Waterproof makeup has been around much longer than synchro-swimming has been in the Olympics (1984); many of the early forms of the products were developed for “bathing beauty” Esther Williams, a former American swimming champion turned actress. Williams appeared in over 30 films during her career, and in most of them, elaborate Busby-Berkeley-style swimming numbers were staged (Berkeley actually did direct Williams once) with Williams at the center of dozens of synchronized pieces.
In addition to her radiant smile, Williams always wore beautiful red lipstick and perfect eye makeup while performing her swimming routines. The best information I’ve been able to find on how she got her look was that a shellac-type sealant was applied over makeup to make it adhere to skin for the hours the actors would spend in the water.
I can only imagine the lengths they had to go to remove the stuff and the damage it did to their skin!
You and I probably won’t be in the Olympics or swimming for Busby Berkeley, so we only need our waterproof makeup to last through an outdoor wedding, a backyard pool party or prom night. Fortunately, shellac isn’t required with today’s waterproof makeup, and removal can be as easy as soap and water.
Mascara is the one product that helps define a face, even when wearing little makeup. Today’s waterproof mascaras last, and Avon’s Waterproof Wash Off Mascara really does come off with soap and water. Most companies make waterproof versions of their best sellers: Maybelline Great Lash and L’Oréal Voluminous are just two examples. To color your lids, Make Up For Ever has shadow/liner pencils called Aqua Eyes that promise to stay on “under the most extreme conditions." These are available in 15 shades at Sephora stores or online for $16. For less extreme wear, try Sue Devitt’s Eye Intensifier Pencil; only nine colors and $22, but with one of the most beautiful khaki green shades on the market. It has a sponge tip on one end to smudge the liner into a shadow. MAC’s Powerpoint Eye Pencil is available in 17 long-wearing colors, including the beautiful Permaplum.
Simplicity is the key if one needs waterproof makeup for something like the company picnic or touring the sights in a humid climate. Try double-duty products for cheeks and lips like Benefit Cosmetics’ Benetint. This stain goes on as a liquid and dries quickly, so application is key. It’s now available in a “pocket-pal” format to easily tuck into your purse.
Vincent Longo has Pearlessence Gel Stains for lips and cheeks in three shades that promise to be “sip-resistant, swim-resistant and sweat-resistant." Becca Beach Tint comes in one watermelon-pink (and watermelon-scented) shade suitable to many skin tones. NARS The Multiple can also be worn on the eyelid for a monochromatic look. It comes in 13 gorgeous shades for a pricy $36, but many women swear by its long-lasting properties.
Tarte has a mini-duo of its famous (and now widely-imitated) cheek stain along with a matching lip product. Lovin’ the Fast Stain is only available at Sephora for $30, and is watermelon colored.
If you really want to wear something special of your own, but want it to last all day, try Benefit’s She-Laq. This sealant goes over any makeup and includes a set of tiny brushes and applicators for $28. I am assured by Benefit that any remover formulated for waterproof makeup will take it off. Before you head out, don’t forget your sunscreen. Try a liquid bronzer for your skin (Laura Mercier Bronzing Gel, Bonne Bell Gel Bronze) and consider some bathing beauty glamour of your own – Esther Williams has endorsed a line of retro-style swimsuits!