Beauty Tricks From Our Fave TV Shows

Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO.
Sometimes we need a break from all the collagen and Botox crammed into Real Housewives plotlines and switch on a show that gives us some good, old-fashioned fantasy. Whether the setting is a 1960s New York City advertising agency or a mythical medieval world, a show with some false lashes, good weaves, or a killer lip color hook us as much as a jaw-dropping plot twist.
Since we appreciate the hair and makeup on our fictional shows, we decided to track down the hairstylists and makeup artists on the most popular TV shows to learn the secrets on how they create those iconic looks.
Here, you'll find out the product that the Game of Thrones makeup artist always has on hand, what three lip colors create the perfect red pout on Revenge, the secret weapon American Horror Story's hair pro used to beat humidity, the two items that the New Girl makeup team uses every day, and so much more.
1 of 10
Photo: Mark Schafer/HBO.
While the cast of Girls may not be known for their glamorous looks, their Brooklyn style offers fun and quirky inspiration for hair and makeup. It’s hard to forget Hannah’s dramatic self-styled chop or any one of Shoshanna’s truly creative hair sculptures.

The one constant in Girls is change, and the hairstyles are a prop to reflect what’s happening with Hannah, Shoshanna, Jessa, and Marnie. “This season the hairstyles reflect not just who they are now, but also who they aspire to become,” says Sherry Heart, department head for hair on Girls.

After dramatically chopping her hair in season two, Hannah (Lena Dunham) works with her short hair and keeps it simple, maybe wearing a barrette or two, Heart says. Marnie (Allison Williams) continues to add sophistication with polished curls and Jessa (Jemima Kirke) keeps her hair impressively long, while Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) still incorporates her trademark donut bun, courtesy of the Scünci Bun Maker. “This season we tried to continue Shoshanna’s quirky hairdos while keeping in mind she doesn’t have as much time to do her hair since she’s returning her focus to school, but I feel Shosh always gets joy doing cute hairdos,” Heart says.

Since she’s dealing with four different textures, lengths, and styles, Heart has to keep a multitasking hair arsenal on set. Heart says she needs a curling iron that will get hot enough to manipulate any hair texture. Her favorite is from Hot Tools. She says no iron leaves hair shinier than the Rusk Deepshine Str8 Iron.

Creating realistic texture adds a level of believability to the characters, so she has a product for every need. “In the trailer, I always have Bumble and bumble Surf Spray, a must for texture, ColorProof Dry Spell Dry Shampoo for mopping up any grease and adding texture, and Matrix Design Pulse Messy Couture Molding Paste for getting separation between layers.”

2 of 10
Photo: Michele K. Short/FX.
American Horror Story: Coven
There’s no shortage of zombies and vampires filling our DVR queue, but we’re bored of the undead’s style. Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story gives us something dramatically different each season – a haunted house, a sadistic asylum, and a coven of witches who know how to rock black. Coven, taking place in New Orleans from the 1700s to present day, might have brought the most scary/fascinating looks to date. (But, we can’t wait for the '50s carnival theme that will be the backdrop for season four.)

“Jessica (Lange, who plays Fiona) is ageless and has beautiful skin, so I have a great canvas,” says Eryn Krueger Mekash, makeup department head for American Horror Story. She originally planned for the “Supreme” witch to wear a bold red lip, but decided it was distracting from her character. Instead, Lange often wore a creamy pink pout – a recipe Mekash created with Stila Convertible Color in Poppy mixed with Julie Hewett Camellia Balm.

Sarah Paulson’s lips were also scene stealers. The dramatic, just-bitten stain you see on Cordelia was just Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1. “Sarah has a beautiful natural lip color and doesn’t like to wear lipstick,” Mekash says. As an immortal Marie Laveau, Angela Bassett transformed through the centuries, but Mekash says she always had a signature red lip, MAC Lady Danger. “The real Marie Laveau wore red lips and black eyeliner, so I was able to find something timeless that would cover lots of decades,” Mekash says.

