So far, if we had to take a guess as to which Olympic sport has gotten the most attention for its beauty regimens, gymnastics would be the clear winner. We've heard all about Gabby Douglas' silly hair controversy (we think she always looks great, for the record) and the Russian team's glittering ponytails, but until last week, we had no idea that the competitors in synchronized swimming duets have many more challenges in the beauty department besides keeping their hair clipped back in a super-shiny bun. They're flipping, grinning, and just as glammed up as gymnastics' Fab Five, but unlike those gold medalists' Swarovski-covered leotards, attention to detail in this Olympic event is much more important.
For competitive synchronized swimming, appearance actually does play a part in a team's final score. Without those bedazzled Michael Jackson swimsuits, elaborately choreographed story lines, and, most importantly, heavily applied makeup, judges wouldn't be able to see their faces and their "artistic impression" — which counts for one-fifth of their score — and they would be docked points. Not only are these ladies essentially putting on theatrical ballet while treading water, the extremes they go to look competition-ready is on par with burlesque performers.
To keep their hair in place during routines, synchronized swimmers use unflavored gelatin instead of hair gel — and we're not talking an easy, squeeze-y bottle of it, either. The substance needs to be heated until it turns to a liquid, and then painted on until it becomes hard. Removal takes a half hour and is done by letting the gelatin dissolve in super-hot water, and then picking the excess pieces out.
Still, even with every hair spackled down and every sequin intact, if the judges can't see the swimmers' expressions, there's likely no chance they'll win. Think of it like a play where everyone's wearing masks: Without emotion on their faces, how would you know what's going on? That's why competitors use Chapstick as eyelid primer, and cake on, no exaggeration, as much eye makeup at physically possible. Some ladies glob on brands like CoverGirl or MAC, whose plethora of colors has made them a go-to for actors and performers for years. Make Up Forever, on the other hand, has even created Aqua Eyes, a completely waterproof pencil that comes in 25 different colors, and Eye Seal, which instantly makes any eye product waterproof. Since even checking bags to London has gotten pricey these days, hiring makeup artists for competitions is too expensive, so duets will meet with one beforehand to perfect various looks and try to recreate them for each performance.
With swimmers clocking up to 10 hours of practice six days a week, the beauty toll isn't just taken on their oft-replenished products, either. Chlorine is so drying that competitors wear contacts for eye protection regardless of their prescription, and can also have their arm hair and eyebrows burnt off from the long-term exposure! No eyebrows, bare arms, and collagen flakes in your hair? Looks like we'll never groan over a cold morning shower or messed-up liquid eyeliner again.