Olympic Synchronized Swimmers Spill Waterproof Beauty Secrets

08/10/2012 at 09:00 AM ET

Olympic Synchronized Swimming Michael Sohn/AP

We thought we’d seen it all these Olympic gamescrazy country nail art, golden scrunchies — and then, synchronized swimming happened.

Watching these women compete earlier in the week, we suddenly had lots of questions. Why do they wear makeup? How does it stay on? And what on earth is in their hair?

Luckily, U.S. Olympic duet member Mariya Koroleva, who, with partner Mary Killman, competed earlier this week, was nice enough to talk us through the process.

“Wearing makeup allows the judges and the audience to see our faces better when we are swimming, because we are so far away,” she explains to PEOPLE. “It also adds to the overall presentation of the routine.”

Since the judges can see when a swimmer’s makeup is running, the competitors rely on some heavy-duty products that they know will stay in place. “I love Diorshow mascara. Never fails,” Koroleva says. “For my face I like to use Clinique and for our eyes we have been using Eye Max Studio products.”

Though the synchronized swimmers can’t wear stand-out nail polish, like their lap-swimming counterparts — “Nails must be kept natural during the competition, and they do check to make sure we are not wearing any jewelry, as well,” Koroleva says — they can have some fun with their hair. But how do they keep it in place?

“Knox gelatin,” Koroleva reveals. “You put your hair in a bun, mix the gelatin with hot water and then paint it onto the hair. Then we put a headpiece over the bun to match the swimsuit, and that completes the look!” And now you know. Tell us: Which Olympic sport have you loved watching the most this year?

–Kate Hogan


FILED UNDER: Athletes , Beauty , Cosmetics , Hair
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Showing 21 comments

sarge89 on

I didn’t know this was still an Olympic event, having seen any coverage on it.

Leah on

The commentators mentioned that – how they put flavorless jell-o in their hair. I also remember them adding that they sometimes add coffee to the mixture to make it look more natural-looking.

Csmile on

LOVE synchronized swimming!

blair on

synchronized swimming is my favorite! they are so beautiful…

guest on

I hope people continues to coverage for the paralympics. those people deserve at least as much fame.

Today on

Russian synchronized swimmers were absolutely amazing

Kim on

Love, loe, love watching this..but have never quite understood why they need quite THAT much make-up. Some of them look like clowns.

M on

“Though the synchronized swimmers can’t wear stand-out nail polish, like their lap-swimming counterparts — “Nails must be kept natural during the competition…”

Are they referring to the U.S. womens swim team? If that’s the case, then that’s wrong. I saw all of them wearing red, white and blue nail polish. Nothing “natural” about the colors at all.

Carol S. on

Why is this even considered a sport??? Olympic organizers need to do some serious rethinking. Water ballet may be noteworthy… and certainly strenuous … but a SPORT?? I don’t think so.

Stephanie on

M – in reference to your comment, they mean that “though the synchronized swimmers can’t wear stand-out nail polish, like their lap-swimming counterparts (do). The lap-swimmers can wear anything on their nails. I think you may have misunderstood.

And the “clown make-up” – I get it. I was in show choir, and we always said once we looked like a cheap hooker with the ridiculous amounts of make-up we put on, we had on just the right amount. The reason for this is because from far away, the crazy make-up makes your face appear normal what with the distance/lighting, etc. Although it looks ridiculous up close, it is necessary to avoid being washed out.

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