Since the New Orleans humidity can ruin the best made-up face, Mekash relied on foundation formulas she could count on to last. Her go-to was Stila Stay All Day Foundation and Concealer. “It’s very lightweight, highly pigmented, and true to its name.” The weather also played a leading role in the hair. “I had to consider the humidity factor as well as the styles that would be true to the time period and location,” says Monte C. Haught, department head hairstylist for American Horror Story. He quickly discovered products that would save his styles from sweat and moisture. “The product that helped me get through the season is Osis+ Dust It Mattifying Powder.” He would apply this during styling to absorb sweat from the scalp or dampness from the air.

To preserve his blowouts, Haught used Paul Mitchell Hot Off the Press Thermal Protection Hairspray. “It helps combat humidity, adds shine, and holds shape all day long,” he says.

Bassett wore wigs for most of the shooting. “Angela and I came up with the idea of long braids for the main look,” Haught says. “We were able to create different looks with the length.” To keep the braids looking polished, Haught used Bumble and bumble Sumotech styling cream to fight any fraying. Lily Rabe, who played Misty Day, had the most swamp-friendly style: Haught sprayed Rabe’s damp hair with Kevin Murphy Hair Resort Spray to bring out her natural wave and give a carefree, '70s feel.
3 of 10
Photo: Frank Ockenfels/AMC.
Mad Men
Aside from the booze, the hair and makeup are a large part of what gives Mad Men its distinctive look. Betty’s bulletproof coiff, Joan’s ever-present French twist, Megan’s mesmerizing winged liner, and Peggy’s famous attempt at wearing lipstick. Hair and makeup is such a crucial element of the show, the beauty department heads meet with the costume team and the writers to make sure they’re all on the same page. “The style is a collaborative process,” says Lana Horochowski, lead makeup artist on Mad Men. “I’m mostly inspired by the clothes and looks from vintage Vogue and Bazaar magazines.”

“If you look in magazines from the '60s, you’ll see tons of ads for wigs and eyelashes because everyone loved them,” Horochowski says. “Lashes are great in real life to bump up your look for a night out.” She’s developed a trick to make applying false lashes a no-brainer. When using strip lashes, Horochowski uses Duo Eyelash Adhesive in dark tone because it will blend with eyeliner. “Paint the glue like it’s a thin line of liquid eyeliner on your lid and do the same on the lashes,” she says. Wait a couple of minutes for the glue to dry and get tacky, and the lashes will adhere to your lids without making a mess.

The signature winged liner is another one of Horochowski’s skills. “Getting both sides even can be the hardest thing with Megan and Joan’s eyeliner; it’s too easy to just go thicker and thicker” she says. She uses MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack and NARS Eye Paint in Black Valley because the gel consistency doesn’t dry right away and are easier to shape. Horochowski draws the line the thickness she wants and then dots a bit of concealer on a brush to wing out the liner. She explains that this technique gives her more control.

And, while a matte red lip is a Mad Men look, Horochowski says Joan isn’t the one wearing it. “Joan has maybe worn red lipstick twice,” she says. “I put Joan in a baby pink lip all the time. I like the pale pink shades from Laura Mercier.”

For those peaches-and-cream complexions, Horochowski says primer is essential. She says Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Makeup Color Base in Lavender Pink does a great job of capturing the rosiness she’s after while not suffocating the actors’ skin.

There wasn’t really much low-maintenance hair in the '60s, so hair department lead Theraesa Rivers relies on heat tools to construct the elaborate styles. “We always use a thermal setting spray before curling,” Rivers says. “You need to protect from heat and it’s key to holding curl.” Her favorites are Redken Hot Sets 22 Thermal Setting Spray and White Sands Liquid Texture spray. An arsenal of hairspray helps hold all the elaborate updos and teased styles in place. She uses one of Oribe’s options or Tigi S-Factor Vivacious Hairspray. To keep color vibrant, Rivers uses Redken ShadesEQ glosses for extreme shine and Kérastase masks personalized to each leading lady’s hair type.
4 of 10
Photo: Macall B. Polay/HBO.
Game of Thrones
In Westeros, life can be brutal, but the cast of characters always looks regal. Whether they’re plotting to kill a king, swordfighting, or nurturing dragon hatchlings, the leading ladies bring the fantasy to the cold kingdom.

