All The Makeup Details You're Overlooking In The Handmaid's Tale

The following story includes spoilers for season 3 of The Handmaid's Tale.

In the dystopian world of Gilead, every day is a fight for survival. So, for many of the women in Hulu's hit series The Handmaid's Tale, mascara and foundation aren't top of mind. But behind the scenes, the makeup department uses cosmetics to send subtle messages about the characters' emotional states.


We spoke to Burton LeBlanc, the lead makeup artist for the show, who tells Refinery29 that the real significance is in the hidden details — especially this season. "June, Commander Waterford, and Serena are going through changes, and their appearances reflect that," he says.

We're halfway into season 3, and devout fans of the drama agree that the action is ramping up: June (played by Elisabeth Moss) has successfully managed to get her newborn daughter, Nicole, to the Canadian boarder for refuge; the tension between June and the Waterfords is at an all-time high; and she's moved into a new household with Commander Lawrence.

On the surface, it would appear that, while the plot shifts dramatically, the hair and makeup in season 3 has stayed relatively consistent. But, like most things in Gilead, nothing is ever as it seems. Ahead, LeBlanc breaks down all the tiny beauty details that shape your favorite Handmaid's characters.

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Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.


In Season 3, June is in "fight mode," according to LeBlanc. In her quest to rescue her daughter Hannah from The Republic of Gilead and protect her newborn Nicole, June's image is changing. "June is taking action, so I've chiseled her face with subtle shadows along her jawline, temples, and under her cheeks, which gives her a stronger look without using a lot of makeup," he says.

Otherwise, the makeup is super minimal. For the majority of the Handmaids, LeBlanc uses Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer. "This gives the skin a slight sheen that doesn't totally mask imperfections," he explains. LeBlanc uses the shade Porcelain for Moss. "That color is lighter than her actual complexion, which is done purposefully," he says. "June has little opportunity to get any sun, so we keep her skin pale." When the show flashes back to June's life before Gilead, LeBlanc uses the shade Natural to depict the difference between her past and present worlds.

Another key element to Moss' on-camera look: faux eyebrow hairs. "We apply a few individual hairs between their eyebrows and on the outer tails to keep them looking natural and grown-in, since Handmaids and Marthas wouldn't have access to tweezers in Gilead," he tells us.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.

Serena Joy

On the flip side, Wives are made to look more "polished," due to their economic and social status. "They are supposed to have on some makeup because, realistically, they have money and access to some basic product," says LeBlanc. For Serena Joy Waterford (played by Yvonne Strahovski), LeBlanc uses Koh Gen Do foundation, which has a bit more coverage than a tinted moisturizer.

This season, as Serena struggles with giving up her chance at motherhood, her appearance shifts. "Serena and Mr. Waterford have their problems to work through, and as we see more of their drama, it's playing out on their faces with makeup," he says. "There's a softness to Serena that she is losing, and she looks less polished."
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Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.

Commander Waterford

For Commander Waterford and June's new Commander, Mr. Lawrence, it's all about the beards. "I keep track of the shape, length, and fullness from episode to episode," LeBlanc says. "Facial hair can soften or harden a man's face, so I use their beards to tell stories of their character's emotional state." When either commander is in a rough state of mind, you can expect to see him with a scraggly, ungroomed appearance.
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Photo: Courtesy of Hulu.

Aunt Lydia

Don't overlook Aunt Lydia. In this season, she remains a key player in Gilead. "Aunt Lydia does wear makeup, but very little," LeBlanc says. Her look requires minimal foundation and a bit of eyebrow definition, courtesy of Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz.

In this week's episode of The Handmaid's Tale, we finally get a glimpse into Lydia's mysterious backstory, which showcases the enforcer in a totally different light. Contrary to her currently rigid exterior, Lydia's life before the forming of Gilead shows the Aunt with her hair down, wearing a considerable amount of makeup.

"I wanted to convey a warmer, unaffected woman and show the clear difference between her previous life and what she became in Gilead," LeBlanc says. "I intentionally used natural peach tones on her eyes, lips, and cheeks to create a more inviting look, which is the total opposite of her tough Gilead persona."
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