a sheet mask if you don’t lurk around the house modeling it like a low-level horror antagonist to alarm your co-inhabitants? You’ll want to leave the mask on for about 20 minutes, then rub the product into your face and neck after removal.

Now that’s some 4K ultra HD skin!

A close-up photograph of the author’s skin, post-face mask application and removal Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Let’s check it against the original GameCube look:

Leon S. Kennedy moping and leaning against an interior car window at the beginning of Resident Evil 4 Image: Capcom via Polygon

This is our introduction to 2005 Leon, looking gorgeous while mildly disassociating on the ride to his grueling, under-resourced job. 2023 Leon, presumably better informed about labor standards thanks to his leftist friends’ social media shares, is visibly angrier about his circumstances:

Resident Evil 4’s remake depicts a high-definition mopey Leon, still leaning against an interior car door in the game’s opening Image: Capcom via Polygon

What sort of music do you think 2005 Leon listened to? I’m betting he was vibing to Girl Talk, or just buzzing contentedly to the Handcannon-induced tinnitus in his own ears. Nu-Leon clearly listens to nu-metal. Look into his eyes! That is the face of a man who hears Jonathan Davis of Korn scatting in his mind 24/7.

Let’s check our resemblance again:

The author doing her best impression of Leon Kennedy’s mopey face in Resident Evil 4 Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Much better!

It’s nighttime here in my mirror, but for the sake of Leon Scott accuracy, we must apply sunscreen. 2005 Leon canonically carries gum in one of his many pants pockets, which he offers to Luis upon meeting him in lieu of a cigarette. There’s no way this guy travels without SPF for instances when he needs to take a brief daytime boat cruise across open water. UV will still get you on cloudy days!

(My personal favorite is Sun Bum Face SPF 50, for both price and efficacy.)

The author applying sunscreen to her face in preparation for a Leon Kennedy makeover Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

In order to achieve the glory of Leon’s hairstyle later down the line, now we must nobly sacrifice our vanity and don a wig cap.

The author holding up a wig cap before putting it on her head Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon
The author dramatically pulling a wig cap down over her eyes while screaming like a Resident Evil creation Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon
The author wearing a wig cap, adjusted properly to her head Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

It’s important to examine your most unflattering angles from time to time. To become Leon, we must reflect upon the ways in which he has struggled and subsequently improved over the years. The ugliest bit of Leon’s history stems from the players controlling his actions and our collective treatment of Ashley Graham, the nepo-baby-in-chief we’ve all come to this anonymous, anachronistic Spanish village to rescue.

Everybody hated Ashley back in the day — misogyny was trendy in 2005 — but I’ve since realized that the underlying reason for widespread Ashley disdain is players’ misplaced rage at their own incompetence. In other words, it’s a skill issue. Ashley was never a terrible character, even back when her dialogue was wack! She tries to defend herself upon meeting Leon — good for her! She straight-up instructs Leon, the super-soldier agent charged with her rescue, on how to shoot the wagon barrels and blow up the crowd of Ganados waiting upon his exit from the church!

It’s only once the two jointly return to the village that 2005-era players began to nurture an unfair irritation at Ashley. By that point of play, you’ve developed some facility at controlling Leon, but now you’re stymied by the added consideration of protecting a noncombatant while you fight. It’s tough! It takes some practice to figure it out! But instead of simply taking a breath and accepting the challenge of grasping a new mechanic, many players (including my mid-’00s self) jumped to blame Ashley’s civilian NPC presence for the inconvenience instead of taking a deep breath and just getting good at the entire escort mission point of the game.

All that said, the game’s design certainly allows and arguably encourages Ashley abuse in the very next section by introducing the hide-in-a-dumpster and dog-whistle-when-the-coast-is-clear commands. And then there’s the writing — 2005 Luis was a shady, vest-wearing turncoat Umbrella researcher who sexually harasses Ashley by way of introduction, and the audience was still predisposed to like him better than her. I’m ashamed of us all! Good thing we’ve learned better since then, and Ashley’s situation has improved somewhat in the 2023 remake. (Minus, you know, the whole being kidnapped by a religious cult and implanted with a mind control parasite thing.)