“One of the unique challenges on Game of Thrones is the many and various ways in which our writers deal out death and destruction,” says makeup designer Jane Walker. “I am always looking for new and inventive ways to kill and wound people.” Much of Walker’s work is creating the injuries the characters suffer. She documents her friends’ (some of them stuntmen) injuries to have as reference. And, for more serious wounds, Walker consults textbooks on emergency medicine and forensic pathology.

“Also challenging is the ‘no makeup’ look for our leading ladies,” she says. “Game of Thrones is shot on HD so the makeup has to be flawless and as invisible as we can make it.” She relies on Dermalogica products to ensure the actresses have healthy, blemish-free skin. “Healthy skin means we can use a very light base and minimal cover up, but blemishes do happen, especially as some of our cast are teenagers,” Walker explains. If she needs to hide a blemish, she grabs her Bobbi Brown BBU Palette, which contains 47 different options for concealer shades.

The Irish weather proves to be one of Walker’s biggest obstacles. Much of Game of Thrones is shot outdoors, and dry, chapped lips often become a problem. Lucas Paw Paw Ointment is her salve to smooth lips and heal chapped skin.
5 of 10
Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC Family.
Pretty Little Liars
We’re not naming names, but we know people who tune in to PLL (that’s right we use the acronym) weekly just to see what’s happening with the hair. The four high-school drama queens definitely deserve to be in advanced placement style courses. We could all learn a thing or two from Aria and her crew.

While we can’t tell you who "A" is, we do know how the four most secretive residents of Rosewood stay looking great. “These actresses are really good about seeing a dermatologist, so I don’t have to do much,” says Cindy Miguens, head of makeup for Pretty Little Liars. “But, if one of them has a blemish, I treat it with blue light and Mario Badescu Drying Lotion.”

To create glamour appropriate for students at Rosewood Day School, Miguens relies on false lashes. “I use individual lashes and trim the length so they look natural,” she says. “I pile them on Shay (Mitchell, who plays Emily).” Miguens’ secret is to use as little glue as possible. “Just apply a thin strip to the edge of the lash that will hit your eyelid.” Both Hanna and Aria wear a smoky eye as part of their go-to style. She creates a long-wearing look with Benefit Stay Don’t Stray Primer. Then, Miguens applies Benefit Badgal Liner on the waterline, smudged out to the lashes with NARS Cream Eyeshadow in Zardoz blended over the lid.

And, for lip color that lasts through kissing scenes, Miguens says stains are the way to go. “Stains don’t come off, so the actors can focus on their lines rather than re-applying lip color between takes,” she says. Her favorites are Stila Convertible Color and Tarte Power Pigment.

If you watch PLL, you know the hair are as much characters as the girls themselves are. “Last season was all about beach waves. This year, we went in a totally different direction,” says Kim Ferry, head of hair for Pretty Little Liars. “The hair has to reflect what the girls are going through in the story.”

Ferry keeps the Liars’ style fresh with dry shampoo. “It’s great on the girls if they worked late and didn’t get a chance to wash.” Her two favorites are Dove Style + Care Refresh + Care Invigorating Dry Shampoo for root lift and Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo. “We use Oscar Blandi on Lucy (Hale) for lift and freshness.”

The styles can vary depending on the plot or the characters’ situation, so Ferry has to be able to easily change up the looks. When the actresses have to go between braids, buns, updos, curls, or straight strands, one of Ferry’s go-to tools is Aquage Beyond Body Thermal Spray to protect the hair when styling and give hold without looking too “done.”

