How Synchronized Swimmers Keep Their Performance-Perfect Makeup Intact
If it’s good enough for underwater acrobatics, it’s good enough for even the sweatiest of summer days.
BY OLIVIA MUENTERJuly 25, 2021
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When executed well, every part of a synchronized swimming routine should seem effortless. But as master synchronized swimmer and assistant coach of the Freedom Valley Synchro team Addy Colona tells Allure, synchronized swimming requires a combination of ballet, swimming, acrobatics, and water polo to be perfected. In other words, despite how beautiful and easy the athletes make it look, the sport entails a lot of hard work.JOIN NOW
If you’ve ever taken a close look at synchronized swimmers’ makeup in real life, then you know that, much like their choreography, it’s nothing short of impressive. Colona explains that the routines themselves are judged on a variety of factors, including something called “artistic impression,” which combines the choreography, interpretation of the music, and presentation. So while the rules of synchro don’t explicitly require performers to wear makeup, it is something that is commonly considered part of the overall presentation, similarly to how it can play into dance or figure skating.
“The beautiful suit designs and makeup add to the overall impression of the routine but are not what is being judged. We are also not permitted jewelry, props, or theatrical makeup that would distract from the routine,” Colona says. “We usually wear bright and bold colors so that everything pops and the crowd and judges can see our facial expressions from across the pool.”
Unlike dance or figure skating, however, synchronized swimming has the added challenge of taking place in and under water. This means that synchronized swimmers know everything there is to know about waterproof, stay-put makeup. Here are some of Colona and her team’s best tips for keeping your own look in tact, no matter how much sweat or water gets in the way.
Make Up For Ever Aqua Smoky Extravagant Mascara
When it comes to having a go-to brand of makeup that will last in the pool without smearing or smudging — especially when it comes to mascara — Colona says that Make Up For Ever is as good as it gets. Specifically, she swears by the brand’s waterproof Aqua Smoky Mascara.
“We do not wear goggles while competing, so it is very important that the eye makeup not only stays on but doesn’t flake off make it even harder to see,” Colona says. “[Make Up For Ever’s] mascara is great and does not smudge or chip.”
…and the Best-for-Less Versions of Those Products
In synchronized swimming, makeup is part of the uniform, so every swimmer’s makeup has to look generally the same.
“The club team I assistant-coach for has athletes from the ages of 10 to 18, and it can get pretty crazy finding makeup that everyone agrees on,” Colona says. “Convincing everyone to pay for expensive makeup is difficult.” To make those who may not have a big beauty budget happy, they find similar colors from less expensive drugstore brands so everyone looks identical.
Maybelline New York Great Lash Waterproof Mascara
For example, Colona listed Maybelline’s waterproof mascaras as a good alternative to the more expensive options. Not sure which Maybelline product to choose? There’s a reason why its Great Lash Waterproof Mascara has been a nationwide favorite for years, so that’s certainly a good place to start.
Smudge-Proof Liquid Blush Works for Cheeks and Lips
Mascara isn’t the only waterproof makeup that swimmers need, of course. Colona named Benefit Benetint Cheek & Lip Stain as a team favorite.
Benefit Cosmetics Benetint Rose Lip & Cheek Tint
“[Benetint] kind of absorbs into the skin and doesn’t sit on top. This makes it harder for the water and splashes to wash it away,” Colona says, mentioning that lip tints in general work incredibly well in the water, especially with swimmers who may not be used to wearing a lot of makeup. “Tinted lip balms also work well if you are going for a more toned-down look,” she adds.
Matte Lipstick Will Stay on Longer in Water
If swimmers are looking for a bolder lip, tints and stains may not do the trick. This is where matte lipstick comes in. Anna Morera, a synchronized swimmer for the University of Florida’s club team, mentions that lipstick is easier to reapply than other types of makeup and that products with matte finishes tend to stay on better — particularly those from Wet N’ Wild.
Wet n Wild MegaLast Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick
Take the brand’s MegaLast Liquid Catsuit Matte lipstick, for example. Not only is the lipstick’s finish as matte as it gets, but if Morera’s suggestion doesn’t convince you to pick one up, the fact that it’s an Allure Best of Beauty Winner just might.
Benefit Cosmetics Stay Don’t Stray 360 Degree Stay Put Eyeshadow Primer
Smashbox The Original Photo Finish Smooth & Blur Oil-Free Primer
If you’re looking for a primer that can help your makeup last through pretty much anything, look no further than some recommendations from synchronized swimmers.
“The right primer definitely helps, especially if you are worried about bold eye shadow smudging,” Colona says, listing Smashbox Photo Finish Primer and Benefit Stay Don’t Stray 360 Degree Eyeshadow Primer as her go-to options.
Make Any Eyeshadow Waterproof
Morera tells Allure that Wet N’ Wild Keep Going Waterproof Eyeshadow sticks are a team favorite, as they’re some of the only shadows she knows of that are specifically designated as waterproof.
Make Up For Ever Aqua Seal
In terms of making any eye shadow waterproof, though, swimmers have a favorite product for that, too.
“Make Up For Ever has a product called Aqua Seal that can be mixed with eyeshadow to make it waterproof,” Colona says.
Vaseline Original 100% Pure Petroleum Jelly Skin Protectant
If you can’t get your hands on some Aqua Seal, Colona suggests an affordable dupe you probably have in your medicine cabinet or bag right now.
“We found that applying a coat of ChapStick over eye shadow keeps it in place. There are lots of fancy products out there that seal on your makeup, but if you’re in a pinch, that works great,” Colona says.
Morera also mentioned that in addition to ChapStick, Vaseline can work as a waterproofing eye shadow topper as well. “I agree with the sentiment and the idea of an occlusive barrier to keep the pigment in place and to seal in moisture,” board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman tells Allure. “[But] I would suggest Aquaphor, Vaseline, or Cerave Healing ointment instead of Chapstick because the dye and fragrance may be irritating to the sensitive eyelid skin.” Board-certified oculoplastic surgeon Brian Brazzo agrees Vaseline or Aquaphor are the way to go, noting that “Vaseline is very gentle on the eyelids and the eyes. I have recommended Vaseline for thousands of my patients.”
Consider Using Gelatin as Hair Gel
Though not technically makeup, a big part of streamlining the beauty looks for synchronized swimmers has to do with hair. Former synchronized swimmer Katie Wolf tells Allure that since hair gel won’t hold up in water, swimmers regularly use gelatin to hold hair in place.
“Once hair is up in a bun, plain, unflavored gelatin is mixed with hot water and then painted into the hair to ensure it stays in place,” Wolf explains. “Bobby pins will then be used to secure headpieces onto the head, as needed.” For us non-competitive swimmers, this is a tip that should probably be deployed infrequently: Hartman cautions that gelatin could dry the hair out and make it more prone to breakage.
Though their waterproofing tips for makeup (and hair) are about as good as it gets, synchronized swimming is so much more than just smudge-proof mascara and lipstick.
“The sport requires endurance, strength, and flexibility while you’re maintaining facial expressions, staying on the count, are synchronized, close to your teammates in proximity, and holding your breath,” Morera says. “I believe it’s one of the hardest sports, yet one of the most beautiful, and I wish people knew more about it.”