Whew! End tangent, back to our skin! Apply foundation to smooth out color variation. You can use a brush if you like; I generally prefer to use a finger.

The author, wearing a wig cap, applies foundation to her undereye with a finger. Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

All right, listen up — here’s the secret to a seriously flawless-looking face. You need a product that almost matches, but is just slightly more yellow than your own skin tone. I found mine last year when attempting to resupply my usual L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Glow foundation in “Classic Ivory.” The drugstore was out of stock, and I thought, “Hey, maybe the Pro-Matte alternative in “True Porcelain” will make me look more like Paola Núñez as Evelyn Marcus in Netflix’s Resident Evil (2022)!” It did not, sadly — it makes me look flat and jaundiced when I apply it to my entire face — but it is perfect for covering up reddish breakouts. You can use this trick in tandem with an underlying foundation, or alone on naked skin. Like Leon after a couple hours of exhaustively practicing the target patterns in the Merchant’s shooting gallery, it does not miss.

The author holds up her bottle of L’Oréal Infallible Pro-Matte foundation Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

The key is to use just a little bit of product, seriously only this much for my whole face:

The author holds up her palm, which has a tiny dot of foundation on it; the photo has been edited to include a red arrow pointed at the foundation Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Apply directly to areas of discoloration, like so:

Having applied foundation, the author poses for a photo of her face with blemishes now disguised; the photo has been edited with green circles indicating where she applied the foundation Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

And then gently blend around the edges with a brush or your finger. If you screw up and cake it too thickly or accidentally displace coverage from the desired spot, just wipe it off and go again. Stunning! Looks like you just huffed a full health-enhancing combo of green + red + yellow herb.

Now it’s time to tackle Leon’s brows. They were already thick by 2005 standards; in 2023 they must be heavy enough to visually convey the weight of Leon’s post-Raccoon City psychological trauma.

First, draw a guideline for the general shape:

The author uses a brow pencil to fill out her eyebrows in anticipation of mastering the Leon Kennedy aesthetic Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

After filling in the basic ground, blend with a brush and add defining strokes with a darker pencil, then blend and stroke and blend again. You’ll probably spend at least 20 minutes going back and forth with this. That’s normal, just like retracing a level for treasure after acquiring the map.

The author blends in her brow makeup with a brush Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Hahaha, 2023 Leon’s casual cursing is my biggest surprise of the remake. He drops F-bombs and GD’s all over miniboss fights! I’m not complaining — I fucking love profanity. It’s just that back in my day, we had to manually cuss at the CRT screen ourselves! Always gave me the impression that Leon was one of those types who thinks “damn” is a really strong word.

*Aging woman shakes fist at Plaga Monk-shrouding castle fog cloud*

Her eyebrows thoroughly made up in Leon Kennedy fashion, the author poses for the camera with a steely gaze, holding up her eyebrow pencil and brush Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

We’re nearly there. Now we need to add some shadow to accentuate Leon’s deep-set eyes and lack of sleep. Choose a neutral color several shades darker than your skin tone and fill in the inner corner of your eyes, horizontally across your lids, beneath the eyes, between the brows, beside the nose, around the jawline, and under the cheekbones.

The author uses a brush to apply eyeshadow under her brows Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon
The author applies further shadow underneath her eyes with a brush Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon
The author applies more eyeshadow between her brows Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Like so:

A photograph of the author’s face, edited to include neon green lines that display where to contour with shadow Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

“Hey, it’s that dog!”

A small terrier leaps into the author’s arms as she’s midway through her Leon Kennedy makeover design Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

A touch of mascara adds depth to the Leon-orbs. Unless you’re shooting for hyper-femme Scott Kennedy, don’t extend it to the edge of the lashes.

The author applying a very light touch of mascara to her eyelashes Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Lip time! This ’stick is Wet n Wild Mega Last Matte Lip Color in “Skin-ny Dipping.” Another spoil of my previous personal quest to better resemble Evelyn Marcus on a budget, it only costs a couple dollars and it makes a great base for Leon’s understated mouth makeup.