Touch-ups are a given, but layering on the wrong hairspray will make your head look shellacked. Ferry likes Moroccanoil Luminous Hairspray for light hold that she spritzes on for quick fixes. To make sure the girls look polished, she uses Herbal Essences Moroccan My Shine Moroccan Me A Miracle 7-in-1 Hair Serum to comb through and smooth fly-aways, something she’s found especially helpful for night scenes.
6 of 10
Photo: Greg Gayne/Fox.
New Girl
Whatever Zooey Deschanel does, we’ll pretty much follow. Her flawless complexion, adorable bangs, and hypnotic doe eyes have inspired innumerable girl crushes. Coupled with her fictional best friend CeCe (played by Hannah Simone), who has equally amazing skin and hair, these two lovelies give us reasons to watch them and their ever-evolving beauty game each week.

Deschanel’s bangs may earn all the headlines, but her dramatic eyes are also newsworthy. “Laura Mercier Tightline Cake Eyeliner gives eyes a perfect pop,” says Jorjee Douglass, head of makeup on New Girl. She says the liner is easy to use — you just need a stiff-bristle angled brush.

Those lashes can’t be missed, either. Douglass says she loves L’Oréal Voluminious Mascara to create long-lasting fullness that looks natural on both Deschanel and Simone.

“My inspiration is a youthful, healthy glow,” Douglass explains. So skin is her first priority. Before foundation, she preps Deschanel and Simone with one of John Masters Organics serums to create luster and plumpness. The other VIP in Douglass’ makeup kit is NARS Blush in Orgasm. “The powder has a coral tone with a gold highlight that reflects light, which creates a healthy glow and brings out the eyes.”
7 of 10
Photo by Jonathan Hession/The History Channel.
It’s hard to get more retro than the plot of Vikings — the History Channel show is set in the late 700s. Despite the primitive grooming products available, there’s no lack of hair and makeup worth reviving. From the braids — on women and men — to the unisex smoky eye, we want to raid these throwback beauties' arsenal of looks.

Between plundering and sailing to find a new country to plunder, the Norse barbarians manage to look great. “Based on historic documents, we know that both the men and women wore kohl to decorate themselves – and both were covered in tattoos,” says Tommy McInerney, key makeup artist for Vikings. He uses MAC Eye Kohl in Smolder as the Vikings’ trademark eyeliner.

Since the women like Lagertha and Princess Aslaug need to look natural, McInerney wants all the makeup to look nearly nonexistent. “I use cream blushes like MAC Cremeblend because the consistency goes on to look like real skin,” he says. To reflect the rough edge of the female characters, McInerney doesn’t want the skin to look too perfect. He uses Dermalogica Skin Smoothing Cream to prep the skin, but he uses MAC Full Coverage Foundation to contour and “break down the even-ness of the actresses’ complexion.

Despite being fierce warriors who fight next to the men, the women all wear mascara, McInerney says. “I don’t think women should leave the house without mascara,” he says. “It’s essential to any eye look – mascara either completes the look or is a look on its own.”

The trick for creating the characters’ fresh, healthy look, McInerney says, is to skip powder. “It’s a buzz kill,” he says. “The key to keeping skin alive on film is to avoid powder – it steals the life of the makeup.” It’s a habit he suggest women use off-set. “The biggest mistake women do with makeup is to pile on powder – it just cements the makeup and makes it look heavy.”

In this story of larger-than-life warriors, the hair is truly epic. Almost all of the characters wear extensions of some form. “I was working with a specific reference, so I had to create styles that would be consistent with the warrior nation,” says Dee Corcoran, key hair stylist on Vikings. To help prevent tangles and damage to the extensions, she applied Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Treatment to washed hair.

All of the women have loose, unstructured waves that appear very natural and effortless. “We used the InStyler to create waves quickly,” Corcoran says. Bumble and bumble Surf Spray creates the texture that suits these sea-faring people. Since hair elastics weren’t something women used in the eighth century, Corcoran secured braids with product. “I backcomb the end of a braid and spray it with Redken Quick Tease 15 Backcombing Finishing Spray.”
8 of 10
Photo: Richard Cartwright/ABC.
The real Hamptons social scene has nothing on this twisted family drama. We have no idea how the characters always manage to look so damn good on a boat. Emily and Victoria can always be counted on to serve up good hair and a statement lip along with all of their scheming and sparring.

