Underwater Modelling Preparation
Underwater modelling is an incredible way to bring performance art, water, and photography together, but it’s a challenging medium that can be made easier with a few tips from Hannah Mermaid.
The First Rule of Underwater Makeup: Don’t touch your face whilst in the water, it may rub off the makeup.
The second rule: Test makeup before you shoot with it. Not all “waterproof” makeup is actually water proof.
You can generally go a bit heavier on the makeup underwater, as it can disappear on camera depending on the lighting. Warm colors can pop in the water, whereas blues and greens can blend in with the colors of the water. Don’t be afraid to do heavier contouring and blush, as skin tones can look much paler and flatter underwater.
The most important part is to have a good waterproof mascara or eyelash extensions, lip stain, and eyebrow pencil
Avoid Water-based products as they will dissolve in water. Use spirit gum or Pros-Aide for applying gems or rhinestones. Waterproof makeup can be difficult to remove. You can try castor oil as a natural makeup remover and skin cleanser, but beware it’s very sticky! (I prefer using Vaseline)
Hannah recommends professional lash extensions instead of any mascara, as even the best mascara isn’t perfect. Try to avoid stick on lashes as they will come off in the water.
Avoid cream eyeshadows. They will smudge and smear.
Use a finishing powder to set the makeup in, and finish with a setting spray such as NYX.
Hannah’s Recommended Products
- Maybelline Lash Sensational waterproof mascara
- DermaBlend leg and body makeup (also good for face, and has sunscreen for open water shoots)
- Eminence Sun Defense Minerals water resistant
- Cherries & Berries face powder and sunscreen
- Maybelline Super Stay 24 color lip stain
- Karity eyeshadow for strong color pigments that show up underwater
- NYX setting spray
Other products recommended for underwater:
- L’Oréal infallible
- Maybelline color tattoo 24 hr cream eyeshadow
- Makeup Forever
- Urban Decay
- Long lasting or petroleum-based lipsticks such as Cat Von D Everlasting Lipstick.
You don’t need to spend a lot to create some great underwater costumes, here’s some tips to make it easier:
For a mermaid top, Hannah recommends getting a well fitted colored bra to match your tail and sewing or glueing on decorations. You can use sequin scales, shells, crystal diamonds, fake leaves/seaweed, beads or any other type of decoration that appeals to you. You can also decorate your tail in the same way!
Hannah uses E6000 glue to attach deco to tails, or hand sewing.
For costumes, Hannah often finds great options in St Vinnie’s/GoodWill, second hand clothing/costume stores, online shops, or yard sales. She has repurposed wedding dresses, cut up long gowns, used parts of costumes to attach to other items and generally got creative.
Even just nice long lengths of satin, chiffon, or other fabrics can make beautiful ‘costumes when just tied artfully around the body.
If you are wearing a wig, it’s very important to secure it much more than you would for a dry shoot. Hannah uses waterproof wig glue all around the forehead area with a lace-front wig, then lots of pins around the back and sides. Use Vaseline on the tiny hairs around hairline to keep them flat against the head and to protect hair from the glue.
She then uses a silicone headband over her hair to keep it back and away from the glue, and to also give the wig something to grip onto. Attach the wig starting from the nape of the neck at the base of your hair under the low ponytail, then slide the wig combs under the silicone band above the ears on both sides, then carefully place and adhere the lace front to the glue just below the hairline.
Pro Tip: make sure your skin is extremely clean where to put the glue on. Wipe with alcohol wipes or witch hazel to prepare your skin so the glue will stick well. Use 2 applications of glue, drying until semi-transparent with a hair dryer in between each application for stronger grip.
This is a time-consuming process to attach, and then to clean the glue off your skin with wig glue remover and shampoo afterwards, but this is the best method for not damaging your own hair with other types of hair extensions/wig application.
Pro Tip: Use a toothbrush dipped in wig glue remover solution to scrape the remaining wig glue off the inside front of your wig after use.
Alternate Wig Application
Alternatively, you can sew at least 5 metal wig clips all around the inside rim of the wig, pull the hair back into a tight, low ponytail, and snap the clips into place onto your hair. Then use strong hair pins to secure the wig all around the edges.
This is effective and faster, but personally Hannah has found that with all the weight of the wig pulling on the little clips underwater she has damaged her fragile bleached hair using this method.
Pro Tip: She usually ties on a tight headband or headpiece on top of the wig with many hair pins to give added support to keeping it all intact. Using a headband that has stretchy fabric bands to tie in a bow underneath the ponytail/wig at the nape of the neck helps it to stay on. Use pins all around the edges of any headband or headpiece also.
Hannah says “Just using pins to keep a wig on underwater will not work. Trust me… I’ve had embarrassing moments where the wig started floating away during a performance!!!“
Wigs with fringe/bangs tend to not work as well as wigs with all long hair, because everything is floating up and moving underwater, and the fringe will not stay in place on your forehead at all.
Synthetic vs Human Hair Wigs
Do NOT use real hair wigs. Only use Synthetic wigs, as they are less expensive, dry faster, are thicker, you can get more colors and will last for many shoots if used correctly. Spending about $80 USD on a synthetic wig will get you a good quality wig.
You can wash wigs in normal shampoo and conditioner. Hang up to drip dry. Only brush out tangles once wig is completely dry. Lay wig flat on a firm fabric surface and use a wide paddle brush with strong plastic bristles, starting at the bottom and patiently working your way up as you detangle.
Pro Tip: You can use a flat iron on a low heat to bring back the condition and silkiness of a synthetic wig.
Natural Hair Care
Rinse your own hair in cold water before entering a chlorinated pool to avoid it drying out and to stop blonde hair from turning green. For performances you can use coconut oil as a natural conditioner before getting in the water, but avoid this for a pool photoshoot as it will leave a film on the water. Use a leave-in conditioner after swimming to help your hair recover and de-tangle.
Eyes & Ears
To keep your eyes from getting sore in chlorinated water, Hannah recommends Refresh Optiv eye drops for lubricating your eyes, and Lumify Eyedrops for removing the red. If you’re prone to ear infections, or just want to make sure they don’t happen, this handy Mack’s Ear Dryer is great for making sure there’s no water left in your ears after a shoot.
These are just some simple tips to make your underwater modelling adventure more enjoyable, and if you’d like to learn even more our Underwater Modelling Workshops are just the thing!