The author using a matte lipstick to apply highlighter shade Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

In 2005, perhaps it was just the lighting; in 2023, it’s clear that Leon is actually rocking a specifically greige lip shade. Use a gray eyeliner pencil to shadow the center of the mouth. Do not close the cap or stick it back in your eye before cleaning with alcohol afterward, unless you want your sclera to look and feel like Leon’s when the Plaga infection threatens to overtake his brain.

The author uses a gray eyeliner pencil to make her lips look a bit gray-ish Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Y’all know what’s coming now…

The author shows off her completed makeup design for Leon Kennedy, albeit still in a wig cap and not wearing her wig for the costume yet Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon


I bought a $20 wig I found by searching “blonde pixie” on Amazon (always check the reviews with photos!), then low-lighted it to the Los Illuminados with a gold-colored Sharpie. Isn’t it mesmerizing?

The author holding up a gold Sharpie marker in front of a blonde pixie wig Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon
The author balances her Leon Kennedy wig on a skull, gazing upon it like Hamlet Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Remember to shift the strands into a left side part! The plot of RE4 takes place in 2004. Though he is technically Gen X by assumed birth time, at this point in history both 2005 and 2023 Leons rock a distinctly millennial ’do.

An in-progress wig adjustment shot of the author with her head leaning towards the camera, the blond hair splaying out as she secures the band properly Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon
The Leon wig firmly in place, the author gives the camera a pouty lip Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Just one last adjustment — the lips are a little too matte.

The author holding up an opened tube of chapstick, using one finger to dab off a bit for application Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

While adding sheen, let’s take a moment to think of the woman who surely taught Leon about lip gloss. I’m speaking, of course, about Ada Wong. Time-locked fashion trends are so funny and delightful, by the way, and RE4 is a great time capsule. 2005 Ada wore a dress straight from the pages of the then still extant Victoria’s Secret catalog:

Ada Wong from the original Resident Evil 4, wearing a red gown and looking judgmental (probably of Leon, although the recipient of her gaze is off-screen) Image: Capcom via Polygon

2023 Ada is outfitted head to toe by Fashion Nova:

Ada Wong, arms crossed and facial expression cool, wears a red turtleneck and black shoulder holster Image: Capcom via Polygon

We’re finally ready to suit up and quick-time our way to a confrontation with Krauser!

The author in a black turtleneck and blond wig, pulling a brown jacket over her shoulders to complete the Leon Kennedy look Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon
Facing the camera head-on, the author looks solemn as she shows off her full Leon Kennedy look, complete with a black turtleneck and brown jacket on top Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

Ultimately, the swoon-inducing crush effect of Leon Scott Kennedy isn’t down to the iconic swoopy hair. It’s not because of his cheekbones, or his utility knife harness. It’s not even his bizarrely endearing one-liners, or his Boy Scout determination to see the mission safely concluded.

Leon is attractive because the gameplay of Resident Evil 4 is just so! Much! Fun! No feeling being who picks up the controller to accompany Leon through the entire adrenaline ride — from the back of the police sedan entering the village to the jet ski race to safety from the exploding island — comes out the other side without harboring a few butterflies for the man whose shots we aimed. In 2005, freshly rescued Ashley spoke for every player when she asked Leon to continue the experience with a bit of “overtime.” We all want to play another level with Leon Scott Kennedy, even if he’d probably rather be someplace else.

In full Leon Kennedy makeup and cosplay, the author mimics Leon’s pose at the outset of RE4 by moping in a car Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

To cop Leon’s style more subtly for a day, you’ll need:

  • A left side part in your hair
  • A full, straight brow
  • A hint of shadow around the eyes, with minimal mascara
  • A matte greige lip overlaid with a hint of balm
  • A squint that conveys your continuing angst about corrupt pharmaceutical corporations’ threat to the world
The author’s design of a “subtle” Leon Kennedy cosplay, with a left side part in her blond hair, a brown jacket with a more neutral cut than Leon’s fur-lined coat, and a black-and-brown tie-dye shirt underneath Photo: Jennifer Culp for Polygon

A fitted black shirt with a brown leather bomber jacket is always suggestive of Mr. Kennedy. If you happen to own a brown body harness and a pair of black cargo pants and boots, you’re already equipped to mount a one-player international rescue mission. Organize your attaché case, and let’s go save the president’s daughter!

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