Though the show may be dark, the hair and makeup is a bright spot for this thriller. “This season we went for a year of reversal makeup,” says Harriette Landau, head makeup artist for Revenge. The characters showed both soft and seductive looks, but always clean and classic, she says.

With Emily’s character (played by Emily VanCamp) the innocent looks were created by using an HD base customized to her skin type with tinted moisturizers and illuminators added. A sophisticated red lip and smoky black eyeshadows are the look for her more revenge-y scenes, Landau says.

For Victoria (Madeleine Stowe), Landau created a big makeup shift. “Victoria revealed a softer side, so we moved into softer eyeshadows,” she says. Landau used more reflective colors like Tom Ford Beauty Cream Color for Eye in Platinum and Ombre Eye Palette in In The Pink. But, her edgier look involved dark grey shadows and red lips. “Her color is created from three different reds that I call the ‘trifecta’ of reds,” Landau says. Her red recipe includes NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils in Cruella and Mysterious Red mixed with Tom Ford Beauty Lip Color in Diabolique.

The hairstyles are also meant to show off the split personality of the show, as well as Emily. “As the plot has thickened and Emily Thorne continues her revenge, the styles became more severe – a high bun or sleek ponytail to tell the story,” says Lori Rozman, head hairstylist for Revenge. “And, when she’s in love, I put her in soft, sexy curls.” To amp up Emily’s volume, Rozman uses Phyto Phytovolume Actif Spray and Oribe Supershine Moisturizing Cream for a glossy finish.

For that signature Hamptons beachy look, Rozman has a couple techniques of genius, easy-to-do-at-home techniques. She says to mist damp hair with a sea-salt spray — Aquage Sea Salt Texturizing Salt Spray is her favorite. Divide hair into four or more sections and twist each until it turns into a tight bun. Clip each section, let it dry, unclip and shake.

Her secret weapon for creating waves is the Babybliss MiraCurl tool. “You don’t have to be a professional to create an Emily Thorne look with this tool,” she says. “It’s easy to use and you can create curls that hold.” After curling the hair, Rozman suggests using a light mist of Redken Wax Blast finishing spray for a textured effect.
9 of 10
Photo: Erwin Olaf/Showtime.
Masters of Sex
For a show about the science of getting it on, the beauty looks are remarkably tame. This is almost the anti-Mad Men — the time period is the same, but the stark medical environment offers a different take on hair and makeup. The artists on Masters of Sex consult magazines to make sure every look is authentic to the women of the time, so it’s almost a documentary of mod hair and makeup.

“I have to capture the period and location where I’m shooting – in this case, a Midwestern hospital in the '50s,” says Jean Black, department head of makeup for Masters of Sex. “This is more Life magazine as opposed to Vogue.”

Black focuses on flawless skin since the makeup isn’t meant to look dramatic. She uses La Prairie Skin Caviar Concealer Foundation as a “gorgeous illuminating base.” In the new season, Black has started using Sappho, an organic foundation line from Canada. “I like that it’s blendable, and I have actors who want me to use organic products [on them].”

“I want Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) to look clean,” Black explains. “She’s coming into a man’s world and won’t overdo the makeup.” In most scenes, you’ll see Caplan wearing Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey for a natural look with a more intense pigment. This season, Black has swapped out her usual Yves Saint Laurent Volume Effect Faux Cils mascara for one of Caplan’s personal favorites, the drugstore find, NYC Cosmetics Big Bold Mascara. “It’s pretty fabulous for making eyes look open and has a great, giant brush.”

When it comes to Libby Masters (Caitlin FitzGerald), she has more fun with makeup. “She’s a doctor’s wife and will always wear the latest lip or nail color,” Black says. She goes to any shade from Julie Hewett’s Noir line because she has a range of shades from nude to red.

When doing touch-ups on set, Black tries to avoid piling on more product. When possible, she relies on blotting papers to remove oil without disturbing makeup. “MAC Blot Film is great. I suggest keeping them in your purse.”
10 of 10
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!

More from Celebs & Influencers


R29 